We are igniting a leadership movement and reinvigorating public service. It just so happens our thing is climate.
"Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’" -Martin Luther King Jr.
We hosted 15 summer interns in 2020. Many of these students had internships lined up that were canceled because of the pandemic. Carbon Neutral Indiana created a mutually beneficial program that enabled these students to learn soft and hard skills related to climate action, social entrepreneurship, and leadership.
Even within the first week, we achieved something magical. Here it is in their words:
"I loved the connectedness of everyone... This was more valuable than my average class. [It] was more hands-on and allowed me to grow as a person and in my knowledge." -Beverely Thompson, Indiana University student
"The internship... changed my perspective on what effective climate action looks like and how many solutions are subject to greenwashing." -Erica Walters, Butler University student
"We've built such a close community... and it's more the community motivating me than even the climate action we're promoting." -Siddharth Das, Indiana University student
"This summer internship was more valuable than my average college class... I was also very thankful to feel so welcomed by everyone else." -Kimberly Garcia, Cornell University student
"A bill backed by farmers and environmental groups that establishes a voluntary carbon market in the state unanimously passes the Senate Natural Resources Committee...
SB 373 was brought to the Senate Natural Resources Committee with the help of former Sen. Mark Stoops, who sponsored an earlier version of the bill, and groups like Carbon Neutral Indiana."
See also these two blog posts:
Companies that participate in 1% For The Planet give 1% of their sales to environmental non-profits. Will Ditzler nominated us as a non-profit partner! This means business owners can now select Carbon Neutral Indiana as a recipient.
Learn more about Will's consulting company RiverBirch Executive Advisors LLC.
Learn more on our 1% For The Planet profile page.
Here's a running list of achievements of which we're proud (in rough timeline order):
See this page for impact metrics updated automatically.
Many of these students were environmental studies students who had their other internships canceled because of covid. Most other environmental groups in Indiana canceled internship programs because of covid.
This is faster than many for-profit startup companies with millions in funding. In a pandemic, with no funding, and an all volunteer team.
It will incentivize Indiana forest owners and farmers to do climate friendly practices. It will also create "homegrown" Indiana carbon offsets.
They highlighted Carbon Neutral Indiana in the same space they highlighted presidential candidate Andrew Yang and EarthDay.org.
Publishing carbon inventories for 5,000 cities nationwide
Coming soon. It's hard to believe, but this project will provide $175M in value to the public.
NationBuilder is the nation's leading software for grassroots movements. For example, the tech savvy Presidential candidate Andrew Yang used it for his campaign.
NationBuilder is so proud of what Carbon Neutral Indiana is accomplishing with their platform that they just published a case study of our work. In addition to their story about Andrew Yang's campaign, they also published a story recently about EarthDay.org. They used NationBuilder to reach 100,000,000 people in 2020.
"Energy dependence, on the other hand, is the effect of SEA 309, the 2017 state law that phases out net metering of consumer-generated solar energy. This cynical law hampers one industry while passive aggressively buttressing another.
Essentially ghostwritten by utility lobbyists, the law was shepherded by Sen. Brandt Hershman, who, soon after the law was passed, his industry credentials burnished, flew the coop to Washington to be a lobbyist himself...
Solar providers can barely keep up with the surge in demand. Outfits like Solar United Neighbors of Indiana are marketing solar buyers clubs. And a new initiative called Carbon Neutral Indiana is enticing Hoosiers to analyze and offset their carbon footprints with investments in forest preservation and solar [Disclosure: the author is a member of both].
Although it was designed to keep the solar genie in the bottle, SEA 309 has forced the genie out." -Anne Laker
This Feb the Senate Natural Resources Committee will discuss a proposed climate bill (Indiana SB 373). It's had exciting bipartisan support.
Our working group will have a 1 pager ready soon. We'll share it here.
Essentially, it would enable Indiana farmers and forest owners to be paid to sequester carbon. It's a 100% voluntary and 100% revenue neutral.
Where would the money come from? Read more below.
Each carbon offset has a unique serial number. That way, it can only be claimed by one person or organization against their carbon footprint. When they want to claim it, they "retire" it in a public database.
We purchased three more batches of offsets, and they were tired today. 752 tons total from the Afognak Forest Carbon Project. You can find links to the public retirement records on our financial transparency page.
Vicki Bohlsen created the first registered B Corp in Indiana. Now she made her company, Bohlsen Group, carbon neutral too. She's only the second person in Indiana to make both her business, and her personal household, carbon neutral:
"Despite 2020 being a tough year, that resulted in the most change the company has ever seen, we have remained committed to being a socially responsible company that puts the importance of people and the planet alongside the need for profitability...
I was surprised by just how small of a monthly commitment it would be to offset [our team's carbon footprints] while working from home! Daniel had told me it would be equivalent to “a monthly Netflix payment” per person… and he was right...
I hope that other households and companies will consider following suit."
Climate solutions fall into two categories: (1) specific projects that reduce emissions and (2) carbon pricing that transforms how economic actors make decisions. Specific projects have an immediate payoff in terms of reducing emissions. Carbon pricing, on the other hand, changes our economic paradigm and increases investment to projects that reduce emissions. It has a multiplier effect.
These are climate solutions you know like solar and wind electricity, electric buildings, public transportation, plant rich diets, etc.
Several frameworks group and rank these solutions. The third Accelerating America’s Pledge report by Bloomberg Philanthropies’ groups them by three principles: renewable electricity, electrifying end uses like buildings and cars, and investing in natural carbon sinks like forests. McKinsey & Company’s famous GHG Abatement Cost Curve sorted them by highest potential per dollar invested (see their 2020 report for an updated analysis). Project Drawdown sorted these solutions as well. CNI's founder analyzed these solutions in Indiana's context as part of Indiana Drawdown. And finally, researchers at Princeton University’s Carbon Mitigation Initiative created The Net-Zero America Project (NZAP). This research informs, “a new National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine Committee…”
A boring accounting problem created our ecological crisis. It’s simply that we’ve been internalizing profits and externalizing costs. In other words, we've taken short term gains from exploiting the environment, but pushed off the environmental damages to others elsewhere in the world as well as in the future. As is relates to carbon, each ton of CO2e we emit causes $220 in social costs. Pricing carbon enlarges our circle of responsibility and changes the way we make decisions.
Many of the reports cited above encourage not only specific projects that reduce emissions but also carbon pricing and associated carbon markets.
For example, Bloomberg’s Accelerating America’s Pledge report:
"While this chapter highlights critical climate policies within each of the three principles, certain actions transcend these categories and have more cross-cutting implications. The most obvious of these are state efforts to price carbon emissions or set a formal cap on economy-wide emissions...
Carbon pricing has been studied in-depth and is widely seen as a particularly efficient way of reducing emissions in some sectors if not all."
"All of the 1.5°C scenarios would require major business, economic, and societal shifts—each enormous in its own right, and with intricate interdependencies. We identified five critical shifts and determined what it would take for them to occur… [The fifth is ramp] up carbon management and markets… Currently, it is impossible to chart a 1.5-degree pathway that does not remove CO2 to offset ongoing emissions. The math simply does not work."
Carbon pricing is supported by international experts and will become more common. The Financial Times published the following in Jan 2019:
"Four former chairs of the Federal Reserve have joined with leading economists from both major political parties to issue an unprecedented call for a carbon tax in the US, saying 'immediate' action is needed to address the risks of climate change.
Janet Yellen, Ben Bernanke, Alan Greenspan and Paul Volcker proposed an emissions tax that would be used to pay lump-sum cash rebates to US citizens.
The statement signed by 27 Nobel laureates and 15 former chairs of the Council of Economic Advisers described the mechanism as a 'cost-effective lever to reduce carbon emissions' that would correct 'a well-known market failure'."
And Elon Musk, the Leonardo DaVinci of our day, said:
"If you ask any economist they will tell you that is the obvious thing to do, put the correct price on carbon because we currently have an error in the economy which misprices carbon at zero or something closer to zero. It is a fundamental economic error.
To make it neither a left or right issue, we should make it a revenue-neutral carbon tax… If countries agree to an appropriately priced and targeted carbon tax, we could see a transition [to clean energy] that has a 15- to 20-year timeframe as opposed to a 40- or 50-year timeframe.”
Various groups advocate a mandatory carbon price, enforced by the government. Citizens Climate Lobby at the federal level, for example, and Climate Xchange at the state level. Regional experiments like RGGI show it can reduce emissions while also spurring the economy.
CNI — along with the rest of the carbon neutral movement — is changing social norms and making it commonplace to pay a voluntary carbon price. First we are making it normal to be carbon neutral. Once enough people are — i.e taking responsibility for and cleaning up their “carbon trash” — it will be expected of every decent person and business. The reputational costs will be too high, and businesses would lose their social license to operate if they don’t.
In this way, CNI’s approach complements the mandatory approach. One is top down, enforced by legislation. The other is bottom up, enforced by a new social norm. In other words, we don’t need to wait for legislators to start shifting social norms.
CNI increases awareness of social costs of carbon, early adopters take responsibility and show leadership by becoming carbon neutral, and finally we have enough momentum to enact a society wide carbon price. How? We’ll connect the early adopters with politicians willing to lead and achieve what the World Resource Institute calls an “ambition loop.” This is a virtuous cycle in which early adopters provide political cover for politicians to take a risk. Then, those politicians enact legislation that empowers those early adopters.