Larger sustainability initiatives

Cooper Vineyard's LEED Platinum Building (USDA Photo)

Carbon offsets

When you emit carbon in typical business operations, say through plane travel to events or building energy provided by coal power, you can voluntarily "offset" the impacts of that damage by funding mitigation projects such as tree planting or renewable electricity generation elsewhere in the economy. The primary goal of carbon offsets is to reduce global carbon emissions. Kohl's department stores, for example, purchases renewable power equivalent to (or more than) the electricity they use each year.

Carbon offsets or credits are also a key component of mandatory national and international emissions trading programs such as the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. In theory, they provide a way to reduce greenhouse effect emissions on an industrial scale by capping total annual emissions and letting the market assign a monetary value to any shortfall through trading. In practice, such schemes have a mixed impact on emissions reductions but offsets can still play a role if managed properly.

Many of EarthShare’s member charities can connect your organization to a carbon conservation project that meets your particular regional, industrial and development criteria. You will find more resources below.

Green building and LEED certification

According to the American Institute of Architects, buildings and their construction account for nearly half of all the greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumed in the U.S. each year. The good news is that it isn’t too costly to reduce this energy consumption. Buildings can be designed to operate with far less energy than today’s average building at little or no additional expense.

It makes sense to consider the environmental impact of a building, especially if you are planning new construction or looking to expand. A good place to start is by consulting the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System™, a nationally accepted certification program from the U.S. Green Building Council that facilitates the adoption of sustainable green building practices. This process gives building owners and operators the tools they need for an immediate and measurable impact on their buildings’ performance, while promoting a whole-building approach to sustainability. LEED certification is getting easier and available resources are expanding as green building grows in popularity.

LEED Certification measures performance these key areas:

      • sustainable sites
      • water efficiency
      • materials and resources
      • energy and atmosphere
      • locations and linkages
      • indoor environmental quality
      • awareness and education
      • innovation in design
      • regional priority


The first step is to contact a certifier. EarthShare member Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) can assist your company in achieving LEED certification. In fact, RMI is one of eight teams across the nation that reviews LEED submittals for the USGBC. Several of their team members contributed to the founding of the U.S. Green Building Council and the development of its LEED rating system.

The cleanest and most efficient way to light a building is to use daylight. Daylighting is one green building practice that can result in a significant reduction in electricity usage. In Advanced Lighting Guidelines, it was estimated that 62% of the commercial building floor space is directly under a roof and is a potential candidate for skylights or toplighting. Daylighting is a very cost-effective complement to other electrical lighting resources.

Daylighting can also improve the well-being of employees, thereby increasing productivity. According to the Rocky Mountain Institute, “A one percent improvement in office-worker productivity as a result of superior lighting and thermal comfort can have a bigger impact on the bottom line than eliminating all of a building’s utility costs.”

Try supplementing construction plans with Rainforest Alliance’s SmartGuide, created after contractors couldn’t locate FSC-certified wood products for their construction projects. RA’s SmartGuide contains hundreds of listings of suppliers and distributors for potential use in a project.

Materials and supply chain

The purchasing power associated with a supply chain gives a business a unique opportunity to act responsibly and define its relationship with customers, employees and suppliers in an increasingly competitive global market. Taking these steps can pay off despite a depressed economy.

Focusing on the ecological impacts of a supply chain can pay off in money and time saved. The EPA sponsored Green Suppliers Network says that addressing your supply chain will give your organization a “lean and clean advantage.” This includes uncovering waste in the materials chain and introducing environmentally-friendly substitutes that can make the workplace safer.

The diversity of products created in the U.S. can make the task of supply chain evaluation seem daunting if the product requires unique materials. But resources and knowledge of materials efficiency is rapidly expanding. If your organization has a unique product, you may want to consider an environmental audit offered by one of EarthShare’s experienced members.

Environmental audits

Environmental audits are a great way to measure and track an organization’s environmental practices and management in a periodic and systemic manner. They can help raise awareness, identify opportunities, and establish performance goals. Several EarthShare member organizations offer such services.

Rocky Mountain Institute’s Built Environment Team (BET) analyzes and identifies solutions to interconnected issues such as site and building design, energy and water efficiency, daylighting, resource-efficient materials, and the comfort and safety of the occupants. BET analyzes the impact of each component individually as well as its role within the larger web of building systems to ensure whole system optimization.

Environmental Defense Fund+Business provides valuable content and practical tools along with a dynamic online community to help you improve both your company and the planet.

Natural Resources Defense Council’s Center for Market Innovation works to harness the power of the marketplace for positive environmental change.

Conservation International’s Center for Environmental Leadership in Business engages the private sector worldwide in creating solutions to critical global environmental problems in which industry plays a defining role. Their programs focus on key sectors that have the greatest environmental impact on critical ecosystems and the greatest potential to bring about positive environmental change.

You'll find more resources below.


Carbon Offset Resources

Green building and LEED certification


Materials and Supply Chain

Environmental Audits

* EarthShare member organization