Best part: "In all, in the middle of a pandemic and economic recession, with no grants, our all volunteer network averted over $500,000 in social costs of carbon."
Carbon Neutral Indiana grew out of a research phase in 2019 and early 2020.
First, we invested about 12.5 months full-time interviewing over 200 people working on climate throughout Indiana. Who is doing what? Where can we make an impact? One result of that was identifying 300 entities doing Project Drawdown climate solutions in the state, which resulted in Indiana Drawdown. The main result, though, was becoming an official 501c3 non-profit -- a project of the Indiana Forest Alliance -- on April 7, 2020.
We are igniting a leadership movement and reinvigorating public service. It just so happens our thing is climate. So we're taking responsibility for Indiana and ensuring it becomes carbon neutral as soon as possible. We're starting with households, businesses, and academic institutions. Our short term goal is to shift social norms so that carbon neutrality is common.
Below is the story of our 3rd quarter in 2020:
Table of Contents
- Academic Institutions
- Lessons Learned
- What's Next?
We're growing, and our growth is accelerating. It took our non-profit:
- 59 days to hit $10K in annual revenue
- 41 days to hit $20K
- 35 days to hit $30K
Carbon Neutral Indiana is a grassroots network of Hoosiers working on the greatest crisis of the generation. Yet, we've received no financial support from charitable foundations, incubators, social impact investors, or angels.
In our first five months, our network bootstrapped its way to $36,800 in revenue. This financial support is entirely from individuals in the lower and middle economic classes.
It's important we remember 71% of the world's emissions come from just 100 companies. Still, we as individuals can clean up our side of the street.
$1,330 in donations. We’ve received these donations from 9 people. Thank you to:
- Deborah Morris
- Walt Breitinger
- Raymond Kosinski
- Brian Donahue
- Anne Greist
- Melanie Woods
- Roseann Woodka
- Kara Woodlee
- Tom Bogenschutz
Deposits for 505 carbon offsets. We sell high quality, verified carbon offsets as a fundraiser. This is how we grow with or without major philanthropic support. Currently we support the Afognak forest project in Alaska.
When someone makes a deposit for a month of offsets we purchase those offsets a few months later. For example, we purchased all of the offsets we got deposits for in April on June 18th. This lag enables us not to have to carry inventory as well as to, soon, purchase offsets in bulk with wholesale discounts. Like most retailers, our margins for this fundraiser are about 50%. This enables us to raise funds for educational programming like supporting households, businesses, and academic institutions in reducing their carbon footprints.
We purchased two batches of carbon offsets -- 153 tons from the Afognak Forest Carbon Project in Alaska. The first 21 were retired on Aug 7, 2020 and the second 132 were retired on Sept 14, 2020. Retirement means no one else can claim them against their carbon footprint.
We are on track to hiring our first staff person in Q1 of 2021. We should be able to provide a wage similar to a public school teacher.
There are now carbon neutral households in 21 of Indiana's 92 counties and in 48 of its 957 zip codes. Explore an interactive map and see which counties and zip codes have coverage. Let's achieve 100%! How? Simply have conversations with your friends about carbon neutrality.
Our network assembled for the first time ever. Watch the video here.
Over 140 Indiana households signed up to measure their carbon footprints. If you haven't taken full responsibility for your carbon footprint yet, measure your footprint today.
We've helped 53 more Indiana households clean up their "carbon trash" and become carbon neutral, for a total of 86 households. That's 2,210 tons annually, 25.7 tons on average. See the full list in order here.
We published climate stories from 13 households:
- Mark Clayton & Julia Spangler
- Professor Purnima Bose
- Thomas Gruenenfelder, Ph.D., & family
- Bradley Malkovsky Ph.D. and Mariam Malkovsky
- Bruce Solomon, Ph.D., & family
- Nancy Moldenhauer & Family
- SO & GF
- David Harting & family
- Owen Manning & family
- Alli Williams
- Rebecca Stoops and Evan Spradling
- Evan Dunkin
- Gene Tempel, Ed.D., and Mary Tempel
"Honestly, the climate crisis has been a huge point of anxiety in my life... Recently, though, I’ve realized there are things we can do, bigger picture things that make a positive impact on the environment. That’s a very hopeful feeling." -Alli Williams
"Why are we carbon neutral? My wife, Mary, said it best the other day. She said, 'We're doing this for our grandchildren.'" -Gene Tempel, Ed.D., and Mary Tempel
"Given the role of the US in generating pollution, the very least I can do to honor these activists' efforts and sacrifices is to become carbon neutral. I encourage others to take the carbon survey and to contribute to global efforts to avert climate catastrophe." -Professor Purnima Bose
400 7th grade students at Carmel Middle School will learn about carbon neutrality this fall. We're going to introduce the idea in 10 minutes. We'll show them how to use a carbon calculator. Then, we'll give them examples: "Here is the data for a retired couple, for a college student, for a young family." They'll practice calculating carbon footprints. Then, they'll take our worksheet home and calculate their family's carbon footprint with their parents.
How many of these 400 families will go carbon neutral? A lot!
Can we rinse and repeat at the 300 other middle schools in Indiana with 86,000 new families every year? You betcha!
Students at Purdue University delivered a petition to President Mitch Daniels. Over 2,000 individuals signed this petition, and 47 student organizations -- representing over 8,000 students -- signed this petition. The Purdue Exponent covered this story.
165 people asked to volunteer.
We met with Indiana University Athletics. They're interested in making a game, season, or building carbon neutral. To be continued.
Bill McKibben gave us a shout out in The New Yorker: "Like E.S.G. investing, carbon offsets are no panacea—but it is inspiring to see local startups, such as Carbon Neutral Indiana, figuring out how to communicate with homeowners and small businesses about their carbon footprint." -Bill McKibben, The New Yorker
Senator Mike Braun invited us to his home in Jasper, Indiana to discuss upcoming climate legislation. Also at the meeting was State Senator Mark Stoops, Jeff Stant and Rae Schnapp of the Indiana Forest Alliance, Tim Maloney of Hoosier Environmental Council, and Greg Kempf of Carbon Neutral Indiana and Citizens Climate Lobby.
We worked with State Senator Mark Stoops on SB 368 at the Indiana Statehouse. Legislators began exploring facilitating voluntary carbon markets in Indiana. Learn more and watch video here. CNI helped facilitated working group meetings leading up to the event, and we helped line up speakers to testify. More to come. Below, from left to right: Mary and Jeff Stant, State Senator Mark Stoops, Rae Schnapp PhD, Daniel Poynter, Tim Maloney.
So far, our network averted over $500,000 in social costs of carbon. How? According to researchers at Stanford, each ton of CO2 we add to the atmosphere causes $220 in damages. We've helped households and businesses clean up about 2,455 tons (annualized). This in the middle of a pandemic and economic recession, with no grants, and an all volunteer team! Explore our other impact metrics.
Our network met for the first time.
We discussed proposed SB 368 climate legislation on the NPR show All IN, which was broadcast to all NPR stations throughout Indiana. Thank you to host Matt Pelsor for this invitation.
We were invited to present at the Bloomberg Midwest Climate Summit. This will be Nov 6, 2020.
We launched The $50,000 Club. Okay, you took responsibility for your carbon footprint... what's next? Educate a few friends. Because each ton of CO2e causes about $220 in social costs, it doesn't take much to avert $50,000 in damages. Helping about 4-5 friends will do. Then you'll be invited to join the illustrious club, get a bottle of champagne, and your very own mug:
We're working on a documentary with a professional environmental filmmaker. JD Schuyler of Skyler Creative will first create a 2-3 minute promo. Then we'll pitch it to PBS. Then we'll raise money and finish a 25 minute film.
We have 52 yard signs installed throughout the state, reaching over 100,000 people each day. For example, the one below on the Monon trail in Indianapolis sees 1.5M pedestrians annually.
Wrapped up summer internship program.
CNI was mentioned in the Herald Bulletin, a newspaper in Bloomington, IN.
Included in op-ed in Indy Star's Sunday edition. Circulation of about 213,000.
We set up advanced tracking of key data fueling our growth. For example:
Presented to Bloomington's Sustainability Council. Presentation notes available here.
Over 4,000 unique visitors spent an average of 1:48 on our website:
Average reach of 44 individuals daily on Facebook:
Published article on Afognak Forest Carbon Project. This is the first verified carbon project we support.
Article in Natural Awakenings. Circulation about 70,000.
The Hoosier economist Morton Marcus wrote an article about us.
Our network has 5,000 supporters in total.
Andy Fry created our new logo:
Most people are good and want to do the right thing. Researchers at Yale found that over 50% of Hoosiers are worried about climate. Once people understand some basic concepts (e.g. carbon footprint, social cost of carbon, verified carbon offsets) most of them want to "clean up their carbon trash" and become carbon neutral.
The concept of "carbon trash" might just be the thing. It might have been David Cordell (at Bohlsen Group) that mentioned the phrase first. The idea is simple: most decent people clean up their physical trash. Why wouldn't we take responsibility for our immaterial trash, like greenhouse gases, too? We've been floating the phase more and more lately.
Focus and focus again. A lot is wrong with our society. It's tempting to run from train wreck to train wreck. We can do more good by focusing. We are igniting a leadership movement through climate action because it's high leverage. When we address climate we'll get ahead of other challenges too. Covid, for example, is a dress rehearsal for the tropical diseases to come as well as the other various shocks to our critical systems (e.g. agriculture, military, economic, etc.). As for leadership, it's the ultimate investment in resiliency.
Managing 15 interns in just 10-20 hours/week. As long as they were all doing the same projects it was manageable. It became exponentially more complex when they formed teams to work on different projects.
Investing 20 hours/week most effectively. Our founder has a part-time consulting role to finance CNI while it gets off the ground. That leaves a limited amount of time per week for CNI. Growing our community of households, but there are other valuable areas of investment. Work at the statehouse, businesses, sharing lessons learned in reports, etc.
Lack of knowledge in the public. When people understand what we're about they usually support us. There's a lot of educating to do.
What's Next for 2020 Q4?
Grow the $50,000 Club. This is a fun way to channel energies once a household becomes carbon neutral.
Begin remeasuring household carbon footprints. When we started, we planned to catch up with households after six months to remeasure their footprints. We'll start doing that soon.
Shift more and more focus toward businesses. For most businesses, the investment to clean up their carbon trash is just 0.2-0.5% of revenue. As more and more households become carbon neutral we can pollinate them with the carbon neutral businesses.
Work with new intern at DePauw University. They hired a student to focus on carbon neutrality.
Continue nurturing our community. We all got together for the first time recently. We'll do this more and more frequently.
Work with a professional PR firm. A respected PR firm in Indiana is about to announce they are carbon neutral. They also offered to donate bandwidth to our cause.
Purchase our carbon offsets at discounted wholesale rates. We are buying in such quantities where we should be able to get discounts soon.
Design facelift. Andy Fry started with our new logo. Now he's creating a style guide. Then a team of students from IUPUI will use it to redesign our website.
Working on our documentary. We'll be raising funds, writing a script, and interviewing key people for the film.
Apply for more grants. We're working with a professional grant writer with an impressive track record. We'll be applying for many more grants with them soon.
Publish our first report. Two individuals invested several months into a 15-20 page report. We plan to publish it soon and mail it to the mayors of Indiana's 100 largest cities as well as the city councils of the largest 25 cities.
Publish a financial transparency page. We've been working with our bookkeeper, Lora Bowman, to create monthly documents to share here -- profit & loss, balance sheets, etc.
SB 368. It looks like this proposed climate legislation has broad support. We have big news to announce here in the near future.
Present at the Bloomberg Midwest Climate Summit. This will be Nov 6, 2020.