“The EcoMap: Determining Your Zip Code’s Carbon Footprint” by Jared Blumenfeld

This presentation is brought to you by Arizona State University’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, and a generous investment by Julie Ann Wrigley. So the EcoMap came out of a partnership with Cisco, the computer manufacturer, and it talked about– the intro, I’m just going to talk through. You can read it. The goal was to be able to use ZIP codes to determine CO2 footprints in San Francisco. So the idea was, individuals want to make a difference, but they don’t really know what that difference would be. If you fill out a carbon calculator or do a pledge on the internet, it doesn’t really lead to any aggregated number. And so the point here was to be able to replicate what we do so that you can one day compare a Phoenix ZIP code with a San Francisco ZIP code with a Beijing ZIP code.

And this is– wait one second. So this is what you see. And the website’s launching in a few days. So you see San Francisco. You get a sense of all the ZIP codes. On the top, it tells you your ZIP code because you can now automatically– your IP address on your computer can be tabulated with your ZIP code. So rather than you having to type anything in, the computer tells you your ZIP code. And then it shows you the ZIP codes based on greenness. So the lighter the green, the better actual green you  are. So the first thing it shows you here, which is kind of maybe hard to read from where you’re sitting, but it shows you the three indicators, which are transportation, energy, and waste. And then it ranks the top 10 ZIP codes in San Francisco, and it shows you the percentage for each category. So in the first one, 50% is from transportation, 46% is from energy, and only 4% is from waste. So on energy, it shows you the amount of electricity used and the amount of gas.

So we went to our utility and said, we want, by ZIP code, the residential data for both gas and electricity, and then we looked at the amount of carbon in gas and the gas-electricity ratio, and came up with a ZIP code ranking. And you can see the little green or red arrows next to the number. So each month, there’s kind of the potential to go up or down. So in your community, if you get 30 or 40 people to do small actions, you can get your whole ZIP code to go from number two, let’s say, to number one. The other thing that it shows you on the bottom, that green bar, is the city average and the city goal. So we have these goals, but they’re very hard to translate so that people understand what they are. So the purpose here is to be able to show people, you know what? You’re not quite where the city goal is. If you took these actions, you could get there. So waste. It shows you the weight of the black cart, the weight of the green cart, so this is average per household weight– and the blue cart. And you can see huge disparities between the top ZIP code with 295 pounds, and the worst in this one is 925.

So three times more is being thrown away in one ZIP code than another. And it turns out that the ZIP code that’s doing really well is called South Beach. It’s a new development. It’s young people that live in small apartments. They’re producing three times less trash than single-family homes in the Richmond. But really, I mean, it’s startling starting to look at that data, and who’s throwing away more green material, and who’s throwing away more refuse. Transportation. We managed to get the state data and regional data so that you can start looking at the number of hybrids, the number of SUVs, and then the miles per year driven to commute in each ZIP code, which gives you your carbon footprint. So really starting to get pretty high-level granularity of data to look at this issue. You can do it by ZIP code, you can start comparing two ZIP codes, and eventually, you’ll be able to take two ZIP codes from different places on the planet and compare SUV versus hybrid ownership, for instance. So the next thing we did is look at these three key indicators, which are effort, cost, and impact.

So that’s what we learned from our market research was that those are the three drivers. People want to look at the effort they need to take to do something, the cost it’s going to be to do that thing, and then, what is the impact? So there’s some things that are very high impact, but they’re also very high effort, like going car-free. If you said, I’m going to give up my car and just walk, bike, and take public transit, it’s a huge impact, but it’s also quite a lot of effort. Putting solar panels is not a huge effort, really, but it’s a huge cost. And so some people may not be willing to do that, or able to do that. And so we tailored, rather than just coming up with generic things that you could do, based on what your personal profile is by effort, cost, and impact, we then generate a list for you of what you can do.

So it comes up with a list, and then you get to decide out of those which actual actions you want to take in the three different categories. And as you take them, it fills out your tree. And as it fills out your tree, you can then add it to Facebook. We really wanted to add the social networking dimension, and we used the mayor here, so you get to see the mayor’s Facebook page. And his tree goes on there. And then it goes back and looks at the people that live around the mayor that are also using the site through Facebook and finds out what they’re doing. So he decides he wants a plan a bicycle route. So it doesn’t just give you a high level of data. It starts to mine down deeper. So it says he’s going to go from City Hall to see the Giants, and then it shows the route. And one of the cool things that we did with the route planner is that it also shows you the gradient, you can see on the bottom right. San Francisco, we have a lot of hills. People want to know, if there’s an easy route, how long does it take? And then at the bottom, it links you to a bike buddy through Facebook.

So if you don’t want to bicycle alone, you’re just starting to bike, it helps you do that. And then it links you to other people. This person can teach you how to learn how to compost. The next person is going to be part of a green business, and they happen to have a video on Cole Hardware, which is a small hardware store that can tell you more about what you want to know about green businesses. So you can really start linking this to real-life experiences in the city rather than making it some abstract tool that is of little use. So this will launch in Seoul. We started in San Francisco. Amsterdam and Seoul are the next two cities that are going to do it. And then the goal is to replicate the model by greening each ZIP code. And ZIP codes really are a scale that you can start measuring things. I mean, if you get enough ZIP codes to do it, you can really see what the impact on the planet is going to be. This presentation is brought to you by Arizona State University’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, for educational, and non-commercial use only.

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Choosing a Life Without Trash | Sam McMullen | TEDxUofM

Eight months ago I decided to become "that guy". (Laughter) My sister Liddy and I committed to live trash-free for a year. Of course, no one can live completely trash-free, but we are pretty close. This is my trash and recycling for the past eight months. We did this initially because we wanted to feel like we were doing something about climate change. An issue that Lydia had spent her entire college career, a Fulbright Fellowship and all her time in the Natural Resources Defense Council working on. And I had spent countless minutes watching YouTube videos about. (Laughter) At first we were awful at it, we were so bad. Our first trash-free dinner sauce, eating out of a serving dish with chopsticks that I'd run back to the apartment to get because this is how our plates were given to us, wrapped in plastic.

We also had to improvise a take home container. See those stickers? That means I care about the environment. (Laughter) On the eighteen hour plane ride back from China, I didn't drink any water because they make me dump out my water bottle before boarding. And when I did get back the first thing I did, was create trash. I was out with a friend and before I knew it there was a drink in front of me with this napkin under it and this straw in it. Over the next few months my mistakes ranged from having to buy a packaged sandwich in an emergency room in York, Pennsylvania to literally forgetting that I was doing the whole waste-free thing and buying a brand-new chain tool to repair a bike. A lot of good that did me low because the bike is still in my basement – broken. So all of this led to me being introduced to you as an environmental activist. Now I thought that was kind of funny when I first read it, because I don't think of myself as much of an activist. What I started to realize was that by living without trash I had to enlist the help of everyone around me.

My professors had to agree to let me send them homework via email. My wait staff had to remember not to put the straw in the water. And at first I thought this would make me come off as total snob. But what I quickly realized was that if you just check your ego and understand and acknowledge that what you're asking for is a little bit ridiculous, it quickly becomes a team effort rather than an imposition of my values on someone else's life. The beautiful thing about this whole thing is that when once people have been an accomplice to an act of trashlessness they start to think about their own impact. Or you get texts weeks after having a meal with someone of someone is saying, "Hey, Sam, what do you do about toilet paper?" Or I'll get a snapshot of a napkin that someone didn't use. And by the way we still use toilet paper. Don't worry! (Laughter) This aspect of going zero waste that forces conversations about it is, I guess, a kind of activism. But why would we go zero waste and does it even make a difference? I'm sure we've all seen this graph of CO2 emissions. We've all had this picture come up on your timelines; we've all watched this video.

We all live in a world where these things are true, but we're not there, we're here and here is fine. We're confronted with this massive issue where cause and effect are completely separated. If you live in the developed world, like I do, you're probably never going to see the whole impact that your lifestyle actually has. That's probably because we are really good at exporting all the bad stuff and importing the finished product. 95% of a product's environmental impact happens before you even open the package. 95 percent – that's why we've included recycling in our trash because even though the product might be recycable, that 95% still applies. You just don't see it. If we're being honest with ourselves we know what the problem is, right? We know that we just use too much new stuff and use too many resources but the solution is scary. Not getting new stuff is really hard. It's the worst. Keeping that shirt for next year isn't that sexy, getting your phone off Craigslist rather than buying the newest model isn't that chic.

It doesn't feel quite right to turn down that piece of gum. But real action? The kind that addresses our biggest challenges is going to be just that: challenging. Cutting your dependency on trash is a little hard but hard is good in this case. In fact, hard is great. It forces us to notice what's happening and do something about it. Like saying, "Hey, any chance to get that coffee in a ceramic mug rather than in a paper cup?" So what we need is not the next easy fix, we need something manageably hard that has a real impact. That's where trash comes in super handy because for every piece of trash we throw away like this pizza box, it's a sort of representation of the upstream impacts like the transportation costs, the resources used to make it or the wrapping at the store or the extraction of those resources and the energy used to do all those things. For every pound of trash we create, seven pounds are created upstream. Now all of this is a real downer, I'm sorry, but it represents a choice, right? That's the flip side. With every wrapper, every bag, every new item we buy, we have a direct influence on all those systems and we can opt out. The fight against climate change is won and lost billions of times every single day in each of our choices.

This realization was crucial for my sister and me because even though we felt great about the fact that we're doing a zero waste year, in reality we weren't having that much of an impact, right? Because the two of us doing it for a year is about 20,000 pounds of waste which is great, but nowhere near enough. So over Christmas break at about 4 a.m. I shake Lydia awake and we have an idea that you can probably only have in the middle of the night. What if instead of some "now-jean-carrying", "same pair-of-jeans- since-August-of-07-having" or "shower-when-I'm-dead-environmentalist" doing this for months and years, what if everyone or a group of people from around the world did this for a day? Tried it. And then if they wanted to extend it for a week or a month, we'd be there to help them. So we got serious and started an organization called "Live Zero Waste".

With the goal of giving people resources and a community who are trying to live trash-free. Now what got us so excited about this idea was that even just trying for a day would at least give people a chance to audit their lives and realize that trash is a choice and maybe demonstrate to them that they can have a concrete and measurable impact on climate change. Yes, they could see what they were doing. They could see, yes, I can change something because what is so powerful about this way of life isn't necessarily the trash you avoid, it's the idea that the majority of our trash could be avoided by a simple increase in awareness and a little creativity. The average American wastes 4.4 pounds of trash per day, but going zero waste for a day is more than that 4.4 pounds; it's that and the thirty-plus pounds for the upstream impact. It's having a tangible representation of your environmental footprint. And it's the awareness that imparts on every single person you meet during your trash-free day or week or month or heck on a year. At this point I should sort of admit that going waste-free has been a little bit of a sacrifice in certain ways, but hugely rewarding in others.

Without even noticing it, it shifts your focus from stuff to relationships, from money spent on things to time spent on experiences. Going "Zero Waste" is an opportunity to take problems big, important, international problems and address them in our daily lives with our daily choices. So instead of asking, what will our government do to fix this? Or, why isn't this NGO doing more?, the questions become, can each of us separate individuals come together and make the choices we know we need to make to combat climate change? Can we be the bold ones to cut into what we thought of as necessities? Who's going to step up and be the exception that in time will define a whole new set of rules? And I think it's you. Now I'm just some college student but that's exactly the point. We're all just some college student or just some barista or just some CEO, but together we're incredible.

We now more than ever have the power to shape the environment we live in. We're the first generation to know beyond a shadow of a doubt what we've done to this planet but also what we can do to fix it. So I'll leave you with a promise and a request. My promise is to do everything I can to make living waste-free as accessible as possible and to build a community of people committed to taking concrete action against climate change. And my request, that each of you tomorrow whether you're in this auditorium or watching online give living zero waste a shot for one day. One of my best friends called me up the other day and she said, "I just can't imagine how I would do this, I don't know where to start how do you do it?" And if I thought this were some Herculean task, I'd feel the need to give you detailed instructions. But honestly what it comes down to is waking up tomorrow morning making a choice and sticking to it as best you can.

And if you mess up, put it in a bag or a pizza box. I think you'll be surprised by how much waste you can avoid, how many interesting conversations you'll have and how many of your own habits you can change by simply noticing, the napkin and the straw. Thank you. (Applause).