Blog

Putting Faith in Carbon Offsetting is a Bit Like Grabbing an Electric Fence

Photo by Obskura

Photo by Obskura

Ever since we announced our agency was working toward becoming carbon-neutral, we’ve received both cheers and jeers. Some call us “forward thinking.” Others call us “ignorant” for taking part in the carbon credit “racket.” Which, of course, reminds me of a story.

Our son Caedon, (he’s not ignorant), who turned 16 yesterday, has always been headstrong. He learns by doing, like grabbing an electric fence to see what happens.  The conversation went something like this when he was five-ish:

Caed: Dad, what’s that?

Me: It’s an electric fence.

Caed: What’s it do?

Me: It shocks the cattle to keep them from running through grandpa’s fence.

Caed: What would happen if I touch it?

Me: It would shock you.

Caed: (Starting to extending his right hand toward the fence) You mean, if I touch it I will get shocked just like the cows?

Me: Yup.

Caed: (Pointer finger now outstretched heading for the fence as if it’s under the spell of the Death Star’s tracker beam)  So…if I touch it I’m going to get…

BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!

He pulled away with a jolt, and his eyes appeared up at me in amazement as if they were saying, “Cool, now I know what a cow feels like trying to escape.”

I suppose our boy Caed is an awful lot like me. I need to experience things to really understand them. We’ve been working to make our agency more sustainable for the past 18 months, and by sustainable I mean socially, economically, culturally and environmentally. The list of how we’ve stepped up our environmental effort is below.

How We’re Learning About Carbon Credits and Offsetting

It’s a learning experience. That’s why we decided to work with EcoAid to help us calculate our carbon emissions and purchase carbon credit offsets to do our part. Is it a scam? We’ll find out, but I don’t think so.

In a May 30 article, “Carbon Offsets: A Small Price to Pay for Efficiency,” The New York Times wrote:

“Dozens of companies, nonprofit and for-profit, sell carbon offsets, and some critics question how their work can be verified. But with various certification programs now in place — including the Gold Standard and Green-e Climate, to name two — there is no reason that fraud should be harder to curb in carbon-offset markets than in other domains.”

EcoAid is a member of Voluntary Carbon Standard, which, according to the organization’s site, “…provides a robust, new global standard and program for approval of credible voluntary offsets.” As for the Chicago Climate Exchange, where our carbon credits are purchased, here are the groups that verify their programs.

By being willing to grab the electric fence and actively participate”first hand” in carbon offsetting, we’re doing our due diligence the best way we know how. By DOING. And I promise to keep you posted every step of the way. That way you can determine if this approach is right for you, and perhaps more importantly, is it going to work for commerce and ecology.

So far we haven’t been shocked.

Here are the other efforts we’ve undertaken to reduce our cost of consumption.

Recycling Program

We host a Goodwill donations bin in our parking lot to help recycle items and put people back to work through their programs.

 

  • Recycling bins in every office
  • Two large recycling bins located in courtyard
  • Recycling of: aluminum, plastics, paper, cardboard boxes, copy paper, letterhead, computer printout, colored papers (pastels, carbonlese, Golden Rod), envelopes (white/pastel plastic windows, no adhesives), coated papers (fax, brochures, advertising, direct mailings, file Folders (manila or pastel only NO LABELS), cardboard boxes, plastic bottles, aluminum cans
  • Goodwill donations bin on our property

Repurposed Furniture

Rather than buying new, we refurbished old flourescent lights with new energy-efficient balasts.

 

  • Feature repurposed old furniture throughout office
  • Lighting fixtures
  • Filing cabinets

Copy Paper

 

  • Beginning Sept we will be purchasing copy paper that is 33% post consumer waste
  • Printing program, printing on both sides of paper, continually reducing our paper waste, only print what you need
  • Production/Status reports are all electronic

 

 

Toners/Ink Cartridges

 

  • Recycling of all HP laser cartridges
  • Epson Ink cartridges
  • Purchasing remanufactured B/W laser cartridges
  • XEROX new brand, 27% overall savings

Sustainable Cafe

  • Energy efficient microwave
  • Energy efficient dishwasher

Water Conservation

 

  • Run the national Water – Use It Wisely Campaign
  • Water filtration system
  • Water cooler system via filtration

Opted Out of Junk Mail

 

  • Direct mail
  • Catalogs
  • Phone books
  • Newspapers

We’re meeting this afternoon with a group to do an energy audit on our building. We’ll also be hosting SolarCity to determine the viability of adding solar to our 10,700 square foot building. We’ll keep you posted.

Thinking back on Caed and the electric fence: I’m glad he didn’t ask what would happen if he peed on it. You don’t want to know.

facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmail

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>