Tracking our Carbon Footprint
A sneak peek at the Bottom Lines Business Summit
At any NESEA or Bottom Lines meeting, Paul Eldrenkamp is likely to bring up the question “what’s your number?”—meaning, what is the ONE number that it is critical for your business to track to understand how you’re doing? For a growing number of Bottom Lines businesses, the key metrics to track are not only total sales and net profits, but also include a host of numbers related to the impact of our businesses on the planet, or more specifically, our carbon footprint. Our panel at the upcoming BuildingEnergy Bottom Lines Summit will dig into this topic in detail, to look at how five different businesses are asking the questions: What do we want to track? How do we want to track it? And how does collecting this data inform our business decisions going forward?
Take Placetailor, for example. After expanding their design/build business into the world of real estate development, they developed a cost analysis spreadsheet to help them quickly look at development opportunities to determine their viability. But then they asked, “Can we do the same thing with carbon?” and built out the tool to be able to look at the long term carbon payback in addition to the dollar payback. They’re testing out the new tool on a few potential projects, with the goal of being able to develop projects in Boston that are truly Zero Carbon.
On a different scale, New Frameworks has been digging deep into the embodied energy of materials choices on their projects as part of their “deep climate response”. They look at the embodied carbon in the various materials they use, and can compare two different materials that achieve the same result, and inform the final selection based on its carbon impact.
At Byggmeister, a residential remodeling company, their focus has been on tracking post-occupancy energy data for their renovation projects. Since they work exclusively with existing buildings, they are able to look at pre-construction energy use, post-occupancy data, and compare that to the energy modeling that they’ve done when scoping a project. This has led to increased accuracy in the modeling and they are able to use this analysis as a marketing and sales tool with potential clients, citing examples of energy savings on similar renovation projects.
At both Yestermorrow and South Mountain Company the focus has been more on the carbon footprint of business operations, looking at transportation, waste, purchasing, electricity and fuel usage. Approaching this from a carbon lens has given useful perspective on the overall impact of proposed changes to the system—for example, at Yestermorrow given the supply to the grid in VT, producing a large percentage of our electricity on-site with photovoltaics doesn’t necessarily result in a significant carbon reduction, whereas reducing transportation emissions provides a much bigger opportunity to impact the whole. SMC came to similar conclusions about the impact of transportation emissions and has been focusing in that area versus on its facilities (which as design/build businesses usually feels like the low hanging fruit).
Across the board, these Bottom Lines businesses are on the cutting edge, diving into a level of analysis that’s rare at a small business scale, and are enthusiastic about sharing what they’ve learned with their peers so that as an industry we can take more complete responsibility for the impacts each of our businesses has on the planet. Join us November 4th to learn more and engage in the conversation.
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NESEA advances sustainability practices in the built environment by cultivating a cross-disciplinary community where practitioners are encouraged to share, collaborate and learn.