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First Person: A conversation with Elton Sherwin, venture capitalist turned climate change entrepreneur

Elton Sherwin, former cleantech venture capitalist turned accidental climate change entrepreneur talks with Lisa Van Dusen about his efforts to hunt down the most practical ways to make the planet "net zero" in carbon emissions by mid-century.

Through the Carbon Zero Institute, which he co-founded, Sherwin launched Gigaton Gifts, a website that makes it easy to purchase climate change remedies ranging from 50 mangrove trees for $9 to a 50-inch solar stove for a whole village for $165.

Sherwin's road to co-founding the Carbon Zero Institute was not a direct route. While his expertise in business--and personal--economics, public policy and climate science might appear to have prepped him for his role as executive director of CZI, it was a shocking PG&E bill that turned his attention to energy conservation and carbon reduction.

In the early 2000s, he built a new home for his family in Menlo Park, adhering to existing codes to make it the most energy efficient home possible. He was caught off guard by their first energy bill. The electricity portion exceeded a whopping $500. Not only did that greatly exceed his expectations, it exceeded electricity costs in his prior, less energy efficient home. After he "reverse engineered" his home's energy usage, learning about what created its carbon footprint, he wrote the book, Addicted to Energy: A Venture Capitalist's Perspective on How to Save Our Economy and Our Climate, in which he describes 70 things families and local communities can do to reduce consumption that don't require international agreements or policy change.

Carbon Zero Institute is dedicated to helping stop the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere through catalyzing research, testing and deployment of gigaton solutions to stop global warming.

Elton Sherwin is a bicycling enthusiast, whose bike is his main mode of transportation for both carbon reduction and good health.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by helpingEnvironment
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 16, 2013 at 12:41 pm

BRAVO!!!! Good going


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Kirk
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 16, 2013 at 12:56 pm

"In the early 2000s, he built a new home for his family in Menlo Park, adhering to existing codes to make it the most energy efficient home possible. He was caught off guard by their first energy bill. The electricity portion exceeded a whopping $500."

Wow! How large was that new house? [Portion removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hip, Hip...
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 16, 2013 at 1:37 pm

Thank you, Elton, for your priorities.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Wondering?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 16, 2013 at 1:48 pm

> How large was that new house?

How large indeed? But, interestingly, there is no mention as to how much his electric bill was once he "reverse engineered his home's energy use". Was this a winter month, or a summer month? And what was his gas bill?

Also missing from this article is just how much more wealth Mr. Elton believes he can wring out of the system with his new venture?



 +   Like this comment
Posted by Becky Sanders
a resident of Ventura
on Dec 16, 2013 at 2:40 pm

Dropbox this to me, Lisa! Great work.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Howard Hoffman
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 17, 2013 at 4:24 pm

Great Interview, Lisa. The most impressive thing that Elton said was at the end: Tax Carbon. Politics and Economics are the key to reducing carbon emissions. If those are in place, then the technology will follow. The US is still the Energy Hog of the world, although China, with 4 times the people, is nearly caught up in terms of total energy use. Per capita, the US still "leads".


 +   Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 17, 2013 at 7:47 pm

>> . . . in terms of total energy use. Per capita, the US still "leads".

Fact check please? Iceland, Kuwait, Luxembourg, Canada, maybe a half-dozen more.


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