Elton Sherwin: Climate Crusader

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

by Lisa Van Dusen / Palo Alto Weekly

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.

Note: Lisa Van Dusen is on the board of Carbon Zero Institute.

Host/interview, Lisa Van Dusen 

Video, Veronica Weber

Production manager, Paula Sandas

This conversation took place on December 4, 2013.