As negotiations were underway for a UN agreement on climate change in Bali, Indonesia in December 2007, a group of BC small businesses announced that they were committing to cut and offset their greenhouse gas emissions on average by 64 percent or 999 tonnes next year. That’s equivalent to removing 360 cars from city streets.

The ten small businesses were participants in the first Carbon Neutral Workgroup for Small Business organized by Ecotrust Canada in partnership with the Pembina Institute. The Workgroup’s purpose is to help small businesses with the technical challenges of measuring, shrinking and offsetting their carbon footprint. The successful pilot project launched the Ecotrust Canada’s renamed Climate Smart program in 2008.

“Small business is the engine of B.C.’s economy and any action plan on global warming must involve this crucial sector,” says Ian Gill, President of Ecotrust Canada. “The entrepreneurs who participated in our first Carbon Neutral Workgroup are the early adopters proving the business case for taking action on global warming. By cutting their carbon emission, many will cut costs while creating greater consumer loyalty for their eco-friendly products and services. That’s called being carbon smart.”

The first Carbon Neutral Workgroup brought together ten companies and nonprofits from the North Coast, Vancouver Island and Lower Mainland. They represent some of B.C.’s most progressive and innovative small businesses in the fields of tourism, fisheries, manufacturing, transportation, philanthropy, food distribution and green building.

“More and more customers are coming to us because of our environmental performance and local manufacturing. We’re seeing growing demand for green building products,” says Steve Roscoe, owner of Woodland Flooring in Comox, a manufacturer certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. “Last year, we invested in a new energy efficient kiln which saved us $1,500 in power and cut our carbon emissions by 17 percent. Next year, we plan to offset our remaining carbon footprint and become a carbon neutral company.”

Other businesses going carbon neutral were Small Potatoes Urban Delivery in Vancouver, King Pacific Lodge on the Central Coast and Chislett Manson & Company in Courtenay.

“Our ultimate goal is to be the most socially responsible grocery delivery company in North America, but right now we need local solutions for global warming,” says David Van Seters, President of SPUD (Small Potatoes Urban Delivery). “SPUD is helping people to reduce their ecological footprint with the everyday act of grocery shopping. By being the first grocery retailer in Vancouver to go carbon neutral, we hope it will engage and inspire other businesses to do their part.”

Commitments to carbon reduction for each business ranged from two to 50 percent. Reduction strategies included using more energy efficient lighting, reducing idling times in vehicles, investing in new energy-saving technologies, reorganizing logistics to save time and energy, cutting paper consumption and other measures. On average, the ten businesses planned to reduce their carbon footprint by almost nine percent. About 55 percent of their combined carbon footprint will be offset by purchasing carbon credits.

The ten businesses had a combined carbon footprint of 1,560 tonnes. About 67 percent came from transportation, 17 percent from electricity, 11 percent from heating and five percent from other sources.

Demand for Carbon Neutral Workgoups was so strong in 2007 that Ecotrust Canada renamed and launched the program as Climate Smart in 2008, holding workgroups in the Lower Mainland  and Tofino in 2008. About 75 companies will participate in five workgroups in 2008. Vancity is providing a scholarship to help pay for 25 businesses that want to enrol in Climate Smart.

“Vancity has been taking action on climate change since the early ’90s,” says Ellen Pekeles, Senior Vice President of Strategy for Vancity. “We’re working hard to become a carbon neutral organization, and are proud to provide assistance to small businesses who are also leading in this way.”

The David Suzuki Foundation, Vancity, Mountain Equipment Co-op and King Pacific Lodge financed the first Carbon Neutral Workgroup pilot project in 2007.

The workgroup included three workshops to help companies calculate, reduce and offset their carbon footprint, and learn about strategies to market their climate-friendly products and services. The Pembina Institute and David Suzuki Foundation developed innovative software to help these businesses calculate their carbon footprint. The Pembina Institute also provided one-on-one technical assistance through a “cool climate hotline.”

Carbon Neutral Pilot Workgroup

  • CFV Helen II is a commercial fishing vessel owned by Dan Edwards in Ucluelet. The Helen II has an annual carbon footprint of about 79 tonnes. Edwards has partnered with Ecotrust Canada to carry out a research and development project on a new energy-efficient sustainable fishing boat to “green” the commercial fishing fleet.
  • Chislett Manson & Company is a Comox Valley architecture, planning and landscape firm committed to designing ‘’net zero” buildings. It has a carbon footprint of eight tonnes which it plans to offset next year to be a carbon neutral company.
  • King Pacific Lodge is a luxury wilderness lodge on the Central Coast which has a carbon footprint of 492 tonnes. They have committed to cut their carbon by 15 percent next year and offset the rest to be a carbon neutral company.
  • reSource Rethinking Building is a Vancouver-based development and green building consulting company that specializes in creating innovative solutions for buildings and communities. It has a carbon footprint of nine tonnes and is currently exploring options, including offsetting, to become a carbon neutral company.
  • Small Potatoes Urban Delivery (SPUD) is an organic and local food home delivery service in Vancouver, Seattle, Victoria and Calgary. SPUD plans to cut its 429-tonne carbon footprint by 10 percent next year and to offset the remainder to become a carbon neutral company.
  • Tofino Bus is a long-distance and rural commuter bus service. The fast-growing company has a carbon footprint of 276 tonnes and provides the public with transportation alternatives to using cars on the West Coast.
  • Trilogy Fish is a locally owned processor and retailer in Tofino that prides itself on local, sustainable seafood. The company has a carbon footprint of 30 tonnes and plans to cut it in half by reorganizing its delivery logistics and through energy efficient technologies.
  • Upholstery Arts is an innovative furniture manufacturer and retailer which is leading the green design movement in Vancouver. The company has moved away from petroleum-based materials. Its carbon footprint is an already low 86 tonnes and they plan to cut three percent from its emissions.
  • Vancouver Foundation is Canada’s largest community foundation and its staff recently conducted a detailed inventory of its carbon footprint, which totaled 103 tonnes. The Foundation has established a Sustainability Working Group to implement carbon reduction strategies throughout its operations.
  • Woodland Flooring, a value-added manufacturer using FSC-certified or salvaged BC woods for their specialty Wideplank flooring in Comox, has a carbon footprint of 48 tonnes. A new energy efficient kiln helped the company reduce their GHG emissions by 17 percent this year. Woodland plans to go carbon neutral next year.