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.
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.
Many people have read in the news about how the United States is tapping into unprecedented natural gas reserves through the process of hydraulic fracturing, also called fracking, where highly pressurized water, sand and chemicals are inserted to fracture shale rock which releases natural gas. Drilling can have environmental impacts such as contamination of ground water, air quality risks, migration of gases and hydraulic fracturing chemicals to the surface, and surface contamination from spills and flowback.
Or they’ve read about the controversial Keystone XL pipeline project that is seeking approval to move oil extracted from Canada’s tar sands down through the western United States to refineries along the Gulf Coast. There is evidence that extracting oil from the sands are increasing levels of cancer-causing compounds in surrounding lakes far beyond natural levels.
The latest news in accessing exotic forms of carbon comes from Japan, where their government announced that they’ve successfully extracted natural gas from methane hydrates, also called clathrates, buried beneath the sea bed. Clathrates are an ultra-concentrated frozen mix of water and gas. A cubic meter of clathrate contains 164 times as much methane as a cubic meter of methane gas. Extraction of methane hydrates opens up the possibility for a catastrophic release of gas in the form of accidents during the extraction process. Even releasing a small amount of clathrates could contribute significantly to climate change.
Governments and corporations worldwide need to stop spending hundreds of billions of dollars searching for new fossil fuel reserves and discovering ways to extract ever more unusual forms of buried carbon. And we need to stop giving them incentives to do so. Yes, it is hard to want less and do less, but for the sake of our planet’s health we need to curb our global appetite for fossil fuels. Let’s start by lowering our carbon footprints. Then we need to agree to leave fossil fuel reserves in the ground.
According to a detailed estimate, we need to leave four-fifths of global fossil fuel reserves untouched for a good chance of preventing more than 2°C of global warming. The worst part is we have already identified more underground carbon than we can afford to burn between now and the year 3000. Now is the time to implement a low carbon lifestyle. We should do it for our planet, ourselves and for the sake of future generations.
Just when we were about to succumb to the gloomy picture that is global climate change, a ray of hope breaks through the clouds. A technical report released this month by the U.S. Energy Information Agency calculated that energy related U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, which account for about 98 percent of total CO2 emissions, for the first four months of 2012 decreased to around 1992 levels.
The dramatic decrease is attributed to a switch from dirtier burning coal to cleaner natural gas. Almost everyone in the energy and environmental industries believes the shift could have major long-term implications for U.S. energy policy.
Scientists didn’t predict the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere in the U.S. falling to its lowest level in 20 years in part because the decrease is not attributed to legislation limiting greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. The switch to natural gas was driven by the market.
The state of the economy, increasing efforts for energy efficiency and a growing utilization of renewable energy are certainly aspects that contribute to lowering U.S. carbon emissions. However, at the moment, the lion’s share is due to the current low price of natural gas. There has been an upsurge in shale gas drilling in the northeast, Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana, which has made natural gas more affordable than coal per unit of energy generated. Gas production is on the increase because of the modernization of the process of hydraulic fracturing, also called fracking, where highly pressurized water, sand and chemicals are inserted to fracture shale rock which releases natural gas.
While natural gas is a cleaner-burning energy source than coal, it is not emission-free. There is still some carbon dioxide emitted and drilling can have environmental impacts such as contamination of ground water, air quality risks, migration of gases and hydraulic fracturing chemicals to the surface, and surface contamination from spills and flowback.
There are also concerns that the rise in use of natural gas could stall renewable energy efforts. The ultimate goal should still be a mix of increasing energy efficiency and clean energy with the balance kept to a minimum of natural gas.
So the upshot is that the U.S. energy picture is far from perfect, but the news concerning a drastic decline in U.S. carbon dioxide levels is welcome and positive because it reminds us that there is still time to turn around the fate of the planet’s climate.
Your carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases produced to directly and indirectly support your activities. It is usually expressed in equivalent metric tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2).
The average American is responsible for a whopping 50,000 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions annually. Some examples of your carbon footprint are:
- When your car’s engine burns fuel it creates CO2, the amount generated depends on its fuel consumption and the driving distance.
- Heating your house with oil, gas, or coal also generates CO2.
- Even if you heat (or cool) your house with electricity, CO2 is emitted during the generation of electrical power, most of which comes from coal in the US.
- When you buy food and goods, the production of the food and goods creates CO2; again, the amount depends on where the foods and goods came from and how they were created.
- Traveling on a plane generates CO2 in the same ways a car does.
- Weddings even create CO2 emissions! See this past post for more information about how to reduce your wedding’s environmental impact.
- Also consider all the indirect emissions you are in part responsible for: the roads we drive on, the schools our kids attend, the mall and grocery story, our shared military and city hall. It all adds up.
The bottom line is your carbon footprint is the sum of all carbon dioxide emissions that were generated by your activities in a given time period, typically one year.
The carbon footprint is a powerful tool in understanding your personal impact on global warming. Most people are surprised by the amount of CO2 their activities create. If you personally want to reduce your contribution to global warming, the calculation and monitoring of your carbon footprint is critical.
Carbonfund.org offers helpful calculators to estimate your carbon footprint. Individuals can follow this link for more information. http://www.carbonfund.org/individuals There is also a calculator for businesses here.
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.