For a small business—say, a design firm with 10 or 20 employees—it can be hard to calculate the company’s carbon footprint. There’s no sustainability department. There probably isn’t a budget for a sustainability consultant. And the process can seem long, complex, and expensive. But a new website helps small office-based businesses and retail stores get a quick rough estimate of their emissions, free of charge.
“They can get their number in a minute,” says Alex Lassiter, CEO of Green Places, the startup that built the tool. Lassiter, a serial entrepreneur who has run other small businesses, saw from his own experience that there was a need for a simpler way to calculate emissions data.
The tool asks a few simple questions, including the location and type of business, the size of the office or store, the company’s transportation, and the number of employees. Then it uses detailed data from the University of California Berkeley’s CoolClimate Project to estimate emissions.
After a company calculates its carbon footprint, it can choose to buy carefully vetted carbon offsets, such as supporting forest restoration. By design, the startup is only targeting companies that already have a fairly minimal footprint. “I think one objection to offsets is that offsets are a way to sort of cover up bad behavior,” Lassiter says. “We very specifically don’t go after businesses that have heavy assets…most of the businesses we talk to are not big polluters.” (Climate Neutral, a nonprofit with a more detailed estimation tool, works with manufacturers that do have more complex footprints.)
The startup also offers consulting services—acting like an out-of-house sustainability director—and makes suggestions about ways to reduce emissions, such as employee rideshare programs, hybrid remote work programs, or composting in the office kitchen.
Green Places also makes sustainability pages for the websites of small businesses to help communicate their progress and attract employees, and offers a “Green Place to Work” badge for companies that offset their footprint and make a plan to reduce emissions. Large companies are “trying to speak to this next generation of impact-oriented workers,” he says. “I don’t think small businesses are prepared for that, and I really want to help them do that because I want them to be able to compete for the best talent.”