I have been fascinated by the steps that Vancity Credit Union in Vancouver, Canada has taken to reduce its ecological footprint. Vancity is the largest credit union in Canada. In 2006 they set a goal to become carbon neutral by 2010. They reached their goal two years early and have continued to work on reducing their own environmental impact as well as helping others to do the same.
What does it mean to be carbon neutral? First, the carbon dioxide emissions created by a company are tabulated. The company then achieves carbon neutrality by reducing greenhouse gas emissions as much as possible and purchasing carbon offsets (more about carbon offsets in the next blog) to compensate for the emissions that cannot be omitted.
In equation form, when carbon emissions – (carbon reductions + carbon offsets) = 0, you have achieved carbon neutrality.
How did Vancity reach their goal? They focused on waste and energy reduction. In 2007, 44% of Vancity’s energy use resulted from employee transportation (commuting). Each year Vancity surveys employees to learn about how they commute. Between 1998 and 2008 the credit union was able to encourage employees to carpool or use public transit yielding a 13% decrease in the number of employees driving to work alone. Vancity also greatly reduced the amount of energy consumed by their buildings. They updated heating and cooling systems to make them more efficient. They also reduced the energy cost of their outdoor signs by 75% by converting to LED lighting and programming them to turn off later at night – when few potential clients would be driving by. Vancity claims that in the last 20 years, their strategies to reduce energy consumption have saved them at least $3.6 million.
For more information, visit the Vancity website.