World Environment Day: Connecting People to Nature

Connecting People to Nature is this year’s theme for World Environmental Day.  World Environment Day, celebrated each June 5th, was first designated by the United Nations General Assembly in 1972.  In 100+ countries, this day is the UN’s signature annual event for encouraging environmental stewardship. From your backyard to your favorite national park, nature is closer than you think. It’s time to get out and enjoy it.  Be a part of a world-wide event and share your photos and videos using #WorldEnvironmentDay or #WithNature.

Rocky Mtns naturewaterfall colorado nature

I frequently spend time outdoors to connect with nature.  A hike along the Chattahoochee River or a walk or swim in my neighborhood brings me closer to nature. My travels take me across this country and the globe –  to all the seven continents.

colorado rocky mtns

The Rocky Mountains: the majesty of nature

Recently, I witnessed the majesty of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.  The colonies of aspens, magnificent elk, soaring golden eagles, playful prairie dogs and yes, even snakes, took my breath away.

No matter where my travels take me, I’m always amazed by nature’s grandeur, stunning beauty and the plethora of free environmental services such as clean water and oxygen to soil and pollination.  Today few organizations or individuals directly pay for the environmental services received from nature.  Compounding this free rider status, many of the related externalities (waste) of commerce based on extraction of natural resources are not accounted for on the cost ledger of our organizations. If we don’t start accounting and paying for these environmental services that we all enjoy – how will our quality of life be impacted?  What are the risks to our businesses?  At a minimum, might we all be ignoring an enormous bill that is already past due?

I would argue that the status quo is unsustainable.

As much as 80% of the environmental impact of a brand comes from the activities of our supply chains.  Businesses, NGOs and governments all have opportunities to collaborate with suppliers and partners to protect and preserve the environment.  Here are some questions to consider posing across your supply chain:

  • How can we mimic nature to improve our products and services?
  • Do you collaborate with your key suppliers to measure and set reduction targets against use of energy, water, waste and packaging?
  • What waste streams are generated along each point within your supply chain that should be reduced, eliminated or examined for potential sale or donation to other organizations?
  • Do individual departments set budgets for use of energy, water, office supply use?
  • Does your organization report greenhouse gas related emissions publicly?
  • Are water-related risks or deforestation-related risks publicly reported by your organization?
  • How do you trace the origin of ingredients, raw materials and supplies and manage the quality of your direct suppliers?
  • What benefits do or can your service or product deliver to society?
  • Do your brand managers tour and experience the entire supply chain of your business?
  • What new initiatives should you pursue to help connect with nature as a way to enhance the influence and growth or your brand, while protecting and preserving the environment?

This World Environment Day, I encourage you to take steps to connect your brand, organization and yourself more closely with nature.  If you are not routinely asking questions like those above to your suppliers, my question to you is, what do you have you to lose?

Easy ways to “go green” at the office to celebrate Earth Day

Earth Day is coming up at the end of the month. You’re already trying to be as “green” as you can be at home, so now it’s time to make your workplace just as sustainable.  There are lots of simple changes you can make to raise awareness of environmental issues, create a sustainable workplace, and encourage your co-workers to make and participate in sustainable choices.

Here’s a few ways to make any office Earth Day-ready:

  1. Think Before You Print. Refrain from printing things that can easily be read or saved on the computer. And, if you decide to print, TreeZero encourages you to use our tree free multipurpose paper. We also suggest that you set up your printers to print two-sided, set your margins as wide and your font size as small as possible. Not only will you save paper, but you’ll think twice about what you’re sending out.recycle bins
  2. Recycle Everything You Can. Recycling is one of the easiest, least demanding and least expensive ways to go green. Strategically place recycling bins around the office to encourage people to properly dispose of paper, aluminum, plastic, glass and other items. As your office becomes more involved in the recycling, you can also set up separate bins for items such as batteries and ink cartridges.biking to work
  3. Commute Smarter. Walk or cycle to work if you can.  Take public transportation (tip: buy bulk passes to save money). As a bonus with either of these two options, you’ll get additional exercise on your way to and from work.  If you must drive, carpool or car share.  According to the EPA, ditching your car for two days per week will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 1,600 pounds per year.dog at work
  4. Conserve Water. Keep a pitcher of water in the fridge instead of running the tap. Don’t pour left over water down the drain.  Use it to water the plants.  If you’re lucky enough to be able to bring your dog to the office, use left over water to fill the dog’s water bowl.green team 2
  5. Start a Green Team. Get your office to create a sustainability team. Gather team members from a cross-section of the company and work together to develop and maintain green practices for your company. Keep it fun and encourage company-wide participation rewarding creative ideas.  Your new Green Team can inspire, activate, and engage employees to create meaningful changes within your company.  Otherwise, what’s the use of these tips if no one is using them?

Let us know how you’ve made your office a more sustainable place to work. Share some of your favorite sustainable ideas.  We look forward to celebrating and supporting Earth Day 2017 with all of you!

A Look At Deforestation: Last Year Billions of Trees Fell. Is Anybody Listening?

Deforestation is a huge and complex issue. In a note to US school children in recognition of Arbor Day in 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt wrote, “A people without children would face a hopeless future; a country without trees is almost as helpless.”

To put it into perspective, I can’t help but think of several often used and perhaps misconstrued idioms.  “We can’t see the forest for the trees.”  “You are barking up the wrong tree.”  Better yet, “Let me cut to the chase,” as we ponder:

  • How does deforestation impact you personally?
  • Are investments in your retirement fund financing deforestation?
  • How can we educate ourselves on the risks and opportunities related to deforestation?
  • Do you or your organization purchase goods or services that might increase levels of deforestation?
  • Are you measuring the potential risks of deforestation within your supply chain?
  • Does your organization have a plan for mitigating deforestation risks within your supply chain?
  • What positive steps can be taken to protect remaining forests and increase the benefits they deliver?

The Value of Our Forests

Forests are economic juggernauts generating valuable commodities like the paper and lumber we rely on daily.  Trees are cleared to build our communities. They feed us and provide fuel for billions globally. Forests are the source of many break-through ingredients used in medical advancements.

Forests provide all sorts of invaluable environmental services ranging from water filtration and temperature control to clean air and tourism. They are home to over half of the biodiversity and creatures on earth.   If we made a concerted effort to accurately account for the value of these environmental services, it would easily exceed trillions of dollars annually.

The Loss of Our Forests

World Resources Institute (WRI) estimates that, 30% of global forest cover has been cleared, another 20% has been degraded.  Most of the rest has been fragmented, leaving only about 15% intact.

Stumps of Fallen Trees

Billions of Trees Have Fallen, Is Anyone Listening?

The UN Climate Summit Report states the conversion of forests for the production of commodities such as soy, palm oil, beef and paper accounts for roughly half of global deforestation. Infrastructure, urban expansion, energy, mining and fuel wood collection also contribute in varying degrees.

Justin Worland reports in an article in Time magazine that “People cut down 15 billion trees each year and the global tree count has fallen by 46% since the beginning of human civilization.”  Deforestation and forest degradation account for anywhere between 10% – 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, deforestation impacts climate change in various ways. The changes include: 1. directly reflecting heat by removing vegetation cover, 2. releasing greenhouses gases through clearing, 3. preventing forests from sequestering more carbon dioxide by cutting them, and 4. the generation of CO2 resulting from the use of bio-fuels.

The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) are credible and growing responses.  But, I would argue, not nearly enough.  Fortunately, innovative new commitments and guidelines should spur increased measurement and commitment helping to stem the tide of deforestation.

Two Redwood Trees

Redwood Trees Providing Canopy

The respiration of our remaining boreal and rain forests are the lungs that inhale CO2 and breathe out oxygen for most of the creatures on the earth. Chuck Burr, founder of www.restorationseeds.com and the Southern Oregon Seed Growers Association estimates that, “when you walk from a modern immature woods into the old growth redwoods, the temperature drops 10 degrees F in the summer, the humidity increases 10 percent and the oxygen increase a few percent.  The bottom line is that the climate benefits of a plantation of 30’ (9m) trees is insignificant compared to a forest of 200’ (61m) old growth trees.”
Plain and simple, forests are invaluable and are in crisis.

It’s Time to Take Action – Saving Our Forests

In 2010 the Board of Directors of the Consumer Goods Forum approved a resolution to achieve zero net deforestation by 2020.  The aim is to achieve this through the responsible sourcing of key commodities (soy, palm oil, paper/pulp and beef) so sourcing these commodities will not deplete tropical rainforests.

Dozens of governments, scores of international corporations and more than 50 Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) signed the New York Declaration on Forests in 2014.  The goal of this non-binding agreement is to reduce forest loss by halve, end it by 2030 and restore forest lands by an area larger than India. Meeting these goals would cut between 4.5 and 8.8 billion tons of carbon annually.

In 2016, institutional investors with $22 trillion in assets requested that companies report data about forest risks through the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP).  According to the report, Revenue at Risk: Why Addressing Deforestation Is Critical to Business Success, the total annual turnover at risk for publicly listed companies is estimated to be up to $906 billion.

The United Nations has created a mechanism that enables organizations to participate in efforts that can combine carbon reduction and neutrality efforts with programs that incentivize people and communities to engage in activities that preserve and expand forest canopies.  Better known as REDDReducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries  this methodology was launched in 2008.

TreeZero & 100% tree free, carbon neutral copy paper

At TreeZero, our copy paper is 100% tree free and carbon neutral.  TreeZero recently partnered with the environmental group Wildlife Works to participate in their REDD projects in Africa.  The Wildlife Works projects have been successfully third-party validated and verified against the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) methodology, and the Climate, Community & Biodiversity Standard (CCB) at the GOLD level.  Two-thirds of the funds dedicated to TreeZero’s carbon neutrality efforts go to local communities in Kenya and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to provide incentives to stop deforestation.

TreeZero is a proud to partner of Wildlife Works and we hope that our customers and consumers find our commitment to the environment of value to their businesses and their sustainability strategies.

Conclusion

If we don’t measure forest related impacts and risks to our organizations and nature – how can we expect to manage and minimize these risks? If we don’t manage them, they are likely to end-up managing us. “The conservation of natural resources is the fundamental problem.  Unless we solve that problem it will avail us little to solve all others.”  Theodore Roosevelt, October 1907.