Becoming a Greener Company

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November 17, 2017

Bright Green FrogWhen I started OpenConcept in 1999 it was with a keen awareness that we needed to make rapid changes to how Western Society was consuming the resources of our finite home. I knew that we would need to build collaboration between groups to ensure that we could hope to manage the challenges that we are going to need to face. I knew that technology was going to be the backbone of managing that enormous communications challenge. Because of my background and involvement in the environmental movement, OpenConcept has always had a pretty small footprint.

Joining the Certified B Corporation community raised the bar. No longer could I look at my immediate peer group and be confident that we were really doing our best. To meet with people from Ben & Jerry's, Greyston Bakery and Beau's All Natural, it has become clear that there is a lot more that can be done. Recently we became members of Ottawa's Carbon 613 because we wanted to network with others in Ottawa that are taking their environmental footprint seriously. It is abundantly clear that we need to learn from each other how we can all build more sustainable patterns that we can adopt.

B Corp believe in getting people to measure what matters. OpenConcept is a pretty simple company in many ways, so it isn't that difficult to measure most of our consumption. Scope 1 Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions includes on-site fossil fuel combustion. For most organizations, Scope 2 is electricity consumption where the GHG emissions are external to the organization. So at a most basic level, we need to take responsibility for our consumption of Natural Gas and electricity. We are now using Bullfrog Power ensure that there is as much clean energy added to the grid as we consume through our suppliers Enbridge Gas and HydroOttawa. Still we wanted to monitor our consumption and try to reduce it, but our GHG emissions should be effectively zero for these major sources of CO2.

With Carbon 613 we are trying to find ways to reduce that consumption, but also help us more closely monitor our water usage and waste disposal. We really don't have high demands for either, but could still find ways to be better. Certainly there is more that can be done to involve our team in reducing waste and making sure that it is easier to properly recycle and compost our garbage. We have significantly reduced the CO2 emissions from our web hosting by moving it to Amazon's new Canadian Zone.

I have to say that getting the information from these suppliers has been difficult. I think I have agitated our suppliers enough that next time it will be easier for me to source this information, but I was frustrated with how difficult it was to get meaningful consumption data from the portals that these organizations have set up to manage my billing. There are half-measures to provide consumption information for the last billing period, but with all three I had to call people to either send me information on my consumption or tell me where to find it. This just simply isn't acceptable.

We can't share the 2017 values yet, as we won't have the information for at least 2 months, but for 2016:

  • Natural Gas: 67 GJ
  • Electricity: 34 GJ
  • Water: 53k L

We will continue to monitor this and see if there are ways that we can reduce this further. We are using a EcoBee device to control our heat & air conditioning, but will look for ways to improve it. Some people have different comfort levels with temperature and we can experiment with more ways to support the comfort and effectiveness of our team. The projections for 2017 look like they will be higher than they were for 2016 and we have yet to analyze why that is. We'd like to do more to make 2018 our lowest year ever, furthermore, I would like to see OpenConcept be a carbon-neutral business by 2020.

About The Author

Mike Gifford is the founder of OpenConcept Consulting Inc, which he started in 1999. Since then, he has been particularly active in developing and extending open source content management systems to allow people to get closer to their content. Before starting OpenConcept, Mike had worked for a number of national NGOs including Oxfam Canada and Friends of the Earth.

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