Back of a Napkin Assessment of Our Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

I've always had it in the back of my mind to look at the environmental impact of Timetastic. It's already part of our culture to work with a sustainable outlook, and we are absolutely willing to do more. But maybe because we don't manufacture things in blast furnaces, or power up and down the motorways to international airports for global flights, doing a full assessment never got to the top of the list.

Until this week.

Greta Thunberg, Extinction Rebellion, and the latest documentary with Sir David Attenborough has absolutely motivated us to make a better assessment of our impact.

So here it is, back of a napkin style.

We used the Defra guide for small businesses on how to measure and report green house gasses.

The emission-releasing activities they recommend for assessment are:

  • Electricity
  • Natural Gas
  • Water
  • Fuel used in Company Owned Vehicles
  • Employee Passenger Travel
  • Waste Disposal / Recycling

1. Server Hosting - Electricity.

We host Timetastic in Microsoft Azure's cloud infrastructure. When I started this assessment I'd envisaged hosting will be one area we can't realistically reduce but can probably purchase carbon offset credits to compensate.

So I started digging, and unfortunately Microsoft don't actually provide electricity usage on their statements, so had to dig deeper. What I discovered was good news - Microsoft have been entirely Carbon Neutral since 2012, they use masses of clean, renewable energy, and where they can't get renewable energy they purchase offset credits to get themselves back to carbon neutral.

You can read about their approach here:

So that was that, our main electricity consuming item comes out well.

2. Office - Gas and Electricity

We don't have an office, we're all remote workers, generally at home. So no office electricity or gas consumption to asses. But what about our homes, we clearly heat them during winter and use electricity?

It's pretty hard to measure how much of our home energy bills is attributable to work, so from a practical point of view the important thing to understand is the supply chain, how clean is the energy we consume?

It turns out we have commonality in our energy suppliers across our team, only Ecotricity and Bulb feature. That means that all our electric supplied is via renewable sources, and gas is either green gas or carbon neutral.

We appear to be greener than I'd imagined.

3. Water Supply

The only water we use is for drinks: Tea, coffee, water.

4. Fuel in company owned vehicles

We don't own any vehicles, we don't travel anywhere by car, looking through the accounts I can't find a single claim for company mileage.

5. Passenger Travel

We've never flown anywhere, the only travel we do see is ocasional train journeys to our meetups in Manchester and Lancaster, but these have become infrequent because we speak so regularly and communicate well using apps like Slack. Total spend on travel last year - a paltry £172.

4. Waste Disposal / Recycling

We upgrade our computers perhaps once every 4 years, but Apple has inadvertently fixed that with their loathed butterfly keyboards. Until that's sorted everyone is happy to hang on to their computers. When we do change we wipe them clean and sell them on.


Like I said from the outset, it was pretty rough, a way to identify items that need further investigation. It's not taken me more than a few hours to complete.

No item seems to throw up anything that warrants further investigation. Add to that the fact we're encouraging a move away from paper forms and we appear to be an exceptionally green business from the very core.

I think I always knew this, and we are really proud. But I can't help feel a slight disappointment, I wanted to find something, so we could take action and feel like we've moved on as a direct result of all the recent environmental campaigns.

Are we really that green, is there not something we can do?

Photo by Karsten Würth (@inf1783) on Unsplash