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Rainforest Alliance Audits Help Improve Sustainability

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Carbon projects underway across the globe are seeking to tackle climate change and improve land-use techniques, management and execution. Programs including the WithOneSeed Program are set up to help communities reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve soil quality and nurture local waterways. One area that is benefiting from carbon projects is Baguia in Timor Leste.

Having gained official nationhood less than 15 years ago, Timor-Leste is among the world’s newest countries. Also new to the country is the first ever community-based forest carbon sequestration project, supported by Australia’s Xpand Foundation’s WithOneSeed Program.

The vast majority of farmers in Baguia, Timor Leste are living at a subsistence level, having to plant crops in degraded soils on lands that were once surrounded by forests. Yet now, farms in Baguia are being reforested through the WithOneSeed Program that has achieved Gold Standard certification for carbon sequestration. The Program has a lifespan of 30 years, and this ground-breaking endeavour presents a viable opportunity to induce long-lasting impacts to the participating indigenous communities.

Located in the Pacific Ocean and north of Western Australia, Timor Leste gained independence from Indonesia in 2002, but this was preceded by years of extensive violence and destruction to much of the nation’s infrastructure. Additionally, data showing declining numbers representing the nation’s forests have been well-documented by researchers and the media, and the traditional practice of slash and burn agriculture has shaped the present-day landscape of Timor Leste.

Wildfires and rampant industrial logging have also contributed to the land’s degradation. In Baguia today, the land mainly consists of remnant patches of forests juxtaposed next to agricultural lands and grasslands. Low fruition rates of agriculture means that the majority of the local population supplements their incomes through exploiting what is left of the forest’s resources. Many of the current practices are unsustainable and are leading to severe degradation, due to over-farming, grazing and burning.

Timor

The Rainforest Alliance’s team of carbon auditors within RA-Cert recently travelled to Baguia to conduct the Gold Standard Initial Certification audit of the WithOneSeed’s tree planting (reforestation) project. The audit involved a comprehensive review of the project’s design, conformance to rigorous standards, and projected carbon sequestration levels.

After achieving certification to the Gold Standard, projects must continue along the path towards Performance Certification (verification), which will determine whether a particular project’s activities are generating the levels of carbon sequestration that were originally aimed for in its beginning stages years before.  After attaining Gold Standard certification, verification audits are required at least every five years to confirm the actual amount of emission reductions achieved by projects.

Rainforest Alliance’s Initial Certification audit confirmed the projected levels of carbon sequestration expected to be achieved by the project. Due to the amount of time it takes individual trees to sequester measureable amounts of carbon, Performance Certification (verification) typically does not occur until several years after trees are planted.

The initial stages leading to WithOneSeed’s Gold Standard certification began in 2009, when the program first started to engage with local stakeholders to measure levels of support from within the Baguia community; during following year, local landowners and farmers initiated the first plantings of non-invasive mahogany seedlings. The total eligible planting area of the project is 4,996 hectares, representing existing agricultural and grasslands in Baguia. Through 2015, the project planted a total of 29 hectares, and this amount is expected to increase to 142 ha by 2040.

WithOneSeed’s Gold Standard audit entailed an initial, desk-based review and preparations that familiarised RA-Cert’s auditors with the Timor Leste project and enabled them to devise an audit and sampling plan for the field audit. After arriving in the field, carbon auditors met with project managers, and the local field team, Ho Musan Ida (WithOneSeed in Timorese), to discuss the evaluation and actions necessary to the audit, and then facilitated the audit itself, which included an inspection of the planting sites, the project’s seedling nurseries, and interviews with participating farmers and community members.

The field audit was followed by development of the audit report and associated quality reviews. Gold Standard carbon projects must also adhere to sustainability requirements and prepare a ‘Do No Harm’ assessment and conduct local stakeholder consultations. In the case of WithOneSeed, the local stakeholders are the participating farmers, community members of Baguia and government officials at the sub-district, district and national levels.

The Project Area is located in an area that has a projected increased drought period, high groundwater vulnerability, and a population that has an unsustainable dependence on unprotected water sources. The reforestation activities introduced by WithOneSeed’s project should help to reduce runoff and overflows and retain subsurface water. This improves underground water resources as opposed to negatively affecting it, conserving the water supplies within the hydrological systems.

As a whole, carbon projects seek to combat climate change and improve land-use techniques, management, and execution. Some of the key aims for the endeavour include reducing greenhouse gas emissions, refurbishing soil quality, restoring local waterways back to health, and protection against erosion. This project will likely also lead to employment for local staff, and the project managers also hope it will deliver a range of social benefits, in particular direct payment for individual landholders in return for planting and maintaining trees. Generally, reforestation projects are also beneficial opportunities for smallholder farmers to gain access to carbon markets.

Environment

These 5 Green Office Mistakes Are Costing You Money

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eco-friendly green offices
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Stokkete | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/cyano

The sudden interest in green business is very encouraging. According to recent reports, 42% of all companies have rated sustainability as an important element of their business. Unfortunately, the focus on sustainability will only last if companies can find ways to use it to boost their ROI.

Many businesses get so caught up in being socially conscious that they hope the financial aspect of it takes care of itself. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to go green and boost your net income at the same time.

Here are some important mistakes that you will want to avoid.

Only implementing sustainability on micro-scale

The biggest reason that brands are going green is to improve their optics with their customers. Too many businesses are making very minor changes, such as processing paperwork online and calling themselves green.

Customers have become wary of these types of companies. If you want to earn their business, you are going to need to go all the way. Bring in a green business consultant and make every feasible change to demonstrate that you are a green organization from top to bottom.

Not prioritizing investments by long-term ROI

It isn’t realistic to build an entirely green organization overnight. You will need to allocate your capital wisely.

Before investing in any green assets or services, you should always conduct a long-term cost benefit analysis. The initial investment for some green services may be over $20,000. If they don’t shave your cost by at least $3,000 a year, they probably aren’t worth the investment.

Determine which green investments will have the best pay off over the next 10 years. Make these investments before anything else. Then compare your options within each of those categories.

Implementing green changes without a plan

Effective, long-term planning is the key to business success. This principle needs to be applied to green organizations as well.

Before implementing a green strategy, you must answer the following questions:

  • How will I communicate my green business philosophy to my customers?
  • How will running a green business affect my revenue stream?
  • How will adopting green business strategies change my monthly expenses? Will they increase or decrease them?
  • How will my company finance green upgrades and other investments?

The biggest mistake that too many green businesses make is being overly optimistic with these forecasts. Take the time to collect objective data and make your decisions accordingly. This will help you run a much more profitable green business.

Not considering the benefits of green printing

Too many companies believe that going paperless is the only way to run a green organization. Unfortunately, going 100% paperless it’s not feasible for most companies.

Rather than aim for an unrealistic goal, consider the option of using a more environmentally friendly printer. It won’t be perfect, but it will be better than the alternative.

According to experts from Doranix, environmental printers have several benefits:

  • They can process paper that has been completely recycled.
  • They consume less energy than traditional printers.
  • They use ink that is more environmentally friendly.

You want to take a look at different green printers and compare them. You’ll find that some will meet your needs as a green business.

Poorly communicating your green business strategy to customers

Brand positioning doesn’t happen on its own. If you want to run a successful green business, you must communicate your message to customers as clearly as possible. You must also avoid the appearance that you are patronizing them.

The best approach is to be clear when you were first making the change. I’ll make an announcement about your company‘s commitment to sustainability.

You also want to reinforce this message overtime by using green labels on all of your products. You don’t have to be blatant with your messaging at this stage. Simply provide a small, daily reminder on your products and invoices.

Finally, it is a good idea to participate in green business seminars and other events. If your community has a local Green Chamber of Commerce, you should consider joining as well.

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2017 Was the Most Expensive Year Ever for U.S. Natural Disaster Damage

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Natural Disaster Damage
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Devastating natural disasters dominated last year’s headlines and made many wonder how the affected areas could ever recover. According to data from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the storms and other weather events that caused the destruction were extremely costly.

Specifically, the natural disasters recorded last year caused so much damage that the associated losses made 2017 the most expensive year on record in the 38-year history of keeping such data. The following are several reasons that 2017 made headlines for this notorious distinction.

Over a Dozen Events With Losses Totalling More Than $1 Billion Each

The NOAA reports that in total, the recorded losses equaled $306 billion, which is $90 billion more than the amount associated with 2005, the previous record holder. One of the primary reasons the dollar amount climbed so high last year is that 16 individual events cost more than $1 billion each.

Global Warming Contributed to Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey, one of two Category-4 hurricanes that made landfall in 2017, was a particularly expensive natural disaster. Nearly 800,000 people needed assistance after the storm. Hurricane Harvey alone cost $125 billion, with some estimates even higher than that. So far, the only hurricane more expensive than Harvey was Katrina.

Before Hurricane Harvey hit, scientists speculated climate change could make it worse. They discussed how rising ocean temperatures make hurricanes more intense, and warmer atmospheres have higher amounts of water vapor, causing larger rainfall totals.

Since then, a new study published in “Environmental Research Letters” confirmed climate change was indeed a factor that gave Hurricane Harvey more power. It found environmental conditions associated with global warming made the storm more severe and increase the likelihood of similar events.

That same study also compared today’s storms with ones from 1900. It found that compared to those earlier weather phenomena, Hurricane Harvey’s rainfall was 15 percent more intense and three times as likely to happen now versus in 1900.

Warming oceans are one of the contributing factors. Specifically, the ocean’s surface temperature associated with the region where Hurricane Harvey quickly transformed from a tropical storm into a Category 4 hurricane has become about 1 degree Fahrenheit warmer over the past few decades.

Michael Mann, a climatologist from Penn State University, believes that due to a relationship known as the Clausius-Clapeyron equation, there was about 3-5 percent more moisture in the air, which caused more rain. To complicate matters even more, global warming made sea levels rise by more than 6 inches in the Houston area over the past few decades. Mann also believes global warming caused the stationery summer weather patterns that made Hurricane Harvey stop moving and saturate the area with rain. Mann clarifies although global warming didn’t cause Hurricane Harvey as a whole, it exacerbated several factors of the storm.

Also, statistics collected by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from 1901-2015 found the precipitation levels in the contiguous 48 states had gone up by 0.17 inches per decade. The EPA notes the increase is expected because rainfall totals tend to go up as the Earth’s surface temperatures rise and additional evaporation occurs.

The EPA’s measurements about surface temperature indicate for the same timespan mentioned above for precipitation, the temperatures have gotten 0.14 Fahrenheit hotter per decade. Also, although the global surface temperature went up by 0.15 Fahrenheit during the same period, the temperature rise has been faster in the United States compared to the rest of the world since the 1970s.

Severe Storms Cause a Loss of Productivity

Many people don’t immediately think of one important factor when discussing the aftermath of natural disasters: the adverse impact on productivity. Businesses and members of the workforce in Houston, Miami and other cities hit by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma suffered losses that may total between $150-200 billion when both damage and sacrificed productivity are accounted for, according to estimates from Moody’s Analytics.

Some workers who decide to leave their homes before storms arrive delay returning after the immediate danger has passed. As a result of their absences, a labor-force shortage may occur. News sources posted stories highlighting that the Houston area might not have enough construction workers to handle necessary rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Harvey.

It’s not hard to imagine the impact heavy storms could have on business operations. However, companies that offer goods to help people prepare for hurricanes and similar disasters often find the market wants what they provide. While watching the paths of current storms, people tend to recall storms that took place years ago and see them as reminders to get prepared for what could happen.

Longer and More Disastrous Wildfires Require More Resources to Fight

The wildfires that ripped through millions of acres in the western region of the United States this year also made substantial contributions to the 2017 disaster-related expenses. The U.S. Forest Service, which is within the U.S. Department of Agriculture, reported 2017 as its costliest year ever and saw total expenditures exceeding $2 billion.

The agency anticipates the costs will grow, especially when they take past data into account. In 1995, the U.S. Forest Service spent 16 percent of its annual budget for wildfire-fighting costs, but in 2015, the amount ballooned to 52 percent. The sheer number of wildfires last year didn’t help matters either. Between January 1 and November 24 last year, 54,858 fires broke out.

2017: Among the Three Hottest Years Recorded

People cause the majority of wildfires, but climate change acts as another notable contributor. In addition to affecting hurricane intensity, rising temperatures help fires spread and make them harder to extinguish.

Data collected by the National Interagency Fire Center and published by the EPA highlighted a correlation between the largest wildfires and the warmest years on record. The extent of damage caused by wildfires has gotten worse since the 1980s, but became particularly severe starting in 2000 during a period characterized by some of the warmest years the U.S. ever recorded.

Things haven’t changed for the better, either. In mid-December of 2017, the World Meteorological Organization released a statement announcing the year would likely end as one of the three warmest years ever recorded. A notable finding since the group looks at global land and ocean temperature, not just statistics associated with the United States.

Not all the most financially impactful weather events in 2017 were hurricanes and wildfires. Some of the other issues that cost over $1 billion included a hailstorm in Colorado, tornados in several regions of the U.S. and substantial flooding throughout Missouri and Arkansas.

Although numerous factors gave these natural disasters momentum, scientists know climate change was a defining force — a reality that should worry just about everyone.

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