Last week in President Obama’s inaugural speech he addressed the most serious threat our planet has ever faced, climate change, when he said, “We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim its promise. That’s how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure – our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.”
It is exciting and hopeful to hear our nation’s leader pledge to put us on the path to conquer global warming and combine it with the economic recovery the US so badly needs. Now we need to back up these words with some actions. What can we do to lead a green industrial revolution?
Well we’re already seeing some promising actions from the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD). Did you know the DOD is the largest single consumer of energy in the world? The agency spends approximately $20 billion on 3.8 billion kilowatt hours of electricity and 120 million barrels of oil per year. That’s a lot of energy, and sometimes fossil fuels are bought from countries hostile to U.S. interests. So the U.S. military is turning its eyes to renewable energy. Fortunately they are not starting from scratch; they currently have about 80 megawatts of installed renewable energy capacity. However, the good news is that a report released this week by Pike Research forecasts this number to quadruple to 3,200 megawatts by 2025. The research firm quantifies the increase in renewable energy use to a predicted almost $1.8 billion in 2025 of U.S. military spending on renewable energy programs, including conservation measures.
All of this green spending can have lasting positive effects on the industry overall. For example, as the demand for solar cells increases, it encourages the building of more solar cell manufacturing plants. Due to economies of scale, the cost of producing solar cells can decrease, and the new lower costs are passed on to the private sector. Additionally, the solar industry, because of large sales from the U.S. military, has more funds available to conduct research and development into better and cheaper solar cells, which can drive down the price permanently.
It is encouraging to hear and see the U.S. take steps towards leading a green industrial revolution. Is there more that can be done? Absolutely! But we have to recognize these constructive efforts as they are brought to light.
Two years ago, the Carbonfund.org staff “went virtual” as a way to eliminate the carbon emissions from occupied office space and regular employee commuting to the office, and as a way to save operational costs. For the past five years, CarbonFree® Business Partner the Boardroom Executive Suites® has offered virtual offices and other alternative workspace options to the Denver community, while also neutralizing its remaining operational emissions by supporting Carbonfund.org’s carbon reduction technology projects.
Boardroom Executive Suites provides ready-to-use office space, virtual office services, conference room rentals, advanced telecommunications and administrative support services in the Cherry Creek neighborhood of Denver, CO. “A typical office space is used less than 50% of the time. That means that there is a huge amount of waste associated with a typical office – heating, cooling, electrical, janitorial services,” explains Nathan Jansch, President and Owner of Boardroom Executive Suites. “Add to the office emissions those from employee commuting, often from lengthy and highly-polluting commutes. In an executive suite or virtual office environment, all of that changes.”
The structure of most executive suites and virtual office centers also helps reduce emissions by making use of office space and support resources more effectively. Instead of having an office suite that is used by one person 50% of the time, executive suites and virtual offices provide shared amenities and encourage maximum utilization of space and resources, reducing the per-worker carbon emissions that the suite emits.
Nathan adds, “the Boardroom Executive Suites furthers carbon emission reduction efforts by engaging in energy conservation efforts in our suites (reducing what we can) and aligning ourselves with Carbonfund.org to offset our estimated yearly carbon emissions (offsetting what we can’t).” Their long-term commitment to carbon emissions reduction efforts and operating a CarbonFree® business over the past five years shows real leadership and innovation as an alternative workspace provider.
Is 2013 the year to green up your work environment? Consider virtual office space, home office, virtual conferences and shared office space options as ways to reduce what you can, then talk to Carbonfund.org to neutralize your remaining operational emissions that you can’t eliminate.
The Carbonfund.org Foundation is excited to announce a new endeavor into environmental education for children, through our purchase of Camp Quinebarge in New Hampshire. Quinebarge is in an idyllic spot, nestled in the heart of New Hampshire's lakes and mountains regions, sitting on 65 acres of forest and 1,250 feet of waterfront on Lake Kanasatka, in Moultonborough, NH.
Quinebarge is a traditional summer camp catering to up to 100 boys and girls ages 7-15, who live in rustic but clean (with electricity) cabins and enjoy activities such as archery, swimming, boating, horseback riding, hiking, camping, arts and crafts, sports, nature and environment, ropes course and zip line, to name but a few. There are camp fires, sing-a-longs, all-camp capture the flag and many traditions completely homegrown to Quinebarge.
Send your child to Camp Quinebarge this summer at our First Time Camper rate of just $500 per week.
Carbonfund.org is adding an environmental learning and activities aspect to Quinebarge, overlaying environmental themes throughout the regular, traditional camp activities Quinebarge already offers.
Since 1936, Quinebarge has been a great way for any kid to spend their summer. Carbonfund.org president and founder Eric Carlson went there as a child for eight summers in the 1980's and we're excited to carry on and expand the legacy of this wonderful place.
Please click this link to our two-page camp brochure and please forward this note to anyone who you think might be interested in sending their children to Quinebarge and benefit from our First Time Camper discount.
Camp Quinebarge runs for seven weeks from June 23 - August 10.
Thank you for helping to spread the word about Camp Quinebarge and this great new endeavor!
As Carbonfund.org is greatly excited about the validation of our Purus Project, the first ever REDD+ project in the State of Acre, to achieve dual-validation to the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) and the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Standard (CCBS) with Gold Distinction, it is important to also understand the potential broader implications of the Purus Project as it attempts to set the framework for potential REDD+ project inclusion into Phase 2 of the California Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) providing a confidence boost for the development of broader REDD+ projects around the globe.
Back in November, the State of California launched its first auction for Phase 1 of their ETS from 2013 to 2014.
California’s AB-32, also known as the Global Warming Solutions Act, regulates more than 300 facilities emitting over 25,000 metric tonnes of CO2 each year with a plan to reduce GHG emissions to 427 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions (MMTCO2e) by 2020 from the baseline of 507 MMTCO2e.
The State of California plans to allow emitters to cover a portion of their compliance obligations with offset credits. In Phase 1 of the program, these credits could come from projects in the United States that reduce emissions in the following sectors of: national forestry, urban forestry, ozone depleting substances and agricultural methane.
However, in Phase 2, commencing in 2015, we are hopeful that the scheme will allow offsets from REDD+ projects in Acre, Brazil, as the State of Acre has a signed memoranda of understanding (MOU) with the State of California, attempting to work this out. At this time, it is still unclear how the program will work.
If California accepts REDD+projects into the marketplace, it is possible for the Purus Project to be the first project leading the way for broader investment being placed into this forest protection and payment for ecosystem service projects.
Though there are still several prominent steps toward REDD+ inclusion into the California ETS, we will continue to create the best possible projects we can to protect these rainforests and its biodiversity while enhancing the lives of local communities.
While there’s been a lot of press about the increasing carbon emissions associated with rapidly expanding global technology usage, management consulting firm McKinsey & Company cites ways in which information and communications technologies can lead the way in reducing operational carbon emissions. CarbonFree® Business Partner A2 Hosting has been ahead of this curve for the past six years, offering its customers a greener, cleaner solution to server hosting.
A2 Hosting is a Linux based web hosting company based in Ann Arbor, Michigan providing a range of services including website hosting for personal homepages up to full service solutions for businesses of all sizes. And A2 Hosting is committed to ensuring responsible and ethical business practices including offsetting all server and equipment emissions with Carbonfund.org.
In 2007, A2 Hosting launched its FutureServe Green Hosting partnership with Carbonfund.org, supporting the development of energy efficiency technologies, clean renewable sources of energy, forestry and biodiversity preservation, and the resulting reduction of CO2 emissions on a global scale.
In December 2012, A2 Hosting launched hosting services in Reykjavik, Iceland. This hosting location is 100% green-powered by natural geothermal energy, and utilizes the frigid Iceland air to power its cooling units. Combining geothermal energy and natural cooling technologies allows the data center to run at very low power usage effectiveness levels and leaves no carbon footprint. And A2 Hosting is currently launching the ability to host sites using Solid State Drives (SSDs). SSD drives offer a greener footprint as they consume roughly one-third the amount of energy as traditional hard disks.
"We are committed to doing right by our customers and the environment,” says Bryan Muthig, Founder and CEO of A2 Hosting. “Until more clean energy solutions are available to everyone, we are pledging to offset our server emissions in order to help protect our fragile environment."
Since 2007, A2 Hosting has offset over 630 metric tonnes of carbon emissions, the equivalent of the carbon dioxide sequestered by almost 15,000 trees grown over a ten-year period.
A2 Hosting focuses on delivering the type of systems hosting they would want to use as a customer, which means all-inclusive hosting with no hidden fees, US-based around-the-clock customer support and ultra-reliable servers with high performance. This commitment to excellence in service and leadership in environmental responsibility make A2 Hosting a great example of a small business doing its part to help hasten our transition to a cleaner energy future.
Depending on where in the world you live, it might be easy to forget that the environment is more than just the air we breathe or the land under our feet. It’s important to keep in mind that the oceans also are being affected radically by climate change. The oceanic problems are too numerous to list. However, this week we are taking a closer look at one issue that people in different parts of the planet face, rising oceans as the polar ice caps melt and more saltwater.
Those of us that live in the United States might not be aware how rich we are in freshwater sources as say countries in the Middle East that are very arid environments. Obviously those countries have other resources that we lack, but water is essential to life. Our planet may be covered in a great deal of water, but much of it is unusable to humans in its natural state because of the high salt content.
Did you know that salt is expelled from seawater when it freezes? Although some brine is trapped, the overall salinity of sea ice is much lower than seawater. So the seas are rising as previously permanently frozen parts of the planet melt. This means that not only is there more water, but it’s becoming salty as it melts.
Desalination is any of several processes that remove some amount of salt and other minerals from saline water. Unfortunately, it is quite an energy intensive process. Last week, a new renewable energy desalination project was announced in Masdar, Abu Dhabi, which is in the United Arab Emirates. The project seeks to transform seawater into useable, freshwater on land by building a commercially viable and renewable energy-powered desalination plant by 2020.
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region of the Middle East is comprised of the Arabian Peninsula countries of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and the Sultanate of Oman. The GCC formed in 1981 and uses about half the world’s desalinated water.
Of course, accessing renewable energy is not the only impediment to sustainable desalination. Another effect of global warming is oceanic acidification that contributes to massive algae blooms. These algae blooms can shut down a desalination plant. There are other unwanted components that might be present in seawater such as radioactive material from warships and nuclear power plants which would need to be removed before the water could be used safely.
Despite other lingering issues, it is still worth asking the question, “Can these enormous desalination plants powered by renewable energy help mitigate some of the issues we face from rising sea levels?” The answer is, “Every bit helps.” But don’t start thinking it’s a magic bullet since none exists. We still all need to do our parts in reducing our carbon emissions and footprints. However, it is good news that desalination can be a sustainable and environmentally responsible industrial solution and worth noting that low cost, low impact renewable energy technologies do exist.
The CarbonFree® Business Partnership program is intended to provide a simple, affordable way for businesses of any size to evaluate the carbon emissions associated with their annual operations, take steps to reduce these emissions, and neutralize the remaining emissions by supporting clean air and carbon reduction projects around the world. The program is also structured so that it compliments broader sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility programs, and helps to promote awareness and recognition for these efforts.
A great example of expanding environmental commitment beyond carbon emissions neutralization is CarbonFree® Partner K.L. Security Enterprises’ annual tree-planting projects through their Safe Environments Initiative. When not out planting trees, the K.L. Security team helps customers store critical business and personal electronic data, documents, vital records and collections with their custom safes, vaults, fireproof file cabinets and ioSafe rugged hard drives. For residential customers, services may also include preservation and protection of family photo albums, heirlooms and other keepsakes.
“For the last 5 years, I’ve been a steward of a diverse ecosystem in Indiana - 48 acres of native forest and prairie that deserves to be protected,” explains Johnny Klemme, CEO of K.L. Security Enterprises. “With the help of friends and family, we’re teaching others about the importance and power of our local environment, and even more importantly, that you can’t sit back and wait for other people to take initiative; you have to make that conscious decision today to make a difference.”
Check out this video to see Johnny and the K.L. Security team in action.
In the last two years alone, K.L. Security has offset 93 metric tonnes of CO2 through the CarbonFree® Business Partnership, the equivalent of carbon emissions from almost 10,500 gallons of gasoline. In 2013, K.L. Security plans to complete two additional environmental improvement projects with several other local businesses in their community.
"Our commitment to the environment runs deep, and partnering with Carbonfund.org ensures that every bit of our operational CO2 emissions is accounted for,” confirms Johnny. “Each and every one of our customers across the United States can take comfort that the carbon emissions from every safe and vault that we ship to them are offset through our support of Carbonfund.org’s reforestation, renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. We’re doing our part to affect positive change in the world in which we live, work and play and hope our customers value this commitment as much as we do."
The United States is one of the richest and most powerful nations in the world. What can our country do for the good of the planet with this role?
One thing the U.S. federal government does every few years is engage hundreds of experts to evaluate the impacts of climate change, now and in the future. The resulting National Climate Assessment report, which was recently released, showed that America's current efforts to reduce carbon pollution are too little to avoid dangerous climate change. Last year President Obama announced new CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards for cars and light trucks such as minivans and sport utility vehicles. Let’s build on this historic progress to limit carbon emissions. There are several ways that the president and federal government can make a real difference in the fight against global warming.
The Clean Air Act is a powerful tool that our nation’s leaders could be leveraging more fully. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is charged with using the Clean Air Act to issue rules to reduce greenhouse pollution. This farsighted law has reduced damaging air pollution for forty years, saving many lives. The EPA has already used it to protect public health and welfare from six extensive and harmful pollutants including: ozone, particulate matter, sulfur and nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and lead. Now is the time to lower atmospheric carbon dioxide levels by setting a national pollution cap for greenhouse gases.
Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA has also proposed higher emission standards on coal-fired power plants. These standards need to be fortified, finalized and implemented posthaste. Why stop with power plants? There are other places where higher greenhouse gas emission standards can be successfully applied to help save our planet such as oil refineries, cement plants, and even the airline industry.
Another way to help the environment would be for President Obama and the State Department to decline approval on the Keystone XL pipeline, which proposes moving oil down from Canada through the western United States to refineries along the Gulf Coast. There are no guarantees that the pipeline won’t spring leaks. Furthermore, there is evidence that extracting oil from the sands are increasing levels of cancer-causing compounds in surrounding lakes far beyond natural levels. Denying approval would show that America is committed to transitioning away from a dependence on fossil fuels.
Of course, it’s not all up to the federal government. We can all do our parts to speed the transition to a clean energy future. First we can encourage our elected officials to take the climate change actions recommended above. Second we can reduce our own carbon footprints. Consider lowering the heat or air conditioning depending on the season, using a clothesline, rake, hand mower and other manpowered devices, composting, forgoing meat at least one day a week and riding a bicycle. Lastly, we can all find simple ways to be part of the solution such as planting trees and offsetting remaining carbon emissions.