Measure carbon emissions if you want to be green

At peak hour, say midday, downloading 100 megabytes of data is approximately the equivalent of burning a bag of charcoal.

It’s a little-known fact about carbon emissions that could help organizations operate more green, said Ron Dembo, CEO and founder of Zerofootprint Inc., a Toronto-based provider of software and services to help businesses and individuals be green.

Similarly, said Dembo, a data centre that performs routine tasks like data mirroring and backup could schedule those tasks during a time when carbon is least prevalent – that would be approximately 3 a.m. in Toronto – and therefore lessen the carbon footprint.

But before organizations can begin to reflect awareness of carbon emissions in their green strategies, they must first be able to measure it, said Dembo, because “when you know where the big bang for the buck is…you know where the exposure is and that’s where you need to start first.”

Just last week, Zerofootprint released software to help businesses do precisely this. Enterprise Carbon Manager (ECM) collects data from global emissions sources, like real estate asset management software for instance, to perform calculations of an organization’s carbon emissions.

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Very often, said Dembo, multinational organizations must painstakingly aggregate numerous spreadsheets of emissions data collected by multiple sustainability officers into a single report, or hire a third-party consulting firm to calculate their emissions and “leave you with a spreadsheet and charge you $300,000 for that.” That’s no OK, he said, if measuring carbon emissions is to be a recurring task.

“The basic story is a very large number of corporations are now required to report their carbon,” said Dembo, referring to the drivers behind carbon emissions measurement. Moreover, investors very often demand that a business report its footprint to be eligible for investment funds, much like with financial reporting, he said.

“This is becoming a core enterprise function,” said Dembo, “much like reporting your total number of square feet.”

A large multinational bank, for instance, may not appear to be a huge carbon generator, but Dembo said to consider that it has global offices requiring heat, data centres consuming power, and employees who frequently travel by air.

The software seeks to address challenges in emissions calculations like the fact that in every country, said Dembo, “the amount of carbon produced when you produce a litre of water is different, the amount of carbon in a kilowatt hour is different, and in fact in Toronto, it’s different by the time of day.”

Dembo said ECM’s calculations are based on local and global protocols and kept up to date by a team of environmental engineers who follow the latest emissions factors worldwide, and quality assurance staff who upgrade the hosted Microsoft .NET-based software.

ECM is the same system used in the electricity industry, except repurposed for carbon, said Dembo, thereby making it “well-tried and tested.”

Dembo said that while all organizations are carbon emitters, those that would best benefit from measuring their footprint are those whose businesses rely on the fact that they are green. It’s great that a consulting firm offers green consulting services, he said, “but can you tell me what car you drive?”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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