Posted by Matt on Thursday, December 16, 2010.

Reindeer, holiday carbon, and cloud computing

Every year we send out a little holiday card to our friends. This go ‘round the Brighter Planet Christmas elves (aka Andy) emerged from the workshop with something a bit more fun and fancy than in years past, so we thought we’d share it around. It’s a little website called Claus Freight. Give it a try!

Claus Freight parcel

At the risk of spoiling the punchline, we should probably address some questions that have been raised regarding the carbon neutrality of reindeer. It’s been rightfully pointed out that reindeer do in fact inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. So how can they be carbon neutral? Well, the carbon they exhale comes from the plants they eat (ok so lichens aren’t quite plants, but that’s another topic), plants that quite recently pulled this carbon from the atmosphere and would shortly have released back it into the atmosphere when they died had they not been eaten. So reindeer are carbon neutral in the same way burning sustainably harvested firewood is carbon neutral—as long as the carbon you’re releasing isn’t depleting long-term reserves, you’re in the clear.

We’ve also had some inquiries about how the holiday site works. It’s powered by our new cloud-based Carbon Middleware service, which lets users outfit their applications with carbon calculation capability by plugging into our emissions models behind the scenes. This particular application employs five of the models—shipping, fuels, purchases, pets, and flights. Every time you enter your info and push go, the site computes the carbon footprint of your gift and its shipping, in real time (you can click the emissions numbers to see detailed calculation methodologies). Intriguingly, it turns out the naughtier you’ve been, the smaller your holiday footprint…

Happy Holidays to all!

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