For visitors to the greater Chicago area and the locals who’ve endured a long winter, a big three-season draw is the Lake Michigan waterfront.  Among the popular waterfront pastimes are the various Chicago River and Lake Michigan boat cruises that provide passengers with views of the Chicago skyline, architectural tours, dinner cruises, and on-board wedding and special event celebrations.  

To help protect and preserve the Lake Michigan resource, the environmentally-focused passenger will consider a cruiseline’s attention to environmental responsibilities and fuel conservation when booking their tour.  CarbonFree® Partner Chicago’s First Lady Cruises and Mercury, Chicago’s Skyline Cruiseline will stand out as a leader in this area. 

As part of their extensive sustainability initiatives, Chicago’s First Lady Cruises and Mercury, Chicago’s Skyline Cruiseline has partnered with Carbonfund.org to measure and neutralize their annual carbon dioxide emissions.   Office energy usage, business travel and employee commuting emissions, as well as all fuel used by the cruise ships throughout 2012, were included in the emissions calculations.  The resulting total annual operational emissions were mitigated by corresponding donations to support Carbonfund.org’s renewable energy and reforestation projects. 

The CarbonFree® Business Program status joins many other environmentally conscious initiatives followed by the Chicago-based cruiseline company.  Since 2006, all vessels have used B-11 biodiesel fuel, saving more than 4,000 gallons of imported crude oil per year.  Their newest vessel, Chicago’s Leading Lady, added to the fleet in 2011, is equipped with computerized energy-efficient engines that help the boat save over 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel each year. 

Chicago’s First Lady Cruises encourages their passengers to join an active office and operations recycling program by recycling their onboard maps for future guests. Dockside waste bins are constructed of recycled plastic milk containers, and beverage cans and bottles are collected onboard and dockside for recycling.   Promotional materials are printed by CarbonFree® Partner Digital Hub, voted Chicago’s Greenest Printer, with soy-based inks and recycled papers. All employees are encouraged to ride their bike, walk or commute to work by using public transit, and Mercury, Chicago’s Skyline Cruisline encourages its staff to participate in the employee public transit reimbursement program.  

This focus on measures to protect the waterways its passengers enjoy demonstrates a firm commitment to environmental stewardship by Chicago’s First Lady Cruises and Mercury, Chicago’s Skyline Cruiseline, and Carbonfund.org is glad to participate in these efforts.  

Monday, 10 June 2013 12:02

Jellyfish: the Ocean’s Canaries

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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.

As June’s temperatures start to rise in Miami, visitors and locals seek out a respite from the heat.  And with all the news reports of climate change’s impact on the heavily-populated cities along the US eastern seaboard, the environmentally-aware customers will choose to patronize area businesses that take responsibility for their environmental impact.

For the past four years, these eco-customers have had the option to visit the tea oasis at specialTEA Lounge & Café, created with the planet and people in mind.  Owners Marilyn Morales and Chris Infante are extremely conscious of their impact on the environment.  Since opening the café, Chris and Marilyn have been teaching through example about sustainability initiatives, selecting local and organic products, and being as earth-friendly as possible. They use local organic ingredients and materials whenever possible, use eco-friendly compostable containers and utensils, and choose paper products made with 100% post-consumer-recycled content.  The café is equipped with energy-saving LED light bulbs, an energy-saving water-heater, a water-saving dual-flush toilet as well as an ExtremeAir® hand-dryer.

This year, specialTEA Lounge & Café took an important additional step in their sustainability plan by joining the CarbonFree® Business Partnership and mitigating their annual operational carbon emissions.   

 “No matter how eco-conscious we are in our decisions, there are still aspects of our business that are beyond our control,” explains Christian Infante, co-owner of specialTea Lounge.  “For those reasons, we have chosen to partner with Carbonfund.org, a leader in carbon offsetting, to offset any carbon emissions we generate in the course of our business operations.”

SpecialTEA Lounge & Café patrons can enjoy a pot of tea or a cooling frappé with friends over a game of chess, relax with a book on the comfy couches, or use the free wi-fi while noshing on sweet or savory treats at the café.  With over 60 premium fresh loose leaf teas, certified Organic Fair Trade™ and locally roasted coffee, frappés, bottled and hand-craft sodas, homemade pastries, desserts and an array of delicious made to order panini, salads and wraps, there’s something for everyone.  And customers can be environmentally-assured, knowing that specialTEA Lounge maintains CarbonFree® operations and a commitment to sustainability.  

Friday, 31 May 2013 17:25

Money Talks Even with Global Warming

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You would think that out of all the industries in the world, the one that would be most concerned with climate change would be the insurance industry.  Take a look at the costs for Superstorm Sandy alone.  The extreme hurricane caused damage estimated at nearly $75 billion.  According to a press release last month by the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, 2012 cost insurers $35 billion in privately insured property losses, which is $11 billion more than the average over the last decade.

Insurers, and the reinsurance companies that shoulder much of the ultimate risk in the industry, heavily rely on scientific thought and not which way the political wind is blowing on global warming.  They are comfortable with the scientific consensus that the rampant burning of fossil fuels is the main cause of climate change.  Despite their confidence, the question remains, what is the insurance industry doing about global warming considering the problem directly impacts their own interests?

Surprisingly, the answer is not much.  Insurers mainly focus on zoning regulations and disaster alleviation since the industry is disinclined to enter energy policy’s controversial fray.  Furthermore, insurers are more insulated from climate change’s devastation than at first meets the eye.  The federal government covers flood insurance, which is an enormous risk during extreme weather.  Additionally, insurers adjust to higher risks by raising premiums or dropping coverage.  So successfully that despite Superstorm Sandy and the protracted drought that ravaged the Midwest Corn Belt, property and casualty insurance in the United States was more profitable in 2012 than in 2011.

However, there are signs that the insurance industry is looking increasingly favorably on a carbon tax.  The true costs are placed on the polluters with a carbon tax rather than being passed on to the rest of us.  Also, they’re encouraged to pollute less.  Most insurers would prefer a carbon tax over a host of additional regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Although the industry is warming to the idea of a carbon tax, they’re still hesitant to throw all of their weight behind it.  Again, money talks; insurers haven’t yet experienced heavy losses from climate change.  The exception is 2004 and 2005 when a series of hurricanes including Katrina, the costliest natural disaster in the history of the United States, caused damage worth more than $200 billion.

So the bottom line is that if these storms continue to hit people and businesses in the wallet, then eventually even the staunchest global warming disbelievers will admit the obvious.  However, we need to do what we can in the meantime to avert global disaster.  We don’t want to pass the point of no return.

Forward-thinking and environmentally committed organizations recognize that the current emphasis on environmental responsibility is not a passing fad.  Companies that rise above their competitors and lead with strong sustainability initiatives that make good business sense are the companies that will continue to prosper and grow.   CarbonFree® Shipping Partner Envelopes.com is a great example, with a five-year long commitment to neutralizing all product shipping emissions through supporting Carbonfund.org’s global reforestation projects. 

The CarbonFree® Shipping program is part of Envelopes.com’s “Going Green” program that includes facilities powered by 100% wind-powered electricity, a large selection of recycled paper envelopes, ones with corn-based clear address windows made from compostable materials by EarthFirst® Films, envelopes printed with soy inks, and envelopes and paper products made from 100% cotton fibers versus traditional paper.       

“Partnering with Carbonfund.org is a great way to help reduce our carbon footprint. Our partnership has enabled us to send CarbonFree® Shipments by offsetting the CO2 created when shipping our products to your door by investing in reforestation projects,” explains Seth Newman, President of Envelopes.com.  “Reforestation projects play a vital role in absorbing emissions and providing time to transition to a new energy future.” 

Over the past five years, Envelopes.com has neutralized over 1.6 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions from product shipments, equivalent to the amount of carbon dioxide sequestered by almost 19,000 trees over a ten-year period. 

Every business and consumer has choices when it comes to the paper products they use.  Companies like Envelopes.com are helping to ensure that these choices include options that are environmentally responsible and exhibit ongoing commitments to sustainable operations.  Envelopes.com’s long-term dedication to Going Green initiatives such as CarbonFree® Shipping keep them at the forefront of their industry and the green choice for their customers. 

The world of social media has opened new channels for all businesses and organizations to reach their customers and supporters, but for many, it’s a strange new world requiring new skills and expertise.

Enter CarbonFree® Business Partner Salsa Labs.  Salsa helps nonprofits and political campaigns “ignite action and fuel change” around the world by growing and engaging their base of support online.  With Salsa’s technology tools and training, groups of all sizes can easily organize their supporters and chapters then improve efforts to fundraise, advocate, communicate through email and social media, host events and measure their results.  And despite the fossil fuel references in Salsa’s tagline, Salsa Labs has been a CarbonFree® Business for the past three years, partnering with Carbonfund.org to neutralize its own annual operating emissions.  By supporting Carbonfund.org’s carbon reduction projects, Salsa Labs has mitigated almost 500,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions, equivalent to the emissions created by using almost 25,000 gallons of gasoline.    

“Carbonfund.org shares our core values of making the world a better place,” says Christine Schaefer, Vice President, Community & Marketing.  “Their commitment to the environment and fighting climate change is inspiring and we look forward to this partnership.”

Salsa is proud to help their nonprofit clients fight for a healthier environment coast to coast and around the world, and Carbonfund.org is equally proud to help Salsa Labs meet its own sustainability initiatives through the CarbonFree® Partnership program.

The summer travel season is around the corner, and exotic locations lure the most adventurous travelers to remote and environmentally sensitive areas to experience their wonders.  When planning these trips, environmentally responsible travelers will seek out sustainable tours that meet established ecotourism guidelines.     

The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) defines ecotourism as "responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people." CarbonFree® Business Partner Detour, The Adventure Travel Marketplace adheres to this definition and its guiding principles when selecting the local tour operators and outfitters for its online destination tours and travel adventures.  Detour actively promotes sustainable tourism by offering trips operated by local ecotourism companies and promoting green certified hotels in the trip destinations they support. 

As an important part of its sustainability mission, Detour minimizes it own operational carbon emissions then mitigates what it cannot eliminate in partnership with Carbonfund.org.  As a virtual company, Detour follows Carbonfund.org’s motto to “reduce what you can, offset what you can’t™” by maintaining only a small wind-powered office with some employees working from home.  Detour handles all tour information and customer communications online, replacing paper and printing with electronic documents.  And for the past six years, Detour has neutralized all remaining operational emissions through the CarbonFree® Business Partnership program.  To date, Detour has neutralized over 500,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions, equivalent to the amount of carbon dioxide sequestered by 6000 trees over a ten-year period.       

“As a company based on promoting small-scale tourism directly through socially and environmentally responsible local tour operators and outfitters, Detour is committed to protecting the environment and minimizing global climate change,” said Greg Findley, Detour’s CEO.

Working only with sustainable local travel companies ensures that the tours support the local economies.  Detour selects tour operations that employ local people and provide economic incentives for local people to protect their natural and cultural resources.  Traveling with local companies also gives travelers a window into the lives of the communities they visit.  This inside knowledge can make the difference between being a tourist and thoroughly experiencing and learning about a destination.

Taking a trip, even the most sustainably-planned tour, has some negative environmental impacts, including the carbon emissions of airplane travel and on-site ground transportation.  Detour advises its customers to become environmentally-responsible travelers by choosing a sustainable trip, taking fewer and longer trips, and trying to get direct air flights when possible. Finally, Detour encourages tour customers to purchase carbon credits to offset the carbon emissions from their flights through Carbonfund.org.  Join the ranks of eco-travelers by selecting leading sustainable tour operators like Detour and taking the extra steps to neutralize your vacation travel emissions.  

 

There’s only one chance to make a first impression, and product labeling is an important part of a product’s first impression.  CarbonFree® Partner Label Impressions helps its customers make clear, strong impressions through a range of product labeling options while maintaining its own best first impression as an environmental leader in its industry. 

Label Impressions is dedicated to keeping our environment healthy “one label at a time” by offering customers the most current information on eco-friendly products and materials.   Their company vision is to set the standard for efficiency by being clean, lean and green.  An important component of that vision is maintaining their CarbonFree® Partner status for the past five years. 

"We’re setting a precedent in the label industry,” states Jeff Morrow, VP of Sales & Sustainability for Label Impressions.  “Label Impressions has been focusing on environmental printing issues for years now and this is the culmination of those efforts.”

In the past five years, Label Impressions has neutralized almost 800,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions by supporting Carbonfund.org’s energy efficiency and renewable energy technology projects.  That’s equivalent to the carbon emissions produced by burning 40,000 gallons of gasoline. 

Label Impressions maintains CarbonFree® operations and is a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified label printer, offering a variety of environmentally sensitive label choices including soy and water-based inks, recycled and biodegradable labels, biodegradable adhesives, and their own tree-free and water-free waterproof labels made from natural stone.  The FiberStone® labels combine the conformability, durability and toughness of a film label, the aesthetic qualities of a paper label, and the eco-friendliness of a 'green label' made from stone. 

First impressions and first-in-industry environmental accomplishments are important to Label Impressions, and Carbonfund.org is honored to help Label Impressions celebrate these achievements and their fifth anniversary CarbonFree®. 

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