This is where I attempt to measure my positive and negative impact. While it’s hard to boil impact down to comprehensible numbers, this will at least let me track whether or not I’ve increased my net positive impact over time.
Why do I do this? To start, it helps keep me honest. I find it easy to convince myself that working in clean energy technology makes me a “good person”. Using even back-of-the-envelope calculations, I can fact-check myself. This also helps me prioritize where I put my self-improvement efforts. Should I be recycling more, eating less almonds, or buying carbon offsets for my air travel?
In doing this on a public website, my hope is I can open-source any framework I develop in case it’s useful for others. It also gives anyone the chance to offer suggestions and critique my calculations/approach.
These days, getting a reasonable estimate of personal environmental impact is pretty easy, thanks to the good folks at Global Footprint Network. I used their calculator because it captures a holistic estimate across carbon and land/resource use. It also allows for fairly detailed inputs.
My results indicate that my lifestyle would require 1.7 Earths if everyone behaved as I did. While not totally sustainable, this is about one-third of the footprint of the average american (5 Earths in 2014). The majority (60%) of my footprint is carbon emissions. The majority of those carbon emissions come from my air travel habits.
Perhaps the most difficult impact to track so far is the impact of my work. Despite working directly on energy problems, my work in software and analytics does not always directly translate to emissions reductions.
Myst AI (2018 - present)
At Myst AI, we work with many companies which are focused on reducing the greenhouse gas emissions required to deliver power and heat. That being said we’re still working on a method to measure our current and potential impact.
Nanogrid (1 year)
While I had some success at Nanogrid, I left the company before I could translate the initial work into some form of direct/indirect impact. This is somewhat the nature of start-ups: low chance of a high impact. To have some direct impact while I ran Nanogrid, I taught at Street Academy which I go into more detail about in the Volunteering section.
Genability (2 years)
I worked as a full-stack software engineer at Genability which provides electricity rate data and analysis to solar installers (e.g. SunPower), energy storage providers (e.g. Tesla), utilities (e.g. Pacific Gas & Electric), and more (e.g. Walmart). My contributions to Genability can be mapped to a reduction in the “soft costs” to deploy behind-the-meter solar, energy storage, and other clean energy technologies. That being said the math to calculate that reduction is quite complex and neither Genability nor I have estimated it.
On and off I’ve spent time volunteering with various organizations. For the most part, I try to volunteer where I can leverage my existing skills to have a direct impact.
Work on Climate (2021-present, ~50 hours)
I volunteer with Work on Climate where I hold office hours for individuals looking to apply their skills to climate change (e.g. get a job at a climate-focused company) and companies which are impact-focused and need targeted consulting (i.e. VC due diligence for a climate-relevant ML startup)
Code Nation (2018-present, 2 years or ~300 hours)
From August 2017 to August 2019, I taught Computer Science in under-resourced high schools through a program called Code Nation. The goal of the program is to provide a practical CS education to folks who wouldn’t get it otherwise. This will also help to increase diversity in tech. The school I taught at is Street Academy which is in Oakland, CA.
I’ve now restarted my work with Code Nation and will be teaching in SF in 2022.
COVID Exit Strategy (2020, 6 months or ~30 hours)
- Preserve something beautiful about the world (usually natural sights like rain forests)
- Improve current lives (reduce pollution or fight disease in developing countries)
- Save future lives (reduce the risk of extinction from pandemics/climate change)
- Are considered/evaluated to be “effective” (I want to do the most good I can with each dollar donated)
In 2021, I donated to:
- Founder’s Pledge Climate Change Fund (partially matched by Myst AI)
- Global Health and Development Fund
- Animal Charity Evaluators
These donations amounted to ~11.9% of my income in 2021.
In 2020, I donated to:
- Movement for Black Lives (matched by Myst AI)
- Clean Air Task Force (matched by Myst AI)
- Founder’s Pledge Climate Change Fund
These donations amounted to ~11.7% of my income in 2020.
In 2019 I donated to Cool Earth and to the Coalition for Rainforest Nations based on reports by Founders Pledge which indicated that these two charities were effective in addressing climate change. My donation to Cool Earth was matched twice (4X) via a Cool Earth donor and my employer, Myst AI. My donation to CfRN was also matched by Myst AI.
These donations amounted to ~7.5% of my income in 2019.
Pre 2019 (~$10,000 total)
Pre 2019, I donated fairly haphazardly. My largest contributions went to the Conservation Fund. In total I donated around $10,000.