Welcome to the home of Noah Brier. I'm the co-founder of Variance and general internet tinkerer. Most of my writing these days is happening over at Why is this interesting?, a daily email full of interesting stuff. This site has been around since 2004. Feel free to get in touch. Good places to get started are my Framework of the Day posts or my favorite books and podcasts. Get in touch.

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Carbon Consideration

I was recently having a conversation with my friend Tamara about all things green. Tamara currently works with OZOcar, a private car service with a fleet of Prius’ instead of gas guzzling Lincoln Town Cars.

I’m an outsider to the green world. I’ve heard conversations and seen movies, but as an individual I still have very little understanding of what kind of impacts I can personally have on the environment. Her response has stuck in my mind since: “Asking the question is one of the biggest steps you can take.”

The very fact that people are considering their impact on the environment at all is a huge step in the right direction. You may not be trading carbon yet, but at least you understand that airplanes are a huge polluter and you might think twice about ordering that Australian shiraz instead of something from California (2.59 tons of carbon vs. .57 tons according to Climate Care).

It’s not hard to see how this kind of questioning can lead to action. In England a few major brands are going to start putting a carbon footprint label on some of their most popular products. The hope for the companies is one part environment and two parts (presumably) business. They hope that consumers will look at the labels and choose one similar product over another based on the carbon footprint: Not a bad idea in a CPG market where so many products look, taste and feel the same.

What’s more, there is quite a bit of innovation that can happen when you evaluate processes based on a different set of criteria. While calculating the carbon footprint of Walkers potato crisps, areas of inefficiency were identified that both added to the carbon emission and the cost to the company. “By changing the way potatoes are traded, the trust found that the Walkers supply chain could save up to 9,200 tons of carbon dioxide emissions and £1.2m [$2.3 million] a year. It recommended farmers be rewarded for producing potatoes with low water content.” Not too shabby.

I guess the bottom line for me is that I was intimidated by the need for one or two immediate, actionable ways to do my part. By stepping back and realizing that the very act of consideration was probably the most important actionable item, the pressure has been removed. I am trying to do a better job of considering the impact of the purchases and decisions I make (even little things like whether to buy a new bottle of water or not). I by no means am a model environmental citizen, but I think I’m at least going in the right direction.

March 18, 2007