In the near future no active Club will be able to avoid CO2 emissions completely. Even for Clubs that achieve best practice, there will be a rest of CO2 that needs compensation. The best way of course ist to start your own local CO2 compensation project! Let us inspire you to take action and use one of the many alternatives to reduce CO2 in your spheres of influence. We believe that such projects also are good opportunity to strengthen the cooperation between Rotaract and Rotary Clubs.
The different project ideas will be explained in more detail below, also concerning their potential to reduce CO2 emissions. The list is also based on the work of „Project Drawdown“, they have calculated the possible global effect of the solutions:

ESRAG has established a cooperation with „Project Drawdown“, so we can use their know-how for Rotary and our projects. The sequence of the following project list reflects the size that Drawdown has calculated for the global levers. The interval given for the achievable CO2 effect until 2050 is due to two different scenarios that are applied for the calculation.  (Source: Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, 2017 and www.drawdown.org) After that additional levers are listed where Rotary projects already exist.

Here are the detailed descriptions of some of the projects:

Reduced food waste (89 to 102 Gigatons CO2 globally)
Reduced food waste is the single biggest lever on a global scale that fits perfectly into the landscape of Rotary projects. It can have a strong social impact as well because a lot of people cannot afford to buy enough food for their families. It is a huge lever on CO2 because currently on a global scale roughly one-third of the produced food is never eaten (Source: Project Drawdown, https://drawdown.org/solutions/reduced-food-waste). If this amount of waste is substantially reduced, we can also reduce the amount of land that is used for agriculture and convert it into land for biodiversity or planting trees – which will have an additional CO2 effect. Wasting less food also enables that there is less production, packaging, and transportation of food, and there will be less food landing in landfills. Less food production also means less usage of CO2-intensive fertilizer and hence better drinking water quality.

Potential – the areas where food is currently wasted:

  • Food production
  • Food transportation
  • Restaurants
  • Cantines of schools, companies etc.
  • Food shops
  • Private households

Cooperation possibilities

  • All shops and cantines etc. where usually a certain amount of food is wasted.
  • Organisations that distribute food to people that need it like „Feeding America“ etc.
  • There is a superb mobile phone app called „Too good to go“ that helps people to get the food that otherwise would be thrown away. Introducing this app in your community would also have a measurable impact.

CO2 effect
If you establish a local project that saves food before it is wasted and then distribute the food to people that eat this food, you will have a measurable impact of approximately:

  • 3.1 kg CO2 per person and meal for the average meat-including diet in UK (xxxSource: Mike Berners-Lee: How bad are bananas? The carbon footprint of everything. Profile Books 2020.)
  • 2.4 kg CO2 per person and meal for an average vegetarian diet in UK (xxxSource: Mike Berners-Lee: How bad are bananas? The carbon footprint of everything. Profile Books 2020.)

Social impact

  • If we manage to bring the food that is otherwise wasted to the people who eat it before the expiration date is reached, we will both have the CO2 effect and the social effect that Rotary stands for.

Hands-on
This type of project usually also offers very good hands-on possibilities.

Existing Rotary projects

  • „Lunch out of landfills“ (Source: https://esrag.org/lunch-out-of-landfills/) reduces food waste in school cafeterias that is designated for the landfill. The recovered food is used at share tables or taken to local food banks. Up to 85% of cafeteria waste is recoverable. In January 2018 the project started at Urbana High School based on a district grant and funds from 5 Frederick (Maryland, USA) Rotary clubs and has spread and grown since then. Now there is a complete toolkit available that your club can use: The toolkit contains information on how to start composting in a school, templates for tracking the progress, learning materials, and many more useful information. Since the initiative also educates and engages young people every day it will have an additional huge impact if these young people think and act climate-clever for the rest of their life! Your Rotary club can make a difference in your local school! For more information contact the ESRAG „Food Waste Task Force“ with Amelie Catheline, Chair & Joe Richardson, Chair. (Source: https://esrag.org/lunch-out-of-landfills/)
  • The company „Centroabastos“ is a food wholesaler in Bucaramanga, Colombia, that daily produces approximately 20 tons of organic waste per day. The Rotary Clubs of Bucaramanga Nuevo Milenio (Colombia) and Woodland Hills (California, USA) are conducting a project with the company to reduce food waste by 15 percent while creating employment opportunities in the community. Source: Diana Schoberg,  https://www.rotary.org/en/climate-change-what-rotarians-are-doing-now)

Plant rich diet (78 to 103 Gigatons  CO2 globally) (source: https://drawdown.org/solutions/plant-rich-diets)
Plant-rich diet has a huge potential on a global scale for climate change mitigation. Adopting a plant-rich diet is also proven to be healthier than a meat-rich diet (Source: M. Greger, G. Stone: How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease. Pan, Main Market Edition 2017). The change in eating behavior necessary is normally adopted incrementally with small changes that in total lead to significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. (Source: https://drawdown.org/solutions/plant-rich-diets)

Potential
Plant rich diet can e.g. make a difference in the following areas:

  • Rotary events and conferences
  • Rotary meetings
  • Cantines of schools, companies etc.
  • Private households

Cooperation possibilities
„Meatless Monday“ is a charity in the UK that supports eating less meat and more vegetables: https://www.mondaycampaigns.org/meatless-monday

CO2 effect

  • If your project e.g. achieves that one person eats vegetarian for 2 weeks instead of the average-meat meals in the UK, the effect is approximately 30 kg of CO2.
  • If the meals are eaten vegan for 2 weeks instead of average-meat meals in the UK, the effect is approximately 50 kg of CO2.
  • If a person continues to eat vegetarian, the effect for a complete year will be 780 kg CO2 (vegetarian) or 1.3 tons CO2 (vegan).

Social impact
Plant rich diet is generally cheaper and healthier than eating meat or dairy food. Educating and helping people to eat healthy also has a social aspect because health care for many people is not affordable or not availabe.

Existing Rotary projects

  • There is an ESRAG „Plant Rich Diet Task Force“ that is led by the CO-Chairs Ambaree Majumder, Scott Nelson, Kris Cameron. The Task Force has started a „15 Day Plant-Rich Diet Challenge“ that is continuously growing since its launch in spring 2023. You can start this challenge yourself – leading by example – and inspire others to do the same. This will work in your Rotary club, in your family, with your friends, your community or in the organisation you work for. (Source: https://esrag.org/project/how-plant-rich-diets-protect-the-planet/)
  • Wenatchee Confluence Rotary Club (Washington, USA) also conducts different events that encourage and spread plant-rich diets.

Education and Family Planning (69 Gigatons CO2 globally) (Source: https://drawdown.org/solutions/family-planning-and-education)
Basic Literacy and Education is already one of the seven areas of focus of Rotary. It has also a positive effect on climate change since especially providing 12 years of high-quality education of girls and women and access to voluntary family planning services are expected to lead to a reduced population growth. In addition, family planning and education also support maternal and child health, economic development and climate change adaptation. (source: https://drawdown.org/solutions/family-planning-and-education)

Potential
Family Planning and Education will help in all areas of the world where the percentage of children not going to school and the amount of illiterate people is higher than in countries in the developed world.

Cooperation possibilities
There are numerous organisations already working in this field. The two biggest NGOs working in education on a global scale are UNESCO and „Room to read“. (Source: https://www.developmentaid.org/news-stream/post/62833/top-10-international-organizations-in-education-sector)

CO2 effect
There is a big global CO2 effect as calculated by project drawdown, but it will be difficult to estimate the direct effect of any conducted project in this field.

Social impact
Providing or ensuring education that is otherwise not affordable has a huge social impact as well.

Existing Rotary projects

  • Rotary Clubs of Finot (Ethiopia) and Darmstadt (Germany) have developed a global grant project that trained skilled birth attendants and midwives in three health centers to provide family planning counseling. Medical staff also conducted home-based counseling for 1,500 women and organized a one-day family planning workshop for 90 women who were receiving obstetric care. (Source: Diana Schoberg: https://www.rotary.org/en/climate-change-what-rotarians-are-doing-now)
  • Rotary Club München-Residenz (Germany) donates since 2015 to the organisation ChildAid that is giving children a future by providing them with education. In 2022 there were 50 different educational projects conducted by ChildAid with in total 150,000 children reached. The projects were conducted in Northeast India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar. ChildAid is certified by a German association for charities (“DZI Spenden-Siegel”) and has a very low administrative cost rate, e.g. only 4.2% in 2022. For more information, please visit the website https://www.childaid.net/#.

Tropical forest reforestation (54 to 85 Gigatons CO2 globally) (source: https://drawdown.org/solutions/tropical-forest-restoration)
The size of tropical forests worldwide has been on a decline for decades. A lot of deforestation is happening to create grazing space for livestock or to provide food for livestock, i.e. the growing global demand for meat is one reason for deforestation. An intact tropical forest absorbs and holds huge amounts of CO2. Conducting large-scale restoration of tropical forests therefore is a huge lever for climate change mitigation. There are different ways of restoration. It is possible to release land from other use like growing crops and simply let the forest grow again. It is also possible to speed up the process by planting native seedlings. The new growth is often very quick leading to high amounts of carbon sequestration. (Source: https://drawdown.org/solutions/tropical-forest-restoration)

Potential
There is a potential for this wherever tropical deforestation has happened, e.g. in the Amazon, Congo, or New Guinea.

Cooperation possibilities
„Cool earth“ is a recommendable charity for rainforest protection that is protecting 136 million trees already and has 243 million tons of carbon stored already. (Sources: www.coolearth.org,  Mike Berners-Lee: How bad are bananas? The carbon footprint of everything. Profile Books 2020.)

CO2 effect
Natural regrowth could annually sequester 1.4 metric tons of CO2 per acre (4047 square meters). This the equivalent of annually 3.5 tons of CO2 per hectare. (Source: Drawdown)

Social impact
NGOs like „Cool earth“ have an approach that is also beneficial for the indigenous people in the areas of reforestation, i.e. they also ensure a social impact.

Existing Rotary projects

  • The Rotary Clubs of Antananarivo-Tsimbaroa (Madagascar), Torino Mole Antonelliana (Italy) and Annecy Tournette (France), work together with a local NGO in Madagascar on a project to reforest about 125 acres in the Maromizaha forest – including the creation of jobs for local families. (Source: Diana Schoberg, https://www.rotary.org/en/climate-change-what-rotarians-are-doing-now)

Utility scale photovoltaics (41 to 112 Gigatons CO2 globally) (Source: https://drawdown.org/solutions/utility-scale-solar-photovoltaics)
Building big photovoltaic fields with several megawatts peak power is one important way to create the necessary „green energy“ that can incrementally replace the energy that is currently created by burning fossil fuels. Fortunately, there is currently a growth of utility scale photovoltaics globally – but there is still not enough growth to decarbonize quickly enough to effectively mitigate climate change. (Source: Global trends in in renewable energy investment 2020, https://www.fs-unep-centre.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/GTR_2020.pdf)

Potential
Photovoltaic fields can be erected everywhere – if the necessary know-how to maintain them properly is available and the created energy is used locally or can be properly distributed in an existing power network. Erecting photovoltaic fields in developing countries strongly supports the local economic development and therefore also has an important social effect. In comparison to household size photovoltaic systems (see paragraph „distributed photovoltaics“) the investment is in some cases more efficient, i.e. the photovoltaic fields generate more kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy per invested $ or € – and therefore reduce more CO2 with the same investment sum.

Cooperation possibilities
Local companies that build photovoltaic systems are good cooperation partners – especially if they are owned by Rotarians. In Germany there are also local „green“ energy cooperatives that generate the locally needed energy for their members.

CO2 effect
The local CO2 effect depends on many different factors. The first factor is how the grid energy is currently created in the country where they are erected. The second is the amount of sunshine photovoltaic fields are getting. The third factor is the amount of CO2 caused by producing, transporting, and erecting the photovoltaic panels. I assume a lifetime of 25 years, the CO2 effect per year will decrease when the energy production in the countries gradually gets greener. The calculation is for a system with 100 kilo Watt peak Photovoltaic power, i.e. approximately 250 photovoltaic panels. With all this considered the approximate effect is the following:

  • Germany (with grid energy mix 2023):  37 metric tons of CO2 per year.
  • United Kingdom (with grid energy mix 2023): 28 metric tons of CO2 per year.
  • USA (sunny part of California, with US grid energy mix 2022): 92 metric tons of CO2 per year.
  • USA (Pennsylvania, with US grid energy mix 2022): 65 metric tons of CO2 per year.

Social impact
A Photovoltaic system generates a lot of „green“ energy. If a Rotary club invests into such a system and then donates the generated green energy to a charitable organisation or a hospital, we will achieve a social impact as well. This is an interesting alternative to supporting people, or organisations directly with money: Instead of donating the money directly to them the Rotary Club in this case takes over their energy bill and ensures a social effect and a huge contribution against climate change.

Existing Rotary projects
I am not aware of an existing Rotary project that invests into utility scale Photovoltaic Systems. But since the CO2 lever is so high and abating climate change will need huge amounts of „green“ energy we intend to start a project as part of „Become Sustainable!“ if we find enough participating clubs. For more information, please contact us.

Important for Rotary and Rotarians
Rotary International currently keeps money donated to the annual fund for 3 years before the money is spent. It would give Rotary a huge additional impact on climate change mitigation if we used a part of the funds during this 3-year-period to invest into many and diverse projects that generate green energy around the world (e.g. utility scale photovoltaics, onshore wind turbines, offshore wind turbines, energy storage systems). Due to the huge carbon reducing effects of these investments it would also be an elegant way to compensate at least some of the CO2 emissions caused by Rotary International.

The same is true for each Rotarian: Investing a part of your private savings in diverse projects to generate green energy can also contribute to compensating your personal CO2 emissions! 

Clean cooking (31 to 76 Gigatons of CO2 globally) (source: https://drawdown.org/solutions/clean-cooking)
Clean cooking is a huge global lever because on a global scale a huge amount of firewood is collected and burnt every day to cook meals. Apart from the negative impact due to the CO2 emissions, this also causes deforestation and illness caused by the smoke – and a lot of time is needed to collect the firewood.

Potential
Project drawdown estimates, that „in 2020 approximately 43 percent of families in low- and middle-income countries were mainly using cookstoves fueled by traditional wood or coal stoves for cooking“. (Source: https://drawdown.org/solutions/clean-cooking)

Cooperation possibilities
Project Drawdown has developed alternative solutions for Clean Cooking. One alternative is the use of solar-powered cooking. The other alternative is to use stoves with increased thermal efficiency or ventilation. (Source: https://drawdown.org/solutions/clean-cooking)

CO2 effect
The effect will depend on the chosen method. E.g. in the case of the „Fuel saving stoves“ , one school stove will save 10.2 tons of CO2 per year. In the case of a stove using the power of photovoltaic panels the saving will be even higher.

Social impact

Providing more efficient ovens helps families to reduce the necessary time needed to collect firewood. This time can be used to earn income or children can go to school instead of collecting wood. 

Existing Rotary projects
The project „Fuel saving stoves“ is part of the ESRAG „Clean Cooking Task Force“ with the Co-Chairs David Knoppert and Maya Smeulders. For more information please visit the website https://learning4lifeafrica.org/project/fuel-saving-stoves/ Another promising alternative is the use of „Solar cookers“, that use e.g. parabolic mirrors to focus the energy of the sun and use it for cooking. Several clubs have already supported this approach, e.g. Rotary Club of Tapachula Centenario (Mexico), Rotary Club of Gulu (Uganda), Rotary Club of Cheltenham Sunrise (United Kingdom), Rotary Club of Fresno (California, USA), Rotary Club of Los Altos (California, USA), Rotary Club of Grahamstown Sunset (South Africa), Rotary Club of Kirstenbosch (South Africa). For more information please also use the websites https://www.solarcookers.org/ and solarcooking.org.

Distributed photovoltaics (27 to 65 Gigatons of CO2 globally) (Source: https://drawdown.org/solutions/distributed-solar-photovoltaics)
Building small scale photovoltaic systems on the roofs of existing buildings or on balconies is another important lever to mitigate climate change. One big advantage is that the energy is created directly where it is needed. That means that no energy is lost during transportation and there is no infrastructure cost for energy tranportation. 

Potential
Distributed photovoltaics can be used nearly everywhere – but the best results will be achieved if the photovoltaic panels are oriented to the direction where the sun is at noon. By combining photovoltaic panels with small batteries there is also energy available in the evening after sunset.

Cooperation possibilities

  • The charity „SolarAid“ (United Kingdom) is an already established cooperation partner. The connection to Rotary is through Rotary Club of Danetre Daventry, Mr. Rob Leaper (see chapter xxx above: The „Solar Aid“ Lamps)
  • The charity „Habitat for Humanity“ is a NGO that helps people in xxx countries to „build or improve a place they can call home“.  (Source: https://www.habitat.org/emea)

CO2 effect

  • The effect of the „Solar Aid“ Lamp is calculated to be 9 tons of CO2 over a lifetime of 5 years.
  • A household photovoltaic system with 4 kilowatt peak (i.e. 10 panels) will lead to following CO2 reductions per year over an estimated lifetime of 25 years:
    • Germany (with grid energy mix 2023): 1.5 metric tons of CO2 per year.
    • United Kingdom (with grid energy mix 2023): 1.1 metric tons of CO2 per year.
    • USA (sunny part of California, with US grid energy mix 2022): 3.7 metric tons of CO2 per year.
    • USA (Pennsylvania, with US grid energy mix 2022): 2.6 metric tons of CO2 per year.
  • A one-panel-photovoltaic system like described below with around 400 watt peak has a tenth of the effect listed above.

Social impact
Wherever electric energy produced with photovoltaic panels is provided to people that need it, there is also a social effect.

Existing Rotary projects

  • The ESRAGRenewable Energy Task Force“ (Chair Elizabeth Henke, Co-Chairs Aur Beck and Tim Connors) is working on different projects and initiatives:

The objective of the Rotarian project „Habitat Solar“ is to provide homes that are built by the NGO „Habitat for Humanity“ with a photovoltaic system. „Habitat for Humanity“ works in approximately 1,400 communities in the United States and in about 70 countries globally, so this project has a huge potential for scalability. (Source: https://esrag.org/habitat-solar/)

Apart from the big environmental effect this has several advantages:

  • The habitat homeowners have a reduced energy costs during the expected 20-25 years lifetime of the photovoltaic system.
  • The air pollution caused by burning fossil fuels is reduced.
  • Rotary is visible as a leading actor in renewable energy.
  • The NGO „Habitat for Humanity“ is encouraged to add rooftop photovoltaic systems also to other homes they build.
  • The „Million Solar Panel Initiative“ encourages every Rotarian to set up at least one Solar panel and document all panels in the following list: http://rotarysolarinitiative.com/
  • The Rotary Club Fürth (Germany) is currently developing a photovoltaic project to support families with single parents that struggle with their energy bills. The idea is to help these families with a „One-panel-photovoltaic system“ that is fixed to the balcony railing. This project is easily scalable in many places as well, it makes Rotary visible in the community, it has a measurable impact on climate mitigation and it offers hands-on-options, it has a social impact. For more information please contact (Frank Anton, Co-Chair ESRAG Europe). 
  • The project „Solar Aid“ lamps, described here on our website, combines very small photovoltaic panels with a battery and three LED light sources to provide solar-powered home lighting.
  • More projects are presented on the webpage of the ESRAG „Renewable Energy Task Force“: https://esrag.org/renewable-energy-taskforce/

Peatland protection and rewetting (25-40 Gigatons CO2 globally) (Source: https://drawdown.org/solutions/peatland-protection-and-rewetting)
A huge amount of CO2 globally is currently stored in peatlands and moors. Peatlands consist of died and decomposed plant matter and have developed over hundreds of years or in some cases thousands of years. (Source: https://drawdown.org/solutions/peatland-protection-and-rewetting)
If the peatlands or moors are drying the stored CO2 is continuously released. In many countries the drying of moors is happening on purpose to create additional space for e.g. agriculture or planting monocultures of trees.

Potential
Moors exist in many countries worldwide therefore it is a big lever on a global scale. Project Drawdown estimates, that 3 percent of the earth´s land is peatland. The amount of CO2 stored in this land is approximately 500 to 600 Gigatons – that is twice the amount of CO2 held in all global forests. When peatlands are rewetted, they can continue to sequester carbon, they do not reach a saturation. (Source: https://drawdown.org/solutions/peatland-protection-and-rewetting)

Cooperation possibilities
Local environmental groups focus on re-wetting moors, in Germany it is e.g. the German Association for the Environment and Nature Conservation (BUND) that already cooperates with Rotary. In United Kingdom the University of Exeter and the University of Liverpool work on moor projects.

Local CO2 effect
When re-wetted, the CO2 emissions of a dry moor are stopped and instead it starts to pull CO2 out of the atmosphere. The effect is ca. 50 tons of CO2 per 10.000 square meters per year.

Biodiversity impact
If the moors and peatlands are provided with enough water again it is also a chance to replace the tree monocultures with the original diversity of plants and trees growing in such areas. This is an opportunity for both hands-on Rotarian projects as well as supporting biodiversity because restoring the original plants will also provide living space for insects, birds etc.

Existing Rotary projects

  • The „Rotary Moor“ (Peatlands) described her on our website is a scalable project to make a currently dry moor wet again and keep it wet.
  • The Rotary Club of Achern-Bühl (Germany) has also conducted a local project to re-wet a moor, the contact person is Christian Gospos.

Tree plantations on degraded land (22 to 35 Gigatons CO2 globally) (Source: https://drawdown.org/solutions/tree-plantations-on-degraded-land)
Planting trees on degraded land (e.g. former agricultural land or mining areas) is a solution that can be applied in many places – if enough water is available to sustain the trees during their whole lifecycle. Please be aware that planting trees is important but also a limited solution. If you wanted to compensate the total amount of CO2 that is emitted by the USA, it would mean covering 2/3 of the worlds land mass with trees – and that is only for the CO2 emissions of the USA. Please be also aware that there is a high risk that many promises concerning compensating CO2 by planting trees are not fulfilled:

  • The trees would have been planted anyway – even if you did not donate money – so your money did not create an additional CO2 compensation.
  • The trees are planted but afterwards not taken care of properly.
  • The number of planted trees is too small for the amount of money that has been donated.

Therefore, it is of vital importance to have either Rotarians or other very reliable partners that ensure everything is done properly.

Please be also aware, that Project Drawdown favors other tree-focused solutions like e.g. tree intercropping, silvopasture, multistrata agroforestry, perennial staple crops, tropical forest restoration, and temperate forest restoration. Nonetheless, tree plantation on degraded land is seen as quite important for climate change mitigation, providing building material and restoration of degraded land. (source: https://drawdown.org/solutions/tree-plantations-on-degraded-land)

Potential
Project Drawdown assumes that until 2050 between 112 and 174 million hectares of degraded land could be used for reforestation. (Source: https://drawdown.org/solutions/tree-plantations-on-degraded-land)

Cooperation possibilities
There are many organisations that support planting trees: World Land Trust, World Wildlife Fund for Nature are global options that Rotary could cooperate with. (Source: Mike Berners-Lee: How bad are bananas? The carbon footprint of everything. Profile Books 2020.)

CO2 effect
If a big tree (e.g. a beech) is planted, gets enough water, and grows for several years, it will approximately absorb 12 kg of CO2 per year during its phase of strong growth. If you think larger, you can calculate that one hectare can sequester 3.3 metric tons of carbon per year on a global average. (Source: https://drawdown.org/solutions/tree-plantations-on-degraded-land)

Social impact
If planting of trees is connected with supporting the development of the local communities, it will also lead to a social impact – like in the project „Rotary Climate Forest“.

Existing Rotary projects
There are many Rotarian projects already, probably also in your country or district. Please check what is going on locally already.

  • One big project is the Bosques Rotarios https://www.bosquesrotarios.org/
  • Another big project is the Rotary Climate Forest that is described in detail on our website.
  • There is a list of projects e.g. available in the ESRAG mobile phone App iRotree, please see webpage https://esrag.org/irotree/
  • District 9810 Sustainable Communities Committee under the lead of Pat Armstrong (RC of Doncaster, Immediate Past Chair ESRAG) has organised the planting of over 10,000 locally indigenous trees on rural properties in a water catchment area in Western Victoria.

Increase recycling in your community (17 to 28 Gigatons CO2 globally)
Everything that people do not need anymore and is thrown away is a source of CO2 emissions. If instead metals, plastic, glass, paper, organic waste, rubber, textiles, and e-waste are recycled a lot of CO2 emissions are prevented. Recycling is important both in households and industry. Apart from the effect on emissions this approach reduces the size of landfills. It also reduces the size of mines and the pollution from mining and the amount of energy needed for new raw materials. This paragraph is a combination of different solutions of Project Drawdown. (Source: https://drawdown.org/solutions/table-of-solutions)

Potential
Waste or garbage occurs wherever people live – so increasing recycling basically is a chance everywhere. It can also be combined with the ideas of „Repair Cafés“ (see below).

Cooperation possibilities
Cooperating with the local authorities or with local recycling companies is important to achieve good effect.

CO2 effect
Different materials have a different lever: (source: Mike Berners-Lee: How bad are bananas? The carbon footprint of everything. Profile Books 2020.)

  • Recycling 1 kg of aluminum or nylon saves 9 kg CO2.
  • Recycling 1 kg of paper saves 4.7 kg of CO2.
  • Recycling 1 kg of copper saves 3.8 kg of CO2.
  • Recycling 1 kg of PET plastic bottles saves 2.5 kg of CO2.
  • Recycling 1 kg of general timber saves 1.5 kg of CO2.
  • Recycling 1 kg of glass saves 0.9 kg of CO2.
  • Recycling 1 kg of kitchen/food or garden/plant waste saves 0.6 kg of CO2.

Lithium-Ion Batteries are used in e.g. smartphones, laptops and probably in many other rechargeable devices you own. Therefore, recycling these batteries is growing in importance. Depending on the used recycling method the amount of save CO2 varies. The reduction of GHG emissions of producing batteries with recycled materials (assuming 92 kg CO2 per kWh without recycling): (source: https://floodlightinvest.com/recycling-of-lithium-batteries-and-ghg-emissions/#:~:text=Hydrometallurgical%20is%2060.77%20kg%20CO,than%20that%20using%20raw%20materials.)

  • Pyrometallurgy recycling reduces by approximately 4 kg CO2 per kWh of battery.
  • Hydrometallurgical recycling reduces by approximately 30 kg CO2 per kWh of battery.
  • Direct physical recycling reduces by approximately 47 kg CO2 per kWh of battery.

Visibility impact
Local recycling initiatives offer a good chance to make the environmental activities of your Rotary Club visible in your community.

Existing Rotary projects

  • The ESRAG supported „Project Lithium-Ion Battery Recycling“ (source: https://esrag.org/lithium-ion-battery-recycling/) enables Rotary clubs to conduct events in your community, e.g. together with the recycling startup company Redwood Material. Please consider making sure that the CO2 effects are not counted twice, i.e. the company that conducts the recycling of materials should guarantee the Rotary Club that it does not sell the CO2 compensation effects and certificates to others.

Regenerative annual cropping (15 to 23 Gigatons CO2 globally) (Source: https://drawdown.org/solutions/regenerative-annual-cropping)
Regenerative agriculture enhances and sustains the health of the soil by restoring its carbon content. This improves productivity and removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Project Drawdown describes its Regenerative Annual Cropping approach as „any annual cropping system (excluding rice production) that includes at least four of the following six regenerative practices: compost application, cover crops, crop rotation, green manures, no-till or reduced tillage, and/or organic production.“ The application of these practices helps to sequester carbon in the soil and leads to reduced emissions. (Source: https://drawdown.org/solutions/regenerative-annual-cropping)

Potential
The practices mentioned above can be applied widely and therefore have a huge global mitigation potential.

Cooperation possibilities
Teaching farmers about the methods should happen in cooperation with suitable organic farming associations or similar experts.

CO2 effect
Project Drawdown calculates, that the applied methods increase organic matter in the soil between 4 percent and 7 percent over 10 years and lead to an additional 25 tons to 60 tons of carbon stored in the ground per acre. (Source: Diana Schoberg: https://www.rotary.org/en/climate-change-what-rotarians-are-doing-now)

Social and biodiversity impact
Teaching farmers to achieve more output with less fertilizers has also a social impact due increased income for the farmers. Avoiding pesticides will also increase biodiversity.

Existing Rotary projects

Mangroves & Seagrass & Salt marshes (2 to 2.6 Gigatons CO2 globally)
The former ESRAG chair Christopher Puttock has researched mangroves during his career as botanist. Mangroves and seagrass are endangered by many human activities in coastal areas, e.g. industrial development like shrimp farms. (Sources: Mike Berners-Lee: How bad are bananas? The carbon footprint of everything. Profile Books 2020, Kate Silver, https://www.rotary.org/en/why-rotary-is-committed-mangroves).
This point combines the Project Drawdown estimations for „coastal wetland restoration“ and „coastal wetland protection“. Source: Project Drawdown, https://drawdown.org/solutions/coastal-wetland-restoration, https://drawdown.org/solutions/coastal-wetland-protection

Potential
You can find mangroves in tropical and subtropical areas in Africa, Australia and South America and South Asia but also in the USA. Seagrass planting/restoration is possible along many ocean coasts.

Cooperation possibilities
See the conducted projects below for possible cooperation partners.

CO2 effect

  • coastal wetlands protection: Avoided emission and continued sequestration of 33 tons of CO2 per hectare.
  • coastal wetlands restoration: Protecting currently degraded coastal wetlands and allowing natural regrowth to occur would sequester 125 tons of CO2 per hectare.
  • Sources: Project Drawdown, https://drawdown.org/solutions/coastal-wetland-restoration, https://drawdown.org/solutions/coastal-wetland-protection
  • Planting Seagrass: 420kg of CO2 per hectare of replanted seagrass after 15 years (Source: Mike Berners-Lee: How bad are bananas? The carbon footprint of everything. Profile Books 2020.).

Social, biodiversity, visibility impact
If projects involve the local population they can also have a social impact. The projects will have a positive impact on biodiversity and on the visibility of the Rotaract or Rotary Clubs conducting them.

Existing Rotary projects
To my knowledge there is not yet a global Rotarian initiative concerning this topic but there are many local mangrove projects conducted by Rotary Clubs. The following list was compiled by Kate Silver: (Source: Kate Silver, https://www.rotary.org/en/why-rotary-is-committed-mangroves)

  • In Kenya, mangroves are harvested for timber. The Rotaract Club of Malindi has worked with the community to plant more than 130,000 mangrove propagules and seedlings, while also educating residents about the importance of mangroves and how to sustain them. The Rotary Clubs of Mombasa Nyali and Mombasa Central have worked on mangrove restoration projects along the region’s shoreline. 
  • In the Philippines, the Rotary Club of Bacolod-Marapara has participated in several plantings to protect and restore mangroves along shorelines as part of its Project Green environmental initiative. The Rotary Club of Victorias and the Rotaract Club of Marapara have also participated in plantings. 
  • In American Samoa, the Rotary Club of Pago Pago has participated in a mangrove planting and coastal cleanup project in the Lions Park and Pala Lagoon areas. 
  • In the British Virgin Islands, the Rotary Club of Central Tortola partnered with local agencies to replant hundreds of mangroves that were wiped out by hurricanes in 2017. 
  • In Mauritius, the Rotaract Club of Phoenix has partnered with the local nonprofit Reef Conservation and is growing mangrove seedlings that can be planted around the island.

(Source: Kate Silver, https://www.rotary.org/en/why-rotary-is-committed-mangroves)

  • Project Ocean was initiated in 2022 by Julia Schulmeyer of the Rotaract Club München (Germany), it is committed to protecting marine ecosystems, preserving biodiversity, and fighting marine pollution. Source: https://projectocean.rotaract.de/

Hands-on options
Some of the mentioned projects also offer hands-on possibilities.

Apart from the approaches of project Drawdown described above there are other scalable project opportunities with a measurable impact that are listed in the following.

Establishing a „Repair Café“ in your community
A lot of people own goods with a defect, e.g. electric or electronic equipment. In a repair café such goods are repaired. The repair café can e.g. open once a month on a Saturday afternoon and people can come and bring their goods that need repair. The need for repairing goods is universal wherever people live. A repair café is also a good cooperation possibility in hands-on activities between a Rotary and a Rotaract club. On top of that it has a valuable social impact since it brings people together in the community and helps people to save money for buying new goods. A repair café also enables a good visibility for the Rotary club in its community.

CO2 effect
The achieved CO2 effect is equivalent to the emissions of producing, packaging and transporting of a new good and the CO2 saved if the defect equipment was sent to a landfill. The following list has a few examples: (sources: Mike Berners-Lee: How bad are bananas? The carbon footprint of everything. Profile Books 2020, B. Blondel, C. Mispelon, and J. Ferguson: „Cycle More Often 2 Cool Down the Planet! Quantifying CO2 Savings of Cycling,“ European Cyclists‘ Federation, November 2011.)

  • A 55-inch flat screen TV 760 kg CO2
  • A 42-inch flat screen TV 580 kg CO2
  • A 16-inch laptop 620 kg CO2
  • A 13-inch laptop 326 kg CO2
  • A smartphone 105 kg CO2
  • A conventional bicycle made mostly of aluminum 96 kg CO2

Existing Rotary projects

  • The ESRAG-supported project „Repair Café“ helps Rotary clubs to establish repair cafés in their own community. The general initiative was started in Holland by Martine Postma in 2007 and currently there are already over 2,200 in operation globally. There is very helpful information on this website: https://www.repaircafe.org/en/about/ (source: https://esrag.org/project/repair-cafe/)
  • Another example is a hands-on refurbishment event conducted by the Rotaract Club Milano Sforza (Italy) where many computers and laptops were refurbished and donated to new owners that otherwise could not afford a new computer.

Reducing one-way plastic, general plastic usage and plastic pollution
Activities concerning plastics and microplastics
If private households, a local school, a hotel or a canteen etc. in your community is still using one way plastic, you can start a project to reduce this. Plastic is also very common in packaging products, especially food. In the Netherlands, an average of 1500 plastic packages is consumed per person per year, creating approximately 24 kg plastic packaging waste. Plastic is also a huge polluter of rivers and oceans and microplastic is in the air, the soil, the fish you eat and the water you drink. (source: Gert-Jan van Dommelen, End Plastic Soup, 2023)

Cooperation possibilities
Establishing a cooperation with the relevant local organisations or companies is probably the best way to reduce the use of one-way plastic.

Potential
Using one-way plastic is unfortunately still widespread in many regions. Plastic pollution is also a common problem all over the world.

CO2 effect

  • If you save e.g. 2 kg of new PET one-way plastics on 180 school days, you have a yearly CO2 reduction effect of up to 1,5 tons of CO2. (Source: Mike Berners-Lee: How bad are bananas? The carbon footprint of everything. Profile Books 2020.)
  • Avoiding the use of 5 plastic shopping bags (weighing 60-70 grams each) reduces your carbon footprint by 1 kg CO2. (source: Gert-Jan van Dommelen, End Plastic Soup, 2023)
  • Avoiding plastic packaging has also a measurable impact since approximately 44% of all plastic consumption is packaging, mostly related to food. If you buy products without plastic packaging, on average 1 kg of less plastic packaging equals 3 kg CO2-reduction. (source: Gert-Jan van Dommelen, End Plastic Soup, 2023)
  • Microplastic has a negative impact on fungi in the soil and plankton in the ocean. Fungi and plankton together are responsible for approximately 70% of the CO2 storage capacity on earth. Therefore every „clean-up event“ has a positive effect on climate change as well – even if it is not yet exactly quantifiable. On top of that microplastic also has a negative effect on biodiversity and human health.  (source: Gert-Jan van Dommelen, End Plastic Soup, 2023)

Visibility impact
Conducting local activities concerning plastic offers a good visibility in your community.

Existing Rotary projects
There are at least two existing Rotary initiatives that work in this direction already.

  • The ESRAG „Plastic Solutions Task Force„, chaired by Franz Muller, that is is focusing the power of Rotary clubs to change and influence how plastic is created, used, and disposed of. The initiative supports cleanup activities to inspire Club members to start community collaborations, raise awareness concerning plastic. It also has a focus on individual behavior change by encouraging individuals to reduce buying products made of plastic or reducing to buy products with plastic packaging. (Source: https://esrag.org/plastics-solutions/) For more information, please visit the website: https://esrag.org/plastics-solutions/
  • The scalable and quickly growing global initiative „End Plastic Soup“, that was founded by the Rotary Clubs of Amsterdam (Netherlands) which we strongly support as our cooperation partner of „Become Sustainable!“. This initiative has already inspired a huge number of activities globally and offers very good opportunities for Rotarian „hands-on“ activities. In January 2024 more than 250 clubs were supporting the initiative globally, many of them as ambassador clubs. For more information, please contact Marja Ritterfeld or Gert-Jan van Dommelen via an email to endplasticsoup@gmail.com or visit the website: http://www.endplasticsoup.org/

Encourage and support climate-friendly behaviour in your community
Potential
A lot of people in communities worldwide want to do something good for the environment. But many people don´t know what they can do and what the biggest levers are for them. I will give you some recommendations on this in chapter xxx. To inspire and support behavioral changes in your community you can use the program described here. The program uses an online tool with a gamification approach, please have a look at e.g. https://fremontgreenchallenge.org.
The online tool is combined with community engagement strategies including social marketing. (Source: https://www.bacommunities.org)

Cooperation possibilities
The company „BrightAction communities“ (formerly „Community Climate Solutions“) has developed a tool and an approach to make things happen in your community. For more information please have a look at the website: https://www.bacommunities.org

Local CO2 effect
In the „Fremont green challenge“, 1860 households are currently participating and the measured and achieved effect so far is a stunning 855 tons of CO2. The long-term effect will probably be higher than that if you consider the effect, that some of the behavioral changes will last longer than the program in Fremont lasts and other people will start to copy the behavior.

Social, visibility impact, hands-on
The program also offers a social impact since many actions like e.g. reducing energy usage also lead to a cost reduction for the participating households. The visibility of your club in the community is also high. The communication in your community can also include hands-on activities.

Existing Rotary projects
We are currently investigating this.

Conduct a „Competition to win a Sustainability Award“ in your community
To inspire and encourgae climate-friendly behaviour in your community you can also conduct a sustainability competition in your community. The competition e.g. could be open for companies, schools or individuals.

Potential
Basically, a competition is feasible in every community that is big enough. Encouraging the participation of schools has the additional benefit of raising awareness and increasing the knowledge about carbon-clever behavior in the next generation.

Cooperation possibilities
Local schools, universities etc.

CO2 effect
Achieving a measurable CO2 effect could be one part of the task you give to the participants.

Visibility impact
A competition will always be accompanied by a lot of communication in local media or newgroups. This communication will also make your clubs environmental engagement quite visible.

Existing Rotary projects

  • The four Rotary clubs of Ammersee-Römerstraße, Buchloe, Landsberg am Lech and Wörthsee have donated an award and conducted a sustainability competition already. For more information, please visit the website: https://www.rotary-nachhaltigkeitspreis.de/

If you did not find a suitable project in this list, please try the following:

  • The ESRAG webpage www.Esrag.org and the ESRAG email-newsletters that are sent to ESRAG-members offer many hints to interesting projects
  • The initiative RCAT (www.rcatnow.com) also offers inspiring project ideas https://rcatnow.com/projects/browse/
  • The website Rotary Showcase is helpful as well
  • There is a list of projects available in the ESRAG mobile phone App iRotree, please see webpage www.esrag.org/irotree

Have you started a new project?

  • Please tell us about your compensation project, so we can add it to this list. Please send an email to info@becomesustainable.org
  • We can also help you with a rough calculation of the CO2 compensation effect of your project. Please send an email to info@becomesustainable.org
  • Please make sure that you also start a scalable solution so other clubs can easily join in and make the climate change mitigation effect much bigger.
  • Please also make sure that you enter your project in the iRotree mobile App by ESRAG, so others can see your project and the CO2 reduction can be calculated.
  • To make Rotary officially carbon neutral as soon as possible it will be very beneficial to have a certification by independent auditors for all the scalable projects to confirm the compensation effect – ideally with a gold standard certificate.


There are many other different alternatives for your sustainability project. Links to further Rotarian projects presented at the „Rotary Institute Basel“ you will find here.