Charlie Grimsdale of xskarma: “Plant some trees”

Plant some trees. You only need to plant 100 trees in your lifetime to offset your personal carbon footprint! I felt this was a really positive way to show that we can all make a difference. OK that is a lot of trees but one a year is not so difficult to imagine. As part of […]

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Plant some trees. You only need to plant 100 trees in your lifetime to offset your personal carbon footprint! I felt this was a really positive way to show that we can all make a difference. OK that is a lot of trees but one a year is not so difficult to imagine.

As part of my series about what we must do to inspire the next generation about sustainability and the environment, I had the pleasure of interviewing Charlie Grimsdale.

Charlie is a software engineer turned entrepreneur, passionate about making music. He successfully founded built and sold two software companies in Bristol, UK, the second of these was the first legal music streaming service in Europe. This led to a stint as a Venture Capitalist and in turn an ongoing passion for start ups and Angel investing. But his first passion has always been making music, and Charlie now spends his time writing, recording, and producing music from his studio in the rolling hills outside Bristol.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?

I grew up on a farm and as such I have always been passionate about the environment. I fell in love with music at an early age and played piano, then in my early teens I took up the drums. I only ever really wanted to be a drummer in a rock band, but somehow I ended up studying Botanical Science at Bristol University. A peculiar twist of fate introduced me to computers, and aged 29 I founded my first software company and grew that business successfully listing on the London Stock exchange. I then co-founded a business called OD2 which became Europe’s first legal music streaming and subscription service. We sold the company in 2005 to Nokia and I became an Angel investor and then a Venture Capitalist, and I remain an active Angel investor.

I have always played drums in bands and I then decided to return to my first true love, and I opened a studio where I record local bands, and produce and write music. So finally, I have returned to where I started, and I am pursuing my dream as a drummer/songwriter/producer 😊

Was there an “aha moment” or a specific trigger that made you decide you wanted to become a scientist or environmental leader? Can you share that story with us?

It was a trip to Tanzania in 2011 that really got me thinking more about the desperate need for Conservation and the growing Climate Crisis. My first sighting of three male Cheetah out in the open Savannah of the Serengeti will stay with me forever. In 2014 there were estimated to be 15,000 cheetahs in the wild, by 2020 this estimate has fallen to 7,100. In another ten years there may be no cheetahs left in the wild.

Is there a lesson you can take out of your own story that can exemplify what can inspire a young person to become an environmental leader?

Get close to the natural beauty of a place and appreciate what we are about to lose.

Can you tell our readers about the initiatives that you or your company are taking to address climate change or sustainability? Can you give an example for each?

I decided to write a song about Climate Change, and our current path to Mass Extinction. This song describes the futility of trying to deny the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence for Climate Change, and pokes a little fun at some that still try to deny it.

It is a pretty dark subject and we put together an equally dark video with a little satire to try and lighten the message.

The impact of Climate change can be overwhelming, and it is easy to feel powerless to make a difference. So, I decided to try and create a positive and simple call to action. Streaming music funds “TreesForChimpanzees”

My wife and I decided to make a significant donation to a charity that is helping to plant trees in the Albertine Rift area of Uganda. This donation is also linked to the number of times people stream the song. So, in disseminating the message you are directly helping to preserve a critical habitat for Chimpanzees.

The tree planting program is a partnership between and the Jane Goodall Institute . The aim is to plant 3 million trees as part of a broad long-term and large-scale initiative that will connect forests for wildlife, strengthen forest monitoring and law enforcement to prevent future deforestation, promote agroforestry practices that integrate trees into farming systems, and much more.

The Albertine Rift is acknowledged as a major centre of bio-diversity. It ranks first out of the 119 distinct terrestrial eco-regions of continental Africa in terms of endemic species of birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians, and second in terms of globally threatened species.

Can you share 3 lifestyle tweaks that the general public can do to be more sustainable or help address the climate change challenge?

  1. Wherever possible use public transport, or cycle, but if you need a car buy an electric vehicle.
  2. Ensure your house is well insulated, and if possible fit solar panels.
  3. Stop wasting food! Eat 100% of what you buy and lobby Supermarkets to donate all food waste to charity.

Each year, we waste 1.3 gigatons of edible food and this releases 3.3 gigatons of CO2. That is 6.5% of the total global CO2 emission in a year. Wasted food accounts for more greenhouse gas emissions globally than all the commercial flights we take each year.

Ok, thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our interview: The youth led climate strikes of September 2019 showed an impressive degree of activism and initiative by young people on behalf of climate change. This was great, and there is still plenty that needs to be done. In your opinion what are 5 things parents should do to inspire the next generation to become engaged in sustainability and the environmental movement? Please give a story or an example for each.

  1. Show them the beauty of nature. Try to visit the wilder regions of the world and build an awareness of how fragile these places are.
  2. Explain that we need action now but there is still hope. We have a pretty good idea how to address the ClimateCrisis and we could get to a Net Zero position by 2050. We can generate enough electricity to support the planet through: solar, wind, nuclear, and other carbon neutral methods of generation. We can remove fossil fuel powered vehicles from the planet. We can reduce our consumption of meat and change agricultural practices to reduce their impact.
  3. Plant some trees. You only need to plant 100 trees in your lifetime to offset your personal carbon footprint! I felt this was a really positive way to show that we can all make a difference. OK that is a lot of trees but one a year is not so difficult to imagine.
  4. Get passionate about recycling. If parents demonstrate by example then children will usually follow, or at least until they hit their teens and want to do the opposite 😊 Unfortunately, I am still trying to follow my wife’s instructions on which bucket to put all the different plastic bits in. So, packaging companies need to make everything recyclable and clearly labelled so that even an idiot like me can follow.
  5. Make it cool to be green. There is a sea change in public opinion underway, and we need to do everything we can to accelerate that movement. If it becomes cool to own an electric car, and to have solar panels, and to use only re-cyclable packing then surely that can only help.

How would you articulate how a business can become more profitable by being more sustainable and more environmentally conscious? Can you share a story or example?

Amazing opportunities always arise at the inflection points when attitudes or resources change. Companies which innovate rapidly and find new ways to operate, invariably end up as market leaders. In many cases large incumbent suppliers have too much invested in the status quo and they can’t change fast enough, so it is new startups that create the real innovation. Tesla has been one of the great innovators of the last fifteen years. It was obvious that electric vehicles were going to be essential to reduce fossil fuel consumption, and Elon Musk embraced that vision and invested heavily ahead of the competition to create a new brand. Ford had the capital and the know how to potentially own the early market for electric cars, but they were risk averse and failed to make the necessary change of strategy.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I will be forever grateful to Peter Gabriel (musician and visionary) for his support in the foundation of my second business. In 2000 we came up with a plan to create a software platform to allow consumers to legally download and stream music whilst protecting the music so that people could not copy and share it on Kazaa or Limewire. Peter was visionary enough to see that streaming of music was the future, and he invested alongside me to bootstrap that business. We ended up launching the first streaming services in Europe in 2002 with a proposition that looked very like Spotify looks today. We were successful enough and the business ended up being acquired by Nokia, but my biggest regret is that I sold the business too early. We were probably four to five years ahead of the market, a good example that timing is everything as an innovator.

You are a person of great influence and doing some great things for the world! If you could inspire a movement that would bring the greatest amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I am a person of little or no influence, but I am passionate about how we need to innovate and drive for change.

I would like to make even a tiny contribution to a movement that helps to redress the carbon imbalance. For the last 50 years we have paid oil companies billions of dollars to pump oil and gas out of the ground, and we have enriched whole nations in the process. There are massive carbon sinks in the forests of Africa, and Amazonia, and other native rain forests. So why should we not now pay the custodians of those forests to sequester CO2 and put it back in the ground. We need to make it more economically attractive to leave the forest in place rather than cut it down to plant soybeans, or grassland to feed cattle. We need to accept that there is a massive environmental cost to the extraction and burning of fossil fuels, and those that have profited from that activity must be prepared to shoulder a portion of that cost through a higher ‘carbon extractor tax’, and we as consumers will have to shoulder the rest through higher fuel duties. Those revenues should be fed back to the countries that are preserving our natural resources.

This could have a massive impact on the economies of sub-Saharan Africa, Brazil, Indonesia, and others. We could transform the livelihood of farmers in Uganda, Congo, Mali, Ghana, etc.. by providing financial subsidies for every hectare of native forest that is retained and re-planted. This would provide food and income for communities currently facing mass poverty. It also offers long-term change, improving soil fertility on the boundaries of these forests, and tackling the effects of the climate crisis.

Do you have a favorite life lesson quote? Can you tell us how that was relevant to you in your own life?

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” — Calvin Coolidge

Several times in my career I was faced with what seemed like unsurmountable problems, and ultimately only determination saved me.

What is the best way for people to follow you on social media?

Twitter: xskarma_music

Instagram: xskarma_music

This was so inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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