Recently, in the wake of the COP21 meetings and the publication of the Paris Agreement on climate change, we posted a few ideas about reducing carbon impacts in this “post-Paris” era. At the top of that list was the suggestion to read “How Bad Are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything” by Mike Berners-Lee. The book contains lots of excellent advice on how to contribute to the health of the planet. Freshly inspired by its message, my coworkers and I agreed to set out on a new adventure in sustainability: we would try to become a carbon-neutral workplace in 2016.
Let’s be clear: the three denizens of this office don’t generally practice mindless energy gluttony. We’ve learned and posted much on sustainable design, home building, and lifestyles. Now we want to translate some of that knowledge into more concrete action on the work front. Using the Berners-Lee book as a starting point, we’re going to research the carbon impacts of some typical workplace activities, and figure out how to lessen them while maintaining high quality in our own output.
This will be no small task. Our energy consumption extends into all kinds of areas: goods and services that we purchase from others; hydro usage; transportation (our own and that used by our suppliers); our communications systems; and consumables of every type, from coffee to copy paper. As Berners-Lee points out, the true carbon impact of anything starts well before its actual production, and can be traced back infinitely to include every material sourced and activity involved along a very long chain indeed. Some of that information may be impossible to quantify or to access, so we’ll be working with “best estimates”. We’ll share what we find out via this blog — the successes achieved, the obstacles encountered, and any lessons learned from other small businesses who have attempted this challenge. As the year progresses, we’ll try to log our own usage and hope to post quarterly reports.
It’s encouraging to know that we’re already on top of some of the little stuff. Among other things, we minimize our use of paper mail and other print materials; buy World Community coffee and only boil as much water as we need to brew it; use cloth hand towels in the bathroom, and avoid any disposables in the kitchen. As for the big stuff – we’ll talk about the no-fly decision in another post. We welcome you to accompany us on this adventure, to ask questions or offer advice if you have any. Until next time, have a look at the attached for some Tips of the Week: Week 1 carbon footprint table