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Becoming Carbon Negative

17 March 2021

At Supercool we've long been focused on sustainability, and reducing our negative environmental impact. It's one of the reasons we became a distributed team 4 years ago, why we're reviewing our work and tools as part of our Sustainability Pledge, and why we plant trees all over the UK for every website we create.

Since February I've been taking part in a 3-month-long Carbon Negative course run by BIMA (British Interactive Media Association). It's giving us the tools to accurately work out, monitor – and then reduce – Supercool's base carbon footprint. That is, how much carbon emissions come from Supercool, per person, per day.

As part of the course, I surveyed every Supercooler to find out our impact based on individuals' heating; specifically gas/oil central heating (GOCH) as they're big carbon emitters (and electricity use has already been accounted for in the BIMA toolkit).

  • 100% of us have GOCH
  • 57% of us would have the heating on the same amount even if we weren't working from home (e.g. there's always someone in the house)
  • 71% of us use a green energy supplier, which offsets its gas emissions

I'll be running this survey again over the next month or so, once our 4 new Supercoolers have joined, to check how we're doing with a larger team.

I had been concerned that having lots of people working from home may have a big negative impact. But I learnt as part of the Carbon Negative course that by far the biggest culprit in terms of carbon emissions is commuting – even short distances – and in-work travel.

by far the biggest culprit in terms of carbon emissions is commuting – even short distances – and in-work travel

Supercool's base carbon footprint

Using the tools supplied by the course, I worked out our base carbon footprint in both 2019 and 2020. The idea being that 2019 was a much more 'normal' year, without the lockdowns and travel restrictions of 2020.

2019: 10 tonnes carbon = 6.5kg per person, per day

(Equivalent to 36,000 air miles or 157 trees)

2020: 7 tonnes carbon = 4.1kg per person, per day

(Equivalent to 22,600 air miles or 99 trees)

To put these numbers in context, in a service business like Supercool carbon emissions per person, per day of 6-10kg are considered 'very low'. So, we're doing pretty well – even during a normal year like 2019 when we were travelling for meetings.

Carbon emissions of 6-10kg per person, per day are considered "very low" – so we're doing pretty well

Working out our base footprint over two years was pretty eye-opening.

That 40% carbon footprint reduction between 2019 and 2020 is purely from us not travelling – either to meetings with clients, or to occasionally meet up with each other. (We even had an extra team member in the mix in 2020!)

The huge impact of travel is worth remembering once we're allowed to meet in person again. We're already thinking about ways we can keep Supercool's carbon footprint very low – both as we grow, and once we're all able to meet again, face-to-face.

Goals!

Forget being 'carbon neutral' – pah! – we want to have become carbon negative in time for the UN Climate Change Conference in November.

We'll do this by first taking action – actually reducing that already very low base carbon footprint as far as we possibly can. Then, we'll offset any shortfall.

And of course, we'll continue to all work from home, regularly review the environmental impact of our business practices, work, and tools – and plant trees for every website we launch.

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