Given the growing interest in this topic, we thought we would share our thought process, approach, and key learnings. We hope it helps make the carbon neutral process a bit easier for other organizations embarking on that journey. In 2021, Valtira took the important step to become a carbon neutral company.
Why did we decide to measure and act?
The Glasgow Climate Change Conference (COP 26) in late 2021 was a wakeup call. The enormity of the issue is well-known, but the politicians continue to just talk – not act. To be honest, we also felt some shame for our own ignorance of the practical details, implications, and possibility of making a difference beyond changing out our light bulbs. So, we decided to engage and take matters into our own hands.
Our first step was to research what similar small businesses have done and plan our attack. To our surprise there was little practical guidance, though we did find a very long list or grand position papers. With no easy roadmap to follow, we turned to Google and started a small internal project to figure it out.
Putting it in perspective
The first challenge we all felt was to try and conceptualize these huge numbers on an industry, company, and personal level. We needed to make this more tangible and real. Here are a few numbers we found that helped us get a grip on things: (and one note right up front – there is remarkable variance in accepted numbers for much of this, perhaps not surprising given the complex situational variables. Nonetheless, we attempted to go with named sources and accept these numbers as indicatively useful).
- The Technology Industry is responsible for carbon emissions equal to the fuel consumed by the airline industry @ 1.4 % of worldwide carbon emissions (Ericsson Research)
- A single 1 Megawatt data center produces about 1,200 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2E) per year,
- which is about the same as the emissions from a 100,000 square foot office,
- which is about the same as driving 3 million miles in a regular gas powered car.
- It would take 450 to 500 acres of mature forest to absorb this much CO2E.
- Individually, the average American is responsible for about 29 metric tons per year,
- About the equivalent of the carbon absorbed by 1,200 mature trees.
How we measured our carbon footprint
The second challenge was to measure our corporate footprint. We adopted what seems to be the most popular framework from the Greenhouse Gas Protocol which steps through three areas to analyze your emissions.
Scope 1: Direct GHG emissions
Direct GHG emissions occur from sources that are owned or controlled by the company, for example, emissions from owned/controlled boilers, furnaces, vehicles, chemical production etc.
Scope 2: Electricity indirect GHG emissions
Accounts for GHG emissions from the generation of purchased electricity consumed by the company.
Scope 3: Other indirect GHG emissions
This is an optional category for all other indirect emissions. Examples are extraction and production of purchased materials; transportation of purchased fuels; and use of sold products and services.
In Part 2, we’ll walk through the details of how we did this and what we learned along the way.