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The newest Silicon Valley perk: your own personal carbon offset

As Silicon Valley-based “virtual cafeteria” Eat Club worked to offset emissions from its operations, it decided to include its employees’ full footprints, too.

The newest Silicon Valley perk: your own personal carbon offset

At Eat Club, a Silicon Valley-based “virtual cafeteria” that delivers meals to offices, the company offsets the carbon footprint of cooking, packaging, and delivering its food. But it also pays to offset the carbon footprint of its employees–including the footprint they generate in their personal lives, away from the office.

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“There was a question of how we can show our commitment to the environment and let the employees participate in that, and make it something that we’re all doing,” says Doug Leeds, the CEO of Eat Club. To the company’s knowledge, it’s the first business to ever offset the total carbon footprint of employees.

As the company offset its own operations, it added up all of its emissions–from the miles driven by delivery vehicles to electricity use at distribution centers to the footprint of packaging–and then worked with the sustainability consulting firm 3Degrees to fund projects that can prevent an equal amount of emissions, including new wind power, reforestation in the Amazon rainforest, and capturing emissions from landfills, where food waste is a major problem. “Landfill carbon capture made sense to me, given what happens to our product if it goes uneaten,” Leeds says. For its employees, because of the complexity of trying to measure individual footprints, they used an average for the U.S., or 16.5 tons of emissions per person a year. Employees who work half-time get a 50% offset; the company has around 750 employees in total, and around 300 are full-time.

The company is continuing to work to reduce its direct emissions, through work including using technology to optimizing driving routes and investment in new kitchen equipment, and by paying to offset its operations. Now it has a new financial incentive to cut more emissions. It’s also encouraging employees to do the same in their own lives. A new program will incentive commuting by public transit, and when he announced the new personal offsets, Leeds asked employees to think about how to do more. He hopes that other companies will also begin offering full offsets as a perk. “We want to plant a flag in the ground and say this is something that other companies can do, and it really could make a difference. Until then, I’m excited to use this to attract talent. Because it really makes a difference to our employees.”

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About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.

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