April 28, 2020
Written By: John Mascari, COO at Blueland
Blueland Carbon Neutrality
The health of the planet is core to Blueland’s mission. We’re constantly looking for the most sustainable business practices to minimize our impact on the environment while also providing our customers with eco-friendly products. Our products eliminate the need for single-use plastic packaging, and reduce emissions associated with conventional household cleaners. However, we still have some emissions associated with running our business, from the manufacturing process to shipping our products to our customers. That’s why we’re so excited to share that we’re now carbon neutral!
For all emissions that we can’t eliminate or avoid, we’ve partnered with the Southern Plains Land Trust to help fund the restoration and conservation of Colorado grasslands.
Blueland’s Carbon Neutrality Journey
Our first step on the journey to carbon neutrality was to conduct an in-depth, company wide audit to quantify all of our emissions. This included auditing all of our manufacturing, logistics and distribution partners to accurately quantify the emissions associated with the manufacture and distribution of each component of our products. We worked with our partners at MBDC and NativeEnergy to assist in the audits and best understand our emissions across our network of activities, including activities from Blueland HQ.
Here are the emissions we account for:
- Emissions from running our manufacturing facilities, including the production of our tablets, tablet wrappers, forever bottles, shipping boxes and instructional inserts that come in our packaging
- Emissions from transporting our finished goods from manufacturing to our warehouses
- Emissions from running our warehouses
- Emissions from shipping our products to consumers
- Emissions from running our HQ, including the emissions associated with employee commutes for those who don’t walk
Based on the assessment, our first step was to identify areas where we could limit our emissions further. For us, a lot of our emissions are already lower than most cleaning companies. That’s because from the start, we knew we wanted to ship smaller and lighter products that would release fewer emissions during transport. Typical cleaning companies ship liquid based products, meaning every time they ship their products they are shipping water. Carbon emissions from shipping depend on the weight of the shipment, the distance traveled, and the mode of transport (truck, boat, plane, train). Shipping liquid products is heavy and heavier products release more emissions during shipment. We ship all of our products in dry form without any water, allowing us to ship lighter products with fewer emissions. However, we are always looking to improve and we took steps to limit our emissions even further.
How Does Blueland Limit Emissions?
We designed our products with the goal of keeping emissions low. From ideation, to design and process, we’ve optimized for low emissions.
The primary way we limit our emissions is by efficiently shipping all of our products. Our tablet design is a significant part in being able to do that. Everything we manufacture and ship to customers comes in a dry format. Our tablets are 200 times smaller and 90 times lighter than a conventional bottle of liquid cleaner. Because our products are lighter, we can also ship them with fewer carbon emissions than conventional cleaning products. For example, if we ship our products on a typical shipping truck that is 40 feet long and can carry up to 40,000 pounds, for every one truckload of Blueland tablets, it would require 83 trucks to fit the equivalent amount of liquid cleaning bottles.
We have multiple warehouses located on the coasts. Having multiple locations helps us optimize the best shipping routes so our products don’t have to travel all the way across the country to get to you, which means fewer miles traveled, fewer emissions and the bonus of faster delivery!
Outside of manufacturing and shipping our products, there are emissions associated with operating Blueland HQ. Those emissions come from our electricity, our water and any team activities. We limit our emissions for our energy by partnering with a renewable energy service provider for our office, this ensures that our energy bill goes toward putting renewable energy sources like wind and solar, on the power grid. We also limit waste that goes to landfills. We have recycling for rigid and flexible plastics so we can recycle any plastic we do have and we have compost for any food or other compostable waste. When food and other non-recycled goods sit in landfills, they can release greenhouse gasses like methane when they break down. Having composting and recycling in our office helps us do our part to keep landfill emissions low.
How Does Blueland Offset Emissions?
For all of the emissions we aren’t able to eliminate, we purchase carbon offsets. Carbon offsets are credits purchased to fund a project that works to reduce carbon emissions or works to capture greenhouse gasses that have been released into the environment. There are several carbon offset projects doing great work. When evaluating potential partners, here are some of the things we considered.
While there are many worthwhile projects to support, we really wanted to find a project that aligned with our mission. We looked at projects that focused on conservation and restoration because healthy ecosystems are so critical for the planet, but often are ignored because there’s no immediate economic benefit. For Blueland, investing in conservation and restoration projects is an investment in natural carbon sequestration.
With regards to carbon offsets, the idea of additionality is an important step in selecting a project. Additionality evaluates the impact of the carbon emission reductions of a project relative the baseline emissions without that project. So, is the project providing additional carbon saving, or are the baseline emissions the same? If there is not added carbon saving as a result of the project, then the project doesn’t have a quantifiable impact on further reducing emissions.
We looked for projects where our funds would be contributing to additional carbon saving initiatives. For example, if offsets are sold to provide solar panels to a new building, but as part of this building’s updates, solar panels would be installed, the offsets aren’t adding any additional carbon saving, as the solar panels would be installed anyway.
Leakage is another important factor in evaluating a project. A project’s leakage evaluates the overall impact of the offset project. Does the project help solve one problem while creating other environmental or community problems? If so, that project has leakage that we want to avoid. For example, if a reforestation project displaces a local community, then that project is helping offset emissions through reforestation, but they are creating a new problem for the community. To minimize leakage, a reforestation project might work with community leaders to help minimize community disruption. Some reforestation projects in the Amazon minimize leakage by training members of the local community to work on reforestation projects.
In order for offsets to be effective at reducing carbon emissions, the emissions captured or reduced as a result of carbon offsets has to stay out of the atmosphere. The offset has to create a permanent solution. For example, if offsets fund a reforestation project in a dry area prone to forest fires and the trees catch fire, all of the carbon sequestered will be released into the atmosphere. Thus, that offset is not permanent.
Finally, we looked for offset projects that were certified by an offset certification program. Certified offset programs provide transparency and accountability between offset projects and purchasers. They ensure that each offset purchased is exclusive to one purchaser, they ensure that each offset program is verified for authenticity by a third party and they track the purchased credits to make sure they are offsetting the correct amount of carbon they are supposed to. One certification agency is the Climate Action Reserve, which is the agency that certified the program we’ve purchased offsets from. The Climate Action Reserve developed a set of standards by which they evaluate carbon offsets programs and work with third party agencies to certify programs in accordance with these standards. They also track and monitor the progress of each purchased offset.
Southern Plains Land Trust
We’re proud to say that for our first set of carbon emissions, our offsets are going to the Southern Plains Lands Trust. The Southern Plains Land Trust is based in Colorado and works on conservation and restoration of prairie reserves in the Southeastern part of the state. They’ve been in operation for over 20 years and are committed to protecting and restoring biodiversity in the grasslands. When people think about carbon offsets they typically think about planting trees, which is one type of carbon offset. Both are critical and while trees are a natural way to sequester carbon, grasslands are also great for natural carbon sequestration. Trees and grasslands both absorb carbon dioxide naturally during photosynthesis. Grasslands absorb carbon dioxide and store it in the soil, and because they absorb more carbon dioxide than they release, they are an effective carbon sink. Grasslands tend to be more protected from weather and environmental events than forests. Trees store carbon in the trunk and roots, and are susceptible to fires. If a forest fire occurs, trees release the carbon dioxide stored in their trunks back into the environment. Grasslands store sequestered carbon underground in the soil. If grasslands catch fire, the carbon underground is protected and doesn’t release back into the air. Each year, the Southern Plains Land Trust sequesters over 10,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide!
In addition to maintaining grasslands, the Southern Plains Land Trust works to restore and maintain biodiversity in the prairies. They help plains species like bison and prairie dogs thrive by maintaining their natural habitat. Biodiversity is an important part of keeping the grasslands healthy for carbon sequestration.
Carbon neutrality is a big step for Blueland and a new chapter in our sustainability journey. We look forward to continuing our progress and keeping our homes and planet clean.
Blueland’s Carbon Neutrality is part one of a three-part Blog series where we dive into the logistics and processes involved with carbon neutrality and what carbon neutrality means for Blueland. The other two articles can be found here:
- What Is Carbon Neutrality? ()
- Blueland’s Offset Partner: Southern Plains Land Trust