CarbonFree® Business Partner Sitka Technology Group of Portland, OR designs, builds and manages customized software applications for sustainability-focused businesses, governmental agencies and not-for-profit organizations.  Sitka’s systems can help businesses improve their operational efficiency while reducing overall energy consumption as well.    

The folks at Sitka believe that a commitment to sustainable business practices goes beyond helping their clients reach sustainability goals – Sitka maintains and achieves its own operational sustainability initiatives as well.  For Sitka, this means operating in a small physical footprint, participating in our CarbonFree® business partnership program to neutralize their operational greenhouse gas emissions each year for the past four years, using local service providers whenever possible, and patronizing Portland’s public transportation system and bicycle routes.

"Carbonfund.org makes it easy for a small company like ours to offset its carbon footprint,” states Matt Deniston, one of the Managing Partners at Sitka Technology Group. 

We appreciate the partnership of sustainably-focused businesses like Sitka Technology Group and we commend them for managing their own operational activities to reduce overall emissions while supporting our energy efficiency projects and reducing the threat of climate change.  

Environmental organizations, I believe, do a notoriously poor job communicating for our audience the positive of what we do, the results we achieve and the change we accomplish, whether they focus on carbon, energy, water, smog, soil or any number of environmental problems. The ability to connect business leaders, consumers and environmental activists with the positive climate results we aim to solve is crucial. I often feel we do a better job highlighting the problem (also critical), but not on sharing the results. So I want to address how carbon offsets, or carbon credits, help reduce the effects of climate change, catalyze encourage low carbon technology and help pave the way to a cleaner, more sustainable environment for all of us. 

The first step is to address that a carbon offset represents a reduction of carbon dioxide emissions from a project, in a manner verified by outside third-parties and using outside third-party standards, such as the Verified Carbon Standard, American Carbon Registry and Climate Action Reserve. The paper trail for a carbon offset shows these projects reduced emissions, whether from renewable energy, energy efficiency or forestry. This is one reason we give our supporters the choice of which types of projects to support and why we remain agnostic on which type of project is ‘better’. Carbon dioxide reductions are the goal, not the project type. 

It is this connection of the project to the greenhouse gas reduction (carbon offset or carbon credit) that also ties it to solving climate change. Our planet does not care either where we emit carbon emissions or where we reduce them. Bali or Boston, same impact. Climate change is not impacted differently if a reduction comes from within a company’s premises or outside its premises. (This is different for other gases such as SO2, which causes acid rain and has a localized and regional impact, meaning it affects the area nearer to where it is emitted.)

 So another benefit, then, is that carbon offsets allow us to direct funds to reducing carbon dioxide emissions in the most cost effective manner. If carbon is carbon is carbon, then making a $100 donation going to reduce ten tonnes of carbon is more efficient than the same amount reducing just five tonnes. 

What’s more, this brings about technology transfer and, often, international development. Since many developing countries are very inefficient in how they generate and manage their energy use, reducing emissions in the developing world is often much more cost effective than trying to make a BMW factory in Germany even more efficient than it already is. Carbon offsets enable this transfer of assets to reduce greenhouse gases cost efficiently, while still maintaining the verification and standards necessary to know the reductions are happening. 

Carbon offsets also bring more people to the table in terms of education about climate change and engagement in the solution. Most developing countries are not obligated to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions and feel a strong sense they should not have to, while they are still developing (a topic for another day). However, when a carbon offset project comes to Brazil, India or China, local businesses, policy makers and individuals get to learn about and be part of the solution. This creates both knowledge transfer and buy in. And if the company is profiting from the project, which we would hope they are, even better for buy-in. 

If we are going to solve climate change in the next few decades and stop a pending disaster, we simply must reduce our emissions substantially, by as much as 50-80% by mid-century. The less scary way of putting this is for us to aim for a 2% reduction in carbon emissions annually, but first we have to stop the growth. Carbon offsets are helping solve climate change in efficient ways by directing these massive investments toward the most efficient carbon reduction opportunity while benefitting both the climate and people.. In our best scenario, this efficiency spurs greater investment than would otherwise occur, which helps drive down the costs of new, clean, low-carbon technologies and projects. Ultimately, if enough investment helps wind, solar or another technology cost less than coal (a debatable figure but also a topic for another day), market transformation will occur based on straight economics and that will be a very good day for our planet, climate and us.

Friday, 08 June 2012 11:45

Five Ways to be Chic and Eco-Friendly

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There’s quite a bit of buzz in the news about eco-friendly clothing, but you may be asking yourself why.  Here are five reasons to go green with your clothing choices. 

1)      Keep toxic chemicals off your skin.  Did you know that conventional cotton uses 25% of the world's pesticides?  Those same pesticides can be harmful to you if they are absorbed through your skin.  Seek out Certified Organic textiles that are grown without the use of pesticides, herbicides, or synthetic fertilizers, and are certified by an international governing body such as Control Union, Institute for Marketecology (IMO) or One-Cert.

2)      Get informed about the labor and shipping practices employed to make the clothes you buy.  All those pesticides already mentioned, well, they’re not good for you or the farmers that grow cotton using them.  Also keep in mind where the clothes were manufactured, which you can often find on the label.  Think about all the greenhouse gas emissions generated if that t-shirt you’re considering had to be shipped across the ocean.

3)      Buy antibacterial and durable clothing – it’ll save you money and keep you healthier in the long-run.  Bamboo fabric can have up to a 99.8% antibacterial rate.  This reduces bacteria that thrive in clothing and cause unpleasant odors.  So you’ll smell better and be less likely to have a skin infection or allergic reaction.  Tencel is a completely biodegradable fabric that retains its shape after its first washing and is naturally wrinkle resistant.  Its durability is maintained whether wet or dry.

4)      The earth has finite resources; buy clothes that are sustainable.  Polyester is mainly made out of oil, which is not a renewable resource, and to make matters worse it is not biodegradable either.  Sustainable textiles include organic cotton, hemp, bamboo, and soy fabrics.

5)      Lastly, consider vintage clothing.  Buying clothing that was chosen once before is environmentally friendly, and a great way to maximize your clothing budget.  If you need an outfit for a special event, check out a consignment store first.  Oftentimes, they’ll help you find what you’re looking for because they have the time and staff that know the available stock.

If you prefer to buy new, look for clothing that is created with reclaimed, recycled, and vintage materials.

Shopping for clothes has an often overlooked environmental impact.  It pays for us to use our purchasing power to make ourselves chic and reduce our carbon footprint.

Learn more about eco-friendly fabrics here: http://www.the-eco-market.com/eco-friendly-fabrics.html.

The College of the Environment at the University of Washington in Seattle is committed to creating the next generation of environmental leaders, armed with knowledge in basic science and critical thinking, and focused on developing sustainable solutions to address the critical environmental challenges of our time.  Their students hold the College accountable for walking their talk, so this year, the College is “betting that swag-free is the new green.”

To honor its 2012 graduates, the College of the Environment is making a contribution to Carbonfund.org Foundation to reduce one metric tonne of carbon emissions as a gift in celebration of each of their 460 students graduating this month.

 Recognizing this next generation of leaders in environmental science and climate change solvers, the College of the Environment’s contribution showcases a collective commitment to the sustainability and well-being of our society and our planet. As part of this gift program, the College of the Environment held a contest among the graduation candidates, encouraging each candidate to vote for the Carbonfund.org carbon reduction project categories they wanted to support.  The winning project categories are Reforestation & Avoided Deforestation Projects and Renewable Energy & Methane Projects.

The total donation of 460 metric tonnes of carbon credits is reducing over one million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions from our atmosphere, the equivalent to offsetting the carbon emissions from burning over 50,000 gallons of gasoline.

Carbonfund.org is thrilled to announce our first-ever carbon emissions reduction gift program for an entire graduating class of a major college or university, and we commend the College of the Environment at the University of Washington for walking their talk and leading their graduates by the example of this environmentally-focused, swag-free graduation gift. 

Our congratulations to the Class of 2012 of UW College of the Environment. Go Huskies!  

Thursday, 31 May 2012 17:38

Climate Change Lessons from a Long Lost Civilization

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New information is coming to light about the massive collapse of one of the world’s oldest and earliest urban civilizations.  The Harappan, or Indus, civilization came into being over 4,000 years ago and existed for about 600 years before it slowly disappeared.  Scientists and scholars have hypothesized about its demise.  Theories range from regional conflicts to a foreign attack, but some suggest environmental issues may have been the cause. 

Researchers recently published an article named, “Fluvial landscapes of the Harappan civilization” in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences outlining evidence that points to environmental factors leading to the end of this ancient civilization.  The scientists studied satellite maps and collected field sediment samples, then cross-referenced them with previous archaeological findings to develop a much clearer picture of what really happened to this long-lost civilization.

The Harappan civilization is named for one of its largest cities, and occupied what is now India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and part of Afghanistan.  It had a sophisticated indoor plumbing system, gridded streets, a flourishing arts and crafts community, and what appears to be a more democratic society than other large civilizations such as Egypt or Mesopotamia. 

The Harappans were largely dependent upon monsoons that dried up leading to the end of their urban environment.  They used the rivers and seasonal floods that were fed by these monsoons to meet their agricultural needs.  Once the monsoons weakened, people slowly moved eastward away from cities into small villages and towns.  The water in the area they moved to was unable to support the large cities of the past.  

There are lessons to be learned from the extinction of this colossal civilization.  The Harappans were overly dependent on monsoons that eventually disappeared and the U.S. is also largely dependent on somewhat predictable weather, which is now threatened by climate change.  Americans need to prepare for increasingly extreme weather, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and increase energy efficiency, and we need to do it now before we suffer a similar fate to that of the Harappans.

To be fair, this is not a question we commonly receive from donors or those interested in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but when people do ask about the different between carbon offsets and carbon credits, and sometimes carbon dioxide equivalents, it shows an intense interest in the subject and usually a strong commitment to fighting climate change. 

Let’s start with a carbon credit. A carbon credit is an instrument that represents ownership of one metric tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent that can be traded, sold, retired, etc. If a company is regulated under a cap-and-trade system, they most likely have an allowance of credits they can use toward their cap. If they use fewer emissions (credits) than they are allocated, they can trade, sell, hold, or do whatever they like with the credit. If it is sold, it is their allowance  of emissions being sold to someone else. (Likewise, if they use more than they have allocated, they must purchase a credit to be in compliance). So a credit becomes tradable, like an offset, because of a very real reduction in emissions, but often times the reduction is from an activity you may not have thought of, like changing a business practice, flying less, turning off equipment at night, and so on. 

A carbon offset, on the other hand, is also a very real reduction of carbon dioxide emissions, and results in the generation of a carbon credit, but from a project with clear boundaries, title, project documents and a verification plan. Carbon offsets generate reductions outside the ‘four walls’ of a company in most cases. Projects like building a wind farm, supporting truck stop electrification projects, planting trees or preserving forests are very common carbon offset projects. These reductions occur outside the companies’ four walls but more importantly, outside any regulatory requirement. They are in addition to what is being mandated. 

So a carbon offset derived from a third-party certified project usually generates a carbon credit. But a carbon credit need not be from a carbon offset project. Because carbon dioxide is a global impact gas, meaning it does not affect us locally through increased smog or acid rain, both offsets and credits have the exact same reduction in carbon dioxide emissions and have the exact same benefit to the planet in terms of climate change.

 We get excited about carbon offsets because they have the opportunity to reduce global climate change at a fraction of the cost than if every entity were forced to reduce their emissions only internally. Imagine how expensive it is for an already state-of-the-art factory to reduce its emissions by 30% versus a dirty coal plant in the Ukraine to reduce a similar amount of emissions by installing upgraded, new equipment. Carbon offsets enable capital to reduce emissions in the most efficient manner possible. Carbon offsets support technology transfer, international development, jobs and exports for developed countries and so forth. 

And this is why we ask people to [cue shameless plug] ‘reduce what you can and offset what you can’t’.

CarbonFree® Business Partner Brouwer Systems Group has made a carbon neutral workplace an important part of its comprehensive sustainability programs. The company is a leading provider of computer networks and services across the Midwest. They focus on website development, I.T. support, software design and content marketing.

In addition to achieving carbon-neutral operations again in 2012, Brouwer Systems Group also provides a bicycle to every employee and encourages an active, outdoor lifestyle.  B.S.G. is also a leading example of businesses working with other like-minded companies. They choose to work exclusively with local, privately-held companies that also share their environmental commitment.  

“We partner with Carbonfund.org because it’s impossible to avoid all fossil fuels,” cites Mark Brouwer, President.  “Brouwer Systems Group is dedicated to accelerating the course toward a fossil fuel free future. Better systems make a better world. Carbonfund.org is helping others develop the technology we need to survive climate change.” 

Brouwer is a shining example of what any company can do to both reduce its direct impact on climate change and lead the way, through their other environmental initiatives and who they work with, to building a stronger, more sustainabile future for all of us. We would like to thank Mark and his team at Brouwer Systems Group for being an important force for good in the fight against climate change.

Thursday, 24 May 2012 16:13

Killer Climate Change

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The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released a report on Wednesday, May 23, 2012 that estimates 150,000 additional American deaths in the country’s top 40 cities by 2100 due to the excessive heat caused by climate change.

The top three deadliest cities outlined in the analysis of peer-reviewed data include Louisville, Detroit, and Cleveland.  Some other cities projected to have thousands of heat related deaths by the end of the century are Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Columbus, Denver, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Providence, St. Louis and Washington, D.C.

Why cities?  Because that is where two-thirds of the U.S. population lives, and many municipal services there are not prepared to help people effectively beat the heat.  Urban areas have high concentrations of poor with little to no access to air conditioning.  Although everyone is at risk, children, the elderly, the obese, and those on medication are the most vulnerable. 

We’re already seeing how global warming can kill with hundreds of heat related deaths annually.  Extreme heat causes heat exhaustion and heat stroke and worsens illnesses such as cardiovascular disease and kidney disease.  In 2006, a two-week long heat wave in California caused 655 deaths, 1,620 excess hospitalizations, and more than 16,000 additional emergency room visits, resulting in nearly $5.4 billion in costs.  However, Chicago had an even deadlier record-setting heat wave in 1995 when more than 700 people died due to the excessive heat.

Some cities are learning from their experiences or heeding the warnings, and strengthening their municipal services.  Chicago, Philadelphia, and Seattle have already put measures in place to lessen the risk from excessive heat days.  Measures include improving the city’s heat warning system, emergency services, and establishing cooling centers.

There is hope; we can save lives by reducing emissions and improving emergency services.  Some examples of climate change mitigation are supporting reforestation projects and using more renewable energy such as wind energy.

Read the report and get more information at http://www.nrdc.org/globalwarming/killer-heat/.