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Archive for July, 2008

Fox News: Exploring Sherwood's Carbon Connections

July 22nd, 2008 by

Sherwood has gotten a lot of press lately. After the Wall Street Journal covered our Carbon Offset program, FOX Business News wanted to know if it was fair to charge someone ‘else’ for ‘our’ emissions.

I think this illustrates one of the most basic principles of ecology: Connectedness.

It was John Muir who famously said that when we try to pick out any one thing by itself, “we find that it is bound fast by a thousand invisible cords” to everything else in the universe.

And so it is with carbon emissions.

In essence, the complex game of measuring and tracing the impact of the invisible gases we breathe out into the atmosphere, is about our shared connections and responsibilities to each other.

The environmental effects of turning on a computer, buying a latte, or boarding an airplane are invisible at the time, and minimal on their own. But taken together, and considered as a whole, they are having an enormous impact on all of us. They are a demonstration that each of us contributes to the lives of others. That each of our acts, however small, has an impact on the planet.

To the victor belong the spoils, they say.

But if a client asks me to fly to NY for a meeting, who is the victor? Who ‘owns’ the emissions? Measuring the ‘thousand invisible cords’ that bind us all together can be a complicated business.

At Sherwood, we strive to live up to the quality of the work we do. If we’re designing carbon-neutral buildings, and LEED Platinum schools, then our carbon footprint is a part of the projects we work on.

So we’ve developed a three-tiered policy to address Climate Change:

1. Eliminate Energy Wasteful Business Practices.

In June, the Wall Street Journal ran an article called Tackling the Energy Monster, mentioning our efforts to reduce waste, increase recycling, and manage our electricity usage. The Wall Street Journal did another piece titled Strategies for Reigning in Energy Costs, which mentions our video conferencing program to allow fuller participation at staff and design meetings without having to travel. We encourage employees to use alternative transportation, and only 5% of Sherwood employees drive to work.

We’ve also gotten certified as a San Francisco Green Business, and joined the Business Council on Climate Change (BC3) to educate ourselves and put our principles in practice.

2. Improve the Way we Design our Projects.

Eco-Engineering is the science of integrating the built world with the natural environment. When we calculate solar gain, water balance, wind corridors, or geothermal resources on a site, we are studying these connections. It’s our art and expertise in doing so that enables us to build carbon neutral structures; regenerative buildings that cleanse the air and water around them; and neighborhoods and cities that encourage the ‘invisible threads’ of true community, without disrupting our connections to the ecosystems and atmosphere surrounding us.

3. Add a Carbon Offset Fee to Cover Unavoidable Emissions

While we strive to do less harm, and promote more good, there are certain emissions we can’t avoid. Because we have to take planes, print plans, and spend many many hours on the computer for each of our projects, we add an itemized expense to our invoices to cover the carbon costs of doing business. While the charge is minimal – the 0.05% surcharge means an extra $5 for every $10,000 billed – it accomplishes three important things.

  • Educates our clients about the full impact of their operations.
  • Supports renewable energy and energy efficiency projects that wouldn’t exist without those dollars.
  • Helps promote energy independence and assists the market in making a transition to a new energy economy.

Fox News: Exploring Sherwood’s Carbon Connections

July 22nd, 2008 by

Sherwood has gotten a lot of press lately. After the Wall Street Journal covered our Carbon Offset program, FOX Business News wanted to know if it was fair to charge someone ‘else’ for ‘our’ emissions.

I think this illustrates one of the most basic principles of ecology: Connectedness.

It was John Muir who famously said that when we try to pick out any one thing by itself, “we find that it is bound fast by a thousand invisible cords” to everything else in the universe.

And so it is with carbon emissions.

In essence, the complex game of measuring and tracing the impact of the invisible gases we breathe out into the atmosphere, is about our shared connections and responsibilities to each other.

The environmental effects of turning on a computer, buying a latte, or boarding an airplane are invisible at the time, and minimal on their own. But taken together, and considered as a whole, they are having an enormous impact on all of us. They are a demonstration that each of us contributes to the lives of others. That each of our acts, however small, has an impact on the planet.

To the victor belong the spoils, they say.

But if a client asks me to fly to NY for a meeting, who is the victor? Who ‘owns’ the emissions? Measuring the ‘thousand invisible cords’ that bind us all together can be a complicated business.

At Sherwood, we strive to live up to the quality of the work we do. If we’re designing carbon-neutral buildings, and LEED Platinum schools, then our carbon footprint is a part of the projects we work on.

So we’ve developed a three-tiered policy to address Climate Change:

1. Eliminate Energy Wasteful Business Practices.

In June, the Wall Street Journal ran an article called Tackling the Energy Monster, mentioning our efforts to reduce waste, increase recycling, and manage our electricity usage. The Wall Street Journal did another piece titled Strategies for Reigning in Energy Costs, which mentions our video conferencing program to allow fuller participation at staff and design meetings without having to travel. We encourage employees to use alternative transportation, and only 5% of Sherwood employees drive to work.

We’ve also gotten certified as a San Francisco Green Business, and joined the Business Council on Climate Change (BC3) to educate ourselves and put our principles in practice.

2. Improve the Way we Design our Projects.

Eco-Engineering is the science of integrating the built world with the natural environment. When we calculate solar gain, water balance, wind corridors, or geothermal resources on a site, we are studying these connections. It’s our art and expertise in doing so that enables us to build carbon neutral structures; regenerative buildings that cleanse the air and water around them; and neighborhoods and cities that encourage the ‘invisible threads’ of true community, without disrupting our connections to the ecosystems and atmosphere surrounding us.

3. Add a Carbon Offset Fee to Cover Unavoidable Emissions

While we strive to do less harm, and promote more good, there are certain emissions we can’t avoid. Because we have to take planes, print plans, and spend many many hours on the computer for each of our projects, we add an itemized expense to our invoices to cover the carbon costs of doing business. While the charge is minimal – the 0.05% surcharge means an extra $5 for every $10,000 billed – it accomplishes three important things.

  • Educates our clients about the full impact of their operations.
  • Supports renewable energy and energy efficiency projects that wouldn’t exist without those dollars.
  • Helps promote energy independence and assists the market in making a transition to a new energy economy.

Would You Pay a ‘Green’ Surcharge?

July 6th, 2008 by

tree

The Wall Street Journal’s blog “Independent Street” has asked its readers about Sherwood’s ‘green surcharge’.

We’ve begun adding a .05% surcharge to our contracts to offset the emissions we produce in a client’s name (i.e. $5 for every $10,000 billed).

We all know that computers use electricity, plans are printed on paper, and air travel causes emissions. These are simply the costs of doing business – costs counted in greenhouse gases and resource depletion.

What’s the best way to handle these costs? Would you pay a ‘green’ surcharge?

WSJ’s readers had some interesting comments:

“No I would not pay something to someone to do something they should morally be doing anyway,” says Richard.

Yes, we should morally be doing it, and we may soon be required legally to do it. But there is still a cost. All companies pay for health and safety measures, and pass them on in some way to their customers.

“Yes I would mind. I do not ask you to pay for my charity work,” says another reader.

As opposed to the first reader who views offsetting as a moral necessity we shouldn’t charge for, this reader views it as something extra – a form of environmental charity – that we shouldn’t ask clients to pay for. Opposite views – same result. What do you think?

One reader compared it to being charged “every time the toilet gets flushed,” another suggested we just add it to the cost of doing business without creating a separate surcharge.

Do you think it’s more transparent to let clients know we’re incorporating the cost of offsetting our emissions? Or should we simply add it in with the cost of the lights, plumbing, rent and other overhead (including toilets!) on our P&L sheets?

There are lots more interesting comments from readers:

“Only in SF. What arrogance, imposing a extra tax on customers.”

“CO2 is a CRUCIAL plant NUTRIENT!!!….So, why on earth should we REDUCE our emission of this highly beneficial CO2???”

“If businesses truly want to be green, they will put money where their collective mouths are. Do the right thing.”

“Carbon offsets are a sick sick joke.”

“I would be happy to pay such a fee if I can be assured the money is doing what they say it is doing.”

Read the article here, and let us know your thoughts!

The Weekly Heads Up

July 1st, 2008 by

The Fire Festival isn’t happening in SF until next week: July 9 – 12

But the Fourth of July Waterfront Celebration should help tide you over!
July 4, 2008. Band performances and fireworks display over the Bay from Pier 39.

Here’s a list of Fourth of July events around the Bay Area for more ideas.

Here’s a list of events happening across the five boroughs in NYC from the Macy’s Fireworks to Sonic Youth in Battery Park as part of the River to River Festival.

But you don’t need to wait until the fourth to go to San Francisco Green Drinks
Wednesday, July 2. 5:30-7:30 p.m.
The monthly social gathering of environmental folks at Varnish, 77 Natoma St, Nr Howard.

Warning: CATASTROPHE hits New York! (via Streetsblog)
The four panelists of the apocalypse will discuss present and impending catastrophes, and how to deal with them.

July 2. 6:00 pm. Atlantic Gallery 135 W. 29th St. (bet. Sixth & Seventh Aves.), Suite 601

* James Howard Kunstler author and social critic
* Colin Beavan aka No Impact Man
* Subsistence farmer Sharon Astyk
* Author Michael Hogan

This panel is held in conjunction with Atlantic Gallery’s exhibit, Catastrophe (through to July 17)

Atlantic and selected artists respond to the theme CATASTROPHE with painting, sculpture, drawing, photography and fiber art. In this country, the new millennium began dubiously with a questionable election, and since the first hanging chad, the last 8 years have included enough disasters around the world to make Nostradamus nervous. Come see how artists illuminate events– political, environmental, economic, social, cultural or personal– they regard as catastrophic….

If your Fourth was a flaming catastrophe, the Fillmore Jazz Festival might help you recover your cool.
July 5 & 6, 2008. Fillmore Street between Eddy and Jackson
Stages along Fillmore showcase Bay Area jazz talent.

Heads Up Next Week for some Great SPUR events in SF!

Noontime Forums at the SPUR office offer excellent food for thought….

Tuesday, July 8. 12:30 pm.
The “Live Free or Drive” folks in Portland organized a Towards Carfree Cities conference. Join us for a discussion and presentations from the many San Franciscans who attended.

Wednesday, July 9. 12:30 pm.
Short Films on Reclaiming Public Space: Come watch an entertaining and inspiring series of short films—courtesy of StreetFilms—of successful efforts to re-imagine, transform, and reclaim streets in Paris, Melbourne, Istanbul, Bogota, Portland, and more! Does San Francisco have the will to Reclaim Public Space?

Thursday, July 10. 12:30 pm.
Better land-use planning to reduce driving is a core greenhouse gas reduction solution. What land-use strategies does CARB recommend in its draft Scoping Plan for implementation of AB32, California’s landmark climate change legislation? How effective will these policies be in changing land-use decisions in California? Stephanie Reyes from Greenbelt Alliance will provide an overview of the land-use section of the Scoping Plan and ClimatePlan’s analysis of the recommendations.