How Covid-19 Turned Two Travel Tech Entrepreneurs Into Climate Change Warriors

Battling climate change Anthony Collias, and Jacob Wedderburn-Day

Battling climate change Anthony Collias, and Jacob Wedderburn-Day 

This time last year entrepreneurs Anthony Collias, and Jacob Wedderburn-Day were flying high with their travel tech startup Stasher. Investment was coming in and the business was growing, but then the pandemic hit, and sales dropped to zero. Looking ahead, the only silver lining the pair could see was the favorable effect of the pandemic on the climate, which led them to launch Treepoints, a subscription service that makes it easy for people to live more sustainably, and rewards them for doing so.

They had launched Stasher in 2015 after graduating from Oxford University. The online platform links travelers, event-attendees, and hotel guests to ‘StashPoints’ where they can safely store their bags on a short-to-medium term basis. To date, the company has stored over half a million bags in 1200 locations globally. But in March last year, its future looked bleak.

“With a lot of uncertainty of what the future would bring for Stasher, the one certainty was the climate crisis, and we knew it wouldn’t go anyway anytime soon,” says Collias. “From talking to our friends and family we realized most people are worried about climate change and want to do good for the planet. For the first time in a while we had a lot of time to process, reflect and plan, and the solution we came up with was Treepoints, as a way of revolutionizing and simplifying the fight against climate change that everybody could get on board with.”

The founders launched the business in beta in November 2020, using the experience they’d gained from starting Stasher from scratch in 2015. They discovered that many of their skills were transferable, for example, creating a suitable business model, creating a website, finding partners, and gaining traction and momentum. One of the challenges they hadn’t faced before was doing all this remotely.

“One of the best things about starting from the ground up is the energy and creativity that comes from us all putting our heads together, and the creative conversations that result,” says Wedderburn-Day. “We soon learned that this is not quite the same when done virtually on video calls, so solutions to problems or ‘world-changing ideas are definitely harder to come by than pre-pandemic.”

Driving sales was also a challenge during lockdown. When they launched Stasher, the founders were going door-to-door, pitching to investors, entering competitions, flyering, and eventually developing a playbook that could be passed on and refined as new people joined the team. “This had to be completely re-written for Treepoints, as we had no choice but to adapt the strategies we used previously to generate good leads as well as reaching customers directly,” adds Wedderburn-Day.

The Treepoints platform rewards individuals for offsetting their carbon footprint. An emissions calculator curates the footprints of both individuals and businesses and enumerates them into a profile, displaying personalized stats; points accumulated over time, current balance, and the opportunity to refer friends. The carbon offset-to date data is broken down into comparable commodities such as flights, steak, residencies and presented with an offset versus lifetime emissions graph.

“Users then have the opportunity to join teams at the company they work at or with friends and family,” says Collias. “They’re also able to compare themselves with other teams and businesses regionally and nationally through a rankings table.”

The carbon footprint rewards – Treepoints – are redeemed through the company’s green marketplace, which features brands such as Patagonia and Tom’s, and offers exclusive discounts via its green partners.

Treepoints operates as a subscription service, with monthly membership fees starting from £3.25 in the U.K., which offsets the six tons of CO2 a year emitted by the average resident. In the U.S., where the average resident emits 17 tons, plans start at $8.50. The money is used to support UN-certified sustainable carbon reduction projects all over the world.

An API can also be integrated into external business websites. “This means independent sellers and international companies have the option for users to offset carbon emissions, or to plant a tree, at the point of purchase, using the API,” explains Wedderburn-Day.

Within two months of its launch, Treepoints has attracted 1,000 followers on Instagram, been certified as a social enterprise, and offset over 200 tons of carbon. The founders are now focusing on rapid growth to help more individuals and businesses achieve carbon neutrality and even climate positivity.

“We need to sign up more customers and more businesses on the platform and work with more, larger, partners,” says Collias. “We are also working towards a slicker, faster, and more engaging user experience with external product work as well as funding.”

As the world emerges from lockdown and restrictions lift across the world, domestic and international travel will resume and Stasher will also ramp up its operations, complete with product improvements, including a low-cost global luggage courier service, that will help to attract more and visitors to the site.

However, with climate change now a matter of urgency and a top priority for everyone, all eyes will be on initiatives like Treepoint that can help people who want to make a difference.

“Climate change is something of a taboo subject because everyone is aware of it, but when you focus on it for too long, you can quickly become overwhelmed or feel hopeless to change,” says Wedderburn-Day. “Worst of all, you end up doing nothing about it. Our goal is to simplify and make it accessible for everyone to track and reduce their carbon footprint in a very tangible way.”

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