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Masks Are Terrible For the Environment – But We Need Them Right Now

You need high quality masks, but you’re also concerned about the carbon footprint that you’re leaving by using a surgical mask. At INCYT RESILIENCE INC., we are making sure that our surgical mask carbon footprint is handled – this isn’t easy, but we’ve made tremendous progress. This article explains why and how.

We’re making and selling surgical masks that, though they can technically be recycled, are not. Further, they should not be recycled, due to the potential hazard that they present – (i.e. they are a potential biohazard once used). This means our masks are disposed of in landfills. 

We have looked at many options (e.g. biodegradable materials, alternate plastics for the fabrics) without much luck. So, we’re stuck with offsetting our surgical mask carbon footprint. 

We did some research on where the best approaches are for carbon offsets. It’s a confusing world when you look into this: planted trees can be cut down and aren’t overly effective; protected land can be misused; sequestration is in kind of a voodoo space now; etc.

Thankfully, Shopify (another Canadian company!) did a ton of research and found a supplier that meets their stringent needs. Their analysis is fantastic – so we’re following in their footprint. Shopify’s approach to carbon offsets looked to ensure that their offset program meet the following criteria: 

  • Additionality: The carbon offset needs to lead to a reduction of CO2 emissions that would not have happened otherwise. That means no investments in national parks that are already protected, for example.
  • Permanence: This can’t be a short-term solution. Carbon captured and represented in offsets needs to be stored forever, or for a very, very long time.
  • No double-counting: Offsets are a one-and-done thing. Their impact cannot be recorded twice.
  • Monitoring and verification: Good offsets need to actually do the thing they are meant to be doing, and that thing needs to be able to be verified.
  • Scalability: We wanted to invest in projects that have the ability to scale and receive results quickly, without relying on manual processes that take up a lot of time and resources.
Reference to journal article and calculations reaching conclusion of 59 tonnes CO2/million masks.

When NIH released a study about surgical mask carbon footprint we knew that we could reliably calculate our impact.

The next step was to find a partner that was 100% focused on managing the long-term carbon offsets that we wanted. That research that Shopify did helped. We know how hard they worked on finding a partner and we liked the solution they arrived at. 

We have partnered with Pachama as well – to offset that carbon impact of our masks before we make them. Pachama is technology driven, certified by Verra. Your purchases are helping two major projects – protecting the Amazon and helping in reforestation efforts.


Further, as our retail store is powered by Shopify all retail shipments have also been offset. It’s a bit of double accounting – but in favour of offsetting more than we calculate our impact to be. If we are going to make a mistake we’d rather offset more carbon than we are creating.

While we continue to look for other solutions, we are looking forward to working with Pachama and Shopify to continue to offset our carbon footprint.