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Of goats and ending greenwashing: New Zealand's Flick Electric Co. debut world-first individual carbon calculator for electricity use

A world-first carbon calculator has been introduced by Flick Electric Co. for people to see what the environmental impact of turning the lights on might be. The question now is if the rest of the industry – or even other industries – will follow.

Yes, we know: the vast majority of folks in Aotearoa care about the environment, and are committed to living a sustainable lifestyle (at least if Colmar Brunton’s Better Futures Report from 2017 is anything to go by). And, yes, electricity is often touted as a great alternative to a lot of other sources of power/technologies (such as electric vehicles replacing old combustion engines that burn fossil fuels, or electricity used to heat a home instead of coal or propane). But here’s the thing: it still has an environmental impact (have you see a gargantuan hydroelectric dam up close? They’re not exactly great for fish and wildlife).

The folks at Flick Electric Co. know this, too. According to Flick, there is no transparency in the electricity sector about the carbon impact of individuals’ power use. And that’s why Flick now calculates for customers the personal carbon impact of their electricity use on a daily basis.

Flick CEO (or "chief Flickster") Steve O’Connor says the move is long overdue. “For too long, Kiwis have been confused that because they are with a company that generates electricity from renewables, that they’re using cleaner electricity at their house,” he says. “The truth is that our national power supply is like a pot of vegetable soup. You get a mix of whatever is in the pot when you take your serving. The only way to actually reduce your carbon impact is to know how much carbon is being created and make a decision to use electricity, or not, on that basis.

“Being the customer of a ‘green retailer’ does not mean your power consumption is any more sustainable than the next person’s.”

Check out this podcast with Flick Electric Co. CEO Steve O'Connor about Electric Village and the future of energy in Aotearoa New Zealand:

Flick launched its live carbon indicator, free for everyone in Aotearoa to use, two years ago. The addition of a personalised carbon calculation – included as a feature of Flick’s app, and including such handy comparisons as the equivalent amount of emissions from goats – lets Flick customers see the impact of their individual choice to use electricity at times when the carbon footprint might be higher or lower.

“As a country we can be using as much as 800 tonnes of carbon equivalent in a half hour period, or as little as 350 tonnes,” says O’Connor. “Being aware of what’s happening in real time, making a conscious consumption choice, and being able to track the overall impact their choices are having, is the only way consumers can exercise true control over their carbon footprint.”

Flick has also partnered with charity Trees That Count to give customers an opportunity to offset their electricity emissions by funding the planting of a native tree.

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