How does a distributed company in the health information technology industry offset emissions from business travel? Set criteria, choose a vendor, and ask the staff to vote!
Lantana believes we all need to take part in solving the problem of climate change. This mission includes reducing and offsetting business and personal greenhouse gas emissions. Business travel is a major source of our corporate greenhouse gas emissions, and purchasing carbon offsets is a practical and affordable way to mitigate unavoidable trips. Our previous greenLantana blogs explored how offsets work (“When You Have to Travel for Work, Invest in Carbon Offsets”) and how to shop for offsets (“Carbon Offsets for Lantana Business Travel—Where to Put Our Money?”).
We estimate Lantana’s air travel in 2015 and 2016, together, produced 149 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). We are happy to report on our carbon offset purchases to account for these emissions.
Our Carbon Offsets Vendor Criteria
The greenLantana team established three criteria for selecting vendors:
- Carbon Offset Standards: We select organizations and projects that comply with one or more of the following standards.
- Gold Standard—The Gold Standard (GS) for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects was developed under the leadership of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and launched in 2003.
- Clean Development Mechanism—The United Nations rules and standards on climate change reduction projects defined under the Kyoto Protocol of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) are collectively referred to as the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).
- Verified Carbon Standard plus a socially-oriented standard—The Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) certifies greenhouse gas reduction, but does not focus on social or environmental co-benefits. We select projects that use VCS plus a second standard that verifies social or environmental benefits.
- Ability to Select Projects: We select vendors that allow us to choose either individual projects or categories of projects to support. We believe this helps us learn more about greenhouse gas reduction options and the opportunities to reduce other aspects of environmental degradation and to support the co-benefits of human health improvement and the social or economic welfare of project communities.
- Geographic Diversity of Projects: We select vendors that support projects around the world as well as close to the homes of our distributed staff.
Lantana Chooses Cool Effect
Lantana will purchase carbon offsets from Cool Effect because it meets our vendor criteria and has an easy-to-use website that features educational project descriptions, lists the standards used, and allows us to purchase offsets by the metric ton of CO2e.
Cool Effect is based on experience with Proyecto Mirador, a rural development and carbon emission reduction project. Cool Effect analyzes both the science and the business structure of projects that claim to remove carbon from the atmosphere. Third-party standards organizations, such as the Gold Standard, Verified Carbon Standard, and Climate Action Reserve, must approve all projects to be considered by Cool Effect.
Projects We Support
Lantana is purchasing carbon offsets to match our 2015 and 2016 air travel. In 2015, Lantana staff traveled to 42 meetings for a total of 227 flights, producing 83 metric tons CO2e. In 2016, staff traveled to 63 meetings for a total of 177 flights, producing 66 metric tons CO2e.
The greenLantana team invited staff to vote on an allocation of funds among the nine Cool Effect projects. These projects range from new renewable energy to energy efficiency to direct greenhouse gas capture.
During the 2016 Lantana Retreat, staff reviewed details on each of the projects and used stickers on posters (the low-tech option) or a web survey (the high-tech option) to indicate a share of funds for each project. Our contributions will install biogas digesters that turn animal waste into clean cooking fuel and improve human health, maintain methane capturing wells on natural seepage areas, and distribute high-efficiency cook stoves to reduce charcoal use.
After the vote, staff commented on their choices. The comments on the top three picks are typical of staff interest in project co-benefits—reducing greenhouse gasses while also creating benefits for local communities and ecosystems:
- Productive Poo Project (India)—Staff recognize the high impact methane has as a greenhouse gas and love the idea of converting waste into clean energy!
- Putting Methane in its Place (Colorado, USA)—Staff cite the importance of dealing with methane and like the idea of supporting projects in the USA.
- What’s Cooking (Uganda)—This project appeals to staff because it helps people feed themselves, improves human health, and helps the environment.
In Good Company
Many organizations are addressing their greenhouse emissions and taking steps towards carbon neutrality. Here are some examples from the David Suzuki Foundation:
- HSBC, Swiss Re, Google, Nike, Dell, and Vancity are committed to making their entire operations carbon neutral. Other companies offer carbon neutral products or services, such as carpeting, coffee, and deliveries.
- Airlines and travel agents offer customers the option to offset their flights, and some airlines offset all flights. Many hotels offer carbon neutral accommodations.
- Major conferences (e.g., United Nations World Climate Research Programme) and conventions offset their emissions.
- Wells Fargo, Whole Foods, the EPA, and the city of Vail, CO, purchase large quantities of renewable energy certificates to offset their electricity use.
- Some utilities offset their emissions and allow customers to purchase carbon neutral energy.
- Some movie studios offset the emissions from production by purchasing carbon offsets. Media companies such as BSkyB, MTV, and News Corp also offset the emissions from their broadcasts.
To solve the global problem of climate change, we must hold ourselves accountable for our carbon emissions and make continued efforts to reduce them. Although it is impossible to reduce carbon emissions to zero, carbon neutrality is a practical and affordable mission.
The greenLantana team will find new ways to reduce the environmental impact of our business and Health IT systems in 2017. And the whole staff will continue to vote each year on carbon offset choices. Every vote counts!