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Going Zero Carbon: An Approach for Small Business

Aug 18, 2007
How to make your environmentalism pay!

STEP 1: Figure it out:

Every time that you drive your car you contribute to global warming. The same is true for turning on a light-unless you are purchasing energy from alternative sources.

This article will help you off-set those carbon emissions. It is not that expensive to do this, and you will be helping to pay for some of the environmental cost incurred by your company.

Discovering our carbon imprint wasn't as easy as we thought it would be. I had heard about carbon offsets opportunities for a while, and we wanted to do it, but we did not know how. Most of the information used for determining the carbon generated is geared to the consumer, not the small manufacturing business.
We found these sites particularly helpful in trying to come up with figures and just having these links might save you hours of time:

http://www.carboncounter.org/

http://www.carbonfootprint.com/

http://www.climatecrisis.net/takeaction/carboncalculator/

http://www.carbonfund.org/site/

Using these sites, our company of ten employees produces carbon emissions from these six sources. The figures are in metric tons:

1. Employee commute: 28.9 tons
2. Employee business travel: 13.44 tons
3. Shop gasses (from soldering): .11 tons
4. Company vehicles: 6.02 tons
5. Electricity: 2.43 tons
6. Natural gas: .47 tons

Our biggest impact is employee commutes and travel. Electricity is low because ninety percent of our energy comes from green sources. Compact fluorescent light bulbs are used in the plant.

The question is, once you are able to figure out your actual offset, how do you turn it into your advantage? That comes with who you choose to work with for your offset.

STEP 2: Choose your organization

You can go on line and see a number of organizations that offer different offset possibilities. From this, you can actually see what you are going to pay for your off-set.

http://www.ecobusinesslinks.com/carbon_offset_wind_credits_carbon_reduction.htm

There have been some rumors in the press that question whether money donated to certain organizations for off-set are actually being used for that purpose. Research your choice well.

The company that I chose to work with is not on this list. Forest Guardians, a New Mexico based environmental organization, has been involved with tree planting programs around streams beds in New Mexico, which supports most of biodiversity. Just as I was about to choose where to off-set my carbon, the assistant director, Carol Norton, gave me a call and asked me if I wanted to work with them. I have been a supporter of theirs for many years.

Their mission is:

"To protect and restore the native wildlands and wildlife of the American Southwest through fundamental reform of public policies and practices. Our goals are to protect and restore the native biological diversity and watersheds of the American Southwest; educate and enlist citizens to support protection of the forests, rivers, deserts and grasslands of this arid region; advocate for the principles of conservation biology in plans to restore degraded ecosystems and watersheds; enforce and strengthen environmental laws; support communities in efforts to protect their land and to practice and promote sustainable use of natural resources."

Since I know the organization has integrity, I can be assured that the money will actually off set the carbon we use through tree planting. Also, I saw a greater opportunity to tap into their network.

One thing that particularly appealed to me about Forest Guardians is that their offsets addressed entire ecosystems. Secondly, they were willing to work with me in a press release. Going green is the right thing to do, but it costs money. So if you can, work with an organization that will give you publicity. Ask for a link from their site and see if they will write something about you in their newsletter.

In this regard, it is great if you can find a local organization because they are going to be more receptive and easier to access.

STEP 3: Write a Press Release

The critical thing now is to get support from the community that shares your green values. This is a huge advantage because socially responsible jewelry, even according to leaders in our industry such as Martin Rapaport, has the opportunity to become the luxury brand. A large number of people in our country, perhaps as much as twenty percent are interested in supporting companies that are socially responsible.

You need to make these people aware that you exist because you need their support. Being socially responsible costs money.

I write a lot of press releases and I used to just write boring ones. Here is an example of what I consider a bad press release.

Then, I realized that editors see hundreds of these a day, probably, and they are looking for press releases which are interesting and even provocative.

My last press release was about how I switched to a Fair Trade supplier in Bali even though it costs more than the people I was working with in India and Thailand.

I got the attention of a senior editor of a major trade magazine who was offended by my-calling Blood Diamonds a "red herring." I wrote a long response to his protest. In the end, he really appreciated my point of view. I realize it was like playing with fire and fortunately, I was not burned. The release was picked up by JCK.

Here's my press release for my Zero Carbon. I admit, it is a little zany, and I may modify it for certain editors who I know would not be into it, but for a general release, it might just catch the attention of some people.

Also, here are some press release services that we use:

http://www.prweb.com/
http://home.businesswire.com/
http://www.i-newswire.com/
http://www.24-7pressrelease.com/
http://www.pr.com/

After you release your info to these sites, go to Google alerts and trace where it gets picked up. Simply enter your search terms in the box provided and select how often you want updates. Google will then send you emails to the email you provide, with all instances of that search term being used for the time selected.

You can then go through them, one by one and see how many found you or someone else using that term. These are great because though they can take a little time to explore, they can be troves of marketing treasure. If you go about this, please come back to this site and share information, particularly if you are able to find more about going zero carbon. We are always looking for ways to improve.
About the Author
Marc Choyt is President of Reflective Images, www.celticjewelry.com, a jewelry company that practices socially responsible business.Marc authors www.fairjewelry.org a movement website for consumers and jewelers supporting green and fair trade jewelry. He also originated The Circle Manifesto,
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