Some may think jellyfish are simply a pesky problem when we want to take a swim or snorkel, but they are actually a sign of flagging oceanic health. We think of them as the canary in the coal mine. The difference is the canary dies when there is a problem, but jellyfish flourish in the conditions that global warming wreaks on our oceans.
Climate change heats and acidifies the planet’s oceans. Overfishing adds to the first two major problems. All three contribute to creating an ideal environment for jellyfish to thrive and multiply. So what’s the big deal if there are too many jellyfish?
The issue is that jellyfish take a bad situation and make it worse. They have a unique trait where they’re able to eat up the food chain. This is surprising considering these sea creatures don’t even have brains. However, they actually can consume animals that are bigger, smarter and faster than they are. They damage the ecosystem further by competing with large mammals, such as whales, by feeding on the same fish and plankton that these other animals need to survive.
Marine expert Lisa-ann Gershwin wrote the new book Stung! On Jellyfish Blooms and the Future of the Ocean. She points to an example where jellyfish wiped out an entire food chain simply by eating from the bottom up.
The jellyfish species Mnemiopsis leidyi was accidentally introduced into the Black Sea in the early 1980s. In just a few short years, these jellyfish comprised “95 per cent of the biomass in the Black Sea”. This means “ninety-five per cent of every living thing was this one species of jellyfish”.
Jellyfish could rule our planet’s oceans as they once did in the Precambrian era. A time when biodiversity was low, the jellyfish commanded the oceans, and mammals and reptiles did not exist. This is a scary eventuality, that our feet are firmly planted on the path towards. We need to heed the warnings that these gelatinous invertebrates provide and begin seriously reducing our carbon footprints and offsetting the rest of our carbon emissions.
The American Forest and Paper Association continues to make strides as an industry intent on leading the expansion of paper recycling. The success of their “Better Practices, Better Planet 2020” initiative will be partly dependent upon consumer preferences shifting to products containing fully or partially recycled paper. In order to help close the “recycling loop”, “green” consumers must continue to seek out businesses that offer eco-conscious products featuring recycled paper, in order to expand the practice of paper recycling and the manufacturing, marketing and price-competitiveness of products containing recycled paper. CarbonFree® Business Partner Paper Culture was led by its strong environmental focus, one of the foundations upon which the company has built its business, to develop its product line on 100% post consumer recycled paper and to take additional measures to neutralize the carbon emissions from its business operations.
As part of its ongoing environmental commitment, Paper Culture took the important step five years ago to neutralize its annual operational emissions and become a CarbonFree® Partner. "In choosing Carbonfund.org, Paper Culture wanted a partner that had a strong, auditable record of driving additional green house gas reducing projects,” explains Christopher Wu, Paper Culture Owner. “When we looked at their marquee list of partners that includes names like Staples, Discovery Channel and Virgin, when combined with the audit trail provided by Environmental Resources Trust to verify the various Carbonfund.org projects, our decision was made."
Over the past five years, Paper Culture’s CarbonFree® commitment has neutralized its own operational emissions by steadily supporting Carbonfund.org's reforestation projects around the world, which reduce carbon dioxide emissions through tree planting and forestry management efforts.
Paper Culture is an online stationery company offering modern eco-friendly personalized stationery and cards such as baby announcements, holiday cards, and baby shower invitations. All Paper Culture card and stationery designs are printed on 100% post consumer recycled paper, and Paper Culture plants a tree in a US national forest with every order. These steps, together with the long-term commitment to CarbonFree® operations, underscore Paper Culture’s focus on environmental responsibility and demonstrate their sustainability leadership within the paper products industry.
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 Earth cannot use words to speak for itself, but if it could what would be on its climate wishlist this holiday season?
Environmental activists and climate scientists have done a good job of communicating the risks of climate change. Part of the issue is that it’s a delicate balance between scaring people so thoroughly that they don’t think there is anything they can do about global warming and encouraging people to make any changes that positively impact the environment, even small ones to start. Perhaps we’ve also underestimated the importance of personal experience.
The facts on climate change alone are not enough. We’ve had solid, scientific evidence for many years that global warming is man-made and happening right now. However, many people need to experience the effects for themselves in order for the light bulb to go off in their heads. Hurricane Sandy and other extreme weather events are helping people to connect the dots, but now that process has begun the question then becomes, “What next?”
We have a responsibility to be good stewards of the planet. That is what the climate needs and wants this holiday season. There are two main changes that we can undertake to fulfill the planet’s climate wishlist. The first is to lower our carbon footprints. Ask yourself, do I really need to leave my lights on all day at home when I am not there? Can I combine trips in the car to drive less or take public transportation instead? What simple steps can I take to save energy and myself some money as well?
The second change is to offset the rest of your carbon footprint. There are many affordable options to make this holiday season a reality, not just for the planet, but for future generations also. Any positive steps you take are welcome and really do make a difference. Although the planet cannot use words to thank you, reducing what you can and offsetting the rest is a beautiful gift and a wonderful place to start this holiday season.
Five years ago, the Association of Wedding Gown Specialists approached the Carbonfund.org Foundation to create a unique program to neutralize the emissions from the wedding gown cleaning and preservation services offered by its members. ZeroCarbon™ gown preservations became the first carbon-neutral wedding gown cleaning and preservation program in the wedding services industry, and it ensures that the beauty of each wedding gown is preserved while safeguarding the environment. ZeroCarbon™ wedding gown preservations are endorsed by the Association of Bridal Consultants and Green Bride Guide.
Carbonfund.org helped to calculate the carbon footprint of the gown cleaning and preservation process and created a per-gown treatment emissions level to be neutralized. Each Certified Wedding Gown Specialist™ makes a separate per-gown preservation donation to Carbonfund.org, which helps to support reforestation projects that reduce carbon emissions worldwide. To date, the ZeroCarbon™ wedding gown preservation program has mitigated over one million pounds of carbon emissions, the equivalent of the total emissions absorbed by 11,000 tree seedlings grown for ten years.
The Association of Wedding Gown Specialists created a flyer about the ZeroCarbon™ preservation program printed on recycled paper in soy ink for their members to use, and they’ve added the ZeroCarbon™ text to the complimentary care labels supplied to wedding gown designers.
“My own experience with the ZeroCarbon™ labels has been very positive,” explains Sally Conant, Executive Director. “At my personal company, which is also a member of the Association, brides inspect their gowns before they are packed in acid-free wedding chests. When the gown is packed I explain that the ZeroCarbon™ label means we have offset all of the carbon emissions with a donation to Carbonfund.org to support reforestation projects."
"About a quarter of the brides say they chose my company because we do green gown preservations, and the rest are pleasantly surprised to hear about the program when they come for the gown. One bride recently told me it was very reassuring to know that she could care for her gown without damaging the environment. If it is a relative of the bride who comes to collect the gown, about a third of them say something such as ‘She will be so pleased. She cares about our environment.’"
In a telling and ironic move, coal industry giant BHP-Billiton, is replacing one of its coal export facilities in Queensland, Australia because of its vulnerability to increasingly frequent hurricanes from global warming. BHP-Billiton is an Australian coal company that produces one-fifth of globally traded coal for steel making and is the largest mining company on Earth. The upgrade represents a major investment in planning for climate change. In fact, the company’s coal operations are led by Marcus Randolph, who confirmed they are planning, “to rebuild the facility to be more durable to climate change.”
Readers of this blog already know that increasingly extreme weather events are the result of climate change in addition to the fact that many businesses are planning now for climate change’s effects. Why not a coal company too? The announcement makes it obvious that BHP-Billiton understands that climate change is real and the time is now to begin making changes even if the manufacture of their product contributes to the issue.
Randolph has even warned investors about the implications of remaining dependent on the non-renewable resources of fossil fuels by saying, “In a carbon constrained world where energy coal is the biggest contributor to a carbon problem, how do you think this is going to evolve over a 30- to 40-year time horizon? You'd have to look at that and say on balance, I suspect, the usage of thermal coal is going to decline. And frankly it should.”
When a company that mines and exports coal starts planning for climate change it means the writing is on the wall. Businesses and individuals alike should all be working to decrease carbon footprints and offset the remaining carbon emissions. Let’s give the planet a holiday present and start doing all we can this season to embrace a cleaner energy future.
Environmental conservation is a broad, global goal that will only be achieved by the aggregate of actions taken by small businesses and individuals in communities around the world. Carbonfund.org is engaged in large-scale initiatives, such as the development of our forestry projects in Brazil, but we continue to offer simple and affordable ways for any person, family or start-up business to make a difference in the fight against the negative impact of climate change.
Our personal emissions offsetting programs and CarbonFree® Business Partnerships help everyone to be part of the solution to climate change. New CarbonFree® Partner Citizen Yogurt is a great example of a local business putting its community and environmental mission into action. Citizen Yogurt in Raleigh, North Carolina is a 100% locally owned and operated family business, offering self-serve frozen yogurt with bold and unusual flavors and toppings, and a commitment to social and environmental responsibility.
Citizen Yogurt’s community involvement includes sponsoring local swim teams, sports clubs and organizations in their neighborhood. They sponsor charitable donation nights where at least 10% of the night’s revenue will go to community organizations. The yogurt shop features sustainable bamboo hardwood floors and their yogurt comes from rBST-free cows.
“Citizen Yogurt has chosen to take a different path to success. We have committed to running our business in the best way possible – including the impact on the environment and community. Carbonfund.org’s transparency, not-for-profit status and strong partner list help make that goal easier to achieve,” states Charles Park, Owner and President of Citizen Yogurt.
Citizen Yogurt joined the CarbonFree® Business Partnership program this year, neutralizing their annual operational emissions by supporting Carbonfund.org’s projects that reduce carbon emissions elsewhere through reforestation efforts, energy efficiency innovation and renewable energy technology development. Their CarbonFree® Business Partnership program underscores their commitment to sustainable operations and helps to create awareness in their local area about mitigating carbon emissions and encouraging customers to think about environmental commitments in their own lives.
We believe that Citizen Yogurt is leading by example as a great model for environmental commitment while serving up tasty froyo treats to the Raleigh community.
Carbonfund.org Foundation Welcomes Macmillan Publishing to the Large Business Partnership Program.
Macmillan is a group of publishing companies in the United States held by Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck, which is based in Stuttgart, Germany. American publishers include Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Henry Holt & Company, W.H. Freeman and Worth Publishers, Palgrave Macmillan, Bedford/St. Martin’s, Picador, Roaring Brook Press, St. Martin’s Press, Tor Books, and Macmillan Higher Education.
As a key component of its sustainability initiative, Macmillan has set a goal to reduce the CO2 emissions generated by its annual business activities by 65% (over a 2009 baseline) by the year 2020. This includes the carbon emissions mitigation through Carbonfund.org including supporting renewable energy, forestry and biodiversity preservation.
Macmillan is well on track toward realizing this ambitious goal through the programs and actions undertaken to date. Some examples are:
- Rationalizing sourcing of paper based on the CO2 profile of the various mills that manufacturer the specific grades that Macmillan uses in printing its books.
- By mid-2013, completing the 3-year transition of their car fleet to 90%+ hybrid vehicles which will result in a reduction of over 800 metric tons of CO2 emissions per year from associated fuel savings.
- Significant investment in lighting retrofits at distribution/returns facilities that are 45-50% more energy efficient than the replaced configurations.
“Sustainability is part of the very mission of our company. Not just as a press release, not just around the edges, but in the very fabric of the place. It is as important as growth, as important as profitability. It may even be more important."
“While we’ve made great headway in reducing emissions in those areas under our immediate control, we know it will take a longer horizon to gain the required savings in areas where we wield influence, but cannot drive change just by force of will. That’s why we have pursued a partnership with Carbonfund.org to mitigate our total annual emissions by offsetting approximately 25% of that total through our sponsorship and support of several of the creative, verified, and geographically diverse programs that they administer,” says John Sargent, CEO of Macmillan.
Macmillan sets an important example for the publishing industry in both internal and external carbon reduction initiatives.
About Macmillan (http://us.macmillan.com)
The proliferation of killer whales bred in captivity, on display in aquariums and public performances, and in Hollywood movies over the past thirty years has spurred the interest in killer whale watching in the wild. Yet the worldwide population of Orcas has been difficult for researchers to assess, and the species is threatened by depletion of the global fish population, oceanic pollution, large-scale oil spills, and habitat disturbance caused by noise and conflicts with boats, including whale watching tour operators.
Organizations such as the Pacific Whale Watch Association has helped by establishing strong memberships and specific guidelines for whale watching tours that help to protect both the whales and the tour groups seeking the memorable experience of watching Orcas in the wild.
In a stronger step towards developing environmentally-responsible tour operations, Carbonfund.org is pleased to announce a new partnership that brings carbon neutral whale watching to the Vancouver Island area. Carbonfund.org has recently partnered with Eagle Wing Tours, a locally owned and family operated marine adventure eco-tourism company based on Vancouver Island, to create Canada’s first carbon neutral whale watching experience. Eagle Wing Tours assessed the full estimated annual carbon emissions from its whale watching tour operations and established a carbon mitigation program through Carbonfund.org by supporting our carbon reduction and clean energy technology projects. This carbon neutral program is the final step in Eagle Wing Tours’ Go Green Whale Watching Program.
“We are trying to redefine what a wildlife tour company is. Spotting that whale is the cherry on top of an all ready very comprehensive marine experience,” explains Brett Soberg, Co-Owner and Captain at Eagle Wing Tours. “What we can do to protect these species by supporting education, conservation and responsible business is where we really count. We selected to support Carbonfund.org due their non-profit designation which supports our 1% For the Planet membership.”
Carbonfund.org encourages eco-tourism companies to carefully monitor their environmental impact and to mitigate harmful emissions by investing in energy efficiency and renewable energy innovation, and supporting forestry and habitat preservation. We are pleased to welcome Eagle Wing Tours to join our eco-tourism partners in these efforts.