New carbon offsets biz aimed at motorcyclists

Andreas, left, and Carolann Gneist with their motorcycle.

In a life filled with travel and adventure, Andreas and Carolann Gneist’s latest journey seems, perhaps, a little pedestrian: starting a business.

But it was previous adventures, their love for motorcycling and their wandering spirits — plus a move to BC — that prompted their venture in to entrepreneurship.

Andreas Gneist was born in Berlin, Germany and held corporate finance and accounting jobs around the world. Carolann Gneist hails from Surrey, the one in southern England, and worked for British Airways for more than 30 years, in roles ranging from cabin crew to operations to training. Together, they’ve taken advantage of his work and her discounted travel privileges to see the world, often on two wheels.

When, after Carolann Gneist took early severance from British Airways and her husband left the corporate rat race, the couple was looking to settle somewhere new, they chose British Columbia, where Andreas Gneist decided to attend Royal Roads University to take the Master of Global Management program.

After moving to BC, however, they experienced the effects of wildfires in the province’s north and the Interior, with added smoke from fires south of the border.

“I have always been a high-mileage rider and a very keen motorcyclist. I can no longer do it without thinking of my CO2 footprint,” says Andreas Gneist. “Awareness and conscience called a little bit and said, ‘You know, I’m having such a good time on the motorcycle but I’m blasting out CO2 into the atmosphere. It’s not ideal.’”

Seeing and smelling the wildfire smoke was “a trigger event” that prompted him to call a carbon offsetting company to pay to offset the output from riding his BMW GSA 1200 touring bike.

“I thought, hmm, is this scalable? How many others out there think like me and might be interested in such a thing.”

And with that thought, concerns about the climate crisis collided with the Gneists’ love of motorcycles and Andreas Gneist’s fresh learning about not only marketing but, also, sustainability and corporate responsibility. Thus was born the business idea for Motorcycle Offsetters, which was created to allow riders like themselves to buy carbon offsets, to make up for the carbon sent into the atmosphere by their fossil fuel-powered two-wheelers.

Peacocks and a motorcycle on the RRU campus.

Motorcycling made even more sustainable

Here’s how it works: A motorcycle rider goes to the website, clicks on Purchase Offsets, then enters information about their bike — make, model, year — and how many kilometres they ride and want to offset. Riders then choose the amount of offsets at or above their estimated carbon output. When buying more CO2 offsets than they emit, their motorcycle riding becomes not just carbon-neutral, but carbon-negative. Riders can see their “investment” in carbon negativity in a corresponding gauge that’s fashioned like a tachometer.

A test run that included entering a random, medium-powered bike showed, for 5,000 km of riding, the cost to offset 100 per cent of the carbon output cost less than $30.

Motorcycle Offsetters resells offsets from three projects by Carbonzero. Those projects are: the Newfoundland Climate and Ecosystems Conservancy Project, “a greenhouse gas-mitigation initiative through engineered wetland systems for wastewater treatment;” the Niagara Escarpment Forest Carbon Project, which “promotes and maintains forest cover, ecosystem function, protection of rare species, biodiversity, and geological features in their natural condition;” and the Afognak Forest Carbon Project in Alaska, which “has preserved large tracts of undisturbed native trees (180 to 250 years old) as well as regenerated tree growth.”

Besides selling offsets, Carolann Gneist says, the start-up is looking to sign up members, who can upload photos and their bikes’ profiles, while partnering with companies to offer discounts on products such as motorcycling clothing, insurance and boutique hotels that cater to motorcyclists.

“It’s really about making it about the motorcycle community,” she says.

And while they’re located in BC, with another home (and another BMW GSA 1200) in Yucca Valley, California, they have global ambitions for their company.

Andreas Gneist wants to reach out globally with this enterprise: “There is common ground among motorcycle communities although they come from different countries.”

And the Royal Roads MGM program came in handy, he says, noting he was able to bounce ideas for the new business back and forth with fellow students as well as professors — including two with whom he now goes riding.