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.
The New Year is here, and progressive businesses are already launching their sustainability initiatives. New Carbonfree® Business Partner evolveEA is out of the blocks early with their Green Vision for Living Buildings in 2014.
evolveEA is a multidisciplinary architectural design practice committed to sustainability in the built environment, and ready to help individuals, communities, and organizations take strategic action towards sustainable practices. evolveEA looks through three lenses of sustainability: People, Process, and Place.
evolveEA is a carbon neutral, B-Corp certified company and won first place among small businesses in Southwest Pennsylvania in a 2012 competition judged on all aspects of a company’s sustainability footprint. After reducing emissions wherever possible, evolveEA chose to partner with Carbonfund.org to completely neutralize emissions from four years’ worth of annual business operations. Through the Carbonfree® Business Partnership program, evolveEA is supporting energy efficiency projects in order to mitigate its own operational emissions.
“evolve’s mission to advance sustainable systems and solutions for people, processes, and places has driven us to achieve and maintain carbon neutral operations since 2011,” explains Steve Hockley, Sustainability Process Manager. “While we have taken many steps to reduce our carbon footprint, Carbonfund.org has enabled us to reach net zero emissions by purchasing offsets for four years worth of greenhouse gas emissions from our office operations and travel.”
The impact of building sustainability can be seen in recent evolveEA projects, including the US Steel Tower’s LEED certification process begun in 2007. With the recent changes to LEED certification, businesses have additional opportunities and incentives to neutralize building emissions by supporting carbon emissions offsetting projects. evolveEA and Carbonfund.org look forward to partnering on future projects to help advance sustainable systems and solutions across the country through the design of green buildings and facilitation of carbon-neutral operations.
The Internet is flooded with green buying guides and “Ask Angie” referrals and recommendations for all types of customer goods and services. But how do you decide upon a reliable source? Direct experience and expertise certainly makes a difference, and one of our new CarbonFree® Business Partners provides just that when it comes to selecting the best and safest products for the family dog.
Pet Expertise is a small family-run business owned by Jessica Rollins, who was inspired to create Pet Expertise in order to help her dog training clients make informed product choices for their pets. Jessica is a certified positive dog trainer through the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals with a bachelor’s degree in biology. She personally tests each dog product for quality then creates thorough and detailed descriptions to help you select the right product for your dog.
Pet Expertise specializes in dog supplies that are safe and effective, and this year, Jessica took the additional step to make her business CarbonFree®. This measure is an important component to Pet Expertise’s environmental focus and part of their “brag list”, which also includes reusing shipping boxes and packaging, purchasing biodegradable shipping materials, and sourcing products that are made in the USA of natural materials.
“We love the earth and all of its creatures and do our best to make the world a better place in all of our activities through Pet Expertise,” states Jessica.
Pet Expertise claims a leader-in-the-pack position for dog products and training by including a strong environmental sustainability component to its overall operations and becoming a CarbonFree® business.
For immediate release
With Earth Day (April 22) fast approaching, it is time for all of us to evaluate how our daily activities affect our planet and see what we can do about it. As of April 22, Solosso, a premium custom clothing company that lets you design your own eco-friendly custom dress shirts online, launches an initiative to plant a tree for every shirt sold, thus taking their operations from carbon neutral to carbon negative. “As a clothing company, we want to lead the way to sustainability in an industry that is infamous for its carbon emissions,” says Jan Klimo, Head of Business Development at Solosso.
The initiative is executed through the Carbonfund.org Foundation, a non-profit organization leading the fight against global warming by collecting and investing funds into high-quality carbon offset projects resulting in real carbon emission reductions, such as reforestation.
Jan describes Solosso’s partnership with Carbonfund.org: “We’ve been partners with Carbonfund.org for over three years now, completely offsetting our carbon footprint with their help. As of this year’s Earth Day, we are excited to go the extra mile and turn our operations from carbon neutral to carbon negative by planting a tree for every shirt we sell. As a clothing company, we want to lead the way to sustainability in an industry that is infamous for its carbon emissions.”
Plant a Tree initiatives are popular among a range of business, such as Dell, Baby Check List, Global Basecamps, or Euroloan to name a few. Money funneled into reforestation projects has an obvious positive environmental impact all over the world. Linda Kelly from Carbonfund.org explains: “Tree-planting projects benefit the environment, the atmosphere and the local community, by creating jobs in the tree-planting activities and maintaining the ongoing forest management. The tree-planting projects we support are numerous and geographic locations are worldwide. Some of our tree-planting projects are in the US, but the majority are in India, South America and Haiti.”
With Carbonfund.org’s portfolio of carbon-reducing projects worldwide, carbon offsetting is available to any individual, business or organization.
What are you or your business doing to help achieve a zero carbon world?
The enduring premise of the CarbonFree® Business Partnership program, and key to the program’s ongoing success, is the simplicity of the commitment: recognize and measure the annual operational emissions of your business, do what you can to reduce those emissions, and then support carbon reduction projects to mitigate the negative impact of the business emissions you can’t yet eliminate.
Hundreds of businesses around the world have joined the program, and many have maintained a long-term commitment to remaining CarbonFree®. It fits easily within their business strategies, environmental commitment and operational budgets.
A great example is Gaia’s Delights, a CarbonFree® Partner for the past six years, following its founder’s focus on the environment as underscored by the company’s name. Gaia was the goddess of Earth in ancient Greek mythology, and Gaia means “Mother Earth”. Gaia’s Delights is the parent company for a number of businesses known for their commitment to fair trade practices and to small independent herbal farms and farmers. Keith Cleversley started the company in the late 1990′s while at the peak of his record production career. With the resources that Gaia’s Delights has gathered over the past years, the company now devotes much of its time to helping worthy causes, doing important research, and engaging in activities that help to preserve and improve the world’s environment.
"When searching for more ways to enhance our efforts to help to save this beautiful planet of ours, Carbonfund.org was the obvious choice and a shining example of what grass roots determination can accomplish," explains Keith. His ongoing devotion to developing enterprises that provide healthy products from the herbs and extracts found in nature, while supporting local farmers and communities and maintaining fair trade practices, demonstrates Keith’s continuous commitment to environmental sustainability that exemplifies our CarbonFree® Partners.
Most of the time, we do not take into account the complete costs to producing or consuming a good or service. This is because we focus on the explicit costs. For example, if we were to bake a loaf of bread, we would take into account the cost of the flour, yeast, sugar, salt, water, milk, and butter. Perhaps we would even calculate our labor time to make the dough and the cost of running the oven, but would we account for the carbon dioxide dumped into the atmosphere for the delivery truck that delivered the baking supplies? How about the CO2 emissions from the power plant burning fossil fuels to generate the electricity to run the oven? The problem is that we are not required to bear the full cost of production. Some of the costs to bake that loaf of bread were shifted to society as a whole.
Even if we did not bake the loaf of bread ourselves, we’re still shifting costs to society as a whole just by consuming it. Our cars burn gasoline to drive to and from the grocery store, and regardless if we walked or biked, gasoline was likely also burned to deliver the bread to the grocery store in the first place. Sure the delivery truck paid for the gasoline, but many companies do not pay for the carbon emissions their operations generate.
We need to make some drastic changes to avoid the ills of global warming, which we are beginning to see affect our daily lives, but the logistics of transforming our world’s energy system can be intimidating. The first thing we need to do is get off fossil fuels and transition to renewable energy sources. Easier said than done, I know. It will be a complex and time-consuming process converting power plants, vehicles/transport systems, homes and commercial buildings. Unfortunately, time is not on our side here. We really need to reduce carbon emissions 80% by 2050.
So then the question becomes how can we transition the world’s energy infrastructure to sustainable sources by mid-century? One of the ways suggested is to implement a tax on CO2 emissions that begins low and gradually increases. There should be no mystery either about how much and at what intervals over time the tax will rise. Then people, businesses and governments can plan their fossil fuel exit strategy.
The revenues the carbon tax generates should be directed into subsidizing renewable energy innovation and overhauling energy infrastructure.
Ideally, the carbon tax should be global. Again there are logistical challenges to this climate change solution. The key is that we need a systematic and practical process. Isn’t it time we started taking responsibility for the full costs of production and consumption? Society is bearing the cost as a whole, and society as a whole needs to be part of the solution.
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)
It seems only fitting that a business that depends entirely on organic and natural herbs, flowers, and medicinal plants would maintain a strong commitment to environmentally responsible business practices. Carbonfree® Business Partner Mountain Rose Herbs sets a high standard in this regard and has made significant steps in following Carbonfund.org’s motto of “reduce what you can, offset what you can’t™” by lessening its energy consumption prior to neutralizing their remaining annual operational emissions with Carbonfund.org.
Mountain Rose Herbs’ primary facility was constructed with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards and relies heavily on natural lighting. Energy demand was further reduced by making a complete lighting upgrade to energy-efficient bulbs in their principal facilities and installing Energy-Star rated heating and cooling systems. In addition, Mountain Rose Herbs upgraded all their computers to those with Gold Star ratings for energy conservation, minimal shipment packaging and elimination of environmentally-harmful materials as well as more energy-efficient flat screen monitors. Mountain Rose Herbs converted all electrical usage to their local Greenpower program to ensure that a significant portion of their electricity comes from wind and solar sources.
Despite all of these energy-saving measures and efficiency enhancements, Mountain Rose Herbs still generates a measurable annual carbon emissions footprint from its business operations. In order to neutralize these annual operational emissions, Mountain Rose Herbs has partnered with Carbonfund.org for the past four years to measure and offset these unavoidable emissions by supporting Carbonfund.org’s clean energy and carbon reduction projects.
"If we are to move past coal and look forward to a greener future that is full of alternative energy, then we must support the endeavors of Carbonfund.org, who are creating the infrastructure necessary to make it happen," states Shawn Donnille, Vice President of Mountain Rose Herbs.
We applaud Carbonfree® Partner Mountain Rose Herbs for pursuing a meaningful commitment to environmentally-conscious business operations, measuring and neutralizing their annual carbon emissions, and supporting our clean air technology projects.