Shedding and Offsetting
Orion has offset 100 percent of our estimated carbon dioxide production from 2009, which we calculated after the fact and offset in 2010 (we have done this since 2007, finding it more accurate than projecting our footprint). Working with NativeEnergy, we offset carbon produced by the creation, publication, and distribution of Orion; staff commuting and travel to events; conference facility usage and conference participant travel; office waste generation; and office heating here at 187 Main Street in Great Barrington. A major change from years past is that we are not offsetting greenhouse gases associated with producing the paper on which the magazine is printed, because Mohawk Paper, our supplier, does this very well itself (read more about that here). As for power use at our office, we purchase renewable electricity through New England GreenStart, a program offered by our local utility.
NativeEnergy matches carbon producers with carbon-offset projects that require subsidy in order to happen. Through NativeEnergy, we are funding parts of two renewable energy projects this year. The money Orion provides helps finance these projects by purchasing renewable energy credits. (These credits are donated by NativeEnergy to the nonprofit Clean Air–Cool Planet, which then retires them from the market.) Orion’s funds help bridge the financing gap that can keep projects like these from happening.
Orion’s 2009 carbon footprint (146 short tons of carbon dioxide equivalent) is being offset in 2010 through:
* The Greensburg Wind Farm. This project is being developed as a 12.5 megawatt (MW) project, comprised of eight Suzlon 1.25 MW wind turbines, to be located just outside the town limits of Greensburg, Kansas. Greensburg was 95 percent destroyed by an EF5 tornado in May of 2007, and is rebuilding as a “green city” with all buildings LEED certified, among other greening efforts. State and federal governments, organizations, major corporations, and local businesses are supporting Greensburg by helping promote, plan, and fund this green initiative. The project will help Greensburg achieve its green energy goal of providing homes and businesses with a clean energy source.
* The Clinton County Project, located in Schuyler Falls, in northeastern New York State. Clinton County opened its sanitary landfill in 1977. The project covers nearly 70 acres and handles approximately 175,000 metric tons of waste each year. In 1996, New England Waste Services of New York (NEWNY) began managing the site and soon after proposed capturing and destroying methane gas. In Phase 1 of their project, NEWNY added vertical and horizontal gas wells and collection laterals, as well as a combustion device. In April 2005, Clinton County began voluntarily flaring landfill gas. In Phase II, the facility constructed a 4.8 MW landfill gas-to-energy power plant, which is now the primary combustion device at the site, generating power for the local community and destroying methane. Phase II became operational in October 2008, and is expected to eliminate methane emissions equivalent to 100,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, which is comparable to the climate benefits of cutting more than 223 million auto miles per year.
Carbon offsetting is presently an unregulated market, and, consequently, some offset programs have been criticized for their lack of verifiable “additionality”—that is, proof that the purchase of an offset actually removed a verifiable amount of carbon dioxide from the pollution stream that otherwise would have been emitted. NativeEnergy uses third-party certification to demonstrate additionality.