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.