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How to measure and address your carbon footprint | Green Games Guide

An excerpt from UKIE and Games London's action plan on how the games industry can tackle climate change

The following is excerpted from the Green Games Guide, a document created in partnership between Ukie, Games London and the UN's Playing For The Planet initiative that gives practical advice to businesses on how to both reduce their environmental impact and to inspire players to reduce theirs.

The guide includes an easy to understand five step process for making long term reductions to carbon footprint, as well as a number of case studies that demonstrates how games businesses can take meaningful action.

This section was written by Space Ape Games' head of technical operations Nic Walker. You can find the full Green Games Guide here.

London-based Space Ape is one of the games sector's leaders in addressing the impact it has on the environment.

The studio now offsets 200% of its carbon footprint, reduced its studio footprint by 25% in 2019, and committed to reduce it by a further 10% in 2020.

Here's a look into how this was accomplished, and how you might be able to do the same for your studio:

Step 1: Define

Space Ape focused on the four areas it assessed to have the biggest impact on its carbon footprint:

  1. Office energy: Electricity, gas-heating, water, & waste water
  2. Transport: Flights, Hotel stays, employee commutes, deliveries, and purchases
  3. Cloud Computing
  4. Mobile device usage by its players

Step 2: Measure

Our data came from a mix of sources and some of these categories required creativity to measure. For things like flights, hotel stays and cloud computing, we reached out to the suppliers or managers for the numbers.

Calculating and offsetting emissions is just the first part. The real aim is to create a sustainable future where our lifestyles adapt to reverse the effects

One of the best decisions we didn't realise we had made was to use a travel booking company to handle flights and hotel stays across the business. Because it's a common request from customers, they were well primed to be able to help and we received a report detailing our carbon footprint. Hotel stays were a simple matter of finding the right emissions factor for that country from readily available government figures and multiplying by the number of nights stayed.

One area that proved challenging is finding the carbon footprint for our cloud provider. Some providers like Google Cloud are carbon neutral already, but many are not and you may need to rely on estimates or information from other sources to account for your cloud footprint.

Another challenging category to estimate was the carbon footprint of the many purchases we make across the organization. We decided to focus on our tech purchases for the year since they have the highest footprint and found that whilst the data was patchy between vendors, there was ultimately enough data out there to let us make decent footprint estimates.

For player usage, we combined our own internal analytics data which details the number of hours played per player in each country with a table of emissions data for electricity across the world, published by Ecometrica.

For the rest, we surveyed our employees and made some educated data-informed decisions. For example, we know the average electricity use of a monitor and how many monitors our contractors use so we made estimates. Whenever we weren't entirely sure, we erred on the side of caution and overestimated.

We calculated our total carbon emissions in 2018 to be 750 tonnes CO2(e). Our players emitted a further 180 tonnes. Because we're offsetting 200% of our footprint, along with the emissions associated with our players playing the games, this adds up to about 1,700 tonnes CO2(e) that we are offsetting.

Space Ape Games' carbon footprint

Space Ape Games' carbon footprint

Step 3: Offset

Offsetting is a simple idea: you fund projects that remove or prevent greenhouse gas emissions. The challenge is finding high quality offsets that deliver tangible and measurable change.

There are a myriad of projects to offset carbon emissions through. Make sure you look into any you're considering to make sure that they have the science or strategic know-how to back up their claims. Consider, too, how you can do the most good, and also what resonates with your company. There are a number of categories of offsetting projects, chiefly:

  • Renewable Energy Projects (e.g. solar, wind, hydropower)
  • Energy Efficiency Projects (e.g. fuel efficient stoves, energy efficient buildings)
  • Land Use and Forestry (e.g. reducing deforestation, reforestation and soil management projects)

Offsetting your carbon footprint is a simple idea: you fund projects that remove or prevent greenhouse gas emissions

A good place to start is to ensure the projects you select are accredited by Verra or Gold Standard. These two organizations publish a great deal of data about the offsets they accredit, including project documentation, methodology and information about how projects are reviewed to ensure they really are achieving the goals they state.

Step 4: Mitigate

Calculating and offsetting emissions is just the first part. The real aim is to create a sustainable future where our lifestyles adapt to find solutions to stay the problem, and more importantly, reverse the effects.

We set a goal to reduce our emissions by 10% in 2020, and again 2021. We're still analysing our 2020 emissions but we think we identified a few ways to achieve these savings in 2021 as we return to our office and to international travel.

We will find efficiencies in our cloud usage to save 2% or more of our footprint. We're also committing to bring our annual flight total down from 1.7 million kms flown to 1.4 million kms, opting instead for conference calls or clustering travel for more efficient use of flying miles. One step we found valuable in 2019 was to work with building management on changing our energy supplier to renewables.

Longer term, for cloud and compute reliant companies like ours to get to totally clean, we will need to partner with businesses that lead the way in sustainability themselves.

Our partners being sustainable helps us be sustainable and going forward this will factor into our purchasing decisions.

A small part of mitigation, but one that's important to us, is about adjusting daily attitudes and behaviours. We realised that we can do much more to facilitate proper recycling in our studio, so we're adding clearer labelling and extra bins in each wing of our studio for easy access, as well as adding in an education piece about how to recycle, e.g. washing out containers.

We've also done an inventory on our weekly grocery shop, switching to products with less or recyclable packaging and we'll be offering our employees keep-cups for their daily coffee runs out of the studio.

You can find the full Green Games Guide here.

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