Buying Carbon Offsets - The Easy Way Out For The Polluter? 
In last Monday's post, we gave a short (and possibly too simple, because it truly can be complicated – but we like simple; simple is good), explanation of carbon footprints.

And we left you with the teaser that we’d talk about the pros and cons of purchasing carbon offsets to mitigate the damage you (and I, and your little dog, too) make to the ozone just by living.

So here we are. Again, here’s a simple definition of what carbon offsets are, brought to you by Wikipedia.com: a “carbon offset is a financial instrument representing a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.”

In other words, you pay money (to a certain entity – more on that in a moment) to pay – or offset – all the carbon footprints your very existence is leaving on this planet.


*Cartoon is from Gary Varvel's Blog - VarvBlog

Some folks say carbon offsets are just the another way for the rich among humans to pay off their guilt, something akin to writing a check to the homeless shelter instead of going down there and bringing your extra food, blankets and – how about this for an idea – actually volunteering your time at the facility.

But others say offsets truly can do good. The Unlikely Activist at his blog had this to say in January 2007 about purchasing offsets:

There are dozens of companies and non-profit organizations who provide easy ways to calculate your footprint, and will offer offsets for any budget, and across a range of projects...For less than $100, the average American can offset their annual personal footprint--as reported in A Consumer's Guide to Retail Carbon Offset Providers (PDF), issued in late 2006 by the nonprofit Clean Air-Cool Planet.

The sticky wicket comes, the Activist continues, when this comes up, “...the issue of additionality, namely, did your offset contribution fund emission reductions beyond those that were already in a place (in a business-as-usual sense)?”
In other words, is your offset purchase going toward 50 trees that the Sierra Club was going to plant anyway? Or will the Sierra Club now plant an additional 55 trees?

Purchasing the sustainable and renewable office furnishings we sell is one way to help reduce your company’s carbon footprint. Purchasing carbon offsets is another. There are thousands of other ways to help reduce the impact of business and industry on the environment. As long as you are making an active effort to do your part, that's all that matters.



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San Diego County: Turning Into A Big Green Business Machine 
We consider ourselves to be fortunate indeed to have our headquarters in San Diego County, particularly in Vista, located in what county residents refer to as North County. There’s still enough rural areas out here to help us think – at least for a moment and if we squint our eyes just right and don’t start hyperventilating on Hwy 78 near Vista Way during rush hour – that we don’t live in the most populous state in the country.



One more thing we think is terrific about this area – out of many terrific things – is how eco-thoughtful so many businesses are out here.

So this post will be one of applause and kudos to a few businesses here in all of San Diego County who are working to live green in the workplace.

* Please give it up for the University of California, San Diego, which recently announced that it has “begun to install the components of a multi-faceted sustainable program,” one which eventually will generate 10 to 15 percent of the electricity it uses.
* Earthportal.org reported recently that San Diego State University’s College of Extended Studies “recently formed a new online certificate program in green building construction.” (The story at the link above is pretty long; the news about SDSU is in the third paragraph from the bottom.) Kudos!
* Applause to our favorite utility, San Diego Gas & Electric for its plans to construct solar panel “farms” at landfills, open spaces throughout the county, even shopping centers – even that icon of consumer excess La Jolla’s University Town Center – in the coming years. The solar panel project could generate enough electricity to send power to more than 50,000 homes.

The three mentioned above are just a tiny number of the businesses in this wonderful county who believe green is the most beautiful of colors.

Congratulations (and thank you!) to all the green-thinking and farsighted owners and managers of businesses in San Diego County who share GreenOfficeProjects.com’s vision of a better planet – and workplace!


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Carbon Footprints Part I - Not The Kind You Make Hiking In The Woods 
Unless you’ve been stuck in your 5 mpg SUV on the freeway for the last five years, you’ve no doubt heard green proponents talk about “shrinking your carbon footprint.”

But what is a carbon footprint?



In a nutshell, your carbon footprint (and this definition is courtesy of Treehugger.com) is

...the total amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases emitted over the full life cycle of a product or service,...,from the computer used to find this article to the next meal you eat.....to the shoe that will leave a physical footprint on the ground the next time you walk outside.

Of course, here at Green Office Projects, we would add including the furniture and cubicle components you use to outfit your workplace.

Some people leave larger footprints than others. Do you commute 90 minutes twice a day in stop-and-go traffic (and if you live in Southern California, you know who you are...) in a gas guzzler? Do you have a new 3500-square-foot home for the three of you? Do you fly for business often?

Or do you grow a goodly amount of your own vegetables, bike to work, wear only all-cotton clothing you found at Goodwill and live in a multi-generational home that’s 60 years old and just 1500 square feet in size?

You get the idea. The more we consume, the larger the carbon footprint we leave.

So, since you probably live too far away from the job that sustains your family to bike to it, and since you may have to travel on business a lot to keep said job, and since you bought an SUV two years ago when gas was still affordable and everyone and their pet’s therapist wasn’t trying to sell a similar behemoth and now the market is saturated with used large cars, there’s supposed to be an alternative – purchasing what are known as carbon offsets.

Wikipedia defines a carbon offset as a “financial instrument representing a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.”

But is this really a good way to offset the damage you do to the environment? Is it really just throwing money at a problem and then walking (or more appropriately in this context, driving) away with nary a thought to whether or not your carbon offset purchase has really helped?

The pros and cons of purchasing carbon offsets are many – too many to go into in this post, so we’ll blog about them tomorrow...


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(Bad) Adventures in Green 
One must admit, when you think about it you gotta think: “What were they thinking!” A humongous replica of the Statue of Liberty? In Styrofoam! One of the least biodegradable products made by man?

We can’t take credit for finding this folly ourselves – the good and funny folks at earthfirst.com get the gold star for that.

But it does go to show that we humans really can be dumber than we look. Exceptionally so. And some of it would be funny if it weren’t so...stupid.

Or tragic.

Case in point: The story about the cyclist killed while wheeling to his place of employment during – the irony screams – Bike to Work Week, when a motorist opened his car door in the bike lane as the cyclist was coming by. And while the cyclist lost his life, the driver – of an SUV, no less – apparently received major punishment: a moving violation citation (opening a car door in traffic).

But, sometimes, Mother Nature does have her revenge. Or, to put it another way, be careful what you abandon, for nature may decide to take it back.

Finally, though, here’s a bad idea that we must admit hits a bit close to home. It has to do with being indoors. And what’s indoors? Furniture! Which is what we sell.

Of course, we’re all for indoor comfort (especially in one’s workplace). And we offer sustainable and “green” office furniture because we want to keep this planet’s environment beautiful, verdant and fun. In a way, we run a business which sells furnishings for indoors so that the outdoors will remain great – the great outdoors, what a concept!



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How to Help Your Office Go Green 
Let’s say you’re an office manager or business owner – or even “just” a regular employee – and you want your place of business to set up shop with green office furniture and components.

This is a new idea to your business, and you’re wondering how you can convince the folks who wield the power to say yes to such a decision to agree that this is the best thing your business can do.



What to do? What to do? What to do?

Here are some ideas:

Put together a green “mission statement.” Present it to your boss and see if you can’t have a meeting with his or her boss and then ask to present it to the powers that be at your company. In this statement, do your research. Check out the Worldwatch Institute, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and other green sites for statistics about how much waste businesses in this country create.

Be sure to wow them with these nifty facts provided by the USGBC:

In the United States alone, buildings account for:
• 70% of electricity consumption,
• 39% of energy use,
• 39% of all carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions,
• 40% of raw materials use,
• 30% of waste output (136 million tons annually)
• 12% of potable water consumption.

Remind them that by going green your company also will:
Reduce operating costs
Enhance asset value and profits
Improve employee productivity and satisfaction
Optimize life-cycle economic performance

Hit ‘em over the head (gently) with the following fact, one that goes straight to your boss’ favorite line on her company’s balance sheet – the bottom one:

Back in 2005 the Commonwealth Fund reported that the year 2003 saw “407 million days of lost time at work” by sick employees.

If you can, find out how many sick days your company’s employees took last year. If all employees took just one fewer sick day per year off – and the USGBC reports that green (that is, healthy) buildings mean fewer sick days for employees – how much money would your company save a year? Not only in sick leave paid out, but in productivity gained?

Show that number to your boss, your company president, your HR director. Watch their eyes pop right up out of their heads and quickly ask for permission to get some folks together to research the benefits further.

And don’t be surprised how fast they’ll agree to your proposal.


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