People of Net Zero: Nicole Shanahan and Sergey Brin

Nicole Shanahan

People of Net Zero is a series highlighting the stories of people using Joro to track, reduce, and offset their emissions, and amplify their impact with community action. 


Tracking my relationship with carbon is like tracking everything else in my life -- my monthly spending, my social media accounts, my Oura ring and Fitbit data. In many ways, it is more gratifying because it is the most authentic, life-affirming activity I do on a daily basis. Home gardening, for example, something I and millions of Americans did during the pandemic, puts me ankle deep in the carbon cycle. As the plants grow, and the bugs spawn, and the lizards are drawn into the space, I see carbon placed properly --  inside of life, deep within the soil, and out the atmosphere.


Changing our relationship with carbon and the climate


Life is a matter of decisions, and it is also a matter of relationships; relationships to other people, to ourselves, and to the environment around us. Approaching our relationship with carbon with curiosity, love, generosity, and connectedness is one way we build a healthy relationship with our climate. I have no doubt in the human capacity to do it. Our combined efforts are incredibly powerful.


While so much of the current focus on climate is about the immense loss and damage our relationship with carbon has caused, it is important to also consider how many benefits fossil fuels have given us. As we look at the greenhouse gas emissions over the past 120 years, there is a larger story at play. 


Emissions over the last century 


One-quarter of the emissions from the last century are from electricity and heat production -- heating homes and buildings so families comfortably shelter during the winter. Fossil fuels also generate the electricity to power radios, phones, and computers to connect dearest friends and family, enable sharing of information with colleagues, and empower us to experience the worldwide web of knowledge. These were transformative advancements that expanded access to health and wellness, democratized access to information, and improved communities. 


Transportation also is a significant source of emissions, accounting for one-third of the emissions in the United States, but it is also what moves food from farms to kitchen tables, and people from homes to schools, jobs, and our most beloved hobbies. 


We have thrived thanks, in part, to fossil fuels. And in truth, we can thrive without them. Human connectedness, human ingenuity, and compounding intellectual capacity does not cease when we put an end to burning fossil fuels. There are alternatives for each of our emissions categories, and most excitingly, some of these alternatives even sequester carbon, and thus help us work down our enormous carbon debt. 


Getting to Net Zero 


Paying off our carbon debt is not a simple process. Unfortunately, you can’t just plant one billion trees overnight without some major consequences and, certainly you can’t do it with any certainty that those trees will actually remove carbon from the atmosphere in a lasting way. This is why building a carbon sequestration portfolio across different approaches is so necessary. 


I work with Joro because I believe everyone can take climate action and together, all our efforts can -- and do -- add up to meaningful progress in addressing the climate crisis. Joro’s approach is special. Through the app, Joro provides a way for anyone to take meaningful climate action and work toward living Net Zero. 


My husband, Sergey, and I are committed to reducing our emissions. We offset those that we are responsible for by purchasing carbon credits at the rate of 10 times our annual emissions, which we do alongside advocacy, philanthropy, and other efforts to support creating a net zero world. I couldn't think of a more powerful act than to fund projects that are drawing CO2 from the atmosphere. 


For this purchase, we turned to Joro, a trusted channel to fund really important climate projects efficiently. Joro’s methodology ensures that we are supporting efforts that experts have vetted for long-term impact. Tracing carbon removal is a historically challenging problem. Joro selects projects that meet standards including enforceability, permanence, and transparency. The projects are also extremely diverse in their technical nature, ranging from breakthrough carbon removal technologies, to known natural carbon removal methods like forestry and regenerative agriculture. I am confident these projects will have permanent, positive impact.


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