Startup Wren Helps You Offset Your Carbon Footprint

Wren is a web app that helps calculate your carbon footprint and then offset it by supporting one of their partnering environmental projects

27.08.2019 | by Kezia Parkins
Photo by Arnaud Mesureur on Unsplash
Photo by Arnaud Mesureur on Unsplash

To reverse climate change, or at the very least, slow it down, individuals must take steps to reduce their carbon footprint.

But first, we need to understand the impact of our lifestyles and know what our carbon footprint is.

This is what a trio of designers and engineers set out to do when they created their second startup, Wren.

Landon Brand, Ben Stanfield and Mimi Tran Zambetti met through USC’s Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy. They were originally working on HR software when they decided to focus on something more meaningful—climate change. 

“There are tons of people out there like us that want to do something about this,” Stanfield told Forbes. “Can we set up some sort of software to help connect them with projects they can get involved with?”

Wren is a web app subscription service that makes it easy to offset your carbon footprint.

“Our goal with Wren is to make it so anyone can easily understand their carbon footprint, figure out how to reduce their emissions, and then offset the emissions they cannot reduce. With more people living carbon-neutral, we can make a huge impact on reversing climate change,” says Wren’s website. 


How it works

Wren calculates your carbon footprint and figures out how much greenhouse gas you’re emitting. It looks at a few main factors like how you get around, what you eat, your power and gas usage, and how much stuff you buy. 

Wren, carbon footprint


The startup collaborates with University of California Berkeley’s Cool Climate project and uses data from World Bank to make the calculation. 

To make it easy, users just type in the country they live in, and Wren will pre-populate a typical carbon footprint from that country.

wren, carbon footprint

Then, they pay a monthly charge to offset what they emit, for an average of around $21 a month. That money goes towards one of three projects: tree planting, Amazon rainforest protection or clean energy for Ugandan refugees. 

Wren updates its subscribers every two weeks on the projects.

Wren only supports projects that have a reliable protocol for measuring how much greenhouse gas they prevent or sequester. This way, users can rest easy knowing that the projects they support offset as much carbon emissions as they claim to.


Tree Planting:

Wren is partnered with TIST, a community-focused afforestation programme that sponsors tree planting and workshops for farmers in East Africa.

TIST has planted 18 million thriving trees over 20 years of operation. This project helps subsistence farmers in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. 

While the climate benefits are immense, TIST participants have also created over $140 million in economic benefits in addition to payments from carbon credits. TIST helps build leadership in these communities as well, and 50% of the leaders they help are women.


Tech-enabled Amazon Rainforest Protection:

This project empowers indigenous rainforest monitors in Peru with tech to boost their already vast efforts to protect the Amazon from deforestation. 

The monitors are trained by Rainforest Foundation to become official forest rangers. Technicians compile and analyse satellite data to detect deforestation and then distribute reports to local communities. The indigenous monitors then use the reports to investigate incursions and document illegal activities using software on their smartphones.

Communities then compile deforestation data and work with authorities.

The project was accepted into a government programme that pays the group to protect the forest.


Clean Cooking Fuel for Refugees:

The clean briquettes for refugees programme is run by Mandulis Energy, a small NGO in Northern Uganda working to develop microgrid solutions for rural farming communities.

The programme aims to provide clean cooking fuel for the 1.3 million refugees in Uganda, which means healthier lungs and less deforestation.

Mandulis Energy purchases waste like rice husks, groundnut shells, and maize cobs from nearby farmers.

The waste is put through a briquetting machine and is transformed into small cylinders that can be used as fuel.

The briquettes are distributed among refugees in Northern Uganda, where it is burned in efficient stoves.


The Y Combinator startup launched on June 12th, 2019, and is aiming to offset carbon emissions equivalent to taking 5,000 cars off the road by September 1st. So far, they report that they are at 3,080 with a few days to go. 

Wren has over 600 subscribers but has recently added a corporate subscription, which may help the startup dramatically increase this number by allowing companies to enrol employees as a staff benefit.

The founders are aware that there are many people out there with their mission to reduce their carbon emissions, and that the modern workforce expects the company they work for to do their bit. 

Wren reports that their active users are incredibly engaged in tracking their emissions and the projects they have opted to support.

This indicates that people are very keen to make changes as individuals, but what is often lacking is an understanding of how their lifestyles directly impact the planet and climate change—a gap that Wren is trying to fill.

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