Thursday, July 24, 2008

Q&A: Greenslip: Identify & Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

Tania Sole

CELESTE: What are the steps individuals need to take to identify their carbon footprint?

TANIA: The first misconception is that figuring out your carbon footprint is something that is difficult to do. The reality is that it correlates to expenditures. The main areas are transportation, housing, food, goods and services.

Figuring out your transportation carbon footprint is a function of how many miles you travel whether you are alone in a car (gasoline/diesel/other), carpooling, using public transportation, flying, boating, or just plain walking (think your own food consumption).

Your housing footprint is a function of the size of your house. To a large extent your electric, water, sewage, heating and cooling needs are a function of the size of the building to begin with.

In so far as food, goods and services are concerned, these are the ones that are a bit more difficult to tabulate. The more your foods travel to get to your mouth the larger the carbon footprint. The more the goods you purchase travel to get to you – think clothing and toys made in Asia – the higher the carbon footprint. In this case price doesn’t necessarily correlate with carbon footprint. Yes, those toys may be cheaper than toys made in the US but their carbon footprint is usually higher. Usually the more expensive the product the higher the carbon footprint is.

To get a good initial number to work from you can use the carbon calculator on Don’t worry about the financial household numbers they are just for comparison purposes.

CELESTE: Name 5 (or more) ways people can reduce their carbon footprint in a logical, sustainable manner that will have the biggest impact.

TANIA: The reality is that there are short term and long term decisions involved.
Moving to a smaller house can have a huge impact but is not something that is going to happen overnight. For most people in the United States, transportation is the single largest area of potential improvement. Again we face short and long term decisions.

1. Walk more.
2. Increase your car’s fuel efficiency – by maintaining it better
3. Decrease the actual mileage driven or flown – this means planning your trips more effectively.
4. Increase your use of carpooling and public transportation options
5. Consider buying a car that is smaller and gets better gas mileage
6. Consider working and vacationing closer to home.

The one that can make the largest difference the fastest is actually – walking.
How often have you seen someone park at one end of a mall enter a store, purchase something, walk out drive their car to the other side of the mall get out and purchase something else from a store on that end? Or drive less than a mile from home to the store. Too often. Short trips are actually the most expensive in so far as miles per gallon driven. The perception in most people’s mind is it is only a short distance it is not much gas. Even today it may still be less than a dollar but if we consider the mileage we could get from that same amount of gas if driven on the highway the difference is huge.

The last two 5 and 6 are noted only as considerations as they are more long term solutions that will take time and commitment to implement.

CELESTE: Is there anything else you wish to add about reducing your carbon footprint?

TANIA: Some might cringe at the “cost” in terms of dollars and lifestyle changes necessary to decrease their carbon footprint but the reality is that most of us can make small changes that will result in big improvements. Setting small incremental realistic goals is key. Walking to accomplish something such as running errands or going shopping will not only reduce your carbon footprint but will increase your health by increasing your fitness, reduce the amount of time you need to spend exercising for purely health reasons and reduce stress in your life which translates to a reduction in the number of healthcare dollars you need!

CELESTE: What services does Greenslip provide to businesses?

TANIA: Greenslip is now helping small and big businesses become “Early Adopters” and document their “Early Adopter” actions for credit towards compliance with AB32 – Assembly Bill 32 – California’s major initiative to reducing climate change and greenhouse gases.

The goal is to reduce greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by 2020. Signed into law in 2006, the process will actually REQUIRE changes by 2012. However, there is a provision for “early adopters” to make changes now, document those changes and get credit for those changes.
Greenslip can help with the critical component of DOCUMENTING so as that organizations can get CREDIT. As we all know reducing emissions by a certain percentage is fairly easy at the beginning but becomes harder and harder the cleaner the lifestyle. The “Early Adopter” program not only allows but encourages “Early Adopters”.

CELESTE: What steps has Greenslip taken to help improve air quality?

TANIA: Transportation is really the lynchpin of the international economy as without affordable worldwide transportation the movement of people and goods is severely limited. Unfortunately, this increased movement of people and goods, has created a lot of problems. Back in 1997 we were California’s first test-only emissions center. Since then, we have been working with Sacramento to reduce and improve some of these problems. Most of these issues have to do with the fuel that powers the various modes of transportation. In particular the exhaust produced by these modes of transportation. Finding sources of fuel that reduce exhaust emissions and greenhouse gases; improves air quality and reduces health problems such as respiratory diseases.

CELESTE: Explain the AB32 regulation in CA.

TANIA: AB32 is California’s effort to reduce greenhouse gases and emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. To achieve this California must reduce its projected emissions by 25%. Beyond 2020, AB32 envisions reducing greenhouse gases and emissions by an additional 80% by 2050. This is a huge undertaking and will require not only large emitters; but also small businesses, individuals in fact all organizations and individuals large and small to get on board and change for the benefit of all.

CELESTE: How are individuals affected by the mandate featured in the AB32 regulations in CA?

TANIA: As a first step AB32 focuses on large emitters, the low hanging fruit so to say. However, it understands that to achieve its goals for 2050 everyone including individuals has a part to play and that the sooner everyone improves the better off our planet will be.

CELESTE: Tell me about your biofuels group.

TANIA: The biofuels group is a three-stage development project.
  • The first stage involves recycling used vegetable oil into biofuel while at the same time planting jatropha a plant already being used in India to produce biofuel.
  • The second stage involves producing biofuel from the jatropha plant. The plants take 3-4 years to produce the seeds necessary for biofuel production.
  • The third stage is an algae biofuel facility. Algae based biofuel is still in its infancy primarily due to some technology and scalability issues.
CELESTE: What is the website all about?

TANIA: We are a small business and like most small businesses in the United States we have struggled trying to provide for healthcare for our employees. For this reason, instead of just complaining, we have decided to become a part of the solution.

Healthcare in the United States is very regulated and misunderstood. Most of the uninsured population actually works for small businesses. Like in the transportation market there are several big issues. Two big ones are: cost containment which includes end-of-life care and the explosion in direct to consumer advertising and price transparency.

We recently ran a survey asking survey respondents to tell us what percentage of their life healthcare dollars would they want spent in their last year of life. The options included: less than 20%, 20%, 40%, 60% and 80%. The reality is that almost 70% of total healthcare dollars are spent in the last year of life. We postulated that this happened because people didn’t realize that in effect this expense wasn’t warranted as the “buyer” of the healthcare was going to end up dead. We didn’t expect anyone KNOWING that they were going to die would want to spend more than half of their lifetime healthcare dollars in their last year of life. We were wrong! Almost thirty percent actually said 80% knowing they were going to die. Unfortunately, the reality is that because of litigation, the seventy percent of the public that is a bit more realistic about the value of health care towards the end of life is subsidizing the almost thirty percent who aren’t paying from their own pocket and so do not care about value received. (To vote go to

One more interesting fact is that 10% of the population accounts for almost 90% of expenses.

Tania Sole co-founded Greenslip over ten years ago and her role today is multi-faceted. She is involved in setting long-term direction as well as marketing, business development and sales.

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