Carbonfund.org and National Geographic Society (NGS) have been partners in the fight against global climate change since 2009. Our relationship with NGS is managed by Mr. Hans Wegner, Chief Sustainability Officer at the Society whose leadership in the sustainability realm has been an inspiration to everyone at our Foundation.

In 2011, Han’s leadership with the NGS “Green Team” led to his team receiving our For People and Planet award in the “Media” category for their efforts to reduce carbon dioxide (C02) emissions.

These efforts included reducing emissions from their operations by 80% with an additional goal of reducing emissions from their magazine paper and printing materials supply chain by 10% by 2015. The team has succeeded at numerous other efforts from obtaining Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design for Existing Buildings (LEED-EB) Gold Status for their headquarters building to compost and recycling programs in their cafeteria.

Since the origin of our relationship, with NGS, the Society has been a key supporter of several of our projects including the Purus REDD+ (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) Project in Acre, Brazil, and the Native Species Reforestation Project in Panama to offset the Society’s respective travel and office emissions.

We had the opportunity to speak with Hans on his impressive 41 years at the National Geographic Society and his broader work in the sustainability realm.


1.      Please describe your current role as Chief Sustainability Officer at NGS and what lead you to that position?

 I came to the Society in 1973, with a background in commercial printing. I came here to work in one of the photographic labs, compiling film for wall maps for 1.5 years and subsequently became responsible for the production and then the manufacturing of the Magazine. During that time I also handled all paper purchasing for the Society so I became very conversant with the issues related to paper manufacturing and the paper market. I took particular interest in learning all I could about the environmental impacts of all aspects of paper making; from seedling in the ground to recycling of old paper products. I took great pride in working with our paper suppliers to make sure they abide by or exceeded all applicable environmental regulations.

In 2006 I headed up a group of concerned NGS employees who felt we as an organization could do more to reduce the impact our operations had on climate change and to raise our collective awareness of our responsibility to conduct our business sustainably. Our groups focused on measuring the carbon emissions that we as a company were responsible for, including those emitted on our behalf by our suppliers. We knew we had to know our corporate carbon footprint, not only in the aggregate, but by product line or service sector so we could have a roadmap for the remedial actions we wanted to take. On the basis of this information, we made our buildings carbon neutral, achieved LEED-EB Gold status for our complex, and certified our campus as Energy Star rated and implemented many energy saving features.

On the basis of our success, I was designated Chief Sustainability Officer in 2009.

2.      How did you get started in sustainability work? Who or what inspired you to go into a career in sustainability?

I have always had an inclination to try to be environmentally responsible and I like to think of myself as acting on what I know to be true. This is what led me to set environmental policy for our paper suppliers when I was handling paper purchasing for the Society, implementing a requirement to use best forest management practices, to exceed the guidelines of the Clean Air and Water Acts. In the mid 1990's I became increasingly convinced of not only the fact of climate change, but the reality that it was human activity that was causing this phenomenon. Additionally human activity was consuming finite natural resources at obviously unsustainable rates. I was of course aware that the Society was publishing or producing related stories in our Magazine and TV productions on these subjects so the problem was not a lack of public awareness of the issues but rather a problem of failing to act on what we know. I felt compelled to make a difference and to act, so I began talking to people and knew there was a critical mass of my colleagues who felt strongly, wanted to help, and were willing to volunteer their time to make a difference. That led to the formation of the GoGreen Committee (Now Green Team) which has been meeting monthly since late 2006 and is leading the sustainability initiative at the Society.

3.      What personal accomplishments in the sustainability realm are you most proud of? 

I would have to say being instrumental in starting the sustainability initiative at the Society and thereby creating an awareness that we as an organization and as individuals could and needed to do more than we were. 

As to specifics: 1) Focusing our efforts on knowing our carbon footprint and focusing our efforts at reducing that that footprint by eliminating waste where we found it and thereby eliminating the cost of that waste. 2) Setting and then achieving the goal of becoming a carbon neutral facility and qualifying our Buildings for LEED-EB Gold certification. 3) Doing the most comprehensive Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) ever done on a Magazine in cooperation with our paper and printing suppliers. This was completed in 2009. 4) Convincing the Society to become a Triple Bottom Line (TBL) driven company in 2012. 5) Committing the Society to the idea of offsetting our scope III carbon (all indirect emissions except for purchased electricity, heat and steam). To date, we have reduced our scope III by over 20% since 2008.

4.      What are you currently working on in the sustainability realm?

We are working with our suppliers of printing and digital media storage to document their emissions on our behalf and to look into renewable energy for those emissions. We are working to achieve carbon neutral status for everything we do, and to send zero waste to landfill. My goal is to have sustainability become part of the culture of the Society.

5.      What is your personal biggest sustainability challenge?

Changing behavior at our company and getting more companies to start addressing climate change. Behavior changes are hard. Energy has always been cheap in the US, and the challenge is to change that perception and get people to change their behavior and use less. The other challenge is for all of us to personalize climate change and take responsibility for that change. At the end of the day each of us must make a commitment to change if we are to solve this problem. We all have the tendency to wait for someone else to start. Don't wait for someone else. You do it. Each of us can start today by: not leaving lights on, shortening the showers we take, using mass transit, recycling everything we can, etc.

6.      What is going to be the biggest challenge for sustainability in the next 20 years?

Complacency on the part of most of us. Dependence on someone else to do the job for us. Ignoring the noise from the fossil fuel industry to say everything is OK when it is clearly not. A Congress that is divided to the point of dysfunction, so no federal leadership is possible. The naysayers that persist in trying to say that this is not a problem, and it is bad for the economy to address this issue. The fear mongers who wish to use this issue to divide us rather than to say here is a challenge we can unite on and fix.

7.      For the next generation of environmental professionals, what advice would you give?

You do not have to be an expert. Read and act on what you know. Make the business case that waiting is paramount to throwing money away and that America cannot compete with clean economies around the world. Make the business case that inaction, or little action, is far, far more expensive and costly to jobs and prosperity than the most drastic actions we take today.

8.  How did Carbonfund.org help you achieve your sustainability goals?

Carbonfund.org has been able to find projects for us to help us offset our use of natural gas to heat our buildings and use in our cafeteria. It has also helped us find projects that offset our business travel. My question to any offset provider has always been: Can you get me a two 'fer or three 'fer? By which I mean I am looking for projects that not only reduce carbon buildup in the atmosphere by adding sequestration capacity, but does doing so expand the habitat for an endangered species (either flora or fauna) in an area, thereby enhancing the possibility of that species' survival? So I am always interested in finding projects that have multiple benefits with the primary one being carbon emissions reductions. So far, Carbonfund.org has done a really good job finding such projects for us.

9. Why did you choose to work with Carbonfund.org?

In keeping with the idea of sourcing locally, I liked that Carbonfund.org is in fact local to Washington DC metro area. I also like the fact of Carbonfund.org being a not-for-profit, as I believe that addressing climate change should not be a profit driven undertaking. That is not to say that we should not do business with for profit entities, it is just that if not-for-profit is an option; that is my preference so we can put more dollars into emissions reductions.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a report, titled Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, from Working Group II of the IPCC, on Monday that says climate change's effects are already happening across the globe.  No continent, country or ocean is immune.  Unfortunately, in many cases, the world is not prepared for risks from a changing climate.  The report determines there are opportunities to respond to such risks but the risks become difficult to manage the more global warming there is.

"With high levels of warming that result from continued growth in greenhouse gas emissions, risks will be challenging to manage, and even serious, sustained investments in adaptation will face limits," said Chris Field, Co-Chair of Working Group II.  Field added: "Understanding that climate change is a challenge in managing risk opens a wide range of opportunities for integrating adaptation with economic and social development and with initiatives to limit future warming. We definitely face challenges, but understanding those challenges and tackling them creatively can make climate-change adaptation an important way to help build a more vibrant world in the near-term and beyond."

The report outlines climate change impacts experienced thus far, future risks from global warming and opportunities to reduce risks.  Some of the impacts of climate change that have already happened affect: agriculture, human health, ecosystems on land and in the oceans, water supplies, and some people's livelihoods.  Climate change doesn't care whether your country is rich or poor, whether you're located in the tropics or the South Pole, on a small island or land-locked on a large continent.  It is affecting everyone on the planet and we must prepare now or pay a higher price later.  The scary thing is that there are limits, even on the price we can pay.

"We live in an era of man-made climate change," said Vicente Barros, Co-Chair of Working Group II.  "In many cases, we are not prepared for the climate-related risks that we already face. Investments in better preparation can pay dividends both for the present and for the future."

Rajendra Pachauri, Chair of the IPCC, said: "The Working Group II report is another important step forward in our understanding of how to reduce and manage the risks of climate change.  Along with the reports from Working Group I and Working Group III, it provides a conceptual map of not only the essential features of the climate challenge but the options for solutions."

The Working Group I report was released in September 2013 and the Working Group III report will be released in April 2014.  The IPCC Fifth Assessment Report cycle ends with the publication of its Synthesis Report in October 2014. 

The Working Group II contribution to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (WGII AR5) is available at www.ipcc-wg2.gov/AR5 and www.ipcc.ch.

Spring is here, snow is melting in the northern regions… and lawn care season is just around the corner!  For homeowners in the Fairport/Rochester, NY, area, there’s a new choice for mowing and lawn care service that’s committed to Carbonfree® operations.

Carbon Cutters is a multifaceted lawn care service provider offering environmentally responsible and organic lawn care services. The company’s pledge to sustainability can be seen in all aspects of its business practices, including a recent decision to join Carbonfund.org’s Carbonfree® Business Partnership program. 

“At Carbon Cutters, we take the environment into consideration with every aspect of our business, from the tools we use to the shirts we wear,” explains Steve Popp, Owner.  “We use all electric equipment that will be charged by solar power. We use only environmentally friendly and organic techniques for lawn fertilization. We have partnered with Carbonfund.org to help us offset whatever carbon we generate from our daily business.” 

Carbon Cutters was created after recognizing the negative impact of conventional lawn care industry on the environment and seeking to provide a carbon neutral alternative.  As Steve puts it, “At Carbon Cutters, we cut the carbon and the chemicals, but never the quality!”  Carbonfund.org applauds Carbon Cutters’ commitment to environmental sustainability and creating a clean alternative to traditional lawn care practices. 

One cup of premium loose leaf tea inspired Beth Johnston to get into the tea business, and environmental responsibility drives the company’s commitment to organic teas, sustainability practices and Carbonfree® business operations. 

“Conserving our planet’s precious resources has always been a personal concern for me. With our continued expansion, both importing and shipping customer orders, I felt a further responsibility to take it on corporately,” says Beth Johnston, Founder and CEO.  “We had been looking for an effective way to offset the impact Teas Etc. has on the environment but also wanted to give our customers the choice to offset theirs. We did our homework, looked at a couple of different options and decided that Carbonfund.org was the right partner to help us meet our goals.”

For the seventh consecutive year, Teas Etc. is offsetting its own carbon footprint with Carbonfund.org by supporting renewable energy, energy efficiency and reforestation projects. In an effort to generate greater awareness about sources of carbon emissions, Teas Etc. offers customers the option of offsetting the carbon footprint created by shipping their orders.  To date, Teas Etc. and its customers have neutralized the same quantity of emissions as would be sequestered by almost 11,000 tree seedlings grown for ten years.

Teas Etc is has provided premium quality award winning teas and modern accessories to wholesale and retail customers for over 15 years.   The company is USDA certified to package and to distribute organic products, and has a complete line of organic teas.  In addition to their tea line, the company manufactures the innovative, award winning Tea Traveler® that allows tea drinkers to enjoy loose leaf teas on-the-go.  The company opened in 1998 with its headquarters in Palm Beach, FL has an office in Nanjing, China and a permanent show room at AmericasMart in Atlanta, GA.

In addition toCarbonfree® operations,Teas Etc. supports a local recycling program, utilizes recycled paper goods, biodegradable packing materials and chemical-free cleaning products.   Their ongoing commitment to environmental sustainability, high quality products and excellent customer services confirms Teas Etc. as a leader in responsible online premium loose leaf tea retailing and wholesaling.

Friday, 28 March 2014 14:30

Why Forest Conservation is so Important

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This is the first of a monthly blog series about our forest conservation projects in Brazil.  This month's blog gives an overview of tropical deforestation and an introduction to our projects.  In future months, topics shall include updates on the projects' biodiversity, highlights of community projects, stories from the field, and status of the projects' certifications.   

Tropical deforestation is a global problem because such deforestation is responsible for approximately 15-20% of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, reduces habitat availability for a tremendous amount of biodiversity, and further threatens the livelihoods of forest-dependent communities.  With this in mind, only 2% of the world’s total surface area is home to rainforests yet rainforests are home to 50% of the world's plant and animals.  Shockingly, according to The Nature Conservancy, "every second, a slice of rainforest the size of a football field is mowed down. That's 86,400 football fields of rainforest per day, or over 31 million football fields of rainforest each year."

Because of the support of our generous donors, the Carbonfund.org Foundation created its wholly-owned subsidiary, CarbonCo, to design, finance, implement, and manage large-scale forest conservation projects.  Our projects help mitigate this trend of tropical deforestation while also preserving precious rainforest habitat and providing alternative economic opportunities for local communities.  These projects, known as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) projects, are essentially payment for ecosystem service projects which rely on the sale of verified emission reductions (VERs), commonly known as carbon offset credits.

As of today, CarbonCo has several REDD+ projects in the Western State of Acre, Brazil which are protecting more than 700,000 acres.  To help visualize how large these projects are, consider that 700,000 acres is the equivalent to approximately 1,100 square miles.  This is almost as large as the entire state of Rhode Island (1,545 square miles), about the size of the urban area of Paris, France (1,098 square miles) and more than twice the size of New York City (470 square miles).

Our projects are named the Purus, Russas, Valparaiso, and Envira Amazonia Projects.  The Purus Project was the first-ever REDD+ project in Acre to be validated (audit of project design) and verified (audit of project’s performance) to the leading international carbon certifications known as the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) and the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Standard (CCBS) with Gold Distinction for exceptional biodiversity benefits.  The Russas Project was validated to the CCBS with Gold Distinction for exceptional community benefits and is pending validation to the VCS.  The Valparaiso and Envira Amazonia Projects are also being designed to the VCS and CCBS with Gold Distinction.

Now that we have provided some background on forest conservation, stay tuned for next month's blog post with a more in-depth view of our specific REDD+ projects!

According to the "Climate Change in the American Mind" report, 33 percent of Americans said they believed there was widespread disagreement among scientists and four percent said that "most scientists think global warming is not happening." Less than half (42 percent) of Americans knew that "most scientists think global warming is happening."

The fossil fuel industry is waging a successful disinformation campaign.  They took their strategy straight from Big Tobacco, who successfully bred doubt for many years that health experts were undecided on whether or not smoking cigarettes negatively impacted health.  The idea seems laughable now, but we need to address the serious situation of the ailing health of our planet.

In fact, 97 percent of experts agree climate change is happening and it is human-caused.  A new report was released this week from the world’s largest scientific society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).  The report entitled, "What We Know" doesn’t presume to tell Americans what to think about global warming.  Instead it says in the introduction that, "we consider it to be our responsibility as professionals to ensure, to the best of our ability, that people understand what we know: human-caused climate change is happening, we face risks of abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes and responding now will lower the risk and cost of taking action."

Honestly, the first step of admitting that climate change is happening and that humans are the cause is less about blame and more about recognizing that there is a problem before we can take the logical next step to solve it.

I hope we can see the misinformation about climate change for what it is and start making changes before things look like this Isaac Cordal sculpture depicting politicians discussing global warming.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014 12:19

EnvyDerm Cosmetics Becomes Carbonfree® Business Partner

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Environmentally-responsible companies in the cosmetics industry face a challenge to ensure that their products contain healthy, safe and sustainably sourced ingredients.  Southern California-based EnvyDerm Cosmetics takes this responsibility seriously, and recently took the additional step to become a Carbonfree® Business Partner, neutralizing its estimated annual operational emissions by supporting forestry projects through Carbonfund.org.    

EnvyDerm Cosmetics is a high performance cosmetics company that manufactures healthy good-for-you eye and lip products using natural and organic ingredients and eco-friendly packages.  EnvyDerm continues to grow with a passion to offer a complete eyelash and lip enhancement product line that is safe, scientifically proven and fits a wide array of customers' needs.

"We strive to create cosmetics products that are healthy and good for you with less impact on the environment,” stresses Nadia Smith, Founder and CEO.  “Partnering with Carbonfund.org is a natural step in our advocacy efforts and a step further in our effort to not just beautify our customers but further contribute to beautify Earth." 

Part of EnvyDerm’s mission is to keep the planet beautiful and clean for the future.  The company works hard to implement sustainable and eco-friendly measures to reduce its environment impact.  That’s why they manufacture locally in California,  source eco-friendly packaging that is made from 100% recycled material, and source organic ingredients for products as much as possible.  These commitments along with their Carbonfree® operations set EnvyDerm above conventional cosmetics companies as a more environmentally responsible choice for its customers. 

2014 is shaping up to be another strong year for continued environmental leadership by Carbonfund.org’s business partners.  These companies understand the value in maintaining effective sustainability programs that demonstrate their commitment to environmental responsibility.  

Entering its fifth year as a Carbonfree® Business Partner, Software for Good is a design-driven software engineering team producing complete digital solutions for companies doing great things.   

“We are thrilled to be part of the Carbonfree® Business Partnership,” states Casey Helbling, founder and CEO of Software for Good.  “By calculating, reducing, and offsetting our carbon footprint, we are helping to change the status quo and redefine what it means to be a responsible business.” 

To date, Software for Good’s carbon emissions offset donations have supported Carbonfund.org’s carbon reduction projects, neutralizing the same quantity of emissions as are created by a standard passenger car driving almost 600,000 miles. 

Software for Good team members and clients share a vision for what a healthy and sustainable community can be.  They follow the triple bottom line business model, investing equally in people, planet, and profit.  

A great example of Software for Good’s work can be seen in the rebuild for RE-AMP’s website.   The organization is composed of over 150 non-profits and foundations across the US Midwest focused on climate change and energy policy.  The new website focuses on user engagement and easy ongoing site maintenance, so that the various groups can work collaboratively to create a healthier, more sustainable world. 

Software for Good demonstrates its environmental stewardship through the work it performs for its clients and in its continuing commitment to carbon-neutral operations through the Carbonfree® Business Partnership program.

Professor David Dornfeld is the Will C. Hall Family Chair in Engineering and Chair of the Mechanical Engineering Department at UC-Berkeley, where he has taught for over 30 years.  Professor Dornfeld has been working in and teaching sustainable manufacturing for over a decade and writes a green manufacturing blog.  His interest in hands-on experiences in sustainability encouraged the establishment of a student-led carbon emissions footprinting project for the Laboratory for Manufacturing and Sustainability (LMAS) at UC-Berkeley.

In 2008, Professor Dornfeld and his students launched the program to assess, estimate and attempt to reduce LMAS’ annual carbon footprint.  The students were tasked to come up with the carbon footprinting methodology, set the project boundaries, and calibrate the emission source calculations. 

As part of the project’s development, students surveyed carbon offset providers and selected to work with Carbonfund.org, due to competitive pricing for offsets, name recognition, transparency of operations, and ease of working with Carbonfund.org staff. 

The project’s goal to reduce the lab’s carbon footprint is challenged as the lab is part of a larger university facility.  Neither Professor Dornfeld nor any of the mechanical engineering students can directly control the lab’s energy consumption, although the lab benefits from broader University sustainability measures such as energy efficient lighting installations.    One of largest components of the department’s annual carbon footprint is emissions related to travel for conferences and meetings, so efforts are made to use video conferencing versus in-person event attendance.  This illustrates one of the benefits of the project -- to make students more aware of personal choices and resulting carbon emissions. 

After five years of assessing and neutralizing the lab’s annual carbon emissions, the Laboratory for Manufacturing and Sustainability in the Mechanical Engineering Department at UC Berkeley has mitigated the same quantity of carbon dioxide as is sequestered by 6 acres of preserved US forestland.

The UC-Berkeley Mechanical Engineering Department’s experiential learning project to assess, reduce and offset its annual carbon footprint has had a real and measurable impact, and Carbonfund.org is proud to be a partner in these efforts.

 

It’s still early in this new year, and with Earth Day approaching next month, it’s a great time to look for ways to improve, expand and enrich your commitments to protecting and preserving our environment. 

During 2013, Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery of St. Helena, CA augmented their organic agricultural practices and environmental sustainability initiatives by offsetting business flight emissions through Carbonfud.org.  This year, Spottswoode took the additional step to allocate a larger portion of its 1% for the Planet pledge to join the Carbonfree® Business Partnership program, thus neutralizing all of their annual operational emissions by supporting Carbonfund.org’s carbon reduction and clean air projects around the world.    

“Climate Change is the defining issue of our time, and we feel strongly that we must be a part of the solution to this global crisis,” explains Beth Novak Milliken, President and CEO of Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery.  “We take our commitment to the environment seriously, and through our actions, we hope to inspire others to care for and respect our natural resources as well.” 

Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery is a family-owned vineyard and winery renowned for producing classic and refined wines that honor their vineyard origins. The balance, grace, and integrity reflected in their wines also drive a commitment to organic farming and stewardship of the winery’s gardens, historic building, and local watershed. 

Spottswoode Estate Vineyard and Winery has farmed organically since 1985 and became a California Certified Organic Farmer in 1992.  In addition, Spottswoode is certified Napa Green by the Napa Valley Vintners, uses solar power in their vineyard and winery, maintains insectaries and bird boxes in the vineyard, runs tractors on biodiesel and works to conserve water.  The winery spearheaded the restoration of Spring Creek, which defines the southern boundary of their vineyard and is shared with many residential neighbors.  The expansion of the winery’s environmental responsibility to mitigate all operational carbon emissions through the Carbonfree® Business Partnership demonstrates an ongoing dedication to the health of land and air upon which Spottswoode Estate Vineyard and Winery depends.  

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