You may have seen the headlines that global temperatures have hit record highs each of the last three years. There is little doubt that global climate change is real and accelerating. The signs have been there for decades: When I worked in the Cascade Mountains on my Ph.D. in geology, I noticed how much smaller the glaciers in the Cascades were than shown on topographic maps – which had been created in the late 1950s.
For my Ph.D., I studied past climate changes, so I know that the science is complex, but it should be obvious that burning all the carbon, which was stored inside the earth over hundreds of millions of years, is not a good idea. So what should we do about it? In the absence of a coordinated response, we each can reduce our “carbon footprint” as much as possible. That is what we’ve done at Compass and Bicycle Quarterly. Here are a few things we do to minimize our emissions:
- Shipping to our customers: Probably our greatest environmental impact is shipping Compass products to our customers. Over the last year, we switched from Priority Mail to FedEx Ground as our preferred shipper – from airplanes to more fuel-efficient trucks or trains. When you place an order anywhere, it’s worth thinking about: “Next Day” sounds tempting, but “Ground” creates much less carbon emissions.
- Shipping products from our suppliers: We choose ocean shipping whenever possible. It requires planning ahead, but it’s also less expensive, which allows us to keep our products affordable.
- Durable products: Manufacturing things inevitably creates emissions. We make products that last a very long time, which spreads the impact over more miles and more years of use. Our customers buy fewer products and enjoy them longer, which reduces the emissions.
- Careful design and manufacturing: A significant portion of products never leave the factories, because the design is flawed or they get rejected by quality control. We carefully design our products and work with the best manufacturers to reduce this type of waste (and the associate emissions) to an absolute minimum.
- Office/warehouse: 80% of our employees commute by bike or bus. We turn down the thermostat in our office and warehouse to reduce our emissions further.
- Travel: For many of us, airplane trips represent the biggest carbon emissions. For each passenger mile, airplanes consume as much fuel as a small car with two occupants, but airplanes fly over huge distances. At Compass, we combine trips as much as possible. We fly to Japan or France not only to visit our suppliers, but also work on Bicycle Quarterly features and to visit family and friends. We try to take fewer, longer trips rather than fly all over the world multiple times. When traveling in the U.S. (and not riding our bikes), we take the train when possible, such as during our recent trip to San Francisco. Trains not only generate the least emissions, but they also are a much more relaxing way to travel.
- Ride from home: Whenever possible, we start our bike rides at our back door. For us, there is no need to start up a car when we just want to ride our bikes. With bikes that are fully equipped for riding long distances, the “ride to the ride” is part warm-up, part meditation and part anticipation.
As cyclists who enjoy venturing off the beaten path, we love this world as much as anybody. We try to do our part to preserve the joys we know so well.