An interview with Anna Sampson, of We Are Neutral
As part of its series “The Business of Climate Change,” which highlights the climate views of business men and women throughout the state, The Invading Sea spoke with Anna Sampson, director of We Are Neutral, a nonprofit organization that helps businesses and individuals understand, reduce, and offset their carbon footprints.
Here are highlights from the interview.
Tell me a little bit about what We Are Neutral is and what it does.
We got our start about 12 years ago. What we do is we really try to help quantify individual and business carbon footprints and their impact on the planet and then we can help them do enough good to basically offset that carbon footprint. We have about 150 business partners that we work with and we help them understand what are the biggest components of their carbon footprints, kind of some areas of opportunities, and then we help them achieve carbon neutrality.
What are the costs involved for a business or homeowner pursuing carbon neutrality?
We work with you to calculate your comprehensive carbon footprint that can include as much or as little as you want. Some people want to include every sheet of paper that they write on. Other people just want to include utilities and travel, so we work with you to calculate that footprint and then footprints are calculated in terms of metric tons of CO2 equivalent.
So then, at that point, we are able to understand how many tons of carbon emissions you’re responsible for with your lifestyle or your business. And we are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, so we ask for a $15 donation to offset per ton and then those dollars go toward offsetting and reducing carbon emissions for the future.
How does becoming carbon neutral benefit businesses and individuals?
I think every single business and individual is completely unique. We work with some businesses that don’t need our marketing services; they have million-dollar marketing budgets of their own.
And then we work with really new, just-off-the-ground businesses where us being able to kind of shout them from the rooftops in terms of their environmental responsibility really helps get their name out there for the very first time.
So over the years I have seen people benefit from this not only from a tax perspective. Almost all of the people that we work with in businesses, they approach us because they feel like it’s the right thing to do. I think that there’s a lot of benefit there in just knowing that we all need to be doing something and we make it easier for you to identify what those key elements are.
How does this come into play here in Florida? What are we seeing from a climate-change perspective that businesses here are approaching you for in trying to reduce that carbon footprint?
I’m from Gainesville, Florida, so I’m a Florida person, and so I’m very happy that We Are Neutral got our start here in Florida because since we began here we have a huge Florida base of partners.
We also try to make our carbon reductions and offsets local to the offsetters so we have a lot of projects that are happening right here in Florida. Florida is also the ground zero of climate change. I mean, Florida is a peninsula. We’re surrounded by water, hence the name of The Invading Sea.
So many people want to do something….They’re just not quite sure where to start.
What are some simple things everyone can do to reduce their carbon footprint?
First is awareness. Calculate it. Everyone’s different so you might have guilt about how much meat you might be eating but then you’re flying 10 times a year, so for me the biggest thing is to have a sense of perspective to know what is worse.
I will say that the largest contributors to anyone’s carbon footprint is your utility bills and your travels, so turn off your lights, bump your A/C up a little bit so you might feel a little warm, not uncomfortable.
Drive less. We’ve got to have a shift in the way we’re thinking, and not just, you know, these tips like recycling—that’s something that should have been mastered in the ’70s, so we’re getting to a point of too little, too late.
How can the Florida Legislature help businesses and individuals in their efforts to reduce their carbon footprints?
I think as individuals we need to make it known that it matters to us. I think first it’s us making sure that it’s known that this is something that we will not settle for anything less.
And then, I think, having responsibility, again quantifying, having at least greenhouse gas inventories that can start to create a baseline of what we’re not going to go back to. And I think just continuing to make it a priority. I think we as people need to apply pressure, and then I think that the response needs to be very matter-of-fact, very baseline measurements, order of operations. Let’s get this under control.
Kevin Mims, a Florida-based freelance journalist, is the producer of “The Business of Climate Change.” He conducted this interview with Ms. Sampson.
“The Invading Sea” is the opinion arm of the Florida Climate Reporting Network, a collaborative of news organizations across the state.