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Care More, Be Better is officially two years old! To celebrate this milestone, Corinna Bellizzi talks with return guest Beth Craig of Own it Economics about reducing carbon footprint in extravagant cruise vacations. They delve into how wasteful these trips really are, which requires a high carbon cost to run and tons of waste to be dumped into the sea. Beth explains how to contribute to carbon neutrality and negativity in the cruising industry and beyond without coming across as overwhelming. She explains how a few dollars can go a long way in paying for your carbon footprint, saving the planet one small effort at a time. To mark the podcast’s anniversary, Corinna shares a musical performance by Donna Grantis at the Canadian Climate Music Summit that features a soundbite from one of the show’s episodes.
About Beth Craig
Beth Craig is a self-employed consultant, teacher, and writer who teaches students about supply chain issues, social justice, and environmental sustainability. She is a reliable expert in leadership, project planning and management, advertising, sales, and legal writing. Beth has been living with a negative carbon footprint for the last couple of years, and she has discovered that the negative is a new positive.
Guest LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/beth-d-craig
Guest Website: https://owniteconomics.org
Guest Social: https://www.facebook.com/owniteconomics
About Donna Grantis
Donna Grantis is an artist and guitarist. She was named one of the greatest female guitarists of all time by Guitar Player Magazine and composed the title track to Prince & 3RDEYEGIRL’s album PLECTRUMELECTRUM, which reached #1 on the Billboard Rock Chart. Grantis completed the Climate Reality Leadership Corps Virtual Global Training led by former Vice President Al Gore. She was selected to join the first Creative Climate Leadership program in Canada hosted by Julie’s Bicycle and the Centre for Sustainable Practice in the Arts. Her newest creative project, Culture vs Policy, fuses the emotive power of music with thought-provoking dialogue highlighting narratives that are at once existential and empowering. Through this process, she aims to spark meaningful climate conversations.
Guest Website: https://donnagrantis.com/
Guest Social: https://www.facebook.com/DonnaGrantis/, https://twitter.com/donnagrantis, https://www.instagram.com/donnagrantis/
Additional Resources Mentioned: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mj2nWJEeSgs
Show Notes: – Edited Audio
0:00 – Introduction
03:51 – Donna Gratis’ performance
09:15 – Understanding the cruising industry
20:58 – Study on cruise line employees
23:17 – Carbon footprints on cruise vacations
26:10 – Slave calculator
29:00 – Offsetting carbon authentically
32:49 – Recycling plastics
36:12 – Spending a dollar per day
45:29 – Closing Words
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Reducing Carbon Footprint In Cruise Vacations With Beth Craig (Plus A Special Performance From Donna Grantis)
In this episode, Care More, Be Better is officially two years old. Two years of putting episodes out in the world beyond that starter trailer that launched in January 2021. I’m going to do a few things a little differently. First, I’m going to share some news that I’m blushingly proud of and perhaps don’t deserve to be, but it makes me giddy. You might remember that back in September 2022, I shared an episode where I interviewed Tzepora Berman about her work with Stand.earth. We talked about the concept of a fossil fuel treaty. An artist and musician, Donna Grantis, discovered the show through that content. She even asked if she could play clips from the interview on stage in Toronto on October 21st, 2022, at the Canadian Climate Music Summit.
She did it, and I didn’t know if I’d ever have a chance to hear it or see it myself, but this January 2023, she shared the performance on YouTube. It’s amazing. If you love rock guitar, you’ll want to follow Donna Grantis. She’s a rising star and has even started an interesting commercial collaboration with Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl. Who knows? They might even start a band together, as they alluded to in a commercial that’s coming out soon for Crown Royal.
In celebration of that moment of having our content shared on stage and of passing my two-year point as a podcaster, I’m going to pop the cork on a bottle of champagne with my friend and prior guest Beth Craig. Beth has been living with a negative carbon footprint for the last couple of years. She’s made her life’s quest to answer one simple question. What if the whole world did this? She’s discovered that the negative is a new positive and she’s here to celebrate with me and talk about cleaning up the carbon footprint of cruise line vacations.
Beth Craig, welcome to the show.
Thank you so much. It’s great to be here. Pop that thing.
I know. I have it right here, so I’m going to bring it into the frame.
You look adorable. You look so 1920s.
You told me to wear some flings. We’ve got some jewelry on.
I love it. Let’s have that cocktail parties celebrate. Congratulations.
I should admit it’s not champagne. It’s Crémant de Loire. It’s a blush, which I love. This one is De Chanceny Crémant de Loire Appellation Crémant de Loire Contrôlée, which means you can’t call something a Cremant unless it’s from Cremant. My maiden name was Benoit, so I did have a chance to interface with the culture a bit. Let’s see if I can pop this. Sometimes they’re so tight. It’s hard to do. I’m not quite the waiter’s hand there. You did hear it. This one is very lightly blush. Newsflash, I really don’t like drinking champagne from champagne glasses because I find it dainty and delicate and I knock them over so easily. I’m using a standard crystal wine glass here. It’s very exciting.
Are we going to cheers?
We are going to cheers.
How do we do it on vids? I guess we come straight up. Cheers.
Cheers for two years. I have to say I do want to play for you at least a touch of this work that Donna Grantis did. I am going to, for a moment, bring this up onto the screen and click play. There’s a chance that Donna might say that I have to remove it from the actual real share, but we’ll see. Let’s go ahead and play it now. If she’s not okay with me doing this, I will ask for permission before it goes live so we can always edit this a little bit out. Here we go.
“Now we know that if you have more carbon trapped in the atmosphere, that increases the impacts of climate change on Earth. Eighty-six percent of the pollution trapped in our atmosphere is literally creating this sweltering blanket that’s changing the Earth, causing floods, storms, fires and extreme heat waves. Eighty-six percent of it comes from three things, oil, gas, and coal. Fossil fuels, I use them every day. We all use them every day. Can we not? Do we have enough? How much is enough? How much should we be using and producing?
“We decide when we have enough. Do we have replacements for all these fossil fuels? We do. Renewable energy is now cheaper and can scale to replace almost all uses of fossil fuels. Why are we spending the majority of the world’s financial, intellectual, and political capital to dig up more of the stuff that we know is hurting us? What we know is that we already have enough fossil fuels above ground that are under construction that if we use it, it’ll take us past two degrees, which is a benchmark in the climate change world. If we go past two degrees, then parts of the planet will be uninhabitable.”
“Millions of people will lose their homes. Thousands of people will die. Meanwhile, the oil, gas, and coal companies are on track to produce 110% more fossil fuels than we can ever use. If we do use them, they will burn us. Fossil fuel companies try to push responsibility onto the consumer through public relations campaigns like the carbon footprint. They also wanted to cast out whether climate change was happening. They were successful in doing that for about 20 years. There are not only climate change implications.”
That is great music. I can’t believe I get to be on the same show with that.
I have to tell you, when she first reached out, I never really had something like this happen. She said, “Would you mind if I use a few clips from here? This is the content I’m looking at from this particular episode with Tzephora Berman and I think that she was so poignant on your show. Let’s do it.” I said yes. She shared it with the world and ultimately, it feels inspirational to me. Not only do I love her guitar playing because she’s obviously quite talented, but you can also hear almost this background jazz musician/maybe inspired by Prince and some Purple Rain in there even. It’s beautiful.
That’s fantastic. Congratulations. Corrina, you’re becoming a vortex for all this wonderful creativity and movement in two years. It’s amazing.
Thank you. Cheers to that. We’re going bubbly. You’re drinking cider tonight.
Yes. I felt cider.
I wanted to. Talk about this whole industry of cruising because you’re doing something quite interesting as you are headed out. Is this an annual cruise that you’re a part of?
I’m not going to protect the innocent. We’re not going to dive too much into the exact cruise, but it’s an annual cruise. I am married to a man who is a real big fan of this particular cruise. I get unfettered time with my sweetie. It’s a place where he can relax and enjoy himself more than I’ve seen in other environments as easily as he does. It’s a pleasure to be around him in that state of course then it happened to be on a cruise. To be who I am and going on a cruise is a cosmic joke.
Let’s talk about that because I have not been on a cruise since before I got married. I got married back in 2006. One of the things I read about over the years was how wasteful cruise lines are. Not only from the perspective of fuel expenditure but even from the fact that people dramatically overconsume when they go on cruises. They eat more than typical. There’s a constant buffet happening and people definitely take advantage of that. In addition to that, there is some dumping at sea. I don’t know exactly what the extent of that is.
I do know in the past that there were some cruise lines that were given some pretty hefty fees for illegal dumping at sea. Much of that has now changed, but there’s a carbon cost to these sorts of things. You have been trying to change that for this particular cruise. I’d love for you to talk about that. What have you encountered thus far and what would it take to make that single cruise carbon neutral and negative?
It’s funny because we’re following that song with thoughts on carbon offsets and buying our way out of this. I run into this resistance a lot. Honestly, I ran into it. There was a private Facebook group where we all chatted back and forth. I had the idea on the last cruise to try and make this cruise carbon negative and to start the needle moving with people giving back with what they consume. That’s really it. We’re talking about indigenous mindsets here. You got to pay things forward and stop borrowing from the future despite the dirty word that offset is to a lot of environmentalists.We have to pay things forward and stop borrowing from the future. Click To Tweet
If you look at the good programs that are gold certified and vetted, they often help the poor. I’m into carbon footprints, plastic footprints, and poverty footprints. How can we live a life and then give more back to the planet so the planet is healthier by the time we die than it would’ve been had we never been born? Let’s try that on precise. I brought up this idea to make the cruise carbon-negative at the end of the last cruise. It was met with a lot of enthusiasm. Everybody was post-vacation cash and feeling awesome. I brought up the exact same post before the cruise and it was crickets because everybody was gearing up for the cruise. They were so exhausted from their lives.
I don’t think that’s the only reason.
There are a few things that are happening. We are starting to hear so much about offsets, carbon neutrality, and carbon negativity that people start to get tired of the subject when they don’t fully understand it. Secondly, we are in the midst of one of the largest inflationary periods that I can ever recall, probably since the ’80s. What’s happening is that people are squeezed. If you start asking for more at the same time that every subscription they have has almost doubled in price, suddenly it starts to hit the pocketbook in a new way and there’s some fatigue for, “What more do I have to do?”
It’s irrational fatigue in this position. How much are we spending here to get on a cruise? The amount to offset your cruise is the cost of one cocktail.
Is it one cocktail on a cruise? It might be, right?
I’ve spent $15 off of cruises if they’re well-made cocktails. Cocktails are fun. It’s $15 to do this and people are spending a lot of money. To that point, it’s a very special cruise and people save up a lot of their extra dollars to make this happen. They don’t go for drinks all the time and stuff. For those people, I totally get their squeaking but in general, you’re not finding the destitute on a cruise. They can float an extra $15 to pay for a 10 and a half of carbon.
It’s not that big of a deal, but it’s more the mindset shift. You’re positioning it as an ask and I am positioning giving as an opportunity. When you give, you make your vascular system healthier, it reduces stress, and you feel more abundant. There have been studies done. I wrote a paper on it from peer-reviewed research in grad school. It makes you happier and healthier. You’ll live longer. There’s no downside to giving. However, interestingly, now that you mention it, there is a downside if you’re already feeling overwhelmed.You make your vascular system healthier when you give. It reduces stress and makes you feel more abundant. Click To Tweet
That’s the point you and I discussed when we were getting ready for this episode. What is it about our culture that overwhelms everyone so much that they can’t even think about spending $15 to give back an inch of what that cruise is taking? The overwhelm is so big. What happened to the culture that we got here? To me, the whole idea of a cruise or an opulent vacation is somewhat of a symptom of an overworked culture in general. The pendulum means to swing so far one way because it’s been swung so far the other way the rest of the year.
Let’s talk about what a cruise is and what it isn’t. I don’t think that people necessarily always get it. A cruise is one part floating casino. One part is it’s like a fan field because there is usually a stage with events that are occurring and they might have a Gloria Estefan duplicate singer or something like that. There are performers. You get to see different spaces.
If you’re heading to Alaska, for instance, to see the calving of icebergs for the first time, you might see new sites. You might stop off in a new land, tour an area you might never have seen before, and do that five times over. There are other people who never leave the boat. They choose to stay on the whole time in moving city. The number of people that a cruise line can accommodate is also astounding. Do you happen to know on the cruise you’re going on how many staff members and how many people are on board?
I don’t know how many staff members exactly, but I do know that there are a lot of people working and we have 3,000 guests. It feels like everyone is easily taken care of in redundancy wherever we’re at. That’s the other thing. You never want anything regarding material drinks, tchotchkes, or whatever. Being in a pool of abundance feeling that’s very captivating for people as well that’s brought to you. You don’t have to do anything. That’s a big deal for a lot of people.
It’s a low-stress vacation. They could arrive with everything they needed, leave a week later and go back to normal life.
I have to say one thing that my heart really opened with cruising and also when I went to Vegas for things is that not everybody in our culture has a physical body that works efficiently. There are people who are not neurotypical and have social anxiety. All of a sudden, when you create an intentionally somewhat homogenized environment, it has one focused thing like a cruise for jazz or a con for whatever. You have all these people who are fans and then they all gather and then everyone has something to talk about.
They all have a proclivity that goes a certain way in order to be a fan of that culture. It breaks down a lot of walls and then everyone can get on elevators. Everyone has ramps. Otherwise, I don’t know what the word to use is for people who were not physically because I don’t feel people are disabled. They got a different shape, then they don’t go upstairs. Who cares? They have people who have different physical needs who normally wouldn’t get to go out and party with a really big group of people and they can do it on cruises and other places that seem pretty opulent with ease.
There’s a common interest. For instance, Gene Simmons and KISS do their own cruise. A bunch of people that are into KISS go and cruise with KISS.
There’s a cruise for everything. There’s plenty for the gay community. There are ones that are set up for the bear gay community. You can find whatever your heart’s desire really is in a themed cruise, it would seem. In fact, one of my favorite wineries, Van Der Heyden Winery, even did a Norwegian Cruise Line cruise through Europe that only served their wine for their group. I was very tempted to go. It used to be one of my favorite wineries in Napa. A small vintner kept it real, making wines how he liked them. He basically said, “If you don’t like them, see you later.”
How awesome that you gather all your peeps into your little world and go to sea. I can see the allure if you look under the boat, if you look at what used to be where your boat docked, and then, of course, if you consider what’s happening to the air and then the sea life. We really are. It’s like we’re in a bubble with our privileged lifestyles anyway and then you look at a cruise and it blows that up. The average tonnage for an American is 16 to 17 tons, and then a cruise is one ton a week per person.
I wanted to be clear on that. This is a statistic that you shared on the other episode when I brought you on the first time around. Even a homeless or unsheltered person generates how much on average.
MIT did a study and found that even if you were homeless or unsheltered, somebody would still have an 8.5-ton carbon footprint because of United States infrastructure. To give the audience a perspective if they don’t hear it already. Four tons is the global average. An unsheltered person is twice that and then an American is twice that. A cruise, if you stayed on it all year long, is 3.5 times that. If you did a curve right, the dots would go really far with the cruise. It’s unbelievable. That’s why it’s so hard.
I’m thinking about one thing too because having been on a cruise, you even get to sign a cabin steward who cleans your cabin and folds the towels in these artful displays like a puppy dog groomer or whatever. They themselves typically are coming from countries where the living wage is quite low. I know that you’ve done a bit of research into this to see are cruise lines offer a fair wage to their employees and what does it do for their quality of life.
There are a lot of exposes on this stuff. All I know is that I went on a cruise line and whenever I go out anywhere, I’m always talking to all the staff. I love everybody. If I see the owner, I want to talk to that person. I always thank the chefs on the way out if it was a great dinner. I talk to maitre d’s and to the bus staff. I want to know what’s the culture of places that I visit because I’m really into what is the supply chain. How does this work? Are people happy?
Do I need to chip extra and slip it to somebody because they’re getting screwed over by the boss? When I was on the cruise, I asked around. I asked everyone who I could have a moment with, especially our waiters, and then I would say, “How is this? Is it like a pain in the ass? Are you happy? Tell me honestly because I’m a curious person.” Once I asked, they were like, “Okay.” I’m like, “What’s it like?” They’re like, “It’s a bummer to be away from our families for these stints, but the cool thing is we’re with our families when we’re not on the boat.”
They’re practically like Merchant Marines that way. They do a few months on and then a few months off.
They like the lifestyle. A lot of them do this and take a break, but they have a real business going on when they’re not on the boat and they pick how to do it seasonally, at least the waiters. We haven’t talked with our room stewards as much, but we don’t like them to be waiting on us too much. We treat them with a ton of respect. There is this weird thing that I feel like we’re fighting. My husband and I are fighting against it because he used to clean houses for a living. I’ve been a waiter, a busboy, and a hostess. We’ve had jobs that are very similar to what the people are doing for us now, so we don’t want to be too served in a way. We’re not those people.
You want to tread lightly.
Also, tip heavily, but from what I’ve seen, people are treated really well, at least on this cruise line. I actually went up because they’ve got the crazy amusement parky thing on the top.
Which cruise line is it? Is it Carnival?
There are different ones. There’s Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, and Carnival. I don’t know any others. Those are the big three that I know about. I’m new to learning about all of this, so I haven’t studied other boats. I study the ones who I am barfing all over the Earth with.
When you booked your cruise vacation, in this case, are they sharing with you specifically on the website what the carbon footprint is or anything like that?
No. In fact, the group that organized this themed cruise is completely tone-deaf. I wrote them an email. I got pushback from the inside group on Facebook. They’re like, “How come you’re bothering us with these offsets? Why don’t you go talk to the group that organizes this?” I’m like, “I have tried to talk to the group that organizes this. I asked, ‘Can we not have disposable cups? When you give out swag, can you give out stuff that’s not plastic? Can we have some stainless steel that’s going to last for a while and not leach crap into all the sodas and whatever?’ It could still be themed. People use them for longer. You’d improve your brand. I’ll pass that message along to management.” It’s nothing. No tread. You got to take it to the people when it gets like that.
In that case, you do have to push for the bottom and work to get more people on your side so that, hopefully, you can lobby together and get it done. It sounds like it’s a way in the making. When you say $15 per person to offset, are you working now to collect that resource or fund it in some way?
It’s been weird because there was so much enthusiasm at the end of the last cruise in March 2022. Now I’ve got this pushback leading up to the cruise. I have to say I’m learning how to write stuff that’s more convincing. I didn’t realize this, but my dear friend told me, “We have a negative bias when we read emails, texts, and posts because we’re so negative about ourselves. We often read things critically. It’s critical of us.” I realized I could have done a lot more emojis and made things a lot more chipper in my writing. I thought I already had this swell off of what happened on the first cruise and I was going to ride that wave, but I realized that I had tapped out. We were in drought season and I had to build the water back up to surfing again. I don’t think I did it quite yet, but I’m still going to work that cruise.
You make the choice to live a more carbon-positive life. It would be helpful for people for you to share what you do to offset your day-to-day because there is that carbon cost of existing at this point.
Pretty much. That was the rude awakening for me when I started to get into this or when I started to research stuff. You can’t get away from it. Let’s say you were carbon negative. Your iPhone still has plastic. You still have rare Earth minerals that are dug up by slaves. It’s the worst. People have no idea how many slaves they have in their pipeline. I’m pretty green. I buy everything used, etc. I check all the boxes and I have 28 slaves according to a slave calculator in my pipeline.
Talk about the slave calculator because it sounds dismal, but I think people need to know.
They do a beautiful job on their graphics. It’s a little bit clunky. Some students have a hard time with different things. You got to play around with which works for you, your phone, the laptop, the desktop, or the tablet. It’s got a little clutchiness there. Once I realized I had 28 slaves, other people may have had a hard time, but I know that I give to help poverty. Often, the word offset got such a bad name. It’s true that the oil companies did push down the responsibility, but let’s face it, they couldn’t sell a drop if we didn’t have the demand for it.The word offset has got a bad name. It’s true that oil companies pushed down the responsibility, but they couldn’t sell a drop if there is no demand for it. Click To Tweet
We have to look in the mirror a little bit and take some ownership here. I know we’ve got some crap systemically, but what if everybody started reversing their carbon footprint, like 30 tons a year donating to not-for-profits. What would that do to the economy? That’s why it’s Owns It Economics. You just don’t buy something. You own it. How is that going to affect the global economy?
As we have a glass of champagne or a little bit of cider over there, it’s a different evening. This is my first time recording after dark on my own show. It’s 9:00 PM as we get this thing started, so we’re looking at 9:30, 9:50, or something like that. We’re talking about carbon neutrality, carbon negativity, carbon positivity, the whole thing. There are so many language challenges that people have because as Paul Hawken shared on this show when I brought him on, there’s no such thing as carbon negative. We are carbon-based creatures. What we want to do is bring carbon home and bring it down from the sky to Earth. In his mind, it’s not about being carbon-negative or carbon-neutral. It’s about sequestering carbon and bringing it back to Earth.
I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive. You got to ask yourself how much you are going to bring back to Earth.
It’s how much and how. The offsets get criticized because they’re off in the ether and sometimes they don’t calculate out as the years go by. You could do something like plant a tree every year on your birthday, which might have more effect than some of the other things, or install solar on your home and you’re trading rare Earth minerals for carbon, so there’s still a cost. Is that kicking the can down the road or is it creating an impact that’s important? We ultimately need to move to green energy everywhere.
That’s the big push, but it’s ultimately going to take a while, so people get frustrated. They don’t know what language is appropriate or even what these words really mean. Again, back to the question. How do we authentically offset our imprint? How do we know what our imprint really is? You shared about how many slaves have been essentially taken advantage of to create your iPhone, your desktop computer, the car that you drive and the rare Earth minerals that are in your solar panels, the cobalt, the food you eat, and everything.
It’s overwhelming. It’s hard not to overwhelm people.
Honestly, I studied this for five months and I got such a thrill out of finding out. I felt I was finally peeling back the veneer of all the store shelves. I was seeing what reality was and it was very empowering to do this work. It was upsetting, but I wasn’t hiding from it anymore. We all have a little bit of cognitive dissonance walking around like when we fill up our gas tank. It doesn’t quite sit right. If you buy something, it’s in plastic and that doesn’t feel so great. What else are you going to buy? What do you do about it? To your point about, “Can anyone ever live a negative life?”
There are a lot of arguments that, “No, you cannot,” and you certainly can’t unkill what you’re killing to work to make the money to then restore ecosystems because of the office building you work in or the roads. I guess what you have to do, at least what I have done and encourage people to do, is overspending on everything. This is the cost of living. If we are not going to borrow from future generations and we’re going to give to future generations, then start investing in projects. The legit offsets are an investment in projects that bring carbon back to solid, prevent it from getting out there or however you want to look at it.
It’s not fluffy stuff. It’s gold-certified and it’s vetted. Often, good projects are about $10 a ton and they also help the poor, like with cookstoves. That’s one of my favorite things I ever cook in stoves and biodigesters. I can’t get enough of those. They’re low-hanging fruit. They don’t cost much. The thing is, we’re Americans. We don’t know how bad it is in other countries.
That’s one thing you know when you start looking at the supply chain of all your stuff. You are basically living in the North, pre-Civil War, and buying Southern cotton all the time. Until you start to own that, you’re not facing what you’re doing on this planet. It’s a hard fact. The lift here is to feel in your heart that you know you are doing your best to live as best as possible, given this broken system. When you start investing in things to the extent that you can make the world healthier than it would’ve been had you never been born, then you cleave off money from tchotchkes and you start spending on real things like sending poor girls to school and building biodigesters.
You can point to the Earth and know how many acres of the forest you have saved that would’ve been cut because it’s a vetted charity. It’s not fluff, but it requires us to learn how to shop. It’s like whenever we go buy a car, we take a lot of time to figure out which car we want. Why don’t we do that with the charities that we pick? We’re not going to do mail-order cars, so why are we doing mail-order charities? Look into it. There’s a vetting system and I have that on my website too, but that’s the deal. You can really do it.
I’m reminded of an earlier episode. I met this woman, Kelsey Rumburg when I was spending some time on Clubhouse over a year ago. She wrote a book called Trash to Treasure. She talked about the fact in her simple approach to living a zero-waste lifestyle that she looked at her TerraCycle box. It is the box that she sends in with anything that she can’t put in the recycle bin, which is her additional tax on the purchases that she buys.
Sometimes, things are not recyclable or she can’t find a way to recycle them, so TerraCycle’s whole thing is that they will find a way to recycle or reuse anything that you can put in the box. That means even if you have Mylar packaging, which doesn’t have a recycle ability, bedsheets, a comforter, or literally anything. They will wait for it to be reused, repurposed, or recycled. You can buy a box and continue paying that forward so your waste isn’t tending up in the landfill.
I have to say I don’t know if I approve of that. I get very skeptical. To me, that sounds a little gimmicky because you can’t recycle plastics forever. Also, recycled plastics are not the answer. You’re screwing over the Earth anytime you bring new plastics into the pipeline and you can’t recycle plastics without new plastics. I know TerraCycle and you can also drop a bunch of bags off at places. A lot of times, that gets put into this construction material that they use for benches. It’s like this prints that come up, then rain falls on that and all the toxins that went into the plastic to make those shapes fall on the ground. Either way, the plastic is going to go into the Earth. You’re not going to get that to stay in the perpetual loop of mankind and never touched the ground.
We’re thinking here about reducing your waste overall. I’m committed to reducing plastic use. I even started only buying yogurt if I was buying it at the store and in glass containers. There are a few brands that are now doing that and we are reusing the glass cups as cups for our kids because it’s glass. We are also using them to make candles for people on holidays and to give us presents. We make the candles ourselves and supply them to our friends and family. It’s a new and different way to put them into second use. We’ve yet to recycle any of them. It goes to show we don’t need a ton of yogurt obviously but it is a treat that we have from time to time so be mindful of your waste. I did also connect with Stephanie Seferian.
I’ve interviewed her as well. You’ve interviewed on her show? She has a show called Sustainable Minimalist. She says all plastic stops at the door. If kids come back from a kid’s birthday party, it does not come in the house. If she goes to a kid’s birthday party and they have plastic tchotchkes that they’re giving out to everybody, she has a little mindful moment and tells the mom that maybe they didn’t need to do that after all. There are some small things that we can each do to try and shift what is the norm because so often, people say, “This is what’s expected of me, so I’m going to go to the Dollar Store and buy a bunch of cheap plastic crap, throw it in a bag, give it to kids, and then it’s their problem when they leave.”
You’re 100% right there. These are all things that we can do differently.
For carbon offsets, you said it’s about $10 per ton.
2,204.2 is the metric ton.
On average person over the course of the year, how much aside for these offsets?
It’s basically $0.50 a day.
We’re not talking about bank-breaking money here.
No. You should go do a carbon calculator and see what your nut is. I have one on my website. I have tools, so if you go to my website, it’s the Berkeley Carbon Offset Tool.
Let’s think for a moment together about how we’ve each integrated certain changes into our lives to diminish our carbon footprint while we might be purchasing offset. Paul Hawken recommended, for instance, that people, if they fly, are paying double or triple the carbon offset for basically safeguarding this understanding that it might not always add up to apples to apples.
Doing a little extra is good. Also, understanding who knows that planes might not be oversold and might have too few passengers and people are not paying for their own carbon footprint. To be part of the solution, you might really have to consider doubling or tripling what you might spend if you have the resources to do so.
That’s the thing. You don’t want to squeak it. You want to feel abundant in doing it to get the health benefits, be happier, live a longer life, and be wealthier.
You shared in our earlier interview that by taking this mindset shift and by donating what might be considered more of a tithing percentage of your income to the environment, social causes, or things that you’re passionate about, you were ushering in this sense of abundance and it created more growth from you in a financial perspective too. Can you talk about that?
There was a study done by a Kennedy school professor. It’s online everywhere if you look it up, but basically, giving makes you wealthier. He looked at the population. Giving money and donating to charities is the same generous impulse. He used math that there’s no way I could explain. He equated giving money with giving to charities and then looked at how much people donate their time and their increase in earnings and then looked at what the money would do with the increase in earnings. Anyway, his nut was, “If you give away $1, you get $3.70. If a household gives away $1, you get $3.75 in return.” That was what he said. To throw money out and give it is not what we’re talking about here because that’s not giving. That’s being willy-nilly.
The connection that I’m looking for and was understood in his paper is that you have to feel connected to what you’re doing. For me, that’s what the footprint calculators did. It was like, “I unleashed this on the world by living this life. I better fix this and reverse it because otherwise, I’m a putt.” I felt that in my bones that I was living in a deficit way and I wanted to make it better. Of course, because I’m totally frugal, I wanted to find out the best charities and where I will give back for the buck. My connection was getting reinforced all the time, which is great for dopamine, by the way, and then you get this self-confidence back.
Every time you have cognitive dissonance, you act on that and give, you’re creating competence and empowerment instead of this feeling of chafing with the way the society is and it’s broken. It’s like, “It may be broken, but I ain’t broken. I’m doing my best.” There’s something that starts to happen and you start to feel more self-confident. He looked into how psychologists have studied when people start giving, whether volunteering or with money, that they feel a sense of agency that they didn’t feel before. They felt they made an impact in the world and they were doing good, that breeds self-confidence, and you emanate that at work. Also, because we’re herd creatures, we’re all about community and we come from the apes.
It’s all about community. When we see someone doing well for other people in our community, we trust them, revere them, and want them to be the ones in charge. When you take that to the marketplace, you’re talking about you’re getting the promotion, people respect you at work, and you’re going to get paid a little bit more. It has this unfolding that starts to happen where, once you start playing at this level of giving back in your heart, you know you’re giving back more than you took this year or maybe for your whole life. It’s a mindset shift. I guarantee you, you’re going to do way better with your budgeting because of it.
Everyone I know has jumped with both feet into this system and given back at levels that I recommend, which is pretty big like I recommend at least 125 tons a year, at this point, if you’re in the middle class and above as an adult, you’re on the hook. If you want to take all the carbon emitted from 1850 to 2050 and divide that by all the adults in the world who are in the middle class and above, you’ve got 3,383 tons per person. That’s going to take you about 30 years to do it for 113 tons. Now we’re getting closer to 2050, so you better start doubling up a little bit.
Even if you double up and spend 200 tons a year, which is my personal favorite, that’s $2,000 a year for the year, and now you’re giving away 200 tons a year. Maybe if you fly around the world a few times, you can’t emit that and then you do that for the rest of your life. Things are going to move if everybody starts playing like this. The market is going to change. All of a sudden, we’re not going to be buying stupid stuff. We’re going to be making jobs for people who want to figure out the world’s problems and we’re going to be flowing a lot of funds that way. If you think that corporations and politicians are going to start listening, it’s going to be a global shift. Anyway, that’s my vision.
I have to say everything you’ve shared makes a lot of sense. You’re essentially saying $1 a day for covering your carbon footprint, which is probably much more useful or doable for many people.
That’s negative, for sure. If you do 17 tons a year, you’re only 3 tons a month. That’s $30 a month or maybe $35. That is $1 or $0.50 a day, depending on where you go and what you find.
Ultimately, at the end of the day, if you set aside that money, you’re reducing your impact definitely and probably covering 100% of it and more. That’s doable for most people. Going up to a couple of grand might not be doable for everybody.
Not everybody, but I’m getting tired, and I’m not saying this to you, but it’s the mindset. Is it doable to keep doing it this way? No. Every generation has had to buck up a little bit and figure something out and shift a pattern. I’m not asking people to go off to war. There’s not going to be any explosions with my revolution. This is the greenest, most peaceful, clandestine shifting of a cultural revolution that you can imagine. It’s just people spending their money differently. $2,000 amortized over the course of a year is not that much money.
If you do it in ways that you don’t necessarily notice, people pay Netflix, HBO, Disney, and ESPN subscriptions. Those things are going on every month and they don’t think about it. If you find the charity that you feel right with and you went ahead and you said, “Every month, I’m taking $75, $100, $150, or $200 out of my account automatically,” then you don’t necessarily notice it. In fact, that’s the approach I take with my mortgage.
For instance, we pay a few hundred dollars extra every month. I accept it and I get used to the lifestyle of, “These are our liquid assets and that’s what we have to work with.” You make some minor adjustments, but it doesn’t necessarily have to feel like you’re breaking the bank. The whole point of this abundance mindset is to help people understand you feel good about what you’re doing in the day-to-day. You have more personal satisfaction and build more self-confidence because you feel better about the living you’re doing. It’s that simple.
A lot of the pushback I’ve gotten is like, “You’re giving people a license to then live ostentatiously.” No. Let’s say you’re trying to work out more or maybe lose a few pounds or whatever it is. That’s common that people have to do. Lifestyle choice changes. As soon as you start focusing on something, it’s going to shift.
Also, as soon as measure it. This is the same thing people say about weight loss. If you journal the food that you consume, you automatically eat less. It’s the reality. If you’re logging your water, you’re going to drink more water. If you log what you eat, you’re going to eat a more balanced diet. Taking these things into account is really helpful. We’re coming up to the hour and I could probably talk to you all night long.
This has been such a joy. Thank you for joining me. That’s for my two-year anniversary and the burglar conversation about cruise lines and cleaning up your cruise line industry. I wish you all the luck and all the fun on that particular adventure. I hope you can convince people to pony up that cocktail expense, each and every single one of them, to help make it a carbon-neutral cruise. That would be newsworthy. You could get a press release out of that one.
That’s what I was thinking. We would be the first ever to go carbon negative. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that culture to even put that stake in the sand? How awesome.
Especially considering the crew that you’re going with. I’m going to live with that. As you mentioned before, you have some calculators on your website. I’m going to go ahead and make sure that I do this on the close. You can find out more about Beth and everything she does to make the world a little bit nicer at OwnItEconomics.org.
I’m a legit not-for-profit.
That’s awesome, Beth. Do you get the 501(c)(3) status?
I’m under a little umbrella. That’s in my footer.
That’s fantastic. Congratulations on that too.
I’ll encourage everybody to go check out that website, OwnItEeconomics.org. Hype how many slaves do you have? Calculator is scary to me, but I will go check that out as well.
It’s good food. We can talk through it. It’s okay. If you know how to give back for it, I also have a page where it says about my life, how to clean the air, how to clean the oceans, and how to help out with poverty. Three silos I pay attention to as far as big baskets. I’ve got some over in the properties. Basically, if you send a poor girl to school, you’re set. That’s number seven in Drawdown with Paul Hawken’s book. The whole thing is if you send a poor girl to school, she’s going to make totally different choices throughout her life. That has a huge effect on carbon footprints. Now it’s not as immediate. It’s like a biodigester, but it is it’s helping out to silos. You’re helping out poverty and you’re also helping out carbon. One of my favorites is to send poor girls to school.
If anyone here is interested in learning more about biodigesters, I had Chris on from Hungry Giant Recycling, which is a bio-digesting food company. That’s really Cool.
I’ve heard of them.
He’s also another Australian. I had ATEC Global on out of Australia doing their clean cookstoves. Chris O’Brien from Hungry Giant is working with the food industry. They even have some biodigesters at specific restaurants or food processing plants that have several different ones set up. They’re making that bio-digested material into dog food and cat food like kibble. It’s another life before it would become another kind of compost, so it was interesting.
I got to tune in to that one.
You’ll love that episode. I know that this episode has been a little non-traditional. I want to thank you so much for joining me on this journey, Beth. This has been awesome. To all of our audience members, if you enjoy this conversation, please subscribe and write us a review on Spotify, Apple Podcast, or wherever you happen to tune in. This helps more people find the show so we can make a bigger difference together. You can even share this episode on your social feed or via email. You can sign up for our newsletter and receive weekly tips. Our #BeBetterChallenge is all about giving you guys resources to create that better world together.
Anybody who subscribes to the newsletter receives our five-step guide to unleash your inner activist as your welcome gift. Beth, you’ve actually done this. While you’re visiting our site, you can leave me a voicemail. You can click on the click microphone icon in the bottom right-hand corner and tell me what you think about this episode, suggest topics, or make introductions. I really want to hear from you guys. This is a two-way interchange. It has the potential to be so, so thank you all of you now and always for being a part of this show and this community because together, we can do so much more. We can even clean up the cruise line industry and live a carbon-negative lifestyle. Live a carbon positive, sequester carbon, and bring-it-back-home type of life.
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