When Carbonfund.org Foundation was created ten years ago with the motto “reduce what you can, offset what you can’t™”, we knew we were positioning ourselves as the last-in-line solution in sustainability plans. The climate change education component to our mission is a very important one, and a significant portion of our website is dedicated to providing ways that businesses and individuals can reduce their carbon footprint before considering carbon offsetting strategies.
This approach has attracted businesses that take seriously their responsibility to seek out recycling, reuse, energy efficiency and emissions reduction opportunities. Fireclay Tile, a California-based sustainable tile manufacturer, is a great example.
“We are scavengers at heart and scrappy when it comes to saving resources; therefore we are committed to finding new and innovative ways to reuse cast off materials, and to incorporate sustainability into all levels of our manufacturing process, explains Eric Edelson, CEO of Fireclay Tile. “We chose to partner with Carbonfund.org simply because tile is heavy, and we wanted to offset the carbon footprint created by shipping our tile all over the world.”
Fireclay Tile’s Carbonfree® Business and Shipping program is a final step in the company’s commitment to environmental sustainability. Fireclay uses Carbonfund.org’s online business calculator to compute annual carbon emissions from office energy usage, business travel, and product shipping and delivery. The resulting offset donation supports forestry initiatives around the world that sequester carbon dioxide in formal third-party validated, verified and audited projects.
Fireclay’s unique process includes made-to-order tile using recycled materials and sustainable manufacturing practices in their California operations. Their recycled clay body boasts of over 70% recycled materials, which include post-consumer glass, granite dust, and porcelain from toilets collected to back water conservation efforts in the Bay Area. Fireclay’s glass tiles line is composed of 100% recycled glass from local window and solar panel production industries.
Fireclay maintains onsite recycling practices that include water reclamation at cutting and mixing stations, along with rainwater capture at their Aromas, CA factory. Glaze overspray is captured at each glazing station and is included with all scrap material and anything considered defective, then crushed into an aggregate for making the recycled clay. All orders are packaged for shipment using 100% recycled boxes, reused shipping crates, and sawdust from a local furniture manufacturer used to cushion shipments.
A fine example of “reduce what you can, offset what you can’t™”, Fireclay Tile is walking the walk, and Carbonfund.org is proud to assist in that last step.
Among the benefits of our Carbonfree® Business Partnership for small companies are program affordability, applicability to businesses in all industries, and ease of utilizing the program benefits. The program simplifies the process of neutralizing operational emissions and creates the opportunity for any business to become carbon neutral.
A great example of a small business that recognized these benefits is Brynmorgen Press, a small publisher located in Brunswick, Maine that specializes in books and videos about jewelrymaking, metalsmithing, and design. Tim McCreight started Brynmorgen Press in 1985 to provide practical, high quality textbooks on metalworking and design.
“We are committed to creating books, but recognize the need to replenish the trees required for our products,” explains Tim. “By supporting reforestation, renewable energy, and energy efficiency projects through Carbonfund.org, we have become Carbonfree®.”
To augment its environmental commitments, Brynmorgen Press recycles office waste and prints on recycled paper with soy inks. To conserve energy, Tim and his team wear jackets in the office on cold days and go barefoot in the summer!
Tim McCreight started Brynmorgen Press after he'd published two books with commercial publishers. He thought he might enjoy getting involved in the design and production aspects of publishing, and apparently he was right. Three decades later, he's still writing, designing, and illustrating books, and he’s able to maintain a Carbonfree® operation easily and affordably through Carbonfund.org.
ANN ARBOR, Mich., USA and TROIS-RIVIERES, QUE.,CANADA – Kofcan Inc.’s biomass fuel pellets, which are made from spent coffee grounds, have earned CarbonFree® certification from Carbonfund.org Foundation and NSF Sustainability, a division of global public health organization NSF International. CarbonFree® product certification for its 15 kg, 25 kg and 1.5 kg bags of coffee pellets is a credible, transparent way for Kofcan to provide a carbon-neutral fuel source to home owners and environmentally-conscious companies.
Kofcan’s biomass fuel pellets were designed to recycle waste into energy and provide a more efficient and lower environmental impact alternative to wood pellets. Instead of contributing to landfills, the spent coffee from which the pellets are made is collected from restaurants and institutions in a 200 km radius of the micro pellets plant in the provinces of Quebec and Ontario. The resulting pellets have a higher energy output, generating 27.5 percent more BTUs (British Thermal Units) than wood pellets.
In addition to maintaining a low carbon footprint by sourcing spent coffee from local businesses, Kofcan also assessed the environmental impacts of its coffee pellets by undergoing a detailed life cycle assessment to measure its carbon emissions in North America. Kofcan then offset its carbon emissions through investment in third-party validated renewable energy, energy efficiency and forestry carbon offset projects provided by Carbonfund.org, a leading nonprofit and developer of the CarbonFree® Product Certification program, the first carbon neutral product label in North America.
“Kofcan and its founders Michel Cordeau and Sylvain Laroche have developed a truly waste-free and efficient energy source. With the addition of CarbonFree® certification through NSF Sustainability, Kofcan is able to demonstrate the carbon neutrality of its coffee pellets and communicate to home owners as well as industrial companies its commitment to environmental stewardship,” said Tom Bruursema, General Manager of NSF International’s Sustainability Division.
“Kofcan is proud to have the first energy pellet to be certified CarbonFree® as well as the first energy pellet that creates viable energy from a waste product instead of the harvesting and processing of trees,” said Michel Cordeau, CEO and founder of Kofcan, Inc.
“Joining the ranks of CarbonFree® Business Partners and taking action to neutralize annual carbon emissions through supporting carbon reduction projects marks Kofcan as a leader in the global warming solution,” says Eric Carlson, President of Carbonfund.org.
How the CarbonFree® Product Certification Program Works
The CarbonFree® Product Certification program uses life cycle assessments (LCAs) to determine the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions over a product’s entire life cycle. GHG emissions (expressed as carbon dioxide equivalents) that cannot be reduced or eliminated from the product’s life cycle are offset or neutralized with third-party validated renewable energy, energy efficiency and forestry carbon offset projects.
A carbon offset is a verifiable reduction in carbon emissions somewhere in the world other than where the emission is generated. These external reductions offer clean energy transformation (e.g. wind, solar), sequestration (e.g. forestry) and clean technology (e.g. energy efficiency). The projects also offer a range of benefits including conservation, clean water, job creation and innovation. Credits are generated when a project is verified and registered – allowing companies to purchase these credits and offset the emissions produced in the manufacturing and use of their products. These credits are then permanently retired on behalf of the product/company.
CarbonFree® certified products earn the use of the CarbonFree® mark along with being listed in the Carbonfund.org online product certification database. The CarbonFree® mark can be found on a variety of products today, including food, beverage, electronics and apparel.
About Kofcan: Kofcan is a young company playing in a big industry and plans to make a global impact by reinventing the meaning of "renewable energy" and the way it is used in the pellet industry. Producing low carbon products such as pellets from used coffee and other recycled raw materials is its primary focus. Kofcan is creating energy through sustainable projects, protecting the planet, and helping people become socially responsible through renewable sources.
About Carbonfund.org Foundation: Carbonfund.org is a leading nonprofit climate solutions organization, making it easy and affordable for individuals, businesses and organizations to reduce their climate impact and hasten our transition to a low-carbon economy. Carbonfund.org supports innovative renewable energy, energy efficiency and forestry projects globally that reduce carbon emissions and help people. Carbonfund.org has worked with over 2,000 corporate and nonprofit partners. More at www.carbonfund.org.
About NSF International: NSF International is a global independent organization that writes standards, and tests and certifies products for the construction, food, water and consumer goods industries to minimize adverse health effects and protect the environment (nsf.org). Founded in 1944, NSF is committed to protecting human health and safety worldwide. NSF International has been collaborating with the World Health Organization since 1997 in water quality and safety, food safety and indoor environments.
NSF Sustainability draws upon this expertise in standards development, product assurance and certification, advisory services and quality management systems to help companies green their products, operations, systems and supply chains. Product assessments include testing and certification for more sustainable consumer and commercial products. Through its National Center for Sustainability Standards, NSF also develops sustainability standards for products such as carpet, flooring and other commercial building materials.
Additional NSF services include safety audits for the food and water industries, nutritional/dietary supplement certification, organic certification provided by QAI (Quality Assurance International) and management systems certifications delivered through NSF International Strategic Registrations (NSF-ISR). NSF-ISR services include ISO 14001 environmental management systems, Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and chain of custody (COC) certifications.
What does consistent environmental leadership look like? Over the past six years, CarbonFree® Business Partner Community Capital Management has neutralized over 850,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions – equivalent to the emissions created by burning almost 43,500 gallons of gasoline.
Community Capital Management is a registered investment adviser whose mission is to deliver strong investment performance for its clients in strategies aligned with their organizational purpose. The firm primarily manages fixed income impact investing portfolios that finance a variety of community initiatives such as affordable homeownership and rental housing, environmental sustainability, job creation and training programs, affordable healthcare facilities, childcare programs, and neighborhood revitalization activities. As a leader in the impact investing space, Community Capital Management maintains its commitment to operating an environmentally-conscious business practice.
"Community Capital is excited to partner with Carbonfund.org in committing to offset our carbon footprint. We hope that we will help lead the way and encourage others in the investment management industry to do the same," said Jamie Horwitz, Director of Marketing at Community Capital.
The firm is proud to lead by example, offsetting its carbon emissions by supporting the development of renewable energy, forestry projects and increased energy efficiency through its partnership with Carbonfund.org.
In addition, Community Capital Management’s CarbonFree® commitment includes encouraging office recycling programs, minimizing the use of plastic water bottles by offering a water filtration system in their office, using energy-efficient lighting, conducting more marketing online rather than using printed media, living within close proximity to their office to reduce vehicle pollution, and continually seeking other ways to grow their business in a sustainable, eco-friendly manner. This consistent leadership in operational sustainability sets Community Capital Management in the forefront of its industry as an environmentally responsible fixed income investment management firm.
Could the United States reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 80% from 2005 levels by 2050? A new report released this week says yes by assessing the potential for reducing petroleum consumption. The National Research Council report, “Transitions to Alternative Vehicles and Fuels” found that by the year 2050, the U.S. may be able to reduce petroleum consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by 80% for light-duty vehicles (cars and small trucks) through a combination of more efficient vehicles, the use of alternative fuels such as biofuels, electricity and hydrogen and strong government policies.
The most logical starting point, offering an economical and easy-to-implement approach, is improving the efficiency of conventional vehicles. However, improved efficiency alone will not meet the 2050 goals because the average fuel economy of vehicles on the road would have to exceed 180 mpg; a scenario the report says is extremely unlikely given current technologies. This is not to say that improved efficiency doesn’t play a role. “To reach the 2050 goals for reducing petroleum use and greenhouse gases, vehicles must become dramatically more efficient, regardless of how they are powered," said Douglas M. Chapin, principal of MPR Associates, and chair of the committee that wrote the report. Fuel efficiency measures center around decreasing the work the engine must perform, including: reducing vehicle weight, aerodynamic resistance, rolling resistance, and accessories as well as improving the efficiency of the internal combustion engine powertrain.
The report examined current capabilities and estimated future performance and costs by vehicle type, including: hybrid electric vehicles (e.g. Toyota Prius), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (e.g. Chevrolet Volt), battery electric vehicles (e.g. Nissan Leaf), hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (e.g. Mercedes F-Cell, slated for 2014 introduction) and compressed natural gas vehicles (e.g. Honda Civic Natural Gas). Non-petroleum-based fuel options, also called alternative fuels, which could significantly contribute to the GHG reduction goal, were also analyzed, including: three biofuels (corn-grain ethanol, biodiesel and lignocellulosic biomass), electricity, hydrogen and natural gas. Although natural gas was considered, its greenhouse gas emissions are too high for the 2050 goal.
There are pros and cons to each of the scenarios that combine various alternative fuels and vehicles. For example, the study committee analyzed corn-grain ethanol and biodiesel biofuels, but found much greater potential in lignocellulosic biomass, which includes crop residues like wheat straw, switchgrass, whole trees, and wood waste. The beauty of this alternative fuel is that it can be used without major changes in fuel delivery infrastructure or vehicles.
Electric powered vehicles do not emit greenhouse gases, but the process of generating electricity often does so the report stresses the importance of successful carbon capture and storage. The additional load on the electric power grid is also a factor that must be considered. Furthermore, the batteries essential to these vehicles may limit the use of all-electric vehicles to local driving because of their close range and long recharge times. Serious technical challenges await advanced battery technologies under development.
Next the report considered using hydrogen as a fuel cell in electric vehicles. The pro is that the only vehicle emission is water; the con is that greenhouse gases are emitted during hydrogen production. There are low-greenhouse gas methods of making hydrogen, but they are currently expensive and require further development to become competitive. Another pro is that fuel cell vehicles do not have the same limitations as battery vehicles, but the con is the cost and difficulty entailed in revamping the current fuel infrastructure to fuel cells.
"Alternative fuels to petroleum must be readily available, cost-effective and produced with low emissions of greenhouse gases. Such a transition will be costly and require several decades. The committee's model calculations, while exploratory and highly uncertain, indicate that the benefits of making the transition, i.e. energy cost savings, improved vehicle technologies, and reductions in petroleum use and greenhouse gas emissions, exceed the additional costs of the transition over and above what the market is willing to do voluntarily," said Chapin. So to address the barriers to implementation of these technologies, the report suggested adaptive policies such as investment in research and development (R&D), subsidies, energy taxes or regulations to achieve the desired reductions.
The report cannot tell the future, but the best approach is to promote a portfolio of vehicle and fuel R&D. Both industry and government must support efforts to solve critical challenges. Meanwhile, evaluation should be ongoing to see which technologies emerge as the most promising and cost-effective.
Even the most environmentally sensitive businesses know that their annual operations contribute to the increase in carbon emissions in our atmosphere, but the businesses that are truly committed to operational sustainability are taking simple and affordable steps to reduce their carbon footprint.
For the past six years, CarbonFree® Business Partner Arbor Teas has neutralized its annual operational emissions and its product shipment emissions in partnership with Carbonfund.org. Arbor Teas retails one of the largest selections of USDA-certified organic loose leaf teas from around the globe, most of which is Fair Trade, through its on-line store. In addition, Arbor Teas is committed to making a positive impact on the environment and has taken many steps to reduce emissions by offering only organic teas, reducing and “greening” its packaging and using renewable energy sources. However, their teas come from all corners of the world, so the shipping emissions are unavoidable. To mitigate these emissions, Arbor Teas has maintained a CarbonFree® Shipping program to offset the carbon footprint of annual product shipment emissions, and to offset all internal operational emissions, by supporting Carbonfund.org’s renewable energy, energy efficiency and reforestation projects.
“It makes no sense at all to sell an organic product if the method of delivering it to our customers is environmentally harmful,” says Jeremy Lopatin. “Although we do everything we can to reduce our carbon footprint, we’re happy to partner with Carbonfund.org to offset what we can’t avoid… yet!”
Almost three years ago, Arbor Teas became the first tea company to deliver its full line of organic loose teas in 100% backyard compostable packaging. With the release of this next generation packaging, Arbor Teas advanced its environmental mission, continuing to lead the tea industry through its staunch commitment to sustainable business practices. For the first time ever, tea drinkers are now able to compost their tea leaves AND tea packaging together in their home composting system. This innovative packaging is composed of a cellulose film made from wood pulp sourced from sustainably-managed trees, and the films used for Arbor Teas’ new packaging breaks down in a backyard compost setting.
Carbonfund.org applauds Arbor Teas’ long-term commitment to maintaining its CarbonFree® Operations and Shipping programs, and to its continuing innovation in the areas of product packaging and sourcing.
This Sunday approximately 35,000 protesters gathered on the National Mall to march past the White House and demand action on climate change. The Forward on Climate Change march was said to be the largest climate rally in U.S. history. Protestors organized by groups such as Sierra Club and 350.org’s aim was to urge President Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline project and set limits on carbon pollution from both new and existing power plants. Last year, the EPA proposed limits only on new plants.
For quite some time, Congress has remained gridlocked on the issue of climate change. President Obama has promised to tackle the problem on more than one occasion, but perhaps we the people should consider the effect we can have on bringing about meaningful change. Top down efforts are certainly necessary, but we should all be supporting more bottom up efforts as well. After all, that’s how broad changes have been achieved before.
Take for instance the Civil Rights movement. The White House and Congress were encouraged to overcome their extensive political reservations and bring about true change on the issues of racial equality and voting rights only after a strong grass-roots movement led at the local level by activists such as the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. changed public opinion and made it politically unacceptable to do nothing.
There are other examples of successful grass-roots movements, but the core message is that we have to begin leveraging our bottom up power. This weekend’s rally was a great start. Let’s build on the momentum and begin organized, local activism, especially in the districts and states of those members of Congress that are hesitant to act on global warming.
We cannot expect President Obama to do all of the work on combating climate change. Everyone can do their part at the local level and even in their own homes. Let’s also lessen the demand for energy. We live in such a blessed country, but using less energy and being more efficient is in everyone’s best interests. Here are some good ways to start reducing your carbon footprint, and then you can also go carbon neutral and offset the rest.
Ever wonder how large facilities in your state are doing regarding greenhouse gas emissions? The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began collecting greenhouse gas emissions data in 2010 under the congressionally mandated Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Reporting Program. In February 2013, the EPA's program released its second year (2011) of emissions data, which provides public access to emissions data by sector, by greenhouse gas, and by geographic region such as county or state.
The 2011 data includes information from facilities in 41 source categories that emit large quantities of greenhouse gasses. New this year is data collected from 12 additional source categories, including petroleum and natural gas systems and coal mines.
Highlights of findings from the 2011 data include:
- Power plants represent approximately one-third (33 percent) of total U.S. GHG emissions, making them the largest stationary source of GHGs in the country
- 2011 emissions from power plants were roughly 4.6 percent below 2010 emissions, demonstrating an ongoing increase in power generation from natural gas and renewable energy sources
- Refineries represented the third-largest source of GHG emissions, which increased by a half of a percent over 2010 data
- Overall emissions reported from the 29 sources tracked in both years were 3 percent lower in 2011 than in 2010
Transparency is critical to a better environment and the key to conquering climate change. If companies, communities and individuals take a look at how large facilities are doing in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and compare the latest data to national averages, perhaps we can find ways to cut these emissions and begin to curb global warming. Being better informed is also good for the businesses as they may identify opportunities to conserve energy and thereby save money.
Check out how individual large facilities in your state, county, and even zip code perform. Access this data through the Facility Level Information on Green House gases Tool (FLIGHT), which is a web-based data publication tool, or dig deeper through the EPA’s online database Envirofacts that allows information searches via zip code.
According to a recently released report by the World Wildlife Fund, 58 of the United States’ Fortune 100 companies set goals in 2012 to either reduce greenhouse gas emissions or use more renewable energy in their operations. However, oil and gas companies are lagging far behind in this movement. Eight of 11 domestic energy companies on the Fortune 100 have not set internal energy goals.
This is in direct contrast to 68 of the planet’s 100 largest companies who recognize the impact of global warming and are making investments in greenhouse gas reductions and renewable energy goals. Sadly, energy companies represent the lowest participation rate of any industry worldwide. The few exceptions are Hess and Chevron who have both set renewable energy and greenhouse gas targets, and ExxonMobil who set a greenhouse gas target.
Why have three quarters of the nation's industrial companies voluntarily set some sort of environmental target? There are a variety of potential reasons including: policy pressures, public relations or perhaps even the forward thinking that sees renewable energy’s potential to someday be less expensive than, or at least competitive with, oil and gas.
And why haven’t most oil and gas companies voluntarily set environmental targets? It may be because the very products they put on the market directly contribute to climate change. There is also a lack of urgency to act; little pressure comes from investors or policies. An example of a type of policy that was successful in the past is the Environmental Protection Agency or EPA's Toxic Release Inventory, which worked by making large companies publically accountable for which potentially toxic chemicals they use and where they are released. Then the information is posted on the EPA’s website for anyone to see.
The planet would really benefit from a similar policy focusing on oil and gas company emissions, or better yet, a broader climate change policy such as a national carbon tax or cap-and-trade program. There are other options that could pave the way towards a cleaner energy future. The federal government could require that a certain percentage of electricity come from renewable sources and offer further tax incentives for wind and solar production. Many companies are setting their own internal goals, but for others such as the majority of the oil and gas industry, they’re not going to do anything about increasing efficiency and reducing their carbon footprints until someone makes them.
This year offered several events that shone a spotlight directly on the important and urgent issue of climate change, but the question remains, “Was it enough to bring about meaningful efforts to reduce climate change?”
June of 2012 presented the United Nations Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil which disappointed many as international representatives hemmed and hawed instead of establishing true endeavors to tackle global warming. Meanwhile the continental United States embarked on summer heat waves that were some of the hottest in its history.
This year also saw drought cover more than half the country; farmers suffered as their crops and animals died.
Then October of 2012 brought superstorm Sandy, this year’s biggest example of extreme weather and a deadly harbinger of the devastating effects of climate change. Can we continue to sit idly by in the face of all these signs that global warming is making broad changes to our planet? Should we leave these environmental problems for our children to face as we continue down an unsustainable path?
The close of the year is a time to reflect on the previous events of the year and make resolutions for the coming year. Let’s pledge to make 2013 the year where we confront climate change in every possible way. We can all embark on energy efficiency efforts; reducing what we can and lowering our carbon footprints. Every bit helps. Then it is a powerful combination to offset the rest of our carbon emissions. It would be a genuine shame to let the lessons of this past year slip from our consciousness while there is still time and so much that can and should be done to address climate change.