VIEWS: Confessions of an Eco-Entrepreneur

 From SSC President Jennifer Woofter

I don’t turn my computer off at night.

There.  I said it. 

This failing is probably my greatest weakness as a sustainability consultant because of the hypocrisy.   Turning off your computer at night is a no-brainer, and it just happens to be one of the recommendations that we give to almost every single client.  Here’s what we tell them:


In the United States alone, "phantom electricity" emits roughly 12 million tons of carbon into the atmosphere.  Reduce computer electrical consumption significantly and save money!  A 2007 study showed that an average of $25 per computer can by saved simply by turning computers off at night.  Smaller savings can be attained by turning off and unplugging PDAs, cell phones, microwaves, toasters, etc.

I hear all sorts of excuses from clients about why people don’t turn off their computers (IT runs software updates at night, people are forgetful, people need to log in from home, etc.) and I always have a good response to why it makes sense anyway. 

So why don’t I practice what I preach?

In a nutshell, it has to do with working from home.  As you might know, SSC doesn’t have designated office space, and so when I’m not onsite with a client or meeting in a shared office space (or more likely a coffee shop) with colleagues, I’m working from my home office.  And as anyone who works from home (especially those who are in charge of running the business) knows, it’s not a 9-to-5 job.  It’s more like an all-the-time-often-even-in-the-middle-of-the-night job.  And while I do have rigorous power saver setting (sleep after 5 minutes of inactivity) I am loathe to have to boot up my computer 3 or 4 times a night when I just need to check email “one more time”.

In the same breath, let me complain for a minute about my work-life balance.  In an average week I work probably 80 hours…that’s spread across 7 days a week, and often includes post-midnight sessions to wrap up things (emails, proposals, business development brainstorming sessions) that just couldn’t be accomplished during the day. 

Now that I think about it, this whole “not turning the computer off at night” issue is also a brilliant example of an action that is unsustainable from an environmental perspective as well as a economic/social perspective (the light at the end of the tunnel is a train called “burn out” and its coming straight at me). 

And so it’s perhaps time to fix this glaring problem in my eco-credibility AND start putting some limits on my working hours.  Hmm…I’ll be back next week with the results of my ponderings.

But what about YOU?  What eco-confession have you been avoiding?  I  posted a note on Twitter (follow me @jenniferwoofter) with my eco-confession and asked others to chime in.  Here’s what I heard back:

@MattyLynch: me neither! BUSTED......

@Lctee: Taking bottled water to work, where the unfiltered water tastes like chlorine. Shd carry own filtered.

@emipram: my eco-confession: sometimes during winter I buy fruit that has traveled thousands of km when I can't resist the craving

@amydaugustine: I'm way too fond of the a/c, though since I keep the heat @ subzero during winter at least some of the evil is offset =)

And via Facebook (join the SSC group here):

From Eliot Harkey: The TV is almost always on.

From Jessica Woofter [my sister and mother of a 5 month baby that never sleeps]: I sit in the car and let it run while I read a book in my parking lot so that the baby won't wake up. We also sleep with a sound machine on all the time. And up until about two months ago the hair dryer was on for about four hours a day total. Yikes.

Add to the conversation in the comments section below!  (And now, excuse me while I walk away from the computer to enjoy the perfect weather and eat dinner on the deck with my family.)