Reducing Labster’s carbon footprint one small step at a time

This Spring, we at Labster decided to take active steps towards reducing our carbon footprint. 

Climate change poses an imminent threat to the well-being of our planet. As levels of carbon dioxide keep rising, thermal energy is becoming trapped in our atmosphere, causing the earth to become warmer.

As a global company dedicated to transforming the education of science students and ensuring that the next generations are able to make well-informed decisions, we see it as our responsibility to take active steps towards halting climate change. To do so, those of us here at Labster’s Copenhagen office decided to make lifestyle changes that would lower our CO₂ emissions and reduce our carbon footprint. 

Screenshot from Labster’s simulation Thermal Homeostasis where students learn how deer thermoregulate in response to climate change

Why Copenhagen?

The team here at Copenhagen were the first to kick-start the climate initiative. The capital of Denmark, Copenhagen, is a city that has an infrastructure catered towards being environmentally friendly. Its household waste systems are designed to separate rubbish, and its streets are all equipped with cycle lanes. This city therefore seemed like the perfect place for Labster to start actively reducing its carbon footprint. Despite Denmark’s reputation as a sustainable country, it still has a way to go to reduce its carbon emission levels. If everyone were to adopt the same lifestyle habits as the average Dane, we would need the resources of up to three planet earths! Therefore, despite also having offices in the US, in Bali, and other places around the world, those of us here at Labster’s headquarters thought that we could make the biggest initial impact if we started our climate change mission in Copenhagen. 

How did we create the Climate OKR?

Small efforts can make a big impact, and the issue of climate change is no exception. It is for this reason that we decided to team together to reduce our carbon footprint. In the Copenhagen office, we have been making small changes to our lifestyle in order to reduce the carbon footprint of the whole company. 

We set up the climate change initiative as a company-wide OKR. OKR, which stands for ‘Objectives and Key Results’, is the framework around which Labster sets its goals on a short term basis. Splitting the year into four sections, we all set personal, departmental, and company-wide OKRs each quarter that guide our work towards specific objectives. Tracking our objectives every week, we have created a working culture committed to achieving sustainable and mangable goals. 

It is within this framework that we set up the Climate OKR, a company-wide goal committed to reducing Labster’s carbon footprint. The suggested goals were placed in an OKR document which is outlined in more detail at the bottom of this article. Lifestyle changes have included switching to a vegetarian or vegan diet, reducing the amount of plastic you use, donating and purchasing clothes from second-hand stores, and choosing to take the bike when you could otherwise drive. 

What have we been doing? 

Head of Marketing Mikkel Marius Winther-Lange helped reduce his carbon footprint by eating a crazy amount of vegetarian food!” Not only did this help him reduce his carbon footprint, but he reported feeling healthier and happier as a result.

Going vegetarian is a great way to reduce the amount of CO₂ you are producing every day. Research has found that livestock are responsible for 14.5% of all greenhouse gas emissions. This means that by reducing, or completely omitting, the amount of meat you are eating, you can make a real difference to the environment. By eating vegetarian twice a week for just two weeks (so far), Mikkel was able to reduce his own footprint by around 13kg of CO₂. 

Another member of the team, Abigail Pease, reduced the temperature of her washing machine from 60 to 30 degrees Celsius and stopped tumble drying for one whole month. A small and easy change to just two washes a week, the size of her carbon footprint fell by 21.6kg CO₂ in one month

The bike-to-work initiative

One of the best things about setting OKRs is that they can be used to inspire further projects that work towards the same general goal. One of Labster’s Content Writers, Rodrigo Guzman, helped the whole team in his efforts to reduce CO₂ emissions by running the bike-to-work campaign. As an ambassador for this scheme, Rodrigo helped to make a real and powerful difference to the environment. Speaking to us about his initiative, he highlighted the key reasons why he wanted Labster to be part of the Denmark-wide Cyklist Forbundet scheme:

“Climate change is a reality, and sometimes, due to the weather in Denmark, taking the bike to work seems like a challenge, so we decide to take the bus, train, or car instead, which is way more contaminant than biking.”

Image result for vi cykler til arbejde
Photo credit: Cyklistforbundet (The Danish Bike to Work scheme)

By encouraging fifteen members of Labster to take part in the scheme, Rodrigo hoped to see both the well-being of the planet, and of his colleagues, improve. Most of us here at Labster spend a great deal of time thinking about new and innovative ways to use the latest technology to build virtual simulations, which can result in a lot of time being spent at our desks! Through committing to a more active lifestyle, Rodrigo and much of the team have been able to activate their metabolism and refresh their head at the beginning and end of each working day. 

Those taking part in the initiative have been keeping track of the kms that they cycle on the bike-to-work page, which automatically calculated the kg of CO₂ being saved. This means that those taking part were able to see the direct impact they were having on the environment step by step. In its running time, the fifteen team members had 198 days where they chose the bike over alternative transport methods. The team managed to biked a total of 2,438km, saving the planet from 398kgs of CO₂! An incredible success, the scheme has made significant contributions to the broader commitment of reducing Labster’s carbon footprint, whilst creating a fun and challenging working environment. 

59,144 Danes across the nation ended up participating in the bike-to-work initiative. Nine million kilometres were biked, which is equal to 233 bike rides around the planet! Had the same number of kilometres been driven by car, the participants would have emitted over 1.5 million kgs of CO₂.

As we head into summer and the rainy days are becoming fewer and far between, Rodrigo and the rest of the team are excited to see even more of us choosing to cycle to work. 

What can you do?

If you are inspired by our efforts to combat climate change, you can make some of the changes below to reduce your own carbon footprint. We have included some stats to help you calculate the amount you are able to reduce your CO₂ levels if making the advised changes to your lifestyle. 

Screenshot from Labster’s simulation Law of Universal Gravitation

Going into the future, we are excited to see the extent to which Labster can continue to reduce its carbon footprint and inspire others to do the same! 

How can you measure it?

When we began the Climate OKR, a document was made that was shared with the whole company, which went through the importance of reducing levels of CO₂ in combating climate change. In the document were ways that each individual can reduce their own carbon emission levels through small lifestyle changes. The changes and their subsequent impacts are laid out in the table below. 

Try changing to a vegetarian dietA meat-eater who eats more than 100g of meat per day emits on average 7.19kg of CO₂ per day. A vegetarian emits on average 3.81kg of CO₂ per day, and a vegan emits just 2.89kg. This means that the CO₂ emissions of a meat-eater are almost twice as large as those who do not eat meat. If you avoid eating meat for 3 days a week, you will therefore be able to save 3.38 kg of CO₂ per each of these days
Start washing your clothes at a lower temperatureWashing machines have a considerably high energy consumption, and therefore increase our carbon footprint. Both the temperature used by the machines, and the amount they are put to use, increases CO₂ consumption. If you wash your clothes at 30 instead of 60 degrees four times a week, you can save 25 kgs of CO₂
Air dry your washing rather than use a tumble dryerTumble dryers also produce a significant amount of carbon emissions. You can save 121 kg of CO₂ per year if you air dry your clothes instead of using the tumble dryer. This means that if you stop tumble drying your clothes for four weeks, you can save 9.3 kg of CO₂
Swap your mode of transport to work to a bus or bikeCars are responsible for about 12% of the EU’s CO₂ emissions. If you do not drive for 3 days a week, and instead bike to work, you can save 13.68 kg of CO₂ per day. By doing this for a month, you can hereby save 59.82 kg CO₂.
Do not waste left-over foodFood waste is a big cause of climate change. Today, 30% of food across the globe goes to waste, contributing to 8% of total greenhouse gas emissions. You can avoid wasting food by ensuring that you use up any leftover food in your fridge. 

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