Sanctuary Computer offsets 150% of their emissions
Sanctuary Computer offsets 150% of their emissions

Case Study

Studio Carbon Negative

  • Industry Leadership
  • Carbon Negativity
  • Charitable Donations

Sanctuary Computer had one goal. Understand and mitigate their impact, so they could lead clients and peers in doing the same.

We worked with NYC’s Sanctuary Computer (our sibling studio @ garden3d) to develop a simple and easy to use approach to measuring their carbon emissions. As a client services business, they don’t produce a physical product, and for that reason, the don’t have the same size impact under their supply chain as similar sized product companies.

"Studio Carbon Negative" helps clients & peers learn about Sanctuary Computer's efforts, in their signature open source style. Click here to read more.
Right Arrow Icon Explore the Microsite

Corporate Sustainability & the GHG Protocol

Given Sanctuary Computer doesn’t have a supply chain; we chose to focus our attention on the company’s corporate sustainability strategy. That means understanding all of the sources of emissions in their day-to-day operations.

The GHG Protocol
The GHG Protocol

We chose to use the Greenhouse Gas Protocol to measure impact. This involved working with each team member to calculate their individual energy consumption via their laptops, commutes, and modes of transport.

At the time we started working together, Sanctuary was full time in-person in their NYC studio, so we studied everything down how much toilet paper they were ordering each month.

Sanctuary's 2019 GHG emissions breakdown
Sanctuary's 2019 GHG emissions breakdown

Next — we worked through their data transfer and cloud computing needs. This turned out to be the most challenging portion of the work — cloud computing platforms tend to run a lot of virtual computers on a single, physical machine. In order to ensure our estimates were sound, we based our per-server compute on a real, individual server; and in cases when those platforms were even more abstract (ie, serverless), relied primarily on data transfer at the edge.

Finally, we packaged up everything into a convenient spreadsheet for them to use each year, going forward!


Meaningful Climate Action

Sanctuary Computer’s goal has been to push climate action and leadership as far as they can in their industry. They’ve built on the initial work we’ve done here, and implemented the following policies:

Backdated Emissions Accounting

Sanctuary Computer used their 2019 data to gain an understanding of their per-employee-per-year emissions, and working backwards from their payroll records, bought carbon offsets dating back to their founded in 2015.

Carbon Negativity

While our process includes a safety factor for unknowns, Sanctuary Computer also wanted to offset more carbon than they use; so in their offsetting process, they’ve added a 50% safety factor to their final numbers.

Meaningful Offsets

Offsetting carbon is a tricky game. While it's a valid tool in the evironmentalist toolkit; years of scammers, greenwashers, and double counting has given the broader community reason to doubt their effectiveness.

So that Sanctuary Computer could be sure that their money was going to a good place, we helped them prepare the following guidelines for vetting offsets:

  1. Transparency — We expect that any offset we purchase can prove without doubt and in the open that an individual credit can not be "double counted", or purchased more than once.
  2. Permanence — We do not buy credits when there is not a strong guarantee that the unit or drawdown will not be permanent, or is liable to be undone.
  3. Additionality — We only buy credits when the supplier can clearly prove that by facilitating this activity, more carbon was drawn down than would have been.
  4. Monitoring & Verification — Credit minters that take all of the above seriously will take steps to clearly publish their processes for ensuring captured carbon stays where it should.

These guidelines have helped the team select over 487.32 CO2e in offsets with Pachama, Nori, Terrapass and more.

Charitable Donations

In addition to Sanctuary Computer’s offsetting program, they also committed to making meaningful donations to environmental groups. To date, they've donated over $6,000 to the LES Ecology Center, Climate Justice Alliance and the Sunrise Movement.

Sustainability Rebate

To better support early movers in the space, Sanctuary Computer now offers a 10% discount on their services for up to 12 months when a client can show a meaningful commitment to the climate.

Moral Compass

In order to help Sanctuary Computer decide if a client was a good fit for their values; they implemented their Moral Compass, which filters our Greenwashers & Cheap, Mass Produced Products.

Great Barrier Reef
United Arab Emirates

Transparency & Open Source

It’s been clear since day one that Sanctuary Computer’s carbon footprint is relatively small when compared to the emissions impact of their clients; so rather than focus too heavily on their individual footprint, we instead worked with the team using their new-found fluency in the subject to design and build a microsite that celebrates their work; and helps similar agencies do the same.

Studio Carbon Negative

Additionally, Sanctuary Computer & garden3d also release a yearly environmental report; detailing their progress with goal setting, and describing the steps they took each year; further holding them accountable in a public square, and giving momentum to keep building on their work.

Each year, garden3d (Sanctuary Computer's parent company) release an environmental report. Click here to read 2021's study.
Right Arrow Icon Read the Full Report on Medium

To date, Sanctuary Computer has offset 150% of their lifetime emissions, and turned down over $1million USD in potential work that did not meet their sustainability standards.