I had been toying with the idea of carbon offsets for packaging. Several major companies are using carbon offsets for everything from coal power plants to server farms. The government refers to some of these relationships as “Cap and Trade”. I had read about a company that was offering carbon offsets for packaging but it sounded a little sketchy. Besides, if you are going to do something like this you really want to let people know what you are doing because caring for your community and the environment is a shared value. I was at a business luncheon and I happened to be sitting across the table from David Ford. David was originally a forester and currently applies his talents as the CEO of L&C Carbon (www.lccarbon.com). David was interested in my idea and put me in touch with the nice folks at Woodlands Carbon (www.woodlandscarbon.com).
Woodlands Carbon provides forest carbon offsets from certified family-owned woodlands in the Pacific Northwest. These offsets are backed by the landowner’s commitment to long-term sustainable management practices and validated through a third-party verification firm. These are families with forest holdings in Oregon that want to protect their little slice of heaven. Maintenance of the forest and protecting the woodlands is expensive. A lot of forest owners sell selected timber from their lands to pay for the expense of maintaining their forests. These folks aren’t hard core environmentalists. They like to fish and hunt and enjoy what nature has placed here. The timber industry is a vital part of Oregon’s culture and vitality. But it takes a lot to manage the forest lands no matter how you use them.
So how does this work? The carbon that is reduced by a stand of trees is something that David Ford calculates. He can predict with certainty that a forest will “breathe in” so much carbon in the form of CO2 (Carbon Dioxide). The calculation is done in terms of metric tons of carbon – trees do a lot of breathing! So essentially, with the commitment of the landowner, David “banks” the future reductions in carbon that the trees are estimated to achieve. We call them “Carbon Credits” at that point. Woodlands Carbon then sells the credits that support the land owners. The holder of the credit can apply the credits to anything related to carbon.
This is where our Carbon BMC (www.carbonbmc.com) comes in. “BMC” is box maker lingo for “Box Maker’s Certificate”. The Box Makers Certificate is the little circle that you see on the bottom of the box that certifies the materials used to make the box. We wanted to add a similar certification to our carbon offset packaging so we could let people know that we had done. Through the Carbon BMC we tell people that the box has been carbon offset so that it is paying its way environmentally. The technology of the QR code was added bring likeminded people to our website so they can see what we are doing. It’s elegantly simple, supports family forests in the Northwest, and conveys a value-added dimension to our packaging.
At Box+FoamTM our business is to provide clever solutions for our protective packaging customers. That is why we created our “Life Cycle Tool”. The Life Cycle Tool is a program uses raw data from material producers and other sources to predict the amount of fossil fuels, water consumption, mineral consumption, biotic resources, greenhouse gasses, aquatic toxicity, eutrophication, and the human impact of producing the materials used for packaging. With this information, Box+FoamTM can benchmark and then engineer solutions that reduce our dependency on critical resources. This reduction will lead to less environmental impact. But as we have used the tool to engineer more environmentally sound solutions we have also found that it reduces costs for our customers.
When we examine the data from the Life Cycle Tool, we find that fossil fuels, water consumption, mineral consumption, and biotic resources have one thing in common. Money. The more you use the more you will pay for your packaging. Of course, that in itself is not earth shattering. The real advantage here is that, for the first time, we can use our engineering strengths to drive cost savings by using data on consumption. And it is totally effective. We have already saved customers over $350,000 in costs over the last six months. On average we reduced the carbon impact of the packaging by over 25% -- and that was before any offsets!