Crew Commentary

Your Carbon Footprint is Just the First Step

Bob Leonard - Climate Risk Manager


A standard tool to help individuals assess their contribution to climate change is a carbon footprint calculator. Hundreds of these calculators are available online, enabling you to input details like whether or not you wash your clothes in cold water, how often you eat beef, and what type of transportation you use to commute to work.


By their nature, carbon footprint calculators highlight individual actions while ignoring the impact of large industries or the role governments play in regulating those industries. Critics of carbon footprint calculators point out that they have been coopted by oil companies to shift blame away from the fossil fuel industry and on to everyday consumers.


One problematic aspect of how a carbon footprint is calculated is that many people have larger carbon footprints because they have little choice: much of our carbon footprint is baked in by forces outside of our control. We don’t control how our cities are laid out. We don’t control public transportation. We don’t control what country we’re born into. We may drive more because we live in an area with no mass transit, or drive less because we live in a densely populated city and don’t own a car.


A carbon footprint is a quantitative metric of righteousness. People use it to feel good about themselves, which we all want to do when we are fearful, worried or concerned. But then they turn it into a measure to judge other people.


That’s divisive and solving our climate crisis requires that we all (all of humanity) work together. It’s all hands on deck. Crews cooperate and collaborate. We need to cultivate crew consciousness. 


Maine, US


A Greater Contribution from Each of Us


Crew consciousness is a more holistic alternative. The main advantage of crew consciousness is that it goes beyond simple carbon accounting. The concept of crew consciousness enables us to take a comprehensive look at how we live (and how that can affect climate) beyond the amount of greenhouse gases we are responsible for. It highlights that we each have responsibilities for how our finite natural resources are consumed.


                                  Plano, TX


First coined by futurist David Houle and professor of Environmental Studies Tim Rumage in their 2015 book, “This Spaceship Earth”, crew consciousness aims to paint a picture of the full sum of one’s choices – and the impact they have on our global ecosystem.


NASA – Washington, DC


Crew consciousness is an evolution of mindset, from thinking of oneself as a passive passenger on Spaceship Earth, consuming without thought, to an aware and vigilant crew member on Spaceship Earth. Someone who has made the transition to crew consciousness tallies not just their heating and cooling use and the gas mileage of their car, but also how they vote, how many children they choose to have, how they invest their money, how much they talk about climate change with friends and family, and whether their words amplify urgency.




Rather than incentivizing purely individual actions, your crew consciousness grows when those actions inspire others, knowingly or otherwise.


Sarasota, FL


By extending far beyond individual actions, such as buying less stuff, crew consciousness more accurately reflects our broader impact. Greta Thunberg points out that she would have made a positive impact had she only decided to go vegan, but her impact is much larger due to her climate activism.


West Chester, PA


Crew consciousness encompasses individual and collective actions, both the tangible and intangible. Political engagement is not considered by the carbon footprint, but crew consciousness includes it. Voting for any politicians funded by big oil is particularly harmful to the fight against climate change. Crew members do their homework… they know the voting records of their representatives regarding climate issues.


Portland, OR


Crew Consciousness Facilitates Clarity of Thinking


It’s not either individual changes or system wide changes that we need to fix our climate crisis. It is both and everything in between. When a person is crew conscious, they see the world through a climate lens. They are climate literate, and they understand that everything is interconnected and that climate touches every part of our lives.


Georgetown, Grand Cayman


Unlike carbon footprint calculators, the objective is not to create a crew consciousness scorecard. Rather, it is a spiritual and moral reckoning. It is simply how we choose to live our lives in the middle of a climate crisis.


Porto, Portugal


It makes sense to view carbon footprints and crew consciousness as complementary rather than incompatible. Crew consciousness, once established, increases over time as a person learns more about the consequences (intended and unintended) of their actions and is able to course correct. The result is that their positive impact becomes larger and more profound.


NYC Marathon


Crew consciousness is an opportunity to launch stimulating discussions on responsibility for our climate crisis, and solutions for achieving carbon neutrality. Discussions at lunch with office mates can have tangible effects, although there’s no easy metric to measure those effects. Imagine taking that model to the extreme and convincing the CEO of a major corporation to train all employees on climate literacy and the collapse of biodiversity? Imagine the impact of championing crew consciousness throughout an organization, and supporting the climate actions of hundreds or thousands of employees?




Condition your consciousness. Change what comes into your awareness so that you can stay mindful of action-focused ways of living that preserve and regenerate the sacred world we belong to. Engage with thinkers and doers spending their time and energy on meaningful work responding to the critical issues of our time. Cultivate your own crew consciousness and influence others.

Are you crew?



Sarasota, FL