New Year’s Resolution: Can I Crush My Carbon?

Reviewing my personal commitment to 1% for the Planet in 2020

Damn! 2019 over in a flash and I’m already setting out my five big goals for next year. It’s something I always do to keep myself focused and accountable, whether I set myself a sporting challenge, reach for new heights professionally or travel to a pined-for destination. Five feels the right number.

For 2020, I’ve pretty much nailed what I want to do, but I wanted to throw in an environmentally focused goal this year. I made a few token changes in the last 12 months to try and do right by the world, but deep down I know I can do more.

Back in April, our founder Sukhi announced that we had signed up for 1% for the Planet, pledging 1% of our annual turnover to non-profit organisations focused on sustaining the world’s environment. I’d known about our plans for a good while, and I’ll shamelessly admit, I jumped straight on the bandwagon and became a belated environmentalist overnight. I knew that I wasn’t doing anywhere near enough to combat the world’s biggest challenges, such as climate change, and if I could play a small part through my way of living then I should make some changes.

So, I’ve been reading books, watching documentaries, and starting to live life a little differently. I haven’t quite made it to my first protest rally yet but I suspect it’s coming.

Small changes, big differences

The first change I made was to stop eating meat. I really thought I’d be longing for summer BBQs and trips to burger joints but my transition has been smooth. I have more energy, I’m enjoying my meals more and that desire I worried about has gone. I’m not quite ready to convert across to veganism just yet but I’m sure I’ll do so as part of the journey.

I also carry an ECoffee cup with me on my daily commute and on long car journeys as I love a daily flat white to get me going. I get a few pence off my drink from the coffee chains and have confidence in where my used coffee cup will go once I’m finished.

And I changed my energy supplier, moving to renewable energy sources to power my home. I was anxious about this and expected a drawn out process but actually it took me all of five minutes. My new supplier managed all of the transition and their communication and digital experience made it easy. And I’m saving money on their tariffs too.

All this stuff happened pretty quickly, but since then I’ve not pushed on any more. It’s almost like there’s been a brick wall put in front of me, preventing me taking it to the next level. The canvas, quite frankly, got bigger.

Big changes, big challenges

I interviewed a candidate for 383 the other week who told me about the high carbon footprint of a person’s death — the deforestation of trees to build a coffin, the transport of the materials. They suggested that what the world really needs is to embrace natural burials. I’m not lying when I say I went home to review the funeral arrangements set out in my will!

No less than 24 hours later, another candidate reminded me about the carbon emissions involved in producing paper receipts, and that, in the modern day and age, its criminal that retailers cannot simply auto-email a receipt to an address linked to your payment card.

Both of these interviews got me thinking about the frictions I’ve faced during the year, when it felt too hard to make the next jump to reduce my emissions further.

I dream about changing my family car from a diesel to an electric vehicle but the price barrier seems too high. I attended the Fully Charged show at Silverstone back in the summer, and saw two electric vehicle subscription suppliers, Evezy and Octopus Energy, celebrating the lifetime economy you gain from switching to their electric vehicle subscription service. No annual service, no insurance, no fuel fees — I’m in.

But then I see the monthly price and I tune out.

There’s no calculator on their sites to breakdown the fees for me alongside my current costs, I can’t see the value I’d gain and it all feels too hard to make that change – even though I know it’s the right thing to do.

There’s also ZapMap, who have created a digital map of all the electric vehicle charging points across the UK roadmap, and a useful journey planner to help you plan out when best to stop for a charge. Honestly, I’m loving this. But it stops at the UK — what about families who takes their car on the continent for a holiday? Are there no charging points en-route to the Vendée? Do we just give up when we hit Portsmouth and spend a week on the UK south coast instead? (Not that there’s anything wrong with that part of the world, by the way — it’s a lovely view across the Solent…!)

I want to shop for groceries more wisely, so I can reduce the amount of non-recyclable waste I bring into the home, but there’s not a viable option that fits my busy working family life. I’ve fallen into the world of convenience because working life and raising two children is hard. So it’s home delivery or a bit of click and collect for me to save my sanity.

A link to the The Clean Kilo was shared internally at 383 a few months ago — the UK’s largest zero waste supermarket, based right here in Birmingham. Nice concept, I thought, just rock up with your containers, fill them with your regular goods like cereals and pasta, and you are away. Maybe I can make more changes than I thought possible? I spotted another similar store when I visited my parents in St Leonards recently, Wonderfill. Exciting times — maybe the high street is innovating and becoming relevant again?

383 | The Clean Kilo, Bourneville

Then I started to dwell on the practicalities. I would need to keep a boatload of containers, take them with me to the store (one which I can’t park at in a busy city centre, or if I do then I’m paying a premium), and then transport them all home? To make me feel less guilty, I could take the bus several miles to the store, or cycle in, but then I’ve got to lug it all back? A world of inconvenience I don’t have the time for. I’ll take my home delivery or a trip to the out of town superstore so I can park with minimum of fuss and get all my groceries for the family in one hit.

I love the sentiment and genuine effort of stores like The Clean Kilo, and it frustrates me that it doesn’t scale to my demographic. It would be a huge effort for me to change my lifestyle to shop there, and how much impact would it genuinely have on the planet? So I’m looking to the big guns to follow The Clean Kilo’s lead. What about offering me the opportunity to offset my carbon when I book click and collect? I’d happily drive to the supermarket knowing I’d offset my emissions. I’d even pay for the emissions on the goods themselves, although I’d hope that’s already baked in. You could have the same for home delivery too. Or, let’s put it really out there, why can’t my shopping be delivered by an electric lorry, powered by renewable energy? Markets like Sweden and the Netherlands are already there in this regard, so this is far from a pipe dream.

Looking ahead

The stumbling block in all of this is convenience. That doesn’t mean that I don’t want to make the next big jump, but I’m looking at all these big brands and feeling like they have more resources than I do to make the changes I need to bring my emissions down further. All I’m left with is a tonne of anxiety about what big change to make next, and where to even start. A few people have told me that if I cared enough, I’d just crack on and make those inconvenient trips or do the maths myself. To be frank, finding the time to care, let alone just get on with it, is hard enough.

But I do care, massively, and fingers crossed that one big environmental goal for 2020 that’s evaded me so far will make itself known in the next few days.

Failing that, I’m going to have to lay all of this on my dear colleagues at 383, who love to pull apart customer journeys and make sure that brands are focusing on things that will move the needle most for customers. In fact, we even wrote the book on it  our 10m Guide to Friction Mapping.

For so many people like me, the things that should be easy in life, just seem really hard – and they don’t need to be. And what’s more important than making the path to crushing your carbon footprint a stroll in the park?

2020, I’m coming for you!