Pacific Northwest Pollution Prevention Resource Center (PPRC)’s Pollution Prevention Roundtable in Portland/Vancouver

Last week Todd and I had the opportunity to attend PPRC’s Northwest Regional Roundtable in Vancouver, WA and Portland. We met some folks from the city of Gresham, OR and talked to them about their stormwater and GREAT Businesses programs on day one at the Water Resources Education Center. The presentations centered around carbon footprinting and all the issues of counting and trading carbon emissions; it was pretty enlightening for me, and all the different viewpoints and complications have definitely given me food for thought in the coming weeks. Day 2 was in Portland, at the EcoTrust building. Todd and I joined a small group headed by Alisa Kane from the city of Portland and took a tour; the building was amazing! It was the first historic renovation to be awarded a LEED Gold certification, and has an ecoroof (that might have been a little more fun if we were in Portland in June instead of January). We met Jennifer Hancox from LeanPath and talked about her company’s unique approach to reducing food source waste through software tracking; it was pretty cool and we made sure to give her contact information to Aldan, since some of the folks he works with on composting might be interested in their software. We toured the City of Portland’s fleet services department and learned about past projects from PPRC and OMEP combining lean manufacturing principles with “green manufacturing” principles. It was a great opportunity to network and to learn more about what individuals, organizations and agencies are doing across the Pacific Northwest to help combat and prevent pollution. And finally, a big thanks to PPRC for providing scholarships so Todd and I could take part!

Todd and Alisa at the EcoTrust Building

Todd and Alisa at the EcoTrust Building

-Audrey Chestnutt

ECOSS attends Carbon Footprint Workshop, enjoys free breakfast

On Wednesday, I attended a carbon footprint workshop at the Rainier Square Conference Center in downtown Seattle. The event was hosted by the Seattle Climate Partnership (SCP), Sustainable Business Consulting and Cascadia Consulting Group (CCG), and featured a case study of Homestreet Bank. You know what’s great about morning workshops and seminars? Pastries. When I arrived, Charlie was just starting his talk about SCP, so I grabbed a Starbucks cinnamon roll and took a seat.

I looked around and found that the audience consisted primarily of staff from local businesses, but members from government and environmental groups were also present. After Charlie finished speaking, he introduced CCG’s Anisha Shankar, who gave a presentation on the SCP Carbon Calculator. The calculator is designed to help businesses determine their carbon footprint, which Anisha defined as the “impact, in carbon emissions, of business activities.” She went on to say that the common sources of carbon emissions for most businesses include building energy, employee travel (operational and commute mileage), materials usage and solid waste practices. I’ve looked at the Carbon Calculator before and have been impressed with its user-friendliness and versatility: the tool can be applied to businesses of many sizes across a variety of industries.

When Anisha finished, she introduced the Marketing Director from Homestreet Bank, who gave a great presentation on their carbon reduction efforts as a member of the SCP. I think his presentation did a good job of showing the challenges and opportunities of carbon footprint reduction, and I liked that he talked about the specific, concrete changes Homestreet has made in their efforts, such as turning their computers off at night and getting Zip Car service for their employees. By the end of the presentation, I was done with my cinnamon roll and had several new ideas for implementing carbon reduction strategies at ECOSS.

Last year, ECOSS signed the SCP pledge to reduce our own carbon footprint. Currently, we’re in the process of gathering data on our building’s energy use and our employee travel, and we’re assessing the way we select and use our office materials, like printer paper. The idea is to collect a year’s worth of data (which can be done either by evaluating a backlog of records, or by multiplying a single month’s data by 12) to serve as the baseline year for our carbon footprint. This takes a little digging through utility records and the like, and in areas where we don’t have hard figures, we’ll have to make smart estimates. From there we can set reduction targets and devise strategies for meeting those goals. It’s likely that our efforts will include a combination of staff education, modified day-to-day practices in the office, workplace sponsored incentives, and, perhaps most important, a reliable tracking system. Hopefully, we’ll reduce our carbon footprint and serve as an example for the many businesses and organizations we serve, while doing our part to be a little easier on the environment.

Learn more about Seattle’s Climate Protection Initiative and how the city is reducing it’s carbon footprint:

If you have questions about joining the Seattle Climate Partnership or about carbon footprinting in general, feel free to email Charlie Cunniff (ECOSS’ founding Executive Director!) or call 206-386-9748 at the Seattle’s Office of Sustainability & Environment.

-Aldan Shank

Sustainable Path Seminar Series

ECOSS is proud to partner with Sustainable Path for their 2009 Seminar Series! This year’s theme is “Seeking Sustainable Solutions: linking our health, our environment, our economy, our communities.”

with Michael Hightower and Joan Crooks

The series opens with a seminar that highlights a major dilemma as our nation seeks to reduce its reliance on oil: the burden placed on our limited water supplies through the development of many renewable energy sources. In the second part of this seminar, we will bring these issues home to Washington State, as we discuss environmental legislative priorities and what our state is doing now to meet the changing needs of our region.

All seminars are held at Town Hall Seattle. Please visit Sustainable Path’s website for more information, or click here to buy tickets.