Sustainability, Tips, Work

How big is your footprint really?

Your Carbon Footprint that is…

We are proactive in reducing our carbon footprint and being aware of our impact and possibilities to reduce our impact on our environment.  In addition to trying our air travel, through Climate Friendly, and wanted to offset the emissions of our other (essential) emissions-intensive activities.

Climate Friendly works with corporations, businesses and individuals to measure, manage, and offset their carbon footprint, by  providing a quick and easy calculation tool, to take action immediately.  While these tools allow you to calculate offsets for flights, electricity and car travel, we wanted to offset more than those things, so we sent an email to Climate Friendly to see if they could help.  They quickly responded and sent us spreadsheet for us to fill in and  return to them to finish the calculations.

Before we could complete the spreadsheet, we needed obtain certain figures, make calculations and implement procedures to produce more accurate figures — so we thought we’d share how we went about doing it…

The first figure we tackled was our electricity, dividing the KW usage (from our electricity bill) by 5 working days, divided by the staff members.

For paper consumption, we went through our invoices and extracted all paper purchases i.e. A4 80gsm, A4 110gsm, FlipChart per 60gsm etc. worked out an average over the period of time and tracked it in a spreadsheet.

Taxi travel and freight figures were extracted from our cashflow reports from our accounting system.  For paper waste, we didn’t empty our 7 litre recycling bin for 4 weeks and measured how much we filled it for that period.

At the end of the day these figures are not absolute, but by continually measuring our consumption, our hope is that we’ll no longer be grappling for figures, working on guesstimates or making assumptions.  We’ll have a more comprehensive understanding of how big our footprint really is.

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Recycling Computers

Like many companies, we have a couple of old computers in the office that are no longer suitable for use by us and are wanting to dispose of them in an environmentally friendly way.

After doing a little bit of research we’ve found a couple of companies online offering such services — they pick up the items and pay you if they still work, can be refurbished and sold, they also destroy any data that’s on them. The services are:

We were wondering if anyone has had any experience with either company, or could suggest any others that might be worth considering?


Paperless Invoices

We try to be proactive in sustainability and reduce and offset our carbon emissions (for flights, paper usage, transport usage — e.g. cabs etc.).  We are part of a shared office space in a corporate building, and although our hands may be tied in some areas, we feel it’s important to constantly find ways, even small ones, to lessen our carbon footprint.

We’ve just had to estimate our paper usage for offsetting with Climate Friendly which has also got us thinking about ways to reduce the amount of paper we use. We also recently completed the office mini assessment on greenbizcheck website — after hearing about GreenBizCheck at a CORNA meetup) — which also got us thinking (we scored 70% on the mini-assessment, and we’ll be looking into doing a full assessment soon).

With all this in mind I was entering some invoices into our Saasu online accounting file (full disclosure: we share our office with Saasu and some of our staff are shareholders), and I had an electronic invoice for wait for it $1.57. Steeped in traditional ways of “managing the books”, our process is to print the invoice, enter it into Saasu and then file the physical copy in a folder.  Well it was just irking me to have to print off this invoice for such a measly amount.

So Grant, Marc (from Saasu) and I ended up having a discussion about it, going paperless, the pro’s and cons, questions like: does is take more time to find the digital invoice in the system as opposed to just picking up the file that sits on my desk and flicking through the invoices to locate the hard copy?  Is it just a mindset that we have because we are just used to doing it a certain way? (Our experience is that, as much as we harp on about how we like change and want to stay current, humans in general hate change.) Do we need to keep paper copies of receipts etc. for legal reasons?

So we have set ourselves the challenge to do a 3-month trial of going paperless for our accounts, to see how we go.  Now I’m not going to bore you with everyday happenings, but I do hope to report back in a month or so to let you know how it’s all going, and see just how realistic the promise of paperless accounting might be…


Queensland flood appeal

There was no second-guessing where we were going to make our quarterly donation this time around.  At the time we were making our decision, like many others, we answered the call for Australians to dig deep and donate to the Queensland flood appeal.

When I first saw the images of the “tsunami” my first thoughts were, OMG, where is that? Only to read the headline “Toowoomba Flooding”.  Like many I was shocked and in a bit of a state of unbelief, that it was actually happening in our”back yard”.  My next thoughts were, we had just been declared drought free for the first time in ten years and now this!

Since then we have seen many images flash before our eyes, from the shear force of the flash flooded, to cars being swept away, to people being stranded on their cars, animals being stranded, homes, businesses and lively hoods being lost, to the shear devastation caused by the torrents.  As the water recedes the true reality of the loss, the damage done and the mammoth task of the cleaning up and the repairs that needs to be done, is unveiled.

Many stories of heroism, bravery, heartache, desperation and courage emerged; like 13 year old Jordan Rice, with a trembling voice, pleaded to his rescuer to save his brother first, only to be swept away along with his mother and perishing before being able to be rescued.  To the tug boat operator, Douglas Hislop, who, without being asked by authorities, when he saw the 300m piece of walkway floating down the Brisbane river attached his tugboat to it and guided it to safety, averting further destruction. To the helicopter pilot who helped save many lives plucking people out of raging torrents, while his home was being flooded and his family being evacuated.  To the devastating story of the mother –  Stacey Keep,  who held tight on to her baby Jessica, until the unrelenting force of the current weakened her arms and she lost her grip, just minutes before she was winched to safety. And the pilot, Mark Kempton, who unselfishly winched many to safety  when the waters around his home was rising and his family had to be evacuated.

I don’t believe any of us, that were not directly effected by the floods physically, were unaffected emotionally as we watched on TV or on the net, this disastrous event unfold before our eyes. Feelings of horror, disbelief, sorrow, urgency, hope, heartache, hopelessness and more flooded our hearts.

We can not  just be affected emotionally neither should we succumb to the thinking what can my little donation do to help? It’s all the little donations added together that makes the figure become great.

The cost of the QLD floods is estimated at $30 billion by IBISWorld

However we can never count the real cost, as cost is measured in so many ways, monetary, physical, phycological and emotional.  Image the dilemma of the family who has lost everything including the primary income earner and the other not having the skills to earn the same amount of income.

It is awesome to see the great Aussie spirit, not only with raising money $145 Million at last look, but those who have been helping out with the aftermath of this disaster. Flood Aid [site no longer available] is a great place to start if you are seeking, or able to offer, non-financial support.

And as I type this I realise that Victoria is looking at there worst flooding they’ve recorded in 200 years…


Looking for a greener drive

We needed an external hard drive for the Zumio office, so we decided to run a bit of an experiment to see what was involved in finding a “green” drive. While we knew that in and of itself such a small purchase wouldn’t result in a significant environmental benefit, we saw it as a “test case” of sorts to see what would be involved to make an ethical choice for future hardware purchases.

After a bit of research, we identified the following green external hard drives to review:

Over the jump we discuss the (informal) process we went through, and our frustrations in getting the information we needed to make an informed decision.

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