This page contains a draft of a proposed HCoop Environmental Policy. As always, add comments or proposed revisions here.
One of the defining SevenPrinciples of cooperatives is "Concern for Community," or more succinctly, Social Responsibility. A cooperative that ignores its social responsibility has ceased to be cooperative at all and has become a mutant, renegade firm. Environmental responsibility, then, is an extension of a cooperative's greater social responsibility.
The greatest single resistance to a solid environmental policy is the attitude that it will increase costs with no tangible benefit. In fact, often environmental discipline yields a direct cost saving, and where additional costs are incurred they are usually small for this type of business. Additionally, the ability to certify our business as green and powered by renewable energy gives us bragging rights that few other services in a crowded field can offer, and can draw in more business from environmentally conscious consumers. This is the best kind of advertising money can buy.
Moreover, the sooner we adopt a comprehensive policy, the easier it will be to stick to it, rather than doing it halfway and making excuses once we are large that we've never done it in the past.
On to the substance:
Baseline: Zero carbon emissions, ideally from clean energy offsets.
How: Purchasing renewable energy credits or carbon offsets equal to the number of KW-hours consumed by HCoop servers. NativeEnergy defines "renewable energy credits" this way:
- RECs are a commodity that consist of the rights to claim the emissions reductions and other environmental benefits of green power. RECs became a commodity because people who want to buy green power often don't have it available to them. No matter where you live, you can achieve the same environmental benefits of buying green power by buying RECs to “green-up” the generic electricity you get from your utility. Utilities often buy RECs on your behalf to provide you green power. RECs are also referred to as “green tags” and tradable renewable certificates.
Where: Two of the better options I have found:
Immediate cost: between $0.05 and $0.15 per member monthly. Future cost: the same or lower, as hardware utilization rates increase, and more efficient hardware is acquired.
Estimated cost as of 2013-03: According to http://www.carbonfund.org/business-calculator, Carbonfund charges about $10/tonne, or $11/ton. According to http://www.nativeenergy.com/business-carbon-calculator.html, Native Energy charges about $13.20/ton. Therefore, unless my calculations are totally wrong, it should cost less than $100/year to offset most of our CO2 emissions.
- I know we discussed this when you first joined, but would you mind rehashing here how buying energy credits allows us to be certified as powered by renewable energy, or how in general it can be seen as anything but a charitable donation unconnected to our real operations?
NativeEnergy's CoolWatts certificates are certified by Green-e as putting the number of KW-hours of wind energy on the face of the certificate into the electrical grid. Our servers directly consume electricity from coal, gas, and other non-renewable, polluting and greenhouse gas-emitting sources. We can calculate the exact amount of KW-hours of dirty power consumed by our servers and purchase certificates for that exact amount. If we average 10A of current, then we use 110V*10A*365.25*24/1000 = 9642 KW-hr per year. Buying 10,000 KW-hr of wind certificates would then be equivalent to powering our servers with wind turbines and displacing the dirty power that our servers otherwise use (which costs $8/mo from NativeEnergy. Once we migrate we will probably be using around 5A or less to begin, so the cost would be proportionately less). This is not a charitable donation, it is internalizing the direct environmental cost of our servers. If we bought more energy credits than the power that we actually consume, that would be a "charitable donation." Carbon credits are similar, except they use a more general market-based approach to dealing with greenhouse gases only through a variety of programs. --NathanKennedy
The EPA's Power Profiler can estimate our actual emissions per year (Peer1's zip code is 10004). Only about 60% of our electricity is generated from fossil fuels, so according to the calculator we're emitting ~7,000 lbs of CO2 per year assuming we use ~10,000 kWh per year.
Baseline: Ensure that no HCoop electronics end up in landfill.
How: At a minimum, send all hardware not sold or donated to a reputable recycling facility.
Where: The EPA links to hardware recycling resources, including recycling service locators. Raleigh, NC, where several volunteers live as of 2013-01, provides free electronics recycling to residents.
Immediate cost: none
Future cost: Selling hardware could save money. Recycling could cost some money as hardware is retired. Some manufacturers will recycle their hardware for free.
Links to computer recycling programs:
Baseline: Minimize use of paper. Use only post-consumer recycled/tree free paper.
Living Tree Paper - post-consumer / hemp / flax paper
- I don't think creating policies that deal with products that are of such limited use to the coop need to be encoded in documents such as this. Alternatively, we could have a section that states that we should prefer recycled products, when economically feasible.
Immediate cost: none, HCoop's use of paper is currently limited to occasional mailings and corporate records. Future cost: cost savings through conservation. Paper is such a tiny portion of cost that nominal premium for recycled or tree-free paper is nothing.