Greenhouse Gas Accounting

Greenhouse Gas Accounting

The reality of global climate change, which we have already begun to see, and the dramatic rise in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions concern us deeply. A problem this vast and this wide ranging in both cause and effect must be addressed on many levels. We are taking action to reduce our company's carbon footprint through our logistics work, our product and packaging design, and our engagement with our suppliers. We are also actively encouraging our own community of employees as well as our consumers to reduce their personal energy footprints. Seventh Generation is also driving the charge for reform within our industry and the business community at large. Finally, in joining Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy (BICEP), we have found an effective vehicle for combining forces with other progressive companies to demand strong federal climate change legislation that caps greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Our GHG goal calls for us to achieve reductions in emissions of 80% by 2050 (2% per year) from a 2005 baseline, normalized to sales. To more strategically guide our GHG-emission-reduction efforts, we have set additional carbon targets, including a commitment to offset our corporate electricity use through the installation of solar panels by 2012 and a goal of reducing the life-cycle GHG emissions of our products by 15% (from a 2007 baseline) by 2016.

Our GHG emissions have dropped 49%, normalized to sales, from our 2005 baseline, with a drop of 7% in the past year. Our absolute GHG emissions have increased 58% since 2005, while sales increased 209%. While we have made important strides in improving the sustainability of our products, packaging, and logistics, the measures we have taken are secondary factors in driving our GHG emissions downward. The most significant development is one that we cannot take credit for at all. Our product mix has changed since 2005 with paper products (which are more GHG-intensive) declining while sales of cleaners increased.

Methodology and Results

An internationally accepted GHG protocol developed by the World Resources Institute and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development guides our tracking of the energy for our building and vehicles (Scope 1 and Scope 2 GHG emissions: see notes below). Using this widely accepted standard enhances transparency and comparability of data.

The largest contributor to our GHG emissions comes from our materials, ingredients, and packaging, where hard data are difficult to acquire and we must use estimates. (Additional impacts from the consumer-use phase of our products are not included in this analysis.) We could obtain a more accurate picture of the energy used to procure our raw materials and manufacture our products and packaging if we controlled their production. As our manufacturing partners may produce goods for several companies at their facilities, we cannot simply apply the energy used at an entire plant in our greenhouse gas calculations. We use component-specific GHG emissions factors from industry sources and published reports to account for approximately 85% of the CO2 intensity for our materials, ingredients, and packaging. These sources provide a gross estimate of GHG emissions; where data are missing, we have been forced to estimate or extrapolate from information for similar materials.

While estimating is not ideal, our year-to-year comparisons are fairly accurate. In 2009 we also conducted research that resulted in improved GHG emissions factors for a few of our ingredients. To enhance our understanding of the energy intensity of these components, we are performing cradle-to-gate assessments of the life-cycle impacts of some of our product categories. We completed a life-cycle assessment of our baby wipes in 2009 and will study two more product lines in 2010.

2009 Greenhouse Gas Footprint, Metric Tons CO2e

Category (data are in tonnes — CO2e/yr)200520062007200820091 Year ChangeSales: normalized 1-year changeChange with respect to 2005 baselineSales: normalized change with respect to 2005 baseline
VT Facility528085146140-4%(0)168%-13%
Employee Commuting1179911015519325%26%65%-46%
Business Travel140218375470410-13%-12%192%-5%
Product Transport6,4056,94810,47414,55111,966-18%-17%87%-39%

Total (tonnes — CO2e/yr)










Table Notes

  1. CO2e is the universal unit of measurement used to indicate the global warming potential of a mixture of greenhouse gases.
  2. MIPS includes the inputs from our materials, ingredients, and packaging.
  3. The World Resources Institute and World Business Council for Sustainable Development Protocol define three different types of emissions categories. Scope 1: direct emissions from company-controlled buildings and vehicles. Scope 2: indirect emissions from electricity, steam, or heat produced by another organization. Scope 3: other indirect GHG emissions from; transportation of purchased materials or goods; employee business travel; employee commuting; and estimates of materials, ingredients, and packaging GHG burdens.
  4. We studied the recently updated WRI transport emissions conversion factors as well as those developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. We chose to use the EPA factors because they are based on relatively recent U.S. data (through 2005) and because the majority of Seventh Generation’s product transport occurs in the US. We recalculated the product transport emissions for 2002 to 2008 using these EPA conversion factors and report these numbers here.

Our Personal Carbon Footprints

The call to protect our planet carries over into our personal lives. In 2007, we committed to reducing our personal energy footprints (averaged across the company) 20% by 2010.

We have provided all of our employees with a carbon-tracking tool that helps us mark our individual and collective progress. We reduced our collective carbon footprints 13% from 2007 to 2009, and reached 14% at the end of Q1 in 2010.

Many companies purchase energy offsets to equal the amount of energy they use, thus rendering their businesses carbon-neutral. As an alternative to that approach, we decided to take money we would have spent on offsets and instead use it to see what kind of absolute carbon footprint reductions we could leverage right here at home. We provide our employees $5,000 forgivable car loans toward the purchase of hybrids and fuel-efficient vehicles. The loans are forgivable after five years if the employee remains with the company. After three years of the program, our $130,000 in loans (which leveraged a much larger match from our associates) helped purchase 26 vehicles. The average fuel efficiency of the replaced cars was 18 mpg, while the new cars averaged 39 mpg, more than doubling the fuel economy and saving about 15,000 gallons of gasoline last year.

To encourage household energy efficiency, we pay for home energy audits as well as provide $500 rebates for Energy Star appliances and $5,000 loans (that are forgivable after five years) to help our community members invest in home improvements that reduce energy use.

With much of our electricity coming from Hydro-Quebec and the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, Vermont and the rest of New England have a relatively low carbon footprint. From a carbon perspective, the changes we make in our transportation habits have a larger impact than changes in home energy use. With limited public transportation options available in our rural state, Seventh Generation employees drive an average of 90 miles per week just to commute to work. In fact, driving accounts for two-thirds of the average Vermonter’s energy footprint.

Our 20% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2010 goal: We have provided all of our employees with a carbon-tracking tool that helps us mark our individual and collective progress. We reduced our collective carbon footprints 13% from 2007 to 2009, and reached 14% at the end of Q1 in 2010. To help us achieve our 20% reduction goal by the end of the year, we are hoping to distribute 15 more car loans, most of which will support the purchase of hybrids. Only 25% of us carpool, and we will try to boost that number with a variety of incentives and by using an online carpool/commuting tool called Goose to help identify carpool partners more easily, and track the changes we are making in our commuting habits. Achieving such a dramatic change across our workforce won’t be easy, but we believe we will succeed in reaching our 20% reduction goal by the end of 2010.

Seventh Generation’s Energy Incentives At Work

Customer Service Systems Manager Tabi Chapdelaine and Director of Product Development Louis Chapdelaine are married and have worked at Seventh Generation five years. They pooled their loans and rebates and were able to reduce their carbon footprints 38% from 2006 to 2009.

“The most significant thing we did was to combine our loans to replace our older car with a Prius. Without the $10,000 incentive, it’s difficult to cost-justify buying a Prius. The policy was absolutely important for us. We got the car just before gas prices went way up, so not only did we reduce our gas consumption 54%, we saved money, as well. The Prius is not just a car, it’s an experience. You can see your energy efficiency information while you drive so it teaches you to drive better. Because of that, we now take a less hilly route to work to save gas. And we’ve changed the way we accelerate and brake, not just in the Prius but in our other car. It really had a compound impact.

I like that Seventh Generation is approaching this systemically by starting with home audits. We didn’t really appreciate how important audits were beforehand, but the Seventh Generation program gives employees the right information and the means to make big changes. Our audit showed us we were losing too much heat and air from our roof. Over three years, we used one loan each to help us insulate, replace about 40 windows, and get a new roof. We also installed a woodstove which was instrumental in reducing our fossil fuel use and making our home much more comfortable in winter.

Companies like Seventh Generation that encourage their employees to make this kind of dramatic change are leading the way. I hope other companies will look at this program and do something similar.”

Burlington Office Footprint

The same commitment to lightening our environmental footprint that we bring to our product development also guides our purchasing, interior design, and waste-management decisions here in our Burlington office. We have an unbeatable combination of employees who are motivated to do what’s right for the planet, and innovative IT and office-management teams. We look at our daily activities and ask if there’s a better way to perform the same task. This allows us to find sustainable solutions on a grand scale (our LEED Gold interior) down to the most mundane functions, such as our replacement in 2009 of a daily truck visit to collect archival information with an online data backup system.

In 2009:

  • Computerworld ranked us number 8 in its roundup of the top 12 Green IT departments.

  • Nancy Stoddard, VP of IT: “This award saw us ranked with companies that are much larger than we are, giving us great visibility. Computerworld recognized us for a corporate culture supportive of green initiatives, our strong commitment to reducing our carbon footprint, and procurement policies that consider the impact of materials as well as energy efficiency.”

    Read about our 2008 green initiatives here.

  • Seventh Generation achieved Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification for Phase I of our interior renovation (read more.)
  • We completed the Phase II remodel of our Burlington headquarters. In this phase of the project we looked for ways we could upgrade our design to be even more environmentally conscious. We hope to receive a LEED Gold rating in 2010 for this Phase II work.
  • Our IT department continued server virtualization: 3 physical servers (reduced from 8) support our 26 virtual servers.
  • We increased teleconferencing; upgraded remote access so employees can work effectively from home.
  • Energy Star monitors were replaced with Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) gold standard monitors.

2010 Initiatives

  • Establish IT and server room energy consumption baseline; pursue innovative cooling ideas.
  • Explore eco-fonts using 20% less toner; establish paper reduction project.
  • Burlington Office Environmental Trend Data

    Office Square Footage22,18622,18636,48936,489
    Electricity (kW-e)96,87391,636150,600211,520
    Natural Gas (100 cu.ft., CCF)5,9146,1659,7359,507
    CO2 Emissions (tonnes)85115139
    Composted Food Waste (gallons)3,0007803,000
    Recycled Cardboard (lbs.)3,1205,1207,040
    Other Recycled Materials [glass, plastic, metal, etc.] (gallons)108,108141,180167,856
    Notes: Composting operation was disrupted in 2008. Composting and recycling totals were not tracked in 2006.

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