Every once in a blue moon, a project surprises you by progressing more quickly than anticipated and this Counter Culture's carbon neutrality is a great example of that variety of rare surprise: I'm thrilled to announce that it we reached our five-year goal in only two years and achieved carbon neutrality at the end of 2011 by offsetting our 576-tonne greenhouse gas footprint through tree-planting and fuel-efficient stove construction in Central America.
Let's take a step back to the measurement, though, shall we? We arrived at that 576-tonnes-of-greenhouse-gas figure with the help of Vancouver-based Climate Smart, a foot printing organization that takes a unique approach to auditing by empowering businesses to measure themselves. I spent the first half of 2010 working closely with Climate Smart and collecting data from different areas of our business to understand the whole picture of our emissions, from the large impact of long-distance employee commutes around our NC headquarters to the even larger impact of our international and domestic air travel. Needless to say, we have many opportunities for improvement!
Having established a baseline, we turned our attention to potential areas of reduction, which is daunting in any circumstances and particularly challenging during a period of growth. As we neared the end of 2011, we realized that we hadn't made progress in energy reduction anywhere (with the notable exception of our Atlanta Training Center, where Ben Helfen successfully halved our office's energy bills over the prior year by powering down machines, turning off lights when they weren't in use, and actively managing the thermostat!).
We started reaching out to providers of offsets and reconnected with Trees, Water and People (TWP), which manages offset projects ranging from tree-planting and stove construction in Central America and Haiti to wind power in the American west. TWP was incredibly generous with their time and expertise when I was working on Finca Mauritania's carbon footprint. They distinguished themselves from other offset providers by offering to implement a project building fuel-efficient stoves with a cooperative that Counter Culture works with in Marcala, Honduras. The COMSA cooperative is excited by the project, and I am practically giddy to think that we can integrate coffee-buying and carbon-offset-buying.
The next few months will see us collecting greenhouse gas data for the 2011 calendar year and reporting it in our annual Sustainability Scorecard, as well as continuing to deepen our relationship with TWP. I'm heading to Marcala in February, and I can't wait to see how the project is going and learn about stove-building from the experts.