Michelle is the founder of clever carbon, a startup attempting to raise carbon literacy in a hip and relatable way.
clever carbon came at a really good time. It was something that kept me busy in the initial stages of lockdown. I wanted to do something different in the sustainability space. I’d been volunteering for another organization, but found it was hard to reach audiences outside of those who already care. But even promoting a more sustainable lifestyle, I’d ask, “why? What’s the impact of that?” That’s what led me to do more research on carbon footprinting. No one was presenting content in a way that’s digestible to normal people. Think of nutrition labels. You probably know that you should take somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000 calories a day—but people don’t understand their daily carbon footprint. It’s usually in the context of manufacturers, or countries. Once something is quantifiable, you can make a better decision and it’s a harder issue to ignore.
East London: here, I can go into a convenience store and refill my dishwashing liquid—I would never be able to do that elsewhere
I never questioned if this was the right time. I just had this fire, and this passion, and I wanted to do it. The chaos of this year has made people pause. There’s been time to take a look at what we’re doing. In a regular year, people wouldn’t be so open—they just wouldn’t have time for it. But now people are home, they have time to think and process. I sometimes ask myself, what if I just shut this down? I’ve had the impact that I’ve had; I feel it’s more of just a platform for me to share ideas and tips, and from there help increase carbon literacy. It doesn’t cost me a lot to do. But among our volunteers, we all feel like we’re giving back and doing something by having this project. If everyone in the world knew that they had a footprint and remembered what that footprint was—that would be the goal. My sustainability journey started in 2017. A lot of things just culminated; I went vegetarian, then a month later, vegan. But what really accelerated it was moving to Europe, specifically to East London, where a lot of people really care. Here, I can go into a convenience store and refill my dishwashing liquid—I would never be able to do that elsewhere. I’ve learned so many new things. That’s how everything just happened.
The #sustainability community is strong. There’s so much content, especially on Instagram. I had no idea it existed. We’ve been learning from other accounts and sharing it, trying to engage our users, getting people to nominate a song to our Spotify playlist. I’ve had people invite me to do a podcast, and this, and that. Having people reach out, wanting to help, wanting to volunteer, and seeing that they really get what I’m trying to do—those are the highs.