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Etsy Takes a Breathalyzer Test

Apr 19, 2011

by Josh Wise handmade and vintage goods

Josh Wise is Etsy’s Office Ecologist, responsible for sustainable operations and expansion of the workplace. Today we’re sharing a letter he wrote to Etsy staffers in our main Brooklyn office about thoughtfully reducing our energy consumption and carbon footprint.

We know that a breathing human emits about two to three pounds of CO2 per day. When you assemble 150 of us in an office space and add up our energy requirements, you’ve got some heavy breathing. No, really. We don’t have the ability to switch our entire building over to wind power just yet. So if you consider the emissions that come with generating the energy we use in our office, we’re basically a large organism exhaling a blast of CO2 into the atmosphere. CO2 in large quantities is bad, by the way. I hope you’re thinking what I’m thinking here: we need a breathalyzer test.

To that end, I went through our utility bills and looked specifically at our electricity usage since we first moved to 55 Washington Street. The chart below relates population (in blue) and kilowatt hours (in orange) on a month-by-month basis and covers an 18 month period.


As we grow in people and square footage, we obviously will require more energy. Still, the correlation isn’t always crystal clear. Seasonal temperature spikes, additional square footage and holiday lulls account for some of the strange looking peaks and valleys, but we can look at the trend line and imagine this basic wave form growing in magnitude as Etsy grows. Our goal should be to soften the peaks of this wave and think of innovative ways to keep the trend incline as gentle as possible.

As we enter the warmer months, when our energy demand will steadily rise, let’s re-emphasize and truly implement some office-wide practices, such as:

  • Turning off overhead and floor lighting when you are the last to leave a room or area.
  • Plugging all devices and adapters into powerstrips and turning the strip off when you are the last to leave your seating area. A device in the “off” position will continue to draw power unless it is unplugged completely or plugged into a power strip that is turned off. Don’t forget cell phones, monitors, lamps and personal fans!
  • Opening our windows to give the central air conditioning a rest on mild Spring days.
  • Re-calibrating our central air settings to better match our office hours and seasonal climate control requirements.
  • Avoiding breathing.

After this modest beginning, what I hope is that we’ll find more and more novel ways to gather, analyze and share this kind of information so that it becomes a bigger part of the way we design and maintain our workplace. After all, we create and own this space together. Troubleshooting and problem-solving becomes much more exciting when we do it as a community. Let’s. Do. This.

Powering down,
J. Wise

Earth Tones on the Blog


  • creativityismessy

    creativityismessy said 9 years ago

    My office is the posterchild for what not to do to save energy. Sometimes I think I am the only one who cares :( So I take it apon myself to do what I can. Lead by example right? BTW.... I have a few co-workers that I could assist with "avoid breathing"...

  • LeeLeesCloset

    LeeLeesCloset said 9 years ago

    My day job is in a hotel where we have multiple back offices and hallways. I always shut off the lights in an area that's not in use or offices that no one is occupying...I also unplug like you suggest! It does make a difference...oh and open my office window when I can : ) Avoid breathing...there are some days I'd love to! Great tips !

  • Mclovebuddy

    Mclovebuddy said 9 years ago

    would more plants such as spider plants everywhere (as carpeting for floors and walls and ceilings) help with the co2.

  • dreamyvintage

    dreamyvintage said 9 years ago

    very cool.. thank you for sharing. it looks like you guys are doing a great job in terms of keeping consumption under control, considering how many people joined the team! we also use power strips that can be turned off and open windows instead of air conditioning - nothing like fresh spring air :)

  • Jashme

    Jashme said 9 years ago

    I second Mclovebuddy's thought. More plants!

  • IlluminatedPerfume

    IlluminatedPerfume said 9 years ago

    Cool! How about becoming holistic, urban beekeepers and having hives on the roof top?

  • LittleMissDressUp

    LittleMissDressUp said 9 years ago

    Every industry needs to be more aware of energy consumption. I second this motion. We practice those helpful tips above in our own home. Every little bit helps.

  • 2CrochetHooks

    2CrochetHooks said 9 years ago

    I love keeping windows open. I love the fresh air.

  • designsbymarygrace

    designsbymarygrace said 9 years ago

    Love that the Etsy team cares so much! Thanks for all the helpful reminders!!

  • SoliDeoGloriaSDG

    SoliDeoGloriaSDG said 9 years ago

    Always refreshing to hear others also care about our planet! Well done guys ... every little bit helps. ;)

  • paramountvintage

    paramountvintage said 9 years ago

    good advice and good luck.

  • jungledread

    jungledread said 9 years ago

    I'll avoid breathing for as long as I can ^_^

  • MegansMenagerie

    MegansMenagerie said 9 years ago

    Great advice! Thanks!!!

  • brahmanda

    brahmanda said 9 years ago


  • NotYourGrandmasAttic

    NotYourGrandmasAttic said 9 years ago

    Excellent advice. Thanks.

  • Verdurebydesign

    Verdurebydesign said 9 years ago

    As we all make personal changes we will make a difference. We haven't tried the no breathing in our house yet :)

  • HotNeck

    HotNeck said 9 years ago

    Love this post! Every little thing we can each do is a step to a healthier planet!

  • impressionsbyjanelle

    impressionsbyjanelle said 9 years ago

    I hate air conditioning. There's nothing better than clean, fresh air!

  • leeflet

    leeflet said 9 years ago

    my family thinks I'm crazy, i constantly unplug everything!

  • MagnusJournals

    MagnusJournals said 9 years ago

    oh and i totally second more plants. especially some trees!

  • littleshopofphotos

    littleshopofphotos said 9 years ago

    Great article! Very interesting and useful information! This is so important for people to learn about...especially large offices, etc.! Avoid breathing! Haha!!!

  • Slowshirts

    Slowshirts said 9 years ago

    Can Etsy go Solar? Even a little bit?

  • rebourne

    rebourne said 9 years ago

    very cool article. perhaps you could tell us some other creative things you guys do: green roof? plants? solar offset? wind power? i'm always curious about what companies that i admire do to be more green.

  • auntjanecan

    auntjanecan said 9 years ago

    Plants!!! Lots of Spider plants. They are amazing at cleaning the air!

  • auctionjunkies

    auctionjunkies said 9 years ago

    Good advice.

  • MetroGypsy

    MetroGypsy said 9 years ago

    Ah yes-well said! Plants are a wonderful addition too!

  • WoodlandCottage

    WoodlandCottage said 9 years ago

    CFLs. Make sure those windows are sealed in really hot or cold weather (especially hot, looking at the chart)--maybe quilted window shades to insulate (and shade, in the summer) (a creative opportunity). And you guys should really invest in a programmable thermostat. Oh, and what Aunt Jane said--plants, lots of plants!

  • prisonbreak007

    prisonbreak007 said 9 years ago

    great advice

  • VonlenskaVintage

    VonlenskaVintage said 9 years ago

    this is awesome, thanks for sharing etsy! we need more people thinking this way! when i visited sweden and germany 4 years ago, our hotel room was powered with our room key in a front slot near the door- whenever we left the room, we automatically were powering down all the energy sucks we weren't using while we were out. it was kinda like, "duh, genius"

  • Parachute425

    Parachute425 said 9 years ago

    sorry - I dozed off somewhere around the graph

  • theroyal

    theroyal said 9 years ago

    just stop breathing... problem solved.

  • cjbcollectibles

    cjbcollectibles said 9 years ago

    Great article. Living in Western Pennsylvania, I am surrounded around discussions of natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale. Most people talk about the reduction of CO2 that natural gas brings, but forget about the increased amount of methane that releases into the air when drilling. I hope offices and schools all over the world can find away to harness wind and solar power, or at least reduce their electricity consumption.

  • TheIDconnection

    TheIDconnection said 9 years ago

    I live in the south and humidity has arrived! My home is surrounded by huge pine trees and I get the gulf coast breeze. Helps with turning on the AC. The Ocean Breeze is wonderful! Nice story. Monica TheIDConnection

  • elmstreetmarket

    elmstreetmarket said 9 years ago

    I heard that dark-colored monitor screens require less energy to display than bright white, so I sometimes use instead of google. Just imagine how many megawatts we could all save if Etsy had a dark background version as an option? It wouldn't look nearly as cute of course but it's a small price to pay to save our planet!

  • paperholiday

    paperholiday said 9 years ago

    Great info! I am going to apply some of these tips to my home!

  • necklush

    necklush said 9 years ago

    so great to see promopockets art in a blog post! YAY!!!

  • necklush

    necklush said 9 years ago

    and an interesting post it is, thanks for the info!!!

  • emwi

    emwi said 9 years ago

    Motion-sensor lights are a good option, too. In my school, we have these lights throughout, which is good as it is an art school and students may be inside at all hours of the night. I know this is often said, too, but really changing light bulbs to fluorescents saves so much energy. I know this from first hand experience. LEDs are becoming more affordable and warmer in light temperature as well. Right now, they're still somewhat pricey, but I have a feeling the more popular they become, the cheaper they will be. Also, they're supposed to last for 22 years! That's great if you have a super high pendant light. Great post! Thanks for sharing.

  • jdiffen

    jdiffen said 9 years ago

    Divide KWH by workforce. You then have a per capita energy use. This is a better target for engaging folks. If you can make KWH/person decline, then you are moving forward. You're letter talked about going wind but try not to 'produce your way' to being green. Consider efficiency first. Zillions of webpages on increasing efficiency. If Etsy owns its building you have many options for serious energy saving upgrades. If you're limited.

  • blessedvintage

    blessedvintage said 9 years ago

    We all need to go solar and look at wind turbines!

  • Tanith

    Tanith said 9 years ago

    Good advice. Thanks for sharing.

  • blueridgewoodworking

    blueridgewoodworking said 9 years ago

    I try to keep fresh air moving...but our shop is always coverd in saw dust or choked up with a purple spray cloud from finishing clear cloats. But on a nice day, I enjoy opening the roll up door and smell the country side. On our CO2, because of power tools...I can have somewhere 20-30 amps per hour or 15-20KWH. I have reduce light usage just to non esential areas...halls, stoarge, and places where windows can provide lighting is a start. When the roll door is up....half of the lights are off which will drop our KWH by 1/3. The other thing is power coards..... you don't need 25 foot extension cord for 8-10' a appliance cord they come in 6,8,10 and 12' lengths, longer the cord-higher the draw. The only thing that I unplug everything...except the computer...if's tool or a calculator, once it's pluged in the current is running all the way to the on/off switch...not in use , then unplug it...good on fire safety and good keping power usage down. One thing...circuit breakers...balance the amount amp draws tou your breakers...try set-up by spreading the power around...keeps the heat down in certain areas, keeps power issues from happening and allows equipment to operate smoothly. (very good article)

  • alatvian

    alatvian said 9 years ago

    great article! the not breathing thing could be hard while working! :)

  • promopocket

    promopocket said 9 years ago

    Wow, great article! thank you Josh for picked my work.

  • redemptionart

    redemptionart said 9 years ago

    Makes me feel good to be a part of this Hawaiian we say "Malama the Aina" or take care (malama) of the Earth (aina). Keep up the great work! aloha, connie

  • ASenseofPlacePhotogr

    ASenseofPlacePhotogr said 9 years ago

    Wonderful example on how to approach a business in a fun yet determined way ;)

  • ASenseofPlacePhotogr

    ASenseofPlacePhotogr said 9 years ago

    Wonderful example on how to approach a business in a fun yet determined way ;)

  • LittleWrenPottery

    LittleWrenPottery said 9 years ago

    Interesting article, I think its always too obvious to think about energy expenditure in terms of computers, lights etc. but people do use up energy just by being there. I tried to introduce more environmental intensives to the office but unfortunately our boss wouldn't adopt them.

  • SailThouForth

    SailThouForth said 9 years ago

    Good ideas to try to minimize environmental impact! I cringe to think of the energy wasted at my workplace. I do what I can. On mild spring/summer days, I open windows instead of running the a/c. I do this at home, too, both for the environment and my wallet! The fresh air is also so delicious, and my cat loves to sit in the open window. We also unplug our TV, computer, etc. when they are not in use. Why have the TV plugged in 24 hours a day when you're only using it for a couple?

  • whereswillie

    whereswillie said 9 years ago

    Good ideas! I long for the old days when the on/off switch was just that. I realize that it's impractical, but I wish they could put the transformers on the working side of a switch,rather than the wall side. In addition to the constant draw of power, the little black boxes give off heat and put a small additional load on air conditioners. (I suppose it helps a little in the winter.) We have way too many of these little power eaters in our home/shop.

  • ShellyMacdesigns

    ShellyMacdesigns said 9 years ago

    sharing with my friends & hoping they pass it on! Thanks :)

  • Vanessa Admin

    Vanessa said 9 years ago

    So glad we've got you greening us, Josh!

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