Originally aired on April 23, 2021 @ 5:00 PM - 5:30 PM EDT
Research shows that collective action from individuals - the sum of billions of small choices we make in our lives every day - is an incredibly powerful tool in the fight against climate change. Join us for a casual discussion on actions Cloudflare employees have taken in their own day-to-day to live more sustainbility.
Hello everyone, welcome to Cloudflare TV. My name is Annika. I'm a product manager at Cloudflare and a member of Greencloud, which is our sustainability focused working group. And I'm so excited to be joined by this group of my colleagues to talk all about sustainability and personal impact. We've been having conversations all week long about sustainability in celebration of Earth Day this week. So catch the recordings if you missed some of them and you're interested. But today, super excited to talk about very concrete actions that we can all take in our own lives that some of us are implementing or looking forward to implementing to reduce our own personal impact on climate. So let's start out with some introductions. I thought it'd be fun just to go around the group, introduce yourself and then maybe give us your favorite fun fact about the environment or climate. So I'll start with my fun fact and then hand off. It's that I love trees. The oldest tree in the world is 5,000 years old, which is pretty crazy. Mickey, do you want to introduce yourself? Sure. I'm Mickey. I'm an engineer on the Stream product. I'm located in Austin. And I get really psyched about facts of like nature's resilience. So I heard this one recently, which is that the Thames River in London was declared biologically dead in 1957, which is obviously not great. And today it's home to 125 species of fish and more than 3,000 seals. And it's said to be the cleanest river in the world that runs through a major city. And it was all because of environmental protections and regulations and just very cool like recovery of this river. That is so awesome. I love that. Amy, do you want to go next? I don't have any great fact like that. I'm Amy Bebo and I'm super grateful to be here. I don't know if my facts are like fun facts. I just want to say that the plastic you think you're recycling isn't getting recycled. So just say no to plastic, you know, fun fact, it's probably not getting recycled. So, you know, just say no. Carl, do you want to introduce yourself? Sure thing. Yeah. My name is Carl Henrich, or KH. I live in San Francisco and I'm on our sales enablement team. And my fun fact, I also heard this one recently, as of last week, is that apparently you can cut down methane emissions from cows by something like 82% if you include seaweed in their feed for a number of months. And that was really, really cool to me. I was like, okay, let's, the economic incentives are there. Let's get started because cows are responsible for a lot of methane emissions. So that is my fun fact. That's so fun. Do we know if cows like eating seaweed or do you have to like trick them into it? They do not like eating it. No. That's kind of like, if you have to like feed your pet medicine or something, and you wrap it in peanut butter, maybe they'll put the seaweed inside of, I don't know, other stuff that cows eat. That's cool. I like that fun fact. As long as we're not giving it to them in those little like plastic packages, you know, that everybody's buying their seaweed and throw back. And we're also joined by Jesse. Jesse, do you want to introduce yourself? And if you have an environmentalism related fun fact, hit us with it. Hi, yeah, I'm Jesse Kipp. I work in software development here at Cloudflare. And one of my fun facts, I guess, is that in many markets, and hopefully nobody else stole this fun fact from me before I showed up, the cost of new renewable energies is actually lower than the cost of running existing coal plants. Cool. Okay. So before we jump into this conversation and sharing our sort of own thoughts and ideas about personal impact and the actions that we've implemented in our own lives, I want to just take a couple of minutes to set some context for this kind of conversation and explain like, why are we even talking about this? So if you are interested in this space at all, you've probably heard this statistic. This is like a very famous statistic that floats around a lot when we talk about personal impact versus sort of society level or systemic impact on the climate. And it's that 100 companies are responsible for 71% of global emissions, which came from this study in 2017. It was done by a nonprofit organization called the Carbon Disclosure Project. And if you've heard this, you might have had one of two emotional reactions to this. The first one could be a feeling of maybe despair, like this sounds really awful, or like hopelessness. If these companies have this great of an impact, what does my individual action or the choices that I make in my own life, what is it doing in comparison to this huge number? So hopelessness is one kind of reaction that you might have had. And then the other is kind of the opposite reaction, which is a feeling of sort of freeingness, like, oh, if my actions don't matter, because these companies are contributing the vast majority of carbon emissions, then I can just do whatever I want. And I don't have to think about like recycling or choosing, you know, more energy efficient stuff in my house or whatever. But I think that those, those takes are sort of missing some of the nuance and the actual information that was included in this study. So I want to dispute this for just a minute before we drop into the discussion. And part of the reason for this is that if you actually look at the data that was in this study, from this 71% of global emissions, around 10% of those are from what's called scope one. And so that is basically the emissions related to direct production. So this is for oil companies. If you're pulling oil out of the ground, it takes some energy to actually get that energy in the first place. And that energy that they are expending is counted in scope one. So that's 10% of this 71. But then the other 90% of these emissions are scope three. And this is basically the result of downstream consumption, which is all of us using all that oil for our cars, for the energy that powers our houses, the transportation, to get us all the goods that we're purchasing and consuming in our day to day lives, the plastic that Amy just talked about that's getting produced. And so this idea that these companies are producing all of these carbon emissions, that's totally true. But they're not just doing it for fun, they're doing it because people like all of us are consuming the products that they're creating, or consuming products that are using energy that's created through these processes. So that's sort of reason one why it makes sense to care about this stuff. The other two that I just want to touch super briefly on are that individual action can often be really, really fast in comparison to sort of society level or policy level action. Human beings, like you can make a decision to go and switch out your light bulbs, which is like a very easy thing that definitely everybody should all do from incandescent to LEDs and save a ton of energy. And you can do that in a day, an hour, maybe max, depending on how far you live, I guess, from Home Depot. But something like sort of system level change, while it's absolutely important that we press on, takes a longer time to happen. So we need to be doing both. And then the third thing is that individuals have the ability to influence policy as well. And so in addition to just actions that you can take sort of in your day to day life, you can convince your representatives that can vote on sustainable policy initiatives to make decisions that have a much bigger impact than what you would be able to do in your normal life. And so I think that this should, you know, count in the sort of category of personal impact as well. Like what impact can you have on these sort of bigger systems? Everybody is going to show up to this work differently. The, you know, participation and the ability to make choices like the ones that we're going to talk about today requires privilege in the first place. And there's not a like cookie cutter way to do this. There's not a sort of like perfect way to be an environmentalist. There's not a like list of five things that you do. And then you're like good in the karmic system of carbon impact. Everyone's going to contribute different stuff. And that's actually perfect. We need everyone's diverse perspectives and skills and strengths and interests in order to make the impact that we need to be able to save our planet. And so finally, before I drop into the conversation, just wanted to end on this quote, which is one of my favorites from Mary Hegler about the sort of despair versus optimism in this conversation. It's really easy to look at facts about climate. If you Google like climate facts, like almost 100% of them sound very depressing. I mean, you could look at that and get kind of miserable about it and be like, what can I, what can I do? And, you know, in my own life, everything's going to burn down, like be overwhelmed by the complexity and sort of the despair. Or you can get really excited about the creative solutions that all of us are going to have the ability to contribute as we embark on this journey of saving the planet. So that's a little cheesy, but that's where I sort of wanted to wrap up going into this conversation. Cause I think there's, there's a lot of this sort of ideas floating around about personal versus systemic impact. And just want to make sure that we have that framing. So with all of that, let's go into our conversation. So just let's, let's go ahead and just start from the beginning. Like what are some actions and whoever wants to first can, you can, you can unmute if you have something right on the top of your brain that you've taken in your own life to minimize your carbon impact and pick any category, any action that you want to start with. And we'll just go from there. Sure. I'm happy to, to kick it off here. I think one, one thing I've done or try to be a bit more conscious of since we went home is also just energy consumption and trying to be very aware of the electricity that I'm consuming. One of the probably miscommunications or I guess misconceptions early on in the pandemic is that this lack of human activity means that it's, you know, the climate is faring relatively well in 2020 and 2021 compared to previous years. And I think that is taking a lot of the weight off of the individual where actually we're just redirecting a lot of that energy use to our personal homes, right? And so water consumption, energy consumption is up, even if in a common office space or when it comes to public transit, a lot of that is being cut back. So I do think that that is one of the things that you can do going back to your point about LEDs, but also just general, you know, cutting off electricity and being aware of what you are using that any of us can do just kind of day to day. That's awesome. I love that very concrete example in energy. And I definitely remember like, that was a big theme in my house when I was growing up as a little kid. It's like, when you leave the room, you turn off the lights. And that's just sort of a mantra and a habit that has been like burned into my brain from a very young age, but something that's so easy for us to all do and takes literally seconds. Yeah, I think I was a little shocked by my water bill. I don't know if y'all have investigated how much water toilets use. That toilets are like a third to half of your water usage. And it's just literally being flushed. So there are many ways from like very advanced, fancy, like low water usage, flushing toilets to the very non -technically savvy, if it's yellow, let it mellow. I was raised with that. If we can get really personal, I'm like California kid and the drought has been, you know, ongoing for quite a while. So I feel like there's an opportunity actually from working from home where it is not as acceptable to use that in an office, but you can definitely adopt that at home. That's cool. I like that one too. Ah, the old let it mellow. It's definitely from, you know, it's been around. I was going to talk about food. One of the things that's like super simple that I've been doing. So first of all, I'm able, I live in a metro area where Imperfect Produce is available. So Imperfect Produce is a food vendor that actually takes food out of the waste stream, like stuff that's not good enough for grocery stores, things that might be even short coded and close to expiration. They worked with a lot of restaurants and vendors who used to sell to restaurants during the pandemic to divert, you know, cause it's like suddenly like a lot of food used to go to restaurants and then it didn't have that venue anymore for being sold. And so Imperfect diverted a lot of food from the producers um, to the consumer directly, like cutting out that restaurant middleman. So I, um, I buy almost all my food from Imperfect Produce. Um, and then one of the things I did that's really simple that I can do is when you go to the grocery store and you see those, it is a plastic bag, but it's a plastic bag that you can put your vegetables in and they last a lot longer because it manages the way that the vegetables off gas, the ripening agents. I tell you like these bags have saved my life from a food waste standpoint. Cause like I live alone and I might get vegetables, but I don't, I don't maybe feel like cooking all the time or, you know, I can't really eat it that fast. These little, um, so anybody that's watching this and all of you, I highly recommend purchasing these like vegetable saver bags. They, they changed my life. I had a cabbage start to grow another cabbage in my fridge in this bag. It was in my fridge for like three months. And it's the cabbage started to regenerate a whole new cabbage. Normally you have to kind of cut the end and put it in water, but like it was, it was like growing in my fridge. So, um, yeah, buy those bags and it'll, it'll save you so much food. Cause we're wasting so much, so much food, like 30% of the food that's grown worldwide is getting wasted. So I'm going to continue on the food theme here. Um, so actually prior to the pandemic, Mickey and I used to work in the same office building and, uh, she's one of those many people who I used to see, you know, on a regular basis, just around the office and who I haven't like seen or talked to in more than a year. So she and I, and a couple of other people used to have a vegan lunch club and there was a really good food truck in downtown Austin that had some really good vegan, uh, vegan vermicelli and vegan, uh, banh mi. Oh my gosh. I forgot about their bowls. Okay. My, uh, my wife, um, her parents are Argentinian and sometimes just like walking around the house, apropos of nothing, she'll just sigh and be like, oh, I don't know that I could ever give up meat. But over the last couple of years, um, I've been, uh, slowly, um, you know, sort of changing, changing the diet of the household. And, you know, I like, you know, changing, changing what you eat doesn't have to be an all or nothing thing. You don't have to be like one day be like, oh, we're, we're going to be vegan in this house from now on. Right. I started and I just started working on some recipes. I was like, I'm going to figure out something, uh, a vegan dinner to cook. That's really good. And I like it. And, you know, I tried a couple of things and it took, you know, a few, it took a few tries to find a recipe that I knew how to, to do well and that I liked and that the family liked. And now we've got one. And then I did it again. Right. I kept iterating until I found weeknight recipes that were vegan or vegetarian. And, um, you know, it's a change that took place over the course of a really, you know, probably two years. But at one point, like my wife just looked at me and she was like, oh, uh, we haven't had any meat for dinner this week. And I was like, you are correct. You noticed. Yeah, I think, um, so I'm, I'm vegan. I've been vegan for a few years, but I think you bring up a really good point about this, like all or nothing. And in fact, when I decided to go vegan, I did not actually decide to go vegan. I was like, I'll do, um, basically the equivalent of, uh, I think it's now more common in January. I'll do a month where I'm going to do vegan. And I thought this was going to be temporary, but I was just going to commit to doing 30 days of vegan eating. And I think like one thing I wanted to bring up in this conversation is I think there's kind of this inaccurate perception that a lot of these actions are sacrificial and that they're, they're something you're giving up for the better good. And I really approached it that way. I was like, ah, okay, here we go. It's going to be like tedious and it's going to be time consuming to, to make this food. And I'm going to be the buzzkill. And I didn't expect it to be so joyful, like all the benefits that I get from finding new recipes and like trying different types of food and, uh, feeling healthier and feeling like my values, I'm aligning my, my lifestyle with my values is something I never saw discussed in these conversations of how good it feels and how many knock-on benefits there are that it's not this big sacrifice. And, oh my God, it is so easy to be vegan now. If anyone like hasn't tried it, it's like not a sacrifice. I mean, there is so much out there. We are like living in the age of easy vegan options. Like even if you're not next to a whole foods, like regular grocery stores have oat milk now, like oat milk is everywhere. It's just like impossible burgers. And everything is, is just a little easier than if you had maybe trialed this even five, 10 years ago. Yeah. Yeah. Sorry. Go ahead. Desi. Um, also, you know, the, the, just the availability of, of fruits and vegetables in the supermarket has changed so much in the last 30 years that it's, you know, you know, like completely different foods are popular, more popular than they were, you know, probably, you know, 30 years ago, probably because you couldn't get them fresh. And the frozen versions are, you know, just not good, right? Like frozen Brussels sprouts, frozen cauliflower, not good. Those vegetables don't freeze well, but fresh Brussels sprouts, fresh cauliflower, those are great. And you see them in the restaurants all the time now. I love that, that point make you about, like, it doesn't have to be a sacrifice. Like you don't have to be like a hero for society by making decisions. And it can actually like, they can be decisions that make your own life easier, happier, more fun, more interesting. I think, um, I was surprised about this by, uh, I started composting recently where I went to school there, there weren't like public compost options, but I live in Atlanta now and there's a company that offers this option. I know if you're in San Francisco, it's, it's sort of like a public utility, but, um, here it's, it's, it's private, but that's an option that I have. And I realized like on a very sort of micro level, but it makes a difference that the walk from my apartment to the dumpster is like pretty far. And I've just had to take so many fewer trips because I'm composting so much more of the waste in my household. And like, that just goes right outside my door as opposed to taking the trash bag all the way out. Or I have the option to get compost, um, like in return for the, the, like the sort of raw compost materials that I'm providing back to this company. And so that's inspired me to like start a vegetable garden on my roof where I wouldn't have normally thought about doing that before. And those are things that are like super fun and, um, and, and easy and literally fewer, fewer trips after the garbage dumpster, if you're lazy. So yeah. Does anybody else have stories like that or like things that you've implemented in your life that have actually not been a sacrifice, but made your life easier, happier, more fun, more interesting? Yeah. Sorry, Amy, go ahead. No, I have another one after you. So I was going to say when everyone's done. Okay. Yeah. I think one thing anybody can do really is when it comes to just local policies, you know, you can always support, uh, you know, folks who are either aligned with you in terms of climate or certain propositions that are aligned with you. Uh, one of the things that can really concerns me today. Um, and not, not all bad, but is this notion of geoengineering, right. Where it is a creative solution, but in some ways it can also take away from individual responsibility, uh, not to be, not to sacrifice what you're doing, but like, Oh, there's a solution coming. So I don't need to be active with anything. You know, it's kind of like everything with COVID at the moment where folks say, Oh, there's a vaccine coming down the line. So I don't need to worry about kind of personal hygiene or all of these things, very similar there. So whether it has to do with the kind of food you consume, or even just a couple of years ago in SF, we had a proposition to improve our sewage system, which is like over a hundred years old, not great if we have an earthquake, right. Uh, but the kind of thing that water and utility management is critical to, uh, improving the environment and, uh, just kind of the day-to-day life and urban environment. So, uh, yeah, I think supporting local policies, politicians that pro propositions as well, probably even more important, right. That's the kind of thing you can do right away that doesn't require any sacrifice. It's that's a really good point. I want to also like jump off that with things you can do. Like I, I really highly suggest, you know, and, and for me, this is something I do is, is I donate money to many different causes that, um, that do things that I can't do. Like, for example, I, I donate to some of us and the orangutan project, um, because I want to make sure that any impact I've had on the palm oil situation, as at least being mitigated through me by paying monthly, uh, in San Francisco, we have a, uh, um, company call or an organization called planting justice. And what they do is they take people who have, um, who are released from prison with felony records and they teach them how to do permaculture, and then they get them permaculture jobs in the community. So then you're also supporting, you know, um, you know, restorative justice, but then also, um, you know, the environment. And so I feel like, and, and, you know, compassion and world farming, it's like, I haven't totally given up eating meat yet, but like, I definitely donate money every month to compassionate world farming who are out there trying to change policies and, and, you know, I, the ASPCA and whatever. So I really recommend like donating your money to, um, to causes because they, they need our money. And, and then that, that can kind of like help with that integration. You know, like Anika, you were saying at the beginning, it's like, you can feel so overwhelmed. Sometimes I'll just be like, I don't care. You know, I'm not going to do anything. Cause we're so far down the rabbit hole of like craziness that like, you feel like what you're doing doesn't matter, but the way that it matters is because of how it makes you feel. Cause if I start going down that path of like, I just don't care. I just know that I'm going to be unhappy because it's not aligned with like the truth of, of who I am, you know? That's such a great point. Mickey, you had one more example. Oh yeah. Um, this is more on the, um, it was kind of brought up by what you said about taking out the trash, but, um, when we did have to go to the office, when we got to go to the office, I should say, um, I commuted by bike and, um, initially there was like, I was like a little, again, I was like, uh, like I'm getting sweaty and it's like, you know, America is still very much a car culture. Like there's a little bit too close run in sometimes with me in a car. And, um, but then it became this very enjoyable experience of like a better commute night. I had the freedom and independence to like leave whenever I wanted to, rather than have to dictate my schedule based on traffic. And, um, I got a little like workout every day and it was like this pleasant experience that was also benefiting. Like it been, I do believe there's these win-win situations that benefit us and the environment, um, and just trying to find those opportunities. But yeah, also definitely donate all your money, even, or especially if you feel guilty. Yeah. Take all your guilt, pour it into money to help other people. Yeah. Uh, Jesse, I love earlier when, when you brought up this sort of like slow, uh, maybe sneaky is not the right word, but like slow introduction of, uh, vegan and plant-based meals into your household and how that also helped the other people in your house eat, you know, more sustainably, but, um, but not have this feeling of sacrifice. I also remember this at the beginning of the pandemic, you know, like living with my family and being able to cook meals and they like, didn't even realize until like days later, like, Oh, Hey, we didn't even eat meat. That's cool. I'm curious about if folks have other ideas about this, like what are other ways that you can encourage other people in your life to adopt some of these actions, um, other than just sort of like telling them about it, which can feel annoying sometimes, right? If you have a friend that's pestering you to like do whatever, like, how do you, how do you get people on the train on the happy train with you? You could do, you could do ice bucket style challenge. People in your family or friends that seems to work on social media, but. I like that one. I saw a lot of people plogging for earth day this year, which is like you're, you jog and pick up trash. And that seemed to be a thing that a lot of people were doing at the same time, which is cool. I usually go the annoying route. You know, I, I just like, Hey, everybody, Hey everybody. And honestly, it's worked, you know, go in the annoying route in my circles, you know, like you, you, you raise the awareness. You're like, Hey, do you need to use that plastic water? Do you know that it's not really getting recycled? Like I think dropping little bits of information, like you don't want to, I used to be very heavy on the Facebook posting and, and it, it, the more that you come like aggressively at people, the more they're going to resist. And so you kind of have to see what they care about, like, where are they indicating they have an interest in something and then try to build on that. Like, Oh, well, if you love, you know, the animal friends, you know, maybe eat less of them or, or, you know, think about the plastic in the ocean and, you know, but yeah, I usually go the annoying route. I think, I think sharing that information is really valuable though, because I think it's so easy to feel gaslit, you know, by these companies who have a vested interest in the status quo. And there's so much misinformation. I know you brought up a few times, Amy, like plastic recycling, and it, there was a fantastic long form piece by, I think it was NPR about just the decades worth of lying that the oil industry had done to convince the public that it was actually being managed and recycled. And, and so it's, it's no one's fault that we believed. In fact, they added little symbols to make us believe that it was recyclable. So like, I think kind of counterfactually re-informing of information that you find out is really important. Otherwise, of course, like the, the misinformation will continue spreading. And yeah, it's a little buzzkilly. Like I do this too, by the way, but I think it's valuable. So it's not, it's not always like fun, rosy conversation, but I think it's important to talk about. And I think otherwise it does just feel like we're living, I don't know, in a house on fire and everyone's just kind of going about their business normally. And I think people find it refreshing to actually have a forum, to have the discussion that this is real and this is happening and we don't have to just be business as usual about it. That's amazing. And I think a fantastic point to end on, because we are coming up close to our time. Thank you so much to all of you for your time, for these great ideas. I'm going to take some of these back and implement them in my own life. And if you are watching this and inspired by any of it and want to share with us what some actions you've taken in your own life are, or things that you learned today or things that you learned recently that you think would be helpful to share with other folks, please reach out to us on Twitter at CloudflareTV. And also definitely check out the rest of the segments from this week as well to learn more from this space. Thanks again, everyone, and have a great rest of your day.