Ecocentricity Blog: Talk Walking

May 29, 2018 10:45 AM ET
Summary: 

We recently set out to calculate our organizational carbon footprint for 2017 so that we could purchase carbon offsets and claim to be carbon-neutral in our operations. That probably sounds complicated…and yes, it is.

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This blog post is going to be about “walking the talk,” but you will have to wait a moment. Shenanigans come first. And this week, your daily recommended dosage of shenanigans comes in the form of a Reddit post centered on a question that is crucial to understanding the meaning of life.

What if the person who named Walkie Talkies named everything?

We aren’t linking to the thread because…well…it turned not-PG in a hurry. But here are some of the best PG answers:

  • Microwaves = Heaty Eaties
  • Wigs = Hairy Wearies
  • Limousines = Roomy Vroomies
  • Forks = Stabby Grabbies
  • Defibrillators = Hearty Starties
And my absolute favorite……..Pregnancy Tests = Maybe Babies!
 
Thus endeth the shenanigans.
 
Environmentalists are full of a lot of “talk.” We will happily pontificate on the importance of energy efficiency, the tragedy of collapsing ecosystems, the benefits of organic foods, and the obnoxiousness (yep, that’s the noun form) of plastic grocery bags. That said, it’s not hard to find environmentalists with incandescent light bulbs in their homes who buy oxybenzone-containing sunscreens and GMO tomatoes all while they forget that their reusable shopping bags are in the trunks of their cars.
 
We need to live our values! We need to practice what we preach! We need to walk the talk! Insert other cliché here!
 
When it comes to our Foundation’s contribution to global warming, that’s exactly what we are trying to do. We recently set out to calculate our organizational carbon footprint for 2017 so that we could purchase carbon offsets and claim to be carbon-neutral in our operations. That probably sounds complicated…and yes, it is.
 
How does one do this math? Well, we have an office in a large office building. How many kilowatt-hours of electricity did we use? Because we don’t have an individual meter, we have to estimate this number by comparing our square-footage percentage of the building to the building’s total energy use. Then, once we have that number, we have to determine the carbon-intensity of energy provided by Georgia Power. That’s based on their total grid-mix of energy generation types, which isn’t a constant figure.
 
Then there’s our transportation impact. How many miles did our people drive on Foundation business? Were the cars electric? If so, how many miles do they go on a kilowatt-hour? If gasoline-powered, what is their miles-per-gallon? And what’s the carbon-intensity of a gallon of gasoline?
 
Up next are our flight-miles. How many miles did we fly collectively? Where they short-haul flights (which get fewer miles-per-gallon of jet fuel) or long-haul (higher miles-per-gallon)? What percentage of each flight’s fuel usage can be attributed to our single seat? What’s the carbon-intensity of jet fuel?
 
And that’s all the “easy” math! I haven’t talked about the carbon impact of the food we buy or the energy used to treat the water we consume. Arguably, we should offset the carbon used to manufacture and transport the dry-erase markers we use! Good luck calculating that.
 
With all this complexity, what is a well-meaning organization like ours supposed to do?
 
First, you don’t give up. Second, you do your best to estimate. Third, you err conservatively, assuming that you’ve probably used more carbon rather than less. Fourth, you don’t worry that your numbers aren’t “right.”
 
Remember this – walking the talk doesn’t mean you have to be perfect! It just means you have to do your best. Fortunately, that’s something of which we are all capable. 
 
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Valerie Bennett
Ray C. Anderson Foundation
+1 (770) 317-5858