Offsetting Our Carbon Footprint: One Step at a Time
February 10, 2022 by Courtney Jones
Sustainability is not about perfection; it’s about progress.
And progress begins by understanding the impact of our actions and responding accordingly.
In a constant pursuit of both progress and accountability, LSW took a significant step by calculating and offsetting a portion of the firm’s operational carbon footprint.
Make no mistake: this is not a perfect exchange or a call for kudos. Rather, it’s a complex and actionable way for our team to understand the impact of its day-to-day operational practices and then take responsibility for them.
It’s also a process we’re committed to upholding every year.
Why it matters
Data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report establishes the global scientific consensus that “human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land” and that “human-induced climate change is already affecting many weather and climate extremes in every region across the globe.”
We know that the built environment (the very fruit of our labor) accounts for a large portion of this carbon. As a firm, we also know that the decision to address our contributions to the global environmental crisis requires a sustained effort to fully account for our carbon footprint.
What is our carbon footprint?
Your carbon footprint corresponds to the amount of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases (GHGs) produced by an individual or organization.
Carbon footprints are measured in tons of CO2 equivalent. This unit is calculated by tallying the sum of our daily direct and indirect actions and choices that contribute to the production of greenhouse gases. Think: switching lights on and off, making coffee, having delivery vehicles arrive each day with paper and plastic supplies. It all adds up.
Once a carbon footprint has been calculated, individuals and businesses can purchase carbon offsets to compensate for their emissions by funding an equivalent carbon dioxide/GHG-saving initiative elsewhere.
Understanding Human Impact
To calculate our carbon footprint, we collected and analyzed the following data points:
- Utility and water bills
- Commuting data from employees
- Business-related travel data
- The inventory of supplies we use across our office
Next, we gave each of these categories a carbon equivalent. The cost of offsetting carbon emissions can be calculated by converting the source into its respective carbon equivalent or carbon factor.
Carbon factors for each source are provided through government agencies like the Energy Information Administration(EIA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Once researched and calculated, we converted each carbon equivalent into a US dollar amount using the proposed $75/ton of carbon conversion factor; this factor was estimated by the IMF to meet the 2030 Challenge targets.
It’s important to note that this entire process of carbon offset accounting is connected to our commitment to the AIA’s 2030 Challenge which is the industry’s formal effort to meet the targets set forth in the Paris Climate Agreement.
All our calculations and data were recorded in an excel spreadsheet formatted specifically for the ongoing collection and commitment to offset our carbon footprint.
Because a carbon footprint is the combination of many factors - from the electricity that powers our offices to the carbon emitted during the processing and procurement of ordinary office supplies - we decided on a phased approach to accounting for our comprehensive carbon footprint. For this first step, our footprint only related to electricity usage.
If your organization is interested in a copy and walk-through of this document, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. We are excited to share this resource with others in the community ready to take responsibility for their carbon footprint.
Who did we partner with to offset our carbon footprint?
There are many third-party organizations that businesses or individuals can partner with to take responsibility for carbon emissions, all doing a range of compelling offset projects. LSW selected to purchase offsets through Tradewater. Their organization specifically works to collect and destroy the potent refrigerants that would otherwise emit harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and accelerate climate change. Tradewater was selected because their mitigation projects align with emissions directly linked to the AEC industry.
Old refrigerants are some of the most potent greenhouse gases produced. They are found in old refrigeration and air conditioning units across the world and are collected from garages, auto shops, HVAC stores, and decommissioned cooling equipment such as building chillers. By partnering with Tradewater, our carbon offset credits are going towards collection and destruction activities that directly contribute to meaningful greenhouse gas reductions all over the world, and ultimately, help to prevent climate change.
Download this PDF for more information about the specific project we are contributing to in partnering with Tradewater.
Impact of our carbon offsets
- Each CFC molecule destroyed saves 100,000 molecules of ozone.
- 5,100,000 tons of CO2e destroyed to date. More than 1,100,000 pounds of CFCs destroyed to date, by Tradewater’s efforts.
- Our carbon offset credits were purchased at $17/ton. Therefore, we were able to destroy and prevent the emissions from 288 tons of CO2e in covering our electricity-related carbon footprint.
The process to carbon-neutrality for LSW’s operations has started, with the understanding that continued tracking and evaluating may bring adaptations and adjustments to our commitment moving forward. This just one humble but significant step for LSW in support of our accountability goals for integrity and stewardship.
We’d love it if you’d join us on this never-ending journey toward progress.
To read more about sustainability at LSW, download our Sustainability Action Plan here.