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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Business 2.0, Sustainability


I came across Sourcemap (via FastCompany) the other day – a project by MIT that aims to map out where products come from, down to the material level in some cases. Check out the vid:

Getting Started with Open Supply Chains from Matthew Hockenberry on Vimeo.

From the site:

Sourcemap is a tool for producers, business owners and consumers to understand the impact of supply chains. Our site is a social network where anyone can contribute to a shared understanding of the story behind products.

I’ve long imagined tools like this making it easier for the public and other organisations to both determine the footprint of the products they use, but also to make this information available and learn from others in the process.

Acknowledging that the site is beta and still very early days (and also being a fan of the agile “fail early, learn often” approach) I don’t think the site yet lives up to the stated objective of telling the “story behind products” (such wording evokes images of initiatives such as Patagonia’s ‘The Footprint Chronicles’). That said, it seems to me to be a big step in that direction on a much broader level.

I like the fact that it is, in part, a crowdsourced approach. The QR codes that allow producers to create a URL pointer to the Sourcemap page for a product is also a nice touch – though I’m still not convinced about QR codes (I’ve not had much success using them personally, and the impression I get is that they are far from “mainstream”).

I’m also not sure what the business value for organisations opening up their supply data is – I suspect the emissions calculation aspect of the tool would not be totally sufficient to do so, but it will be interesting to see how the database develops over time. The about page hints that organisations wanting to promote their eco-credentials may also want to use the tool – I think this is probably a stronger “market”, albeit a potentially small one…

There are some parallels here with Nike’s attempt to open up its supply chain as part of their “Considered” product line and philosophy. While I agree with Joel Makower that radical transparency may not save the earth, tools such as Sourcemap will hopefully make it easier for organisations to become more transparent, which is definitely a good thing for customers and the environment, even if it is only part of the puzzle.