Operations

Our headquarters in Boulder, Colorado, is home base for our 50 employees, with the exception of 8 sales staff working remotely throughout the U.S. When calculating our operational impact, we include the carbon dioxide equivalent emissions of: HQ energy consumption, HQ waste generation, all business travel, HQ employee commuting, and HQ paper consumption. We also track our HQ water consumption.

When comparing the impact of our operations to the impact of our products, we were not surprised to see the impact of our operations was smaller than the impact of our products, but we were surprised at the extent of the difference: Even though our operational footprint is much smaller than the footprint of our products, we believe it is important to lead by example and continually strive for improvement. As we work to increase our efficiency, we balance environmental implications with financial and operational considerations – an on-going discussion nearly every company is having on its sustainability journey.

Challenges and Opportunities

We work to be as efficient as possible, but certain impacts are inevitable. To balance that, we invest in high-quality carbon offsets through Renewable Choice Energy and water restoration credits through the Bonneville Environmental Foundation. These investments offset the impact of our HQ energy and water consumption, waste generation, business travel, employee commuting, and paper consumption.

HQ Energy and Water

We don’t own our headquarters building, so decisions related to investments in our facility take into account our landlord relationship and lease terms, as well as environmental results. We worked with Boulder County in 2013 to gain greater insight into our HQ energy and water consumption. Opportunities included more efficient lighting, heating & cooling, and water fixtures. We invested in upgrading a substantial portion of our HQ lighting to T8 fluorescents, LEDs, and dimmable lamps. We also began researching opportunities related to heating and cooling, which is a much more capital-intensive investment. To reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, we installed solar panels on our building in 2008. These panels generate enough electricity to cover half of our building’s consumption.

Our goal is to achieve a net zero electricity HQ building. While we may never get there, we recognize that this aspirational goal is what everyone should be working towards. We will continue to explore and take steps big and small. For emissions we can’t avoid, we will continue to purchase third-party verified carbon offsets.

Carbon Offsets: We purchased 390 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent offsets (verified under the Voluntary Carbon Standard) from the Larimer County Landfill through Renewable Choice Energy. Municipal solid waste landfills are the third largest source of methane emissions in the United States, and methane is over 20 times more potent of a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Rather than let methane escape into the atmosphere, the Larimer County Landfill is burning this gas to make electricity – the amount of electricity used by approximately 900 homes in one year. We like that.

Water Restoration Credits: We purchased water restoration credits from the Bonneville Environmental Foundation and restored 183,000 gallons of water to the drought-threatened Yampa River near Steamboat Springs, Colorado. This river was experiencing extremely low water flow, threatening fish populations, local economic activity such as fly-fishing, and local agriculture. Through an innovative water lease project, water was released from reservoirs into the Yampa River to benefit the health of the river and its downstream stakeholders. This project was certified by the National Fish & Wildlife Federation’s strict criteria to ensure optimal environmental benefit. While we cannot deny the impact of our operational water consumption, we feel it is important to invest in water-related projects such as this to help balance our impact on this crucially important resource.

Waste

For the past several years, our HQ waste diversion rate has hovered around 60%, meaning that we recycle or compost over half of the waste we generate. That’s pretty good, but we think we can do better and wanted to learn more. In 2013, our compost provider, Eco-Cycle, conducted a waste audit of our HQ. This uncovered the opportunity to get to 90% waste diversion through better sorting of waste and new practices such as the recycling of plastic films, including bags. We will train current and new staff on proper waste management as well as pilot plastic film recycling in 2014. One challenge we face is that our trash and recycling provider, Western Disposal, does not weigh or otherwise measure how much we generate; they estimate based on container size. However, Eco-Cycle weighs our compost. This difference in approach is a barrier to understanding exactly how much we generate and divert from the landfill based on their reports. That’s why we will conduct another in-depth waste audit later in 2014 to measure our progress.

Vehicle Travel

We rent cars. All the time. We assume average fuel efficiency when calculating our carbon footprint based on rental car miles. We do not take vehicle size into account. Nonetheless, we are implementing a new policy to rent compact or economy cars while on business travel. If group travel or significant highway miles are involved, employees may rent up to a midsize at their discretion. While we won’t be able to quantify the impact of this policy, we know that renting more fuel efficient vehicles is important and the right thing to do. (For information on our air travel, see the “Sales” section.)

Commuting

Our HQ staff commutes from home. To encourage more efficient commuting, we offer a financial incentive for those who travel to work via carpool, a fuel-efficient vehicle, bicycle, bus, scooter, or their own two feet. To further incent better commuting, we will begin to offer HQ employees the Eco-Pass, which is a company-paid benefit allowing free access to Denver/Boulder area mass transit system.


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COMMITMENTS

Energy

Achieve a net zero electricity HQ. Until we get there, invest in high quality offsets to balance our emissions.

Water

By 2017, reduce water consumption by 10% and restore the balance of our consumption every year through high quality water restoration certificates.

Waste

By 2017, increase our waste diversion to 90%.

Travel

New Policy: Eco-Products employees will rent only economy or compact cars when local driving is involved. When highway or group travel is involved, employees may rent up to a midsize at their discretion.

Travel

New Benefit: Offer the Eco-Pass bus pass to Boulder-based employees.