The Tower Companies “envisions a world where buildings inspire and enrich the lives of their occupants, and create a positive social change.” In this envisioned world, people seek out buildings that improve their health and well-being, connect them to thriving communities and help to sustain the environment.
The Tower Companies strive to be leaders in the green building industry – they believe it's not only a responsibility, but also an opportunity. One of the company’s goals is to "lead by example on environmental responsibility, by developing and managing high performance properties, being a global voice on environmental stewardship, and sharing our sustainable and innovative practices."
Since 2008, the Tower Companies has been a carbon neutral company, offsetting 100% of energy consumption by purchasing wind power and carbon credits, equal to over 150,000 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions. Carbonfund.org has been fortunate to partner with the Tower Companies to help achieve some of their carbon neutral goals. Through energy reduction strategies, the Tower Companies also have saved 10 million kWh in electricity, a 22% reduction since 2008.
Please see their inaugural sustainability e-newsletter for more interesting and inspirational facts about the Tower Companies’ environmental impact achievements.
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.
2014 is shaping up to be another strong year for continued environmental leadership by Carbonfund.org’s business partners. These companies understand the value in maintaining effective sustainability programs that demonstrate their commitment to environmental responsibility.
Entering its fifth year as a Carbonfree® Business Partner, Software for Good is a design-driven software engineering team producing complete digital solutions for companies doing great things.
“We are thrilled to be part of the Carbonfree® Business Partnership,” states Casey Helbling, founder and CEO of Software for Good. “By calculating, reducing, and offsetting our carbon footprint, we are helping to change the status quo and redefine what it means to be a responsible business.”
To date, Software for Good’s carbon emissions offset donations have supported Carbonfund.org’s carbon reduction projects, neutralizing the same quantity of emissions as are created by a standard passenger car driving almost 600,000 miles.
Software for Good team members and clients share a vision for what a healthy and sustainable community can be. They follow the triple bottom line business model, investing equally in people, planet, and profit.
A great example of Software for Good’s work can be seen in the rebuild for RE-AMP’s website. The organization is composed of over 150 non-profits and foundations across the US Midwest focused on climate change and energy policy. The new website focuses on user engagement and easy ongoing site maintenance, so that the various groups can work collaboratively to create a healthier, more sustainable world.
Software for Good demonstrates its environmental stewardship through the work it performs for its clients and in its continuing commitment to carbon-neutral operations through the Carbonfree® Business Partnership program.
Over the years, Carbonfund.org has been honored to work with some of the most innovative and environmentally responsible organizations in the world. One of these partners is CREDO, a social change company that offers top-notch products and services, including mobile services and credit cards.
CREDO Mobile is the first mobile phone company in the U.S. to join Carbonfund.org’s Carbonfree® Partner Program, which estimates and offsets the carbon emissions produced from the company’s electricity usage, as well as the shipping of its mobile phones. CREDO Mobile also offsets the carbon footprint of its San Francisco headquarters.
“Carbonfund.org is a breath of fresh air, a cost-effective solution that’s easy for anyone,” states Michael Kieschnick, CEO and President of CREDO.
CREDO and Carbonfund.org currently are partnering on a unique credit card offering with an environmental component. A group of pre-approved CREDO customers will have the opportunity to apply for a CREDO credit card, and after the customer receives and uses the card, CREDO and Carbonfund.org will plant 25 trees on behalf of the customer and send them a $50 Restaurant.com dining reward.
As part of CREDO’s ongoing social and environmental commitments, a portion of all CREDO revenue is donated to progressive nonprofits working for women’s rights, the environment, equality, peace and social justice. Since 1985, CREDO has raised over $76 million for these groups, and their customers and activists help pick the groups and vote on how to distribute the donations.
The CREDO community also comprises a strong political force with more than 3 million activists who are passionate about making a difference in our world. CREDO makes it easier for them to have an impact by giving them simple ways to speak out on issues they believe in. As CREDO puts it, being green isn't just a fad – it’s part of CREDO’s identity, fighting the green fight with dollars, deeds and voices for the past 28 years. Carbonfund.org is proud to partner with CREDO to ensure the company’s environmental commitments are realized.
Even the greenest IT services firm recognizes that it has a carbon footprint. After renewable energy sources, paperless processes, recycling and energy conservation measures, there remains some energy use, business travel, mailings and supplies that create carbon dioxide emissions.
Forward-thinking companies like Carbonfree® Business Partner EMWeb Design are neutralizing their current carbon footprint while continually seeking ways to reduce it.
EMWeb Design provides comprehensive Internet design and marketing for small businesses, professionals, creative artists and civic organizations. Services include branding, logo design, web design, search engine optimization, social Internet marketing and print media.
"Environmental responsibility starts with each one of us," explains Elizabeth Mullen Matteson. "EMWeb is striving to cut our carbon impact continually. For now, we are offering more "green" options to clients, and for the sixth consecutive year, are purchasing carbon offsets through Carbonfund.org, so that our overall carbon footprint remains zero."
This six-year commitment of carbon emissions neutrality has mitigated the same quantity of carbon dioxide emissions as 6000 trees planted and grown over a ten-year period. That's meaningful impact for a business focused on sustainability.
EMWeb Design offers solar and wind-powered web hosting, and can also provide environmentally friendly printing options using recycled and sustainably-produced papers and soy and vegetable-based inks. As EMWeb Design makes progress in operational emissions reductions, the Carbonfree® Business Partnership program will continue to provide a way to "reduce what you can, offset what you can't™".
Two of the key benefits of the Carbonfree® Partnership Program are its affordability for businesses of all sizes and its applicability to businesses of all industries. Despite best efforts, no business can identify and neutralize all of its operational emissions without the help of carbon offsets.
Veteran travel tours operator Toto Tours recognized this reality and took an important step towards improved sustainability by joining the Carbonfree® Partnership Program for 2014. Through their annual program donation, Toto Tours is supporting carbon reduction and clean energy projects around the world, while neutralizing a portion of their operational emissions.
Toto Tours provides worldwide adventure travel opportunities for the gay and lesbian community. Founded in 1990, Toto Tours hosts small groups of 10 – 20 participants to exciting global destinations. Their tour offerings change from year to year, and their customer tour satisfaction has yielded a repeat rate of 70% or higher on almost every tour.
The activity of travel and touring includes the unavoidable carbon emissions associated with airline flights, ground travel, hotel stays and dining, not to mention regular business operations like office space energy usage, IT services and mailings, and business travel.
"Toto Tours is pleased to partner with Carbonfund.org to offset the emissions generated as a result of our travel program business,” expressed Daniel Ware, President of Toto Tours. “We appreciate the tools you provide on your website to help our clients make environmentally conscious decisions regarding ways to offset their travel footprint. The carbon reduction projects you support are excellent!"
Airplane travel is one of the contributors to Toto Tours’ carbon emissions, so tour participants are encouraged to be aware of and actively participate in flight emissions offsetting for every tour.
Toto Tours also is committed to giving back to the communities they visit during travels around the world. Toto Tours staff have visited schools and made donations to charitable causes in Nicaragua, Bhutan, Honduras, and Kenya. These included the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, where Toto Tours contributed to the elephant orphanage in Nairobi, a Masaai village in the Masaai Mara, and a giraffe sanctuary in the outskirts of Nairobi.
There were two special causes in Kenya that especially moved the staff of Toto Tours. The first is "The Brethren Concern," a group dedicated to serving homosexual men in Nairobi, and the second cause is a the Matanya Primary School, a remote school where 250 children depend for their early education and even their basic necessities on the generosity of those who happen to visit. Toto Tours will continue to support both of these causes into the indefinite future, and will continue to pursue ways to improve tour sustainability in partnership with Carbonfund.org.
So, you're having a baby...Congratulations! What better gift to give your new bundle of joy than fresh clean air! Whether you’re a brand-new parent, busy raising kids or playing with your grandkids, caring for our environment to ensure its health for future generations should be a top concern.
One of the ways you can help support a healthy environment is to carefully select the products you purchase and the businesses you choose to support. Looking for strong sustainability programs and commitments to environmentally-responsible operations will enable you to support those companies that are doing their part to protect the environment.
For the past six years, CarbonFree® Business Partner Baby Rain, a leading online baby products retailer operating both www.pamperedtot.com and www.babychecklist.com, has neutralized all carbon emissions from its annual business operations and product shipping.
"Our business is booming! With our success comes a need for more packaging materials, marketing collateral, and fuel to power the vehicles used to deliver our products to thousands of customers across the USA and around the world,” explains Greg Charlap, Owner of Baby Rain. “As a business, we not only want to offset our growing footprint, but would also like to educate our customers about this worthy and necessary cause. Carbonfund.org helps us do both!"
Through the CarbonFree® Business Partnership, Baby Rain makes investments in carbon-offsetting projects, such as renewable energy, energy efficiency, and reforestation. Each project plays an important role in the fight against global warming.
In addition, Baby Rain plants a tree through Carbonfund.org for every stroller order they receive - a great way to give back and replace resources they use. These ongoing commitments to environmental responsibility make Baby Rain a great choice for baby care products from a company that’s helping to protect the planet’s future.
As is the case with many of our eco-tourism business partners, Eagle-Eye Tours of Windermere, Canada recognizes the environmental impact of their educational tour programs and is doing something about it. Eagle-Eye Tours covers the globe with diverse tours, ranging from ones with a birding focus to tours combining photography and wildlife, birds and gardens and more, visiting some of the wildest corners of our planet. Tour travel and onsite lodging creates carbon dioxide emissions, which Eagle-Eye Tours works to minimize but also realizes that all emissions cannot be avoided.
To address this negative by-product of their tours, Eagle-Eye Tours has maintained a CarbonFree® operation for the past five years by calculating annual tour-related emissions then supporting Carbonfund.org’s clean air technology and carbon reduction projects to neutralize those emissions. To date, Eagle-Eye Tours has mitigated almost 2 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions through their CarbonFree® program, equivalent to the amount of carbon dioxide sequestered by almost 23,000 tree seedlings planted and grown for ten years.
"We travel the world enjoying birds and other wildlife, but realize that many of these species are threatened by climate change,” explains Cam Gillies, Director of Eagle-Eye Tours. “We are excited to continue to offset the carbon emissions from our operations and to take concrete action in the conservation of the biodiversity we so enjoy."
Eagle-Eye Tours offsets all of the carbon dioxide emissions produced from all guide and on-tour participant flights, vehicle use during tours and operations, ship use, and the electricity used by their office. They also design tours that visit reserves and lodges that have been established to demonstrate and deliver benefits from conservation to the local community. Eagle- Eye Tours offers tour participants the option to help with environmental sustainability by offsetting flights from their departure to the start of the tour. This ongoing commitment to sustainable tour management helps to set apart Eagle-Eye Tours as a leader in ecotourism and demonstrated environmental responsibility in all aspects of their operation.
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.
It’s spring – time to get outdoors and enjoy all the beauty and adventure that nature offers. For the past ten years, Central Coast Outdoors has arranged kayaking, biking and hiking tours in the California Central Coast region, and for the last five of those ten years, Central Coast Outdoors has neutralized its own operational emissions as a CarbonFree® Business Partner.
"Our company goal was to lower our emissions and impacts as much as we could and use carbon offsets and other mitigation measures to address the impacts that remained,” explained John Flaherty, co-owner of Central Coast Outdoors with his wife, Virginia. “We feel Carbonfund.org works hard to offset and repair environmental damage for organizations that advocate for a sustainable future."
Central Coast Outdoors has taken many additional steps to be an environmentally responsible tour company. They use highly fuel efficient hybrid vehicles for their tour transportation, installed solar electric panels on their office, use refillable water bottles and purchase produce and menu items from local farmers markets for tour meals. These efforts coupled with their ongoing commitment to maintaining a CarbonFree® business underscore Central Coast Outdoors’ dedication to being a truly sustainable tour operations company.
Get out there this spring – enjoy the outdoors, but be sure to choose tour operators that are truly dedicated to environmental responsibility like Central Coast Outdoors to plan your next adventure.