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Extinction Rebellion

This month we’ve been cheering on the Extinction Rebellion (XR) protesters. While the coverage of it has been mixed, it feels like there is a large and increasing proportion of people who support the group and what they’re doing, or at the very least agree with their goals.

It’s hard not to look at the negative publicity that some papers have given the protesters and not envisage dark money trying to scare off a movement that threatens the fossil fuel-laden status quo. One newspaper even printed photos of the homes of the founding members, as well as some of their friends and family, leading to the predictable threats towards those people. Nasty tactics. But even so, alongside David Attenborough’s recent documentary and Greta Thunburgs recent address to parliament, it feels like change is coming. XR have been compared to the Suffragettes, and I truly hope that in the not too distant future their goals are accepted by the mainstream in the same way (I appreciate that there’s still plenty to do towards gender equality, but a lot has been achieved in the past 100 years).

Incidentally, the same newspaper that printed photos of XR founder’s homes is the one that gave the Suffragettes their nickname with the intention of belittling them. Their tactics didn’t work then and hopefully won’t today.


Having looked at packaging back in February, this month we’ve looked at shipping.

The carbon cost per metric tonne per km of transportation is 60-150g1. We ship many of our harps to Scotland, so let’s take the average distance to be 500 miles and assuming that they don’t travel in a straight line I’ll multiply it by 1.5. When we ship our harps the package weighs 14 kg, or 0.014 metric tonnes.

So the average carbon cost of shipping one of our harps is (150+60)/2 x 500 x 1.5 x 0.014=1.1kg of CO2

DHL have a carbon calculator2 which give us a figure of 0.61 kgCO2e WtW. The “e” stands for emitted. They give a TtW figure and WtW figure, which apparently stand for Tank to Wheel, i.e. tailpipe emissions and Well to Wheel, which takes into account the emissions from extracting and processing the fuel in the first place.

There’s another calculator available from, and that gives us a number of 1kg, so let’s take that as a pessimistic mean figure. Over the last year we’ve shipped 20 harps, so that means our shipping footprint is 20kg.

The first question we need to ask is “how can we reduce this?” There are green courier schemes, but they’re significantly more expensive than traditional parcel services, and it’s highly unlikely that customers will be willing to pay 5 x the price for shipping. If we were to raise shipping prices this way, it would also incentivise more customers to drive to us to pick up their harp themselves. While we’re very happy to welcome people and show them round our workshop, in terms of footprint a single person travelling long distances in a car is not very efficient.

One thing we can do it to ensure collection and delivery happen on the first attempt. Our workshop has someone in it for almost all of the day Monday-Thursday, so we make sure that any collections are booked in for those days. We try to communicate with our customers to let them know when their harp will arrive, and book it in for a time that’s convenient for them.

When it comes to shipping our harps internationally, we need to make sure they travel by sea. It takes much longer, but the carbon cost is less than a tenth of air freight.

Beyond that we now have our first number we need to put towards our offset: 20kg. Of course hopefully by the end of the year that number will be higher now that we’re settled in our new workshop and able to make lots more harps to send out to people!

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