Oncarbon’s mission: make travel more sustainable
The story of Oncarbon began in 2021 in Tampere, Finland. With the pandemic in full swing and global air travel down 95%, young entrepreneurs Jussi Ahola and Tomi Turtiainen were discussing the social and environmental costs of travel choices. By this time, Finland had already experienced most of the recent travel trends and challenges, such as flight-shame and micro-tourism, and air travel was beginning to carry the label “bad for the environment.”
Ahola and Turtiainen decided to address this challenge. Their goal was to give the travel companies and their customers a tool to allow making informed travel decisions. This is when Oncarbon solution was born.
Oncarbon helps forward-thinking travel companies calculate and communicate the carbon footprint of their products. Ahola and Turtiainen see transparency as the first step in minimizing the harmful impact of travel and a push for better supply and demand of low-emission travel products.
“We want people to continue enjoying the benefits of travel but we believe that today, being aware of the environmental footprint of travel is the first step to lower emissions in the future. The travel industry needs to change and we need to travel more consciously because if we continue to emit the current levels of greenhouse gasses, we will exceed the limit of global warming of 1.5℃, agreed under the 2015 Paris Agreement, and exceed it in a serious way.” Jussi Ahola and Tomi Turtiainen, the co-founders of Oncarbon
An innovative carbon footprint calculator
The Oncarbon model for calculating flight emissions uses a wide variety of characteristics of a flight itinerary: plane models, engine models, the number of seats in the aircraft, an estimation of the amount of cargo on the flight, airport busyness factors, and the great-circle distances between the origin, destination, and any stops on the way. It gives out numbers in terms of the warming effect attributable to each seat of a flight itinerary. The warming effect is communicated as kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). Travel companies can receive the emissions data through Oncarbon’s APIs and display it to consumers at the point of purchase.
In the future, the startup is planning to extend the coverage of their calculation service to more travel product categories, such as accommodation. Also, their ambition is to start accounting sustainability information beyond emissions, like the social sustainability of different accommodation options.
“We see ourselves as a trusted third party that monitors travel companies. Our mission is to hold companies accountable for the carbon footprint of their products and empower their customers to make conscious choices. We want the travel industry to be more transparent and more sustainable. There is no room for greenwashing.” Jussi Ahola and Tomi Turtiainen, the co-founders of Oncarbon
Growing pressure from climate conscious consumers
The pressure towards bigger transparency from climate conscious consumers is growing, and communicating emissions becomes a standard in some industries.
According to EASA (European Union Aviation Safety Agency) survey, 80% of passengers would like to receive environmental information about the flights they take and three out of four passengers would welcome an Environmental Label on their flight. Meanwhile, only 5% of passengers are aware how much CO2 they use when they travel by air.
Yet travel agencies and airlines aren’t openly sharing the emissions or fuel burn data – and Oncarbon is determined to change that.
“We did not start Oncarbon to make a quick buck – we want to make an impact and educate consumers who are unaware of the environmental costs of travel.”Jussi Ahola and Tomi Turtiainen, the co-founders of Oncarbon
Oncarbon pushes for full transparency
Oncarbon currently operates with a team of four. Ahola and Turtiainen were joined by Chief Data Officer Julia Bondarchik, a researcher and PhD student at LUT Sustainability Science, and Joanna Kocik, a content marketing specialist.
The Finnish startup already has its first customers on board and is on track to scale its impact in Europe. The founders admit that in Finland, sustainability issues are high on the agenda and business often takes responsibility for environmental issues. Now it’s time to expand this trend to other countries.
“We realize that our product is about helping travel companies communicate a sometimes unpleasant fact, but we believe there is no room for compromise when it comes to climate change. Humanity is running out of time to stop global warming and we cannot afford not to be brutally honest about the impact of travel on the environment,” Oncarbon’s founders conclude.
About the team:
Jussi Ahola – CEO and co-founder of Oncarbon. Previously co-founder of a climate action platform Tideal and a design lead at the software company Vincit.
Tomi Turtiainen – co-founder of Oncarbon. In the past led dev teams and built digital solutions at Futurice. Created data transform library fromfrom and Robot Framework VS Code extension.
Julia Bondarchik – co-founder of Oncarbon. Led science context and data management practices at Neuro Event Labs. Doctoral candidate at LUT Sustainability Science.
Joanna Kocik – led complex content machines in digital media outlets. Worked as a content strategist for European startups.