In this episode, I interview Sanchali Pal, the co-founder and CEO of Joro, and app and community to help people automatically track their carbon footprints, discover and stick with low-carbon habits, and see their small steps add up to big impact for for themselves and the planet. I was a little apprehensive to bring her on as a guest, because I have found myself a bit skeptical about the impact that changing consumer behavior can have on the problem, given how deep the hole we are in is and how limited our time horizon is to act. But this is an important topic and debate, and Sanchali is as knowledgable on the issue as anyone.
In this episode, I interview Sanchali Pal, the co-founder and CEO of Joro, and app and community to help people automatically track their carbon footprints, discover and stick with low-carbon habits, and see their small steps add up to big impact for for themselves and the planet.
I have known Sanchali for a while and have found her to be both very smart, and incredibly mission driven. I was a little apprehensive to bring her on as a guest, because I have found myself a bit skeptical about the impact that changing consumer behavior can have on the problem, given how deep the hole we are in is and how limited our time horizon is to act. But this is an important topic and debate, and Sanchali is as knowledgable on the issue as anyone.
We cover a number of topics in this episode, including the role of consumer behavior change in the climate fight, what types of behavior change is most impactful, and what levers we have to impact consumer behavior most effectively. We also chat about what other areas can be helpful to the problem beyond the role of consumers.
I really enjoyed this discussion, and Sanchali did a good job of educating me and making the case for why consumers play an important role. I hope you find this episode as valuable and informative as I did!
You can find me on twitter @jjacobs22 and email at email@example.com, where I encourage you to share your feedback on episodes and provide suggestions for future guests or topics you'd like to see covered on the show.
For more information and to sign up for updates on My Climate Journey visit: www.myclimatejourney.co
Food, Inc.: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food,_Inc.
Ant Forest by AliPay: https://www.alizila.com/how-alipay-users-planted-100m-trees-in-china/
Carbon Offset: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_offset
Mobile Carbon Footprinting Project at MIT: https://climate.mit.edu/projects/mobile-carbon-footprinting-project-mit
Katharine Hayhoe: https://twitter.com/khayhoe
Jason Jacobs: Hello, everyone, this is Jason Jacobs, and welcome to My Climate Journey. This show follows my journey to interview a wide range of guests to better understand and make sense of the formidable problem of climate change and try to figure out how people like you and I can help.
Jason Jacobs: Hello, everyone. Welcome. Today's guest is Sanchali Pal, the co-founder and CEO of Joro, an app that lets consumers track their carbon footprint. Sanchali and I have known each other for quite some time, and I've always been impressed with her knowledge, thoughtfulness, and the mission-driven nature of her pursuit with Joro.
Jason Jacobs: To be honest, I was a little nervous about having her on the show because I've found that I've been skeptical about the role of consumers and the pursuit of changing consumer behavior in the climate fight, but my views are a work in progress, and I do think consumers are an important piece of the equation, so I thought this was an important discussion to have. Sanchali did not let us down. I thought we had a great dialogue, debate. I definitely learned some things from the discussion, and I hope that you do as well. Okay, Sanchali. Welcome to the show.
Sanchali Pal: Thank you. I'm excited to be here.
Jason Jacobs: I'm excited to have you. I think you were one of the very first people that I talked to when I was starting to turn my attention to this area, and actually, I had a false start. I was turning my attention to this area, and then I didn't think that my skills could be that helpful. Then I went and tried to start a consumer company, and then I felt all wrong. Now I'm back, and hopefully I'm back to stay. But you, you and I first were talking about climate back then.
Sanchali Pal: That's right. We were.
Jason Jacobs: But your awakening happened much earlier. Right?
Sanchali Pal: That's true. I started thinking about climate change as it related to me personally when I saw the documentary Food, Inc. seven years ago.
Jason Jacobs: I haven't seen that one.
Sanchali Pal: It is a documentary about how our food systems are controlled by just a few companies and how the systems that control our food are having a much larger impact on the climate than we as individuals realize, partly because we as individuals aren't expressing our own agency, making choices intentionally about how we want our food to be created and sold to us. I wanted, after I saw that documentary, I was like, "Wow, I really want to know more about where my food comes from, what its impact on the planet is, and how I can make better choices that will help ultimately shape the systems that I'm a part of."
Jason Jacobs: When was that?
Sanchali Pal: 2011.
Jason Jacobs: What were you doing professionally at that time?
Sanchali Pal: I was a senior in undergrad. At the time, I was a senior at Princeton, and I was the manager of my dining hall. As I was watching this documentary, I was thinking about do these actions add up over time to any sort of meaningful impact, and I looked at how we were ordering food for our dining hall, and I realized that by having 10 vegetarians out of the 200 in the dining hall that I was managing, we were changing our food orders to add a vegetarian entree. I calculated that over the course of a year, that was reducing our carbon footprint as a dining hall by 5-10%. I started thinking, "What if I counted myself as a vegetarian, even if I lied and just told them I was a vegetarian?" That's how I started thinking about the interaction between my personal choices and large-scale change.
Jason Jacobs: So where did you start? You had this awakening, and so-
Sanchali Pal: At the time, I thought about it as just a personal question, not related to my career at all. I had a job to become a consultant at an international development consulting firm called Dalberg. I was really excited about that. I went and worked in New York. Then I moved to Bombay. Then I moved to Ethiopia with that company and working on smart cities and technology and social impact.
Sanchali Pal: Along the way in my personal life, I started trying to quantify my carbon footprint using online calculators, Excel spreadsheets, changing small things. I ended up cutting down my meat consumption by 90%, and quantifying that that could have an impact of taking half a car off the road each year. This was something I was just doing on my own.
Jason Jacobs: Tell me those numbers again. Reducing your meat by 20%?
Sanchali Pal: Reducing my meat by 90%.
Jason Jacobs: Oh, by 90% takes a half a car-
Sanchali Pal: Takes a half a car off the road per year, based on my starting point, which was eating meat at almost every meal without really thinking about it. That one action that I identified was something I could do in my personal life, but at the time, that was just a personal thing. It wasn't my career. Then I decided to go to business school to really start focusing on energy and climate and taking some space to think about what are business models that can help address the climate crisis.
Jason Jacobs: I didn't know that, because you went to HBS, so when you went to HBS, you went in with an energy and climate bent and focus before you even got there.
Sanchali Pal: My in was actually thinking about climate and cities, thinking about people who live in cities and what can people who live in cities do to address the climate crisis. My initial hypothesis was transportation. I went to go work at Tesla for my summer internship, and as I was going down that path of figuring out where's their technology that can address climate change in the most meaningful way from a city perspective, I started realizing that what I was doing in my personal life and what I was pursuing in my professional life could be combined if I started thinking about how do we package and accelerate the change that individuals can make using technology.
Jason Jacobs: The idea for Joro actually happened while you were in school.
Sanchali Pal: Yes, exactly. I started thinking about it in the fall of my first year at business school, and I kind of put it on the back burner because I didn't know how to do it from a practical stand. I wasn't a technology person. I didn't build software myself. I didn't know how we would capture the data to show someone their carbon footprint and help them reduce it until I met my co-founder Cressica, and I met her at an MIT event in the spring of that year two years ago, and the wheels started turning, maybe there's a tool here that we could build together.
Jason Jacobs: What was the initial germ of an idea?
Sanchali Pal: My initial germ of an idea was an app that helps people track and trade carbon on a micro level because we have macro carbon markets, but we don't have micro carbon markets, and what if everyone could participate in reducing carbon. That was my first germ of an idea.
Jason Jacobs: That was a few years ago now, right?
Sanchali Pal: That was two years ago.
Jason Jacobs: Got it. How has the idea evolved from then to today?
Sanchali Pal: When I started, this was a theoretical concept. I didn't know how to make it real. I met Cressica. I heard about her research at MIT where she'd been looking at all of the data that our smartphones are collecting and how can we use automated data feeds that our smartphones collect to construct a realtime picture of someone's carbon footprint as an individual. That was the data piece that I was missing. I couldn't conceptualize how that would work. As we started ideating, we worked together, we bounced ideas for about a year together thinking about what are different ways that this could work. Now what it's manifested in is a mobile app, a mobile app and community that people can use to track and improve their personal carbon footprints.
Jason Jacobs: Got it. If I'm a concerned person, and I'm worried about emissions and greenhouse gases, and I want to make a difference and don't know where to start, so your position and what Joro's focused on is helping me to improve my footprint with the personal things that I do.
Sanchali Pal: Exactly what you described. I'm a person who wants to do something about climate change, feels really overwhelmed, doesn't know where to start, let's start with myself as the first thing that we can change. What we do is we help someone see their own consumption and carbon footprint as it relates to the world that they live in, give them tailored recommendations of how they can improve it, allow them to subscribe to offsets, to improve it from day one if they choose to, and then help them connect with a community of people like them who want to start taking action on climate change. That's where there's a lot more power is once we have this community of people on a platform who are all tracking and improving their carbon footprints, we also have a community that can have influence on take climate action in other ways.
Jason Jacobs: If we take a step back, and we look at the overall carbon budget and the timelines that we have and the fact that emissions rose last year and that the hill keeps getting steeper for us to climb out of, it seems... one thing I'm struggling with is that with each passing day, it takes more and more drastic action to get us out of this hole, but if we don't... you don't jump from flat-footed to drastic action. There needs to be incremental steps to work our way there, but we don't have time for incremental steps.
Jason Jacobs: I guess when it relates to consumers, I'm really struggling because, on the one hand, of course, we want consumers to take action with their personal footprint, but I just worry that in itself, if that's all people did, and then they felt proud of themselves because they're doing their part, we aren't going to even scratch the surface of getting anywhere near close to where we need to get to to get out of this jam. I guess respond to that. There's no specific question there, but how do you react and how do you think about that? What led you to focusing on consumers as your slice?
Sanchali Pal: This is something I think about a lot because I started as a management consultant thinking about systems change. Then I started trying to reconcile that with what I was doing in my personal life as an individual. What we're trying to bridge with Joro is that systems are made up of people, and the first step is people understanding and being able to quantify and therefore manage how carbon is used.
Sanchali Pal: I think of it a little bit like finances. In personal finances, we use both savings on investment as tools to generate wealth. No one takes their bank account down to zero and puts all their money in investment. Everyone basically also thinks about saving. That's kind of what we think is needed, or what I think is needed in the climate space too is we need investment in new technologies to think about how are we going to generate energy cleanly, how are we going to remove carbon from the atmosphere? So many areas that we need moonshots and we need large-scale change. We also need to start with the tools we have today, creating incremental change in the places we can do it now. Part of the beauty about individual action is that we could do it today.
Sanchali Pal: I could go out and choose to eat vegan in an hour, and that feels really gratifying to have immediate and personal influence, and if everyone went out and did that, that would be meaningful change. I think the US's emissions grew by somewhere between 3 and 4% last year. If everyone in the US reduce their emissions by 3-4%, we'd be at flat emissions, and then we could use all of our technologies to go down from there.
Sanchali Pal: These sort of low-hanging fruit that actually often save people money are quick to implement and can be mobilized by individuals without having to wait for policymakers or people in boardrooms to make those decisions. Those are some of the benefits of consumer-led action, but definitely, we need both. Our objective is to try to help consumers be an accelerant for the change on the systems level.
Jason Jacobs: How do you think about domestic versus international? It seems like the perception of the people in the US as it relates to climate looks a lot different than it does in other places. Where are you focusing your efforts?
Sanchali Pal: To start with, we're focusing on the US and Europe because they're some of the places where individuals have the highest carbon footprints and where 5-10% emissions reduction can make a huge difference in terms of our global goals and meeting our global goals. Also, there's already an analogous carbon tracking app in China that's at-scale. It's called Ant Forest. It's owned by Alipay and integrated into the Alipay platform, and 350 million people are using it. That platform gives us inspiration that there could be something like that in the US and Europe. If you look at consumer sentiment and knowledge around climate change in China right now, it is almost identical to that in Europe as well as that among millennials in the United States. We see those groups as really high potential target markets for us.
Jason Jacobs: How are people in China using Ant Pay, and why are they using it?
Sanchali Pal: The app is very gamified. It shows someone their carbon footprint based on their spending and additional pieces of data that they can gather through the mobile app. It shows them a plant growing based on the actions that they take. They can actually see their virtual forest being planted, and they can pay to have trees planted in the Chinese countryside too, so there's a lot of game-related dynamics where you're on a leaderboard, and there is social comparison. Some of those things we think will translate to the US and Europe. Some things we think will need to be changed because, obviously, having a strong government motivation to address climate change helps with motivating individuals.
Jason Jacobs: Why do you think as many people are using it as there are. What's the incentive?
Sanchali Pal: As far as I can tell, there's no monetary incentive for people to be using it. There's a very strong social incentive. In China, there are a lot of social scores that are used for distribution of different goods and services. This is not used for that yet, but it is possible that it could be, so maybe that's motivation. This is my own speculation. It seems to be that it's very easy to use because it's integrated in the app everyone uses for payments anyway, Alipay, and it's very fun and gamified. There's a lot of social glory or social shame associated with your standing on the leaderboard.
Jason Jacobs: Are people just using it to track? Are they actually offsetting as well?
Sanchali Pal: People are also paying to plant trees for offsets.
Jason Jacobs: For those that may not have heard that term before, what is an offset?
Sanchali Pal: An offset is basically a way of removing CO2 from the atmosphere, and it's measured in symmetric tons of CO2. My way of understanding it is there are two ways of creating a carbon offset. There's an offset that stops carbon emissions from going into the atmosphere, like a clean energy project that replaces coal on the grid or a clean cookstove that someone gets instead of burning coal for a fire in their home. Then the other type is a type of carbon offset that removes carbon from the atmosphere, like planting trees that absorb CO2 or a carbon capture and storage projects.
Jason Jacobs: How are you thinking about incorporating offsets into the Joro platform?
Sanchali Pal: What we're trying to do is help people access high quality carbon offsets more easily and more affordably than they can right now. Right now, it's very difficult for people to verify whether an offset is credible or additional. What we'd like to do is vet those projects ourselves so that consumers can trust them, and then make it easy for them to subscribe to offset their lifestyle so they don't have to worry about doing the calculations of how much to buy.
Sanchali Pal: By linking someone's consumption with an offset subscription, they're also incentivized to reduce their emissions, so then we offer recommendations and tips of how someone can reduce their baseline. We're trying to say offsets are a great first step, especially when they're high quality. They're a way of demonstrating demand for reducing carbon in the atmosphere and also funding valuable clean energy projects. They're also not the same as just changing our lifestyles to consume less, and so we're trying to align incentives so that that's also still part of the goal.
Jason Jacobs: What's your hypothesis going in in terms of what the hook is that's going to get consumers using this, staying engaged, and telling their friends about it?
Sanchali Pal: Something we tested on a Facebook ad recently was "go carbon-neutral for the price of Netflix." Now, realistically that price will be higher once there's higher demand for carbon offsets, but that kind of messaging of "it's very simple to start and anyone can start," that's kind of, our messaging is: We'll meet you where you are. You want to do something about climate change, sign up for Joro, and we'll help you do it.
Sanchali Pal: Step one could be just subscribing to offsets. Step two could be finding small ways to improve. We put forward the goal of everyone trying to reduce their footprint by 12% because that is what it would take to meet the Paris climate accord goals if we all reduced our footprint by 12% this year. Our messaging is basically make it just as easy. There's so many things in our lives that are easy, subscribing to Netflix, subscribing to groceries. Why can't we subscribe to a way to do something about the environment?
Jason Jacobs: Where are you with the product? Is it live?
Sanchali Pal: We launched our beta app in the app store for Earth Day a couple of weeks ago.
Jason Jacobs: Congrats.
Sanchali Pal: Thanks. That's version 1.0. That version of the app allows anyone to start tracking their carbon footprint based on their spending, so you can set it up with your credit card, and based on how you spend money, we show you an estimate of your carbon footprint. You can subscribe to offset your footprint, and you can see a leaderboard of how you're doing versus other people. The next steps will be to increase the tracking functionality to make it more accurate based on other pieces of data as well as to make it more social and fun, so allow you to connect with groups, friends, set challenges, set your own personal goals, and share when you're doing well.
Jason Jacobs: I guess if we pull it up a couple of levels, what role do you think that the consumers have to play in this puzzle? Is it the math? I mean, do you think that by reducing their footprint at scale that it will make a meaningful dent in the map, or do they have another job, do we have another job?
Sanchali Pal: We definitely have more than one job. The first job is making a meaningful dent directly, as you described, whether that's by 1%, 2%, or 10-15% as some other research shows is possible for most people to do. Any of those percentages will be important. The UN IPCC report that came out last year talked about how changes that consumers make and how they eat and how they travel, how they use energy in their homes, what they buy will be essential to getting us towards the 1.5 centigrade mark if we are able to to stop global warming there, but the second is really to demonstrate demand and where we're willing to change our behavior as consumers to companies and to governments.
Sanchali Pal: Right now, it's easy for people in boardrooms to say, "We can't stop selling fast fashion t-shirts because everyone wants them." Well, if consumers say, "I'd rather have fewer higher quality, more environmentally-sustainable t-shirts," then that can help influence the people in the boardrooms. If the government says, "We can't invest in public transit because people don't want to take it," well, if people at our app are showing that we really want to take public transit from point A to point B, but right now, it takes 45 minutes longer so I can't do that, that's a really great piece of data for governments to be able to invest in the types of services we need to be able to live lower carbon lifestyles.
Jason Jacobs: What would you say to the people who would say... and I mean, people have said this to me. They said, "The climate problem, it's not best addressed with consumers. It's an infrastructure problem, and we should find ways, whether it be through mandates or prices on carbon or incentives," but it's to swap out the guts where the consumers don't actually need to change anything. They just go about their lives, and trying to say, "Pretty please, consumers change," is not only futile, but even if successful is going to make a tiny dent on the math relative to addressing it at the guts at the infrastructure level. What would you say to, to that viewpoint and to those people?
Sanchali Pal: I would say to them that both are really important, and we cannot rely on just one. At this stage with, I'll refer to the UN IPCC report again, what that report made clear is the time for the debate of one approach or the other approach is over. We need both, and we need them now because we have very little chance now of meeting our carbon emissions reduction targets. Anywhere where we can get a percentage or two of emissions reduction is a place that we need to pursue. I think that's the most important thing to think about is that no one solution is going to be enough, and there's advantages and disadvantages to both. The advantage of the consumer approach is that it's fast, it's cheap, and it can help create momentum for other types of climate action.
Jason Jacobs: Coming into this, so you're two weeks in now... well, longer than that, but two weeks in terms of having the product live in the market. What are the biggest barriers that you think Joro will need to overcome to get that mass adoption and high engagement that you're after?
Sanchali Pal: The three big things that we think we need to do to get people excited and using the product are, one, focused on building trust. People are going to have to share data with us so that we can estimate their carbon footprints in a way that's convenient for them that doesn't require them to manually enter input, so we need automatic access to someone's carbon footprint, estimates through their credit card or their GPS data, and they also need to have trust that our estimates are correct, so building trust with the user that we're a reliable party that's using their data well to produce meaningful metrics for them.
Sanchali Pal: The second thing is that it's accessible and easy to understand. A lot of the challenges for myself also as someone who is trying to get into the energy space a couple of years ago is that energy people use a lot of words that other people don't understand, and the climate crisis is all measured in tons of CO2 and kgs of CO2, and there's so much talk of things that people don't get, so making it accessible and easy for anyone, translating it into trees or personal impact in other ways.
Sanchali Pal: The third thing is making it positive because so much of the climate change messaging is really awful, like sad and depressing, and we have to be realistic. I understand the move for us to start using terms like climate catastrophe instead of climate change, but things that we've learned from other spaces, things like weight loss, health and fitness, there's been a movement towards a lot more positive messaging and inspiration instead of shame. I think that's an area that we need to really crack with Joro to help people stay positive and inspired in the face of a crisis that's really challenging.
Jason Jacobs: How will the company make money?
Sanchali Pal: We want the app to always be free for someone to track and improve their carbon footprint, so we'll maintain it that way. We'll initially monetize by being a broker of carbon offsets, so we'll take a transaction fee, and we'll go out and purchase carbon offsets in bulk in the carbon markets and take advantage of economies of scale, passing on the offsets to our users in retail. As we scale, we'll look to partner with companies and organizations to sponsor sustainability challenges where a company could sponsor an employee challenge to reduce carbon emissions across the company, or a brand could run a challenge to encourage its consumers to reduce their emissions where companies are also participating in paying for carbon reduction.
Jason Jacobs: Your target market initially, who is that person that you're focused on?
Sanchali Pal: Our initial target market is someone who is deeply passionate about climate change but doesn't really know where to start. They're probably not thinking about it for their daily job. They probably don't know a ton about it, but they know it's bad, and they're trying to do stuff about it. They may be bringing their own bag to the grocery store. They're trying to recycle, and about quarter of the population is willing to pay about $40 a month to do something about climate change. That's our initial target market.
Jason Jacobs: How do you think about accuracy? How important is accuracy to the model?
Sanchali Pal: For us, accuracy is important if it helps the user make a decision better. Accuracy's important in that it helps people understand the relative importance of their different choices, whether something matters or something doesn't. In that vein, we're shooting for 80/20 accuracy, trying to get to 80% accuracy with as little pain as possible to the user, as much automated data collection as possible.
Sanchali Pal: One way I like to think about it is something I've learned is try to bring my own cup to get a coffee, but sometimes I forget, and then I use a paper cup. Then I feel really bad about myself. But actually the paper cup doesn't matter as much as whether or not I get milk in my coffee. That matters a lot more. That matters like 10 times more. Being able to make those quick trade-offs and understand what matters and what doesn't is the way that we think about accuracy.
Jason Jacobs: Where's the data coming from?
Sanchali Pal: The data's coming from a mix of automated data feeds that we're collecting, so someone's credit card data, their GPS data, a couple of other pieces of data they give us, like if they choose to enter a food diary or enter a food preference or enter their last month utility bill, those basically cover the data inputs. The climate models themselves are based on a mix of publicly available data sets and research that my co-founder Cressica has been doing it MIT at the Mobile Carbon Footprinting Research Group.
Jason Jacobs: Can you talk a bit more about that research?
Sanchali Pal: Yeah, that research is forming a lot of how we think about constructing a personal carbon footprint based on the data feeds I described, especially a lot of that research has focused on mobility, so how do we estimate someone's carbon footprint from travel based on their speed and location. Now we're starting to be able to tell if someone's on a bike or in a car, on a plane, and then assign them a carbon footprint from that activity. That mobility data also helps us construct better estimates of how someone uses energy in buildings so we can see how much time someone spends inside a building versus outside, in a residential building versus a commercial building, and help them understand their energy use from electricity while they're in those buildings.
Sanchali Pal: That's been a lot of the focus of Cressica's research, and she's also been looking at how do people interact with their cities, so how do we look at being able to give people information on how they're creating a carbon footprint based on where they are and what they're doing, their activities and their location, and then maybe we can also use that data to help give them very specific recommendations that they can act on.
Jason Jacobs: I assume you get this question a lot, but for the person that you described, that consumer who cares, but maybe it doesn't know very much and is trying to figure out how they can be more helpful, if they come to you and they say, "What can I do to help?" where do you send them other than to download your product?
Sanchali Pal: Right now, we send them towards starting with themselves and understanding what their own carbon footprint is, and then sending them towards carbon offsets, but what we'd like to do in the future is help connect people in with local events, organizations they can work with, maybe local conservation efforts or political climate change support efforts where they can have impact in many ways. One of the things that we started doing is sending out a biweekly newsletter to our users with additional information, other articles that we find are interesting, events in their area where they can get involved, other organizations or climate leaders that we respect so we can start to try to create more of a community around where people can go to start taking climate action.
Jason Jacobs: While the product is starting with my personal footprint and the ability to offset, do you see your role evolving over time to helping people navigate other ways that they can get involved in the climate fight as well?
Sanchali Pal: Absolutely. One of the things that we're creating as a company is a new data set, a new data set around how individuals think about carbon trade-offs, think about when they're willing to consider the environment and the decision and when they're not, a type of data set that the energy sector doesn't have right now because the best data sets we have in the energy sector are household-level energy data.
Sanchali Pal: But the other thing we're doing is creating a community of people who are engaged on climate and being able to help connect that community with different movements towards climate change. Ultimately, that might help us be able to help mobilize people towards supporting a carbon tax or supporting certain business legislations to address climate change so we can point people towards directions where they'd like to take action based on where they live and how they're consuming right now.
Jason Jacobs: I certainly have questions, even as a consumer in terms of not just my own personal footprint, but I mean, how to distinguish the work of one NGO versus another when it comes to philanthropic dollars or what to look for in a political candidate as it relates to to climate. I guess it depends because there's some that have market-based viewpoints and some that have policy-based viewpoints, and there's different ways out of this, and they don't necessarily all align with each other. In fact, they don't all align with each other. It's a big mess to try to make sense of it and figure out how to do your part.
Sanchali Pal: It definitely is. I don't think we're going to be able to ever answer all of those questions, but there's a climate scientist named Katherine Hayhoe who we follow on Twitter and who has a lot of really interesting thoughts about how do we get to draw down basically to zero growth in carbon emissions. The two things she says that we can do are, one, we can step on the scale ourselves. We can understand how we're a part of the problem, and that's part of the reason why what we're trying to do is so difficult is because no one really wants to examine if they're part of the problem or not. But the advantage of stepping on the scale is that we can also figure out how we can be part of the solution.
Sanchali Pal: The second thing is to start the conversation, talk to people about climate change like you're doing on this podcast, and start raising the issues and have people have intelligent conversations about it. I think that's what's so interesting about all these political candidates coming into the field is, finally, we're having a real conversation about climate change.
Jason Jacobs: Yeah, it's funny because no matter what one thinks of Green New Deal, I think all the Green New Deal chatter has brought a lot of energy and attention to the topic, and then also, I've heard people say that even people on the right that say, "The Green New Deal is outrageous. The climate policy we really need is... " and it's like, well wait a minute, are people on the right presenting climate policy? That's actually huge progress. It almost doesn't matter what's in it. I just learned the term Overton window in the last few months, and I've been using it a lot.
Sanchali Pal: What is the term Overton window?
Jason Jacobs: Overton window is like if you take something like the Green New Deal, it kind of moves the midpoint further along so that the debate used to center around "is climate change real or not," and now, the debate is moving towards centering around "well, yeah, it's real, but is the right solution better to go this way or that way." It's like moving the Overton window is moving the center of that issue closer to where the solution should be.
Sanchali Pal: I love that analogy. I mean, that makes a lot of sense. If anything, I think the Green New Deal is a perfect example of that.
Jason Jacobs: Anything that I didn't ask you, Sanchali, any or anything that you'd like to share with the listeners that hasn't come up already?
Sanchali Pal: I think one thing we haven't talked about is that there's a scenario in which we are not able to create behavior change. That's obviously part of our goal is that we'll be able to show some percentage emissions reduction based on people changing their behavior, and there's a little bit of precedent for that from companies like Opower and OhmConnect and other companies who've tried to do something similar, but say we're not able to create any behavior change. Part of the value that we see in ourselves creating is at least creating a consciousness or an intuition around carbon, the way that we have an intuition around what we eat or how we exercise.
Sanchali Pal: We know generally that we're supposed to eat 2,000 calories a day, or whatever it is for you, and when we overeat, we know, and maybe we eat a burger for lunch, and we decide we're going to get a salad for dinner. That's sort of the most basic level, the type of intuition that we're trying to create with Joro is a metric and understanding that for me, 40 kgs of CO2 is good for a day. I'm trying to stick to that, and if I have a day that I'm at a hundred kgs of CO2 per day, then I'm going to try to temper it for a few days. Even being able to have that sense of being able to make a decision based on time, cost, convenience, and carbon, that would be a win for us.
Jason Jacobs: I guess one question that comes to mind when you talk about the "is behavior change going to work" thing is, so I'm sold that it would be helpful to have consumer mindset shifting in this direction for a whole host of reasons, not just for the emissions reduction from making better decisions, but from awareness and awakening, which leads to more consciousness about policy and more consciousness about getting the right elected officials in place that support the right policy and more consciousness about riding employers to be better corporate actors and taking leadership roles as corporations in doing the right thing and more philanthropic dollars heading this way, so all of that makes sense in terms of the mission.
Jason Jacobs: I have to admit, and you know this already from our discussions previously, but I'm just skeptical that we're going to get there. Maybe I'm biased because the audience that I see the closest is the US market, and I see how behind the US market is in really understanding the degree of the crisis that we find ourselves in. I want it to work, but I'm skeptical that it will be successful. I guess are you going into this believing that it has to, so therefore, you're going to bang your head against a wall about sharing my skepticism about the degree of difficulty, or are you an optimist that consumers will come around at scale?
Sanchali Pal: I definitely acknowledge that it's really hard, and to some degree, I am very skeptical like you that this is going to work, but I also feel every day a renewed sense of optimism based on the changes I'm seeing around me and the people I see around me taking the types of actions I never thought would happen. Seven years ago when I started cutting down my meat consumption, I was weird. When I told people at dinner that I would eat... it wasn't a meat meal for me, they would kind of think I was weird, but now people, are really excited about it.
Sanchali Pal: In fact, something like 30 of my friends have started doing the same thing after talking to me about it. Almost 1 in 10 Americans is reducing their meat consumption for environmental reasons. I mean, it's still only 1 in 10 but that's a lot. I think I have a lot of optimism that moderate change is possible. Not everyone's going to be an extremist, but by saying that there are small things that people can do, they will change. I think I have to be optimistic; otherwise, I would stop working on this. But I acknowledge that it's really challenging. I just think that people like Greta Thunberg and AOC and the young people who are running climate strikes at their schools on Fridays, like there are people taking extreme actions that I never thought I would see happening, and I think something is changing right now, so if this is ever going to work, it's going to be now.
Jason Jacobs: Well, I'm glad you're focused on it. I mean, as we've discussed before, I can't help but feel discouraged about the consumer piece, and it might just be from a decade of banging my head against a wall with fitness behavior change, but it would really help if it did work, and I'm glad that there are smart mission-driven people focused on the problem. I think one thing I appreciate about you as well is that many founders that are in the midst of building startups, I think if you brought them on a podcast like this, you would get a sales pitch, but I've always felt in our discussions that you're able to take a step back and look at the forest and not just the trees in terms of the overall climate problem. I've heard you tell me before that if you ever became convinced that the consumer area wasn't the right wedge that you would focus on a different one, but ultimately, you just want to see the problem solved.
Sanchali Pal: Absolutely. I'm always trying to think about is this the best use of my time? Right now, it feels like there's enough possibility that something like Joro could work and that we're the people to do it.
Jason Jacobs: Wow. I wish you every success in that effort, and thank you for coming on the show. You've been a terrific guest.
Sanchali Pal: Thanks, Jason. This has been really fun.
Jason Jacobs: Hey, everyone. Jason here. Thanks again for joining me on My Climate Journey. If you'd like to learn more about the journey, you can visit us at myclimatejourney.co. Note that is dot co, not dot com. Someday, we'll get dot com, but right now, dot co. You can also find me on Twitter at @jjacobs22 where I would encourage you to share your feedback on the episode or suggestions for future guests you'd like to hear. Before I let you go, if you enjoy the show, please share an episode with a friend or consider leaving a review on iTunes. The lawyers made me say that. Thank you.