But first, please go with me back to Chicago, just a few weeks ago. I was sitting in Coop America's Green Business Conference listening with interest to the presentation by the Carbon Concierge. I had long heard about about carbon neutrality, carbon credits, and other popular terms. But I didn't completely understand what it meant, and how we could possibly truly become "carbon neutral."
Fortunately, the Carbon Concierge not only made a presentation, they were there the whole time, available to meet with attendees one on one to answer our questions and challenge us to take the first step. My main concern was, how do I possibly measure the amount of carbon that we generate...from the office activity, to travel, to shipping, to our warehouse, etc. I don't think we are alone in feeling overwhelmed...both in business, and in our personal lives.
The point that was made to me, which gave me heart, was that carbon neutrality is not an "all or nothing" proposition. I was felt excited when I learned we can pick the "low hanging fruit" first and become carbon neutral in those areas; or put another way draw a small circle of what we want to work on first. As we become successful in becoming carbon neutral within that small scope, we then expand the circle...then expand the circle again.
The beauty of this approach is much more than the reduced carbon footprint that will initially result, but more important is the sudden awareness, creativity, and change in culture that emerges as we seek to find ways to do better in that circle and even outside of the circle. In this case, we decided our first step (of the 1,000 mile trip) would be to become carbon neutral in our paper use.
What I learned in Chicago is that there is a basic cycle that is followed in becoming carbon neutral within that circle. First, MEASURE. Measure your carbon footprint within the circle, or in our case, keep track of our monthly paper consumption. Second, REDUCE. Reduce our monthly paper consumption; find ways to reduce the paper that is printed or copied, reuse scrap paper, etc. Third, OFFSET. Offset the carbon that is generated from the amount of paper that we do end up using. This is typically done by paying a certain amount of money to a Carbon Offset Provider. These providers typically fund projects that are focused on renewable energy, energy conservation, reforestation, etc.
So fast forward to today. I went to each workstation, and pulled the paper out of the printers, took paper out of the fax machine & copier, and put this stack of paper aside. I then took a new ream of recycled paper and split it among each of those machines. We then took a simple piece of (scrap) paper and noted 1 ream of paper. Over the course of the month, I expect that we will run low, and need to open a 2nd ream of paper. That ream will be noted on the list. As I explained the process, my assistant, Ellen told me what she has been doing to REDUCE, and we discussed other ideas. I am sure there will be more ideas as this remains in the front of our minds. I suspect that no one is going to want to be the first person to require that a 2nd ream is opened.
Why am I telling you all this? I believe that many of you...especially if you have made it this far in this entry, want to reduce your carbon footprint and would love to be able to say that you are "carbon neutral"...at least in some part of your life or business. I want to include you on this trip. I want to share with you the things that we learn and problems that we solve, and hope to get your ideas as we move from step to step. I also hope that you will inspire us to hit our targets, and hope that we will inspire you to take your first step.