Getting to know our carbon footprint

2021-03-07T22:42:01+00:00

At Semble we have joined an ever growing number of organisations that have declared a climate emergency. But there’s no point in declaration without action. So we’ve looked into our current carbon footprint and are ready to act on reducing or offsetting it.

Ideally, we would have had an independent carbon audit done by an expert third party. But , due to the cost involved amidst the financial pressures of Covid, we elected to do a carbon audit ourselves. To do this we have used some of the information supplied as part of work done as part of our B Corp application, as well as a range of carbon audit templates, free online carbon calculators, and various reports and articles on carbon emissions. You can find a full list of the tools we used here.

In this blog we explain the reasoning behind our carbon calculations, and set out the steps we will take to reduce our carbon footprint.

Our team volunteering.

Energy consumption (electricity usage) 

Like many organisations, over the last year the Semble team has been working from home. However, as we expect to return to our offices (when it is safe to do so), we decided to use our office energy usage data in our carbon calculation (data which we had readily available). 

We measured our energy consumption by adjusting the total consumption of the office buildings to reflect the amount of space used by Semble. Our London office is supplied by Bulb which is reported to be 100% renewable. The Bristol office is supplied by British Gas which is reportedly 43% renewable energy. However Carbon Trusts states: “For electricity purchased on a ‘green tariff’, the grid electricity factor (0.23314 kgCO2e per kWh) should be used to report under the location-based method of the GHG Protocol Corporate Standard”. 

We have also calculated the energy it takes to run our laptops. However, this energy use is included in the figure for energy consumption so does not contribute to our total calculated carbon footprint. We have left it in the report as we believe it is useful information to have and gives us greater understanding of what makes up our total carbon footprint.

Next steps: To improve our energy use we will continue to encourage the Semble team to be considerate with their consumption and lobby the Bristol office management to move to an energy supplier which uses 100% renewable energy.

Water use 

Our water use was calculated in the same way as the electricity used in each office, adjusting the total water use of the buildings we use to reflect the size of our team.

Next steps: We believe that we can reduce our water consumption by educating our team (and others in our office space).

Paper

Over the past year, 89% of the paper we have purchased was made using recycled paper. By using recycled paper we have saved 0.8 trees from being harvested. However, despite the fact that recycled paper is better for the environment, there is still a carbon impact associated with it’s production. 

Next Steps: We will continue to encourage our team to be careful with the amount of paper they use. It is worth noting that we believe much of this purchased paper remains unused and that the amount of paper we have consumed is less than the number stated.

Moving forward, we will ensure that the remaining 11% of paper used will be made from recycled paper.

Communications

Much of Semble’s work involves mobilising thousands (if not millions!) of people across the world to affect positive social change. To reach all these people we rely on digital mass marketing tools such as websites, email newsletters and social media. As this is an essential part of our operations which means that whilst there are things we can do to reduce the amount of energy it costs to use these, we will not be able to completely cut out all emissions created as a result of our communications. 

What we can do is better measure and understand the carbon footprint and take steps to offset the harm caused to the environment. Semble operates over 20 websites. This is because we have a number of campaigns, operating in countries across the world, each with it’s own website. We used a number of tools designed by our friends at Wholegrain (who work with us on many of our websites) to calculate the carbon impact of our websites. Despite 85% of all our websites running on renewable energy, all of our tested websites produce more CO2 than the average website. 

Next steps: To improve this we will work with our developers to switch to green website hosts and to make 100% of our websites renewably powered. In addition, we have installed a plugin (designed by Wholegrain) which will allow us to accurately measure the carbon footprint of our websites.

We use a tool called Active Campaign to regularly send email newsletters. We have asked Active Campaign for more information on our accounts’ carbon impact. Once we have this information we will update our carbon calculations. 

Next steps: To reduce the amount of energy our Active Campaign account uses we regularly clean the data stored on Active Campaign. 

We rely heavily on a number of social media platforms to help us shout about our brilliant campaigns and to spotlight the amazing community groups and businesses that we work with. Some social media platforms are greener than others, whilst Facebook is reportedly run using renewable energy, Twitter does not. We have reviewed all of our social media accounts and 62% are run on platforms which use renewable energy. As with our other communications tools, we consider the use of social media as essential to our work. We will continue to be considerate with our use of social media and measure the carbon footprint.

Next steps: We will continue to measure our use of social media to allow us to accurately offset our carbon footprint.

Finance

Our bank has one of the lowest Ethical Company Index Scores amongst UK banks. Whilst we do not know the precise carbon footprint of our bank account, we do know that our provider scores low due to funding environmentally harmful projects, irresponsible lending and other issues. 

Next steps: Our Operations team will be looking to move bank accounts to one whose values match our own. 

Our pension provider states that: "All of our members’ money is invested responsibly and sustainably. We assess how the companies, sectors and economies we invest in are run, and their impact on people and the planet, in our investment process". 

Next steps: To help members of the Semble team ensure their pensions are helping protect the environment, we will run sessions for the team to understand how the pensions work and provide the opportunity for employees who want to invest in green funds to do so.

Conclusion

The nature of our campaigning work, which involves mass communication  (predominantly online and occasionally in person) means that there are certain carbon emissions that we won’t be able to fully cut out. Whilst we will reduce our carbon emissions wherever possible, where we cannot we will seek to offset our emissions by directly funding climate solutions - such as by investing in community groups who are tackling climate change. 

We believe that our carbon emissions for the previous year have been at least 3.7 tons. One UK broadleaf tree will, over its lifetime, offset one ton of carbon. Therefore we will need to plant at least 4 broadleaf trees each year to offset our emissions. However, we would like to plant many more, to ensure that we are not simply carbon neutral, but deeply negative… keep an eye out for a Semble forest!

About the Author:

Keir is a project officer based in Semble's Bristol office. Most of his time is spent on two of our movement campaigns, Outdoor Classroom Day and Backyard Nature. One of Keir’s main interests is food equality and outside of Semble he runs a small community food waste project.