Carbon offsets

Gotham Ruby Conference isn’t a political organization, but we still feel the need to be a responsible one—not just to our speakers and our attendees, but to our community, both locally and globally. Of course, every organization is going to define its responsibilities differently, and in any case there’s only so much a fledging regional tech conference can do. But in our case, we’ve decided to do something about the issue of climate change, and particularly about our own contribution to the problem. So I’m happy to announce that we have purchased carbon offsets for GoRuCo 2007 through

I believe this makes us the first Ruby or Rails conference to address carbon emissions, but we’ve got plenty of company in the broader technology industry. Most notably, Yahoo! just announced they’re going carbon-neutral. Hopefully, the announcements will keep coming.

I’m happy we’ve decided to take on this issue, not just because I personally believe in the cause but also because it’s a great expression of who we are as NYC Rubyists. The local Rubyists I’ve met in the past few years are people who are actively engaged not just with the world of code, but also with their broader communities. There are plenty of issues that a bunch of open source programmers are likely to be concerned about. But global warming is an issue that equally affects the people we’re connected to—whether those people are gallery owners, construction workers, or financial analysts.

Admittedly, our methodology is sloppy. For an organization of our size, hiring the expertise to allow yourself to claim to be carbon-neutral isn’t economical, which is why we only call ourselves carbon-offsetting. We sent out a survey a few weeks ago asking where people were coming from, and their mode of transportation: I extrapolated from those results, and it’s easy to imagine all the ways statistical error can sneak in.

We’re also aware of issues in the carbon offsets market. The science, regulation, and implementation of carbon offsetting is new and may change, and it’s possible that the efforts we fund may end up being less effective than we had hoped. In the meantime, we paid more than $800 USD to offset 45 tons of carbon emissions through, an Australian organization affiliated with the World Wildlife Fund. They fund Gold Standard-accredited clean energy projects in Australia, so we feel reasonably secure that our donation is going to effective work.

This is far from a perfect solution, but it’s a start. And sometimes you have to act even when the way forward is not perfectly clear. We look forward to a future (not very far away, at this rate) when the attention paid to climate change is so intense that the best solutions will rise to the top through vigorous research and public debate. And whatever those solutions may be, we are looking forward to playing our very small part.

Posted by Francis Hwang on Apr 21, 2007

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