In recent months, the conversation around climate change has accelerated. Extinction Rebellion, school walkouts and Greta Thunberg have not only brought the issue into public focus, but captured the imagination of the world. As we head into our second century of editions, we wanted to learn about our own carbon footprint and what Bido Lito! could do to help protect our planet for future generations.
I recently became absorbed in Let My People Go Surfing, the memoir and manifesto of Patagonia, Inc founder Yvon Chouinard. In it, Chouinard tells the story of the company’s evolution, from a niche climbing supplies outfit he ran out of the back of his car and garage, to one of the world’s most recognisable outdoor brands. In the late 1960s, Chouinard’s skills as a blacksmith enabled him to create innovative new climbing apparatus in his workshop and, in turn, allowed him a lifestyle that was shaped by his passion for climbing, adventure, surfing and exploration. The book is sub-titled ‘The Education Of A Reluctant Businessman’; Chouinard’s motivation wasn’t to create a business, it was to have a means to support the life he loved and create products that had as little an impact on the landscape as possible.
In the early 1970s, it became obvious that the use of steel pitons made by Chouinard Equipment (Patagonia’s predecessor) was causing permanent damage to rock faces. The problem was that these pitons constituted 70 per cent of the company’s sales. Undeterred, Chouinard introduced new aluminium chockstones that left no damage to the rock face and coined a new style of clean climbing. It was a huge risk to the business, but they revolutionised the sport and re-shaped the company. For Patagonia, business is primarily about sustaining and supporting the natural world. It is their reason for being. They feel they have an obligation to the planet.
It is impossible to read a memoir such as Chouinard’s and not reflect on your own outlook. At the time of reading the book, I was in Copenhagen. While riding the mercifully flat terrain of Copenhagen’s cycle lanes and dedicated bridges, it became obvious how much of the city’s activity was powered by bike; taxis, couriers and school drops. Bakers and fishmongers distributing their wares about town. It seemed the bike was Copenhagen’s workhorse, keeping everything from beer to bouquets moving around the city.
In the spirit of Chouinard I couldn’t help thinking, what if we could do this in Liverpool? What would be the impact and carbon saving of a shift from petrol-power to pedal-power distribution of Bido Lito! Magazine? And aside from the positive environmental impact, wouldn’t this be better all around for our staff and us as a business? The idea for our Bido Bikes was born.
When we returned home I was made aware of the Low Carbon Eco-Innovatory; a unique, EU-funded collaboration between Liverpool John Moores University, University of Liverpool and Lancaster University which works with organisations in the Liverpool City Region to help them understand their carbon footprint and shape new ways of working, in turn moving towards a low carbon future.
I wonder whether the project’s Industry Liaison Officer Daniel Blunt, thinks that the recent protests around climate change have shifted the public’s perception of the issues? “Large scale protests such as the Extinction Rebellion have helped bring the issue back to the forefront of collective public consciousness and almost made many of us stare the implications of our emissions directly in the face. What we benefit from now is having unequivocal evidence that our current lifestyles are causing catastrophic damage to the planet. The younger generation behind Extinction Rebellion, and Greta Thunberg in particular, have really pushed this research and made sure we can no longer ignore it. There’s a real guerrilla and punk element to what they are doing and I think that’s appealed to a lot of people, especially in our increasingly disenfranchised nation. The fact there’s lots of children protesting too has really caught people off guard – they are genuinely scared of growing old in a world fraying at the edges.”
Dr Ariel Edesess is one of the project’s researchers: “What all of these groups have made clear is that, when the public gets mad enough, the leaders and the corporations have no choice but to listen. These climate advocacy groups are still in the minority, but the mere constancy of their presence, and I think their refusal to go away has been integral to the increasing public consciousness of this issue. As has been clear from other social issues, when the masses speak up, there is a turning point when those in charge will have no choice but to obey the people. Climate change is a civil rights issue and it will likely need a populist response, and I think these advocacy groups are exactly what is needed to highlight the urgency of the problem and the need for creative solutions NOW.”
Climate change can often feel like such a macro issue. I wonder if it really is possible for individuals to make a difference? Blunt believes so. “When it comes to making a difference, it’s often just a question of thinking about the consequences of your current habits and then taking appropriate actions. For example, you don’t have to go vegetarian or vegan to make a real difference – cut down gradually and become a ‘flexitarian’. By reducing your consumption of animal protein by half, you can cut your diet’s carbon footprint by more than 40 per cent. Furthermore, using a reusable water bottle for a year can have a huge impact – especially when you consider that it takes a quarter of a bottle of oil to manufacture one bottle itself.”
Edesess agrees: “As a scientist who is deep within the world of clean energy and climate change, I understand that the problem can feel overwhelming to the general public and that those of us within the scientific community do not always do a very good job translating the anxiety about the magnitude of the problem into bite size steps for people to take that will be impactful and manageable. The simple answer to your question though is: YES! Every one of us can make a noticeable difference without massively changing the way we live our lives.”
It has been with this spirit of making small, manageable steps that we have moved to cycle distribution of our magazine. Our new Bido Bikes delivered Bido Lito! Magazine across Liverpool last month for the first time and will now be our sole means of distribution across the city centre and south Liverpool going forward. Working with the Low Carbon Eco-Innovatory we estimate this will result in a 50 per cent decrease in CO2 emitted as a direct result of our distribution.
As important as it is to consider how we distribute our magazine, there is one fundamental issue that we do need to acknowledge: Bido Lito! is a physical bundle of paper that has at some point required trees to be chopped down to produce it. So, how legitimately can we enthuse about our green credentials?
The first thing to address is our own supply chain. Bido Lito! is printed on paper that is 100 per cent recycled and made in the UK, which the Low Carbon Eco-Innovatory estimate has saved at least 54 trees from felling since we launched in 2010. Using 100 per cent recycled paper also means we emit 38 per cent less CO2 than paper produced from virgin fibres – the equivalent of driving a small car from Liverpool to Amsterdam every month the magazine is produced.
So, no new trees are cut down to produce the magazine. Our inks are cold set, non-toxic and non-hazardous. This being said, recycling itself is an industrial process – as is the printing and manufacture of our magazine – so these must be also considered as part of our carbon footprint. Despite the mitigations of introducing our Bido Bikes, using recycled paper and nontoxic inks, why do we print a physical magazine in the first place? Surely publishing online would help us achieve our environmental objectives?
We have always believed that us being in print is fundamental to us achieving our core objective: to support and champion Liverpool’s new music and creative culture. A physical publication makes the dynamic creative community we all know and love in this city a tangible reality. It provides actuality and makes it real. By being stocked in the city, it provides a physical bond between place and the culture we profile in the magazine. And (somewhat paradoxically given the state of traditional newspapers and the publishing industry) we couldn’t sustain our organisation – or the jobs it maintains – without the advertising revenues that being in print provides.
As a further consideration, we must point to recent research published in the Oxford Journal of Communication that suggests a correlation between rates of closure of local print newspapers and an increase in more bipartisan and populist voting patterns. “Where local newspapers are weaker, people know less about their representatives and subnational governments and turn out at lower rates,” the paper says. The research goes on to suggest that “declining access to quality local news is harmful to voter behaviour and responsive governance, leading to more corruption and lower voter turnout. A relative reduction of local news may result in more regular exposure to national media, with significant effects on engagement and partisan voting”. Put simply, local print media is good for democracy.
It seems we need local media voices more than ever before. Bido Lito! isn’t a local newspaper, but we are a local print media platform that is dedicated to supporting Liverpool’s new music and creative culture. Drawing on the learning from the research above, our being in print ensures that the agenda we pursue maintains a strong local prevalence and is prioritised. We would argue that our work around music policy in the city, our Liverpool, Music City? research with Liverpool John Moores University and the subsequent establishment of the Liverpool City Region Music Board, bears testament to this.
If we are intent, then, on producing a physical magazine, we need to consider and mitigate our overall environmental impact. Through working with the Low Carbon Eco-Innovatory, we calculated that our estimated total carbon footprint was approximately 13.45 tonnes in 2017. This includes everything from distributing the magazine to taking a bus into the office in the morning. By moving to bike distribution this will fall to an estimated 13.16 tonnes p/annum in 2019. Any reduction is positive, but if we are truly serious about climate change and want Bido Lito! to stand as an example to other organisations, we need to be making a positive contribution to carbon levels in the atmosphere, rather than a negative one. Put simply, we believe there should be less CO2 in the atmosphere as a result of Bido Lito! existing.
It is in that spirit that we are making a new commitment. As of this month, we will contribute one per cent of our advertising revenue every month (that’s one per cent of total revenue, not profit) towards afforestation – i.e. planting new trees – the best known ‘technology’ to cool our planet. This money will be donated to WeForest.org a charity working around the world, planting trees and bringing back forests. Using the reforestation calculations from carbonfootprint.com, this will ‘buy us’ in the region of 70 tonnes of carbon credits each year; meaning we can comfortably say that Bido Lito! – by being in existence – we will be a net reducer of carbon in the atmosphere, to the tune of over 50 tonnes per year.
What Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia and the Low Carbon Eco-Innovatory have made me realise is that we can all, genuinely, make a difference. I’m now of the belief that any business creating wealth has a moral obligation to ensure their activities are not damaging the planet. Any organisation can calculate their carbon footprint, work out how to reduce it and work towards offsetting it. We just have to get on with doing it. Now.
“Whether it is too late or not should not change the urgency of our actions,” insists Dr Ariel Edesess. “We have the resources, we have the intelligence, we have the ability – what we need is the public, the government and the corporations to all be in this together, and for the people to demand solutions. To paraphrase Hannah Arendt: ‘Prepare for the worst; expect the best; and take what comes’.”
If you would like to understand and reduce your organisation’s carbon footprint, contact The Low Carbon Eco-Innovatory via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr Ariel Edesess will be taking part in our Pow Wow! Debate as part of our bido100! celebrations at The Bluecoat on 7th June.