We envision a future where it’s normal to be carbon neutral. People and organizations will take responsibility for, and clean up, their carbon trash just as they clean up their physical trash today.
We help Indiana households and businesses measure and offset their carbon pollution. In 2023, our mission is to help 500 of them become carbon neutral.
What does carbon neutral mean? It means cleaning up your carbon trash.
Every household and business produces greenhouse gases, for example when they heat or cool their buildings or drive across town. We can measure how much of this pollution is emitted into the air.
Then households and businesses can donate money to projects that reduce the same amount of carbon emissions, like planting trees. These projects are verified by third parties and enable us to reduce more emissions, at a lower cost, than we might be able to ourselves.
Fun – We enjoy playing the “infinite game.” Unlike many environmental groups, we don’t shame. We encourage.
Effective – We love achieving SMART goals and have the hustle of a Silicon Valley startup.
Courageous – We practice intellectual and moral courage, standing up for the truth even if it costs us in the short run.
Transparent – We’re building a glass house, so we can grow trust and improve faster.
Learn Publicly – We’re nurturing a culture where each of us is a teacher and a student.
Growth Oriented – We believe that with free minds and free markets the best is yet to come.
Theory of Change
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by global warming. When we understand and implement just a few concepts we will feel confident and make real progress.
Concept #1: Circle of Concern vs Circle of Influence
The first concept we leverage is an insight from Stephen Covey. In his classic book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Covey describes the Circle of Concern and the Circle of Influence. Many are concerned about matters outside their control like recession or nuclear war. Focusing on issues like these can paralyze us with anxiety.
But there are also things we can influence — like what media we allow into our minds and which people we spend time with. When we choose to focus on these issues, a funny thing happens. We achieve small successes. These create a sense of possibility.
Then we achieve more successes. This creates a positive feedback loop and momentum. We become more confident. We remember our power to shape this world. Our Circle of Influence expands.
With this first concept in mind, let’s look at the big goal. The largest assembly of scientists in human history is called the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. They say the entire world needs to be carbon neutral by 2050. This means reducing our emissions and balancing out whatever remains by removing them. Hence the term net-zero.
Concept #2: Swiss Cheese
The second concept we use is of Swiss cheese.
Here’s what many peoples’ climate journey looks like: First, they get excited about the issue. Then they try to change the world. All of it. At once. They might try to change an entire institution, like a city or university. These move glacially, however, and after a few months or years they get burned out.
But here’s a secret: Institutions are nothing more than a bunch of individuals.
So what if we’re more strategic? What if we help those individuals become carbon neutral one at a time? They’ll educate and influence their peers. Slowly, then quickly, the entire institution will flip.
Just like holes in a block of Swiss cheese.
So instead of trying to change large institutions all at once, we focus on individuals. One person at a time. Slowly at first, then quickly.
Concept #3: The Most Powerful Concept of All
Imagine this: You’re pulling on a huge metal lever. It’s not budging. You pull harder. Nothing. You get more and more frustrated. Throwing your weight into it. “Why isn’t it budging?!?”
So you take a break. You decide to listen and learn. You study the challenges and opportunities related to climate. You read books and interview practitioners in the field. You boil down hundreds of years of human experience.
Then you go back to that lever. You see a tiny button underneath it that you didn’t see before. You push it. The lever moves! Hurrah!
This is the final concept Carbon Neutral Indiana is built upon – continual learning.
When we commit to a life of continual learning we will feel more confident and make real progress. So we don’t just focus on helping people become carbon neutral. We must create a culture of learning.
Carbon Neutral Indiana focuses on what we can control: Ourselves. We don’t try to change large institutions, at least at first. We help individuals become carbon neutral. And along the way, we listen, learn, and try to create a culture where each of us is a teacher and each of us is a student. Overtime, we will transform ourselves and the systems in which we live.
“Overtime, we will transform ourselves and the systems in which we live.”
We understand global warming is a complex challenge. Getting households and businesses to become carbon neutral won’t be enough. We need more education, improved policies, etc.
As a small organization we must focus on doing one thing well. So to start with we’re focusing on helping households and businesses become carbon neutral.
But we do invest about 20% of our resources into experiments. That way we can continue to learn. Think of us an innovation incubator. These experiments are informed by Leverage Points, an essay by ecologist Donella Meadows.
Some of our experiments so far include:
Paradigm – Changing the philosophy or operating system.
- Publishing and distributing a book. We wrote a book that shifts the narrative about climate in Indiana. It’s non-partisan, focused on solutions, and highlights successes. Carbon Neutral Indiana: A Practical Guide to Climate Optimism tells sixty stories of Hoosiers entrepreneurs reducing carbon emissions. We raised $30,000 to distribute free copies to 2,250 leaders throughout the state. Then we hosted small, virtual book discussions for 150 people. More.
- Investing in leadership development. We’ve hosted 17 college students in summer leadership programs. They learn how to be climate entrepreneurs, support one another, and grow a grassroots movement.
- Partnering with Eagle Scouts. Coming soon.
Design – Changing the rules, like policy and legislation.
- Promoting carbon market legislation. We worked with both sides of the aisle, and facilitated several large environmental organizations, on carbon market legislation in the Indiana statehouse.
- Helping create City ordinance for carbon offset project. We were a critical advocate that helped the City of Indianapolis pass an ordinance creating a local carbon offset project to protect urban forests.
Feedbacks – Changing how information flows.
- Sponsoring climate journalism. Indiana has over six million residents, but we only have a few full-time environmental reporters. So we’ve paid for climate solutions journalism at Purdue University. We’re leveraging their student newspaper to excite Purdue’s ecosystem about decarbonizing the economy. More.
- Nurturing in-person community. We host events throughout the year throughout the state. Potlucks, free ice cream, open bars, etc. A healthier climate community in Indiana means richer soil for other projects to grow from. Most recently is the 150 person Hoosier Climate Party.
Parameters – Easily measurable knobs and dials.
- Measuring emissions. We’ve helped 800+ Indiana households and businesses measure their carbon emissions, most for the first time.
We’ve worked with other organizations throughout Indiana. A few include: