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On the path to sustainability

Jānis PeisenieksHead of Engineering
5 min read · January 22, 2020
5 min read
Jan 22, 2020
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Jānis PeisenieksHead of Engineering
5 min read · January 22, 2020
Link copied to your clipboard

At Whimsical, we're striving to do the right thing so we've always tried to build Whimsical in a sustainable way. Admittedly there are many types of sustainability - financial, operational, employee longevity, and others.

One among them is environmental sustainability.

We're strong believers in anthropogenic climate change and feel that everybody has to pitch in to prevent it.

2019 was a good year for us, but we're still far from being able to (or even wanting) to sit back and say "we've made it!". As we reached profitability back in May, we found ourselves in a position where we could sit together as a team and figure out how we could use this advantage meaningfully by allocating some resources to help solve problems that we feel strongly about, including climate change.

Following the example of other great companies such as Stripe, Hunter, Shopify, and Castos, we decided to take our first (baby) steps onto the path to sustainability by reducing our team's carbon footprint and offsetting our CO2 emissions. Stripe has a great writeup of why this matters.

The formula we used to calculate our CO2 footprint was very simple and probably far from perfect, but baby steps are steps too as long as they are in the right direction. While we could spend a lot of time searching for super-precise numbers, we chose to focus on the bigger picture and made quite a few assumptions. In the end, we included the following items:

  • ✈️ Flights: This is by far the biggest CO2 emission position for us. Having teammates both in Europe and the US means traveling by plane. And traveling by plane means humongous amounts of carbon dioxide.
  • ☁️ Cloud Computing provider: We use AWS as our Cloud provider and we had to make quite a few assumptions about how much CO2 this produces. While at least 50% of the energy consumed by AWS comes from renewable sources, the numbers aren't too transparent, so we tried to make an educated guess based on the CPU compute amount we are using over all our services.
  • 🔌 Electricity we spend working: Being fully remote means that for the vast majority of the time we work from our homes. While we can cut on some business costs such as heating and office maintenance, we do still spend some resources that contribute to CO2 emissions, thus we decided to generously account for the use of electricity that each of us spends working.
  • 🚗 Fuel: Even though we work from home, we try to meet each other on a somewhat regular basis and also occasionally use taxis during our travels. For the sake of simplicity, we decided to just use an assumed daily average consumption.
  • Miscellaneous: We included some other minor things which, while they didn't have too much impact on our total emissions, we still felt like adding.

We used Carbon Footprint to calculate our total, which came out to 52.872 tons of CO2.

Now we just had to decide how to offset the number, and how much it would cost.

We felt like planting trees was a great way to offset our CO2 in a way that deeply resonated with us (we love being in nature ourselves). While we understand that planting trees alone will most likely not solve the climate change problem, it seemed like a very straightforward way to achieve our goal which is to offset Whimsical's climate impact.

As for the monetary side - deciding how much to donate to offset a ton of CO2 is quite a bit more complicated than it would seem. At the time of writing, the cost to offset a ton of CO2 varied wildly:

With 40-80€/t of CO2 being the minimal price range by 2020 to achieve the Paris Agreement temperature targets, we decided to set our price target at ~$100/ton, which, with a bit of rounding, brought our total to $5000.

The last piece of the puzzle was to find a partner to help us offset our carbon emissions.

Photos from Eden Reforestation Projects

We decided to work with Eden Reforestation Projects which hires local villagers from Nepal, Madagascar, Haiti, Indonesia, Mozambique, and Kenya to plant trees. We really liked their multi-pronged approach to reforestation which includes:

  • Helping reforest places that have experienced some of the worst deforestations in the last century
  • Hiring locals for the vast majority of the jobs required for the reforestation effort, thus also helping reduce poverty around the world, but also
  • Incentivizing local communities to guard the new forests and thus achieve lasting compounding effects that planting a tree has.

So, to sum up, we are striving to be sustainable in all things that we do as a company as well as individuals, which is why we decided to offset our carbon footprint for 2019 (and the years to come), by donating $5000 to Eden Reforestation Projects. We’re incredibly grateful to be able to invest in our future and are impatiently looking forward to being more mindful, contributing to the sustainability of our environment even more and making huge strides (instead of baby steps) forward in the years to come.

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