Offsetting Our Carbon Footprint

July 28, 2020
PEC Blog

Holly Bedford, Finance and Administration Coordinator

As official sustainability partner for the GAP Relay in 2019 and 2020, PEC purchased carbon offsets and water restoration credits equivalent to the total environmental impact of the event. That experience led us to examine PEC’s own carbon footprint. We discovered that the operations of even the most environmentally conscious organizations can have unintended environmental consequences. We also learned that virtually any business or organization, no matter how large or small, can counter those impacts relatively easily and affordably through offsets.

PEC’s work spans the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, making travel a necessity for our employees to meet with partners, conduct gatherings, and visit project sites.  However, carbon emissions are sometimes an unavoidable ramification of the channels through which we perform travel.  Additionally, there are other inevitable factors that adversely affect the carbon footprint of an organization, such as energy use in the offices in which our operations are conducted. 

To know how many carbon offsets to purchase, we first needed to measure the approximate amount of carbon we produced within a year…

This year, PEC worked with Bonneville Environmental Foundation to help us measure our carbon footprint and counterbalance the carbon we produce through the purchase of carbon offsets. Carbon offsets offer the opportunity to balance one’s carbon footprint by investing in projects that have proven success at reducing carbon emissions.  One carbon offset is equal to one metric ton of greenhouse gas emissions that are kept from the atmosphere through a variety of projects, such as renewable energy production and grasslands conservation.  To know how many carbon offsets to purchase, we first needed to measure the approximate amount of carbon we produced within a year.  This entailed breaking down our carbon footprint into three scopes:

  1. Direct emissions from sources that are owned and controlled by PEC
  2. Indirect emissions from the use of electricity
  3. Indirect emissions that are a result of our operations, including employee commutes and travel.

Based on these different scopes, we needed to compile the following:

  1. Our energy bills or the square footage of our offices to calculate our energy use
  2. Total miles driven for work in company-owned vehicles
  3. Total number of miles traveled for work and the modes of transportation used
  4. Total number of hotel stays for work purposes
  5. Employee average commuter miles and the modes of transportation used

Gathering the bulk of this information meant going through our 2019 files to track down and record employee expense reports, through which miles driven by employee-owned vehicles were documented, and credit card statements, which showed the purchase of rental cars, air travel, uber rides, and hotel stays.  Additionally, we asked our employees to report each of their average miles for their daily commutes and the types of transportation used.  Types of transportation used by PEC employees included diesel cars, gasoline cars, hybrid cars, buses and subways, all of which needed to be accounted for due to the differing amounts of carbon each one produces, as well as walking and bicycling, which don’t produce any carbon.  Many of our employees utilize more than one mode of transportation and estimated a percentage for each that they use.

Based on PEC’s estimated carbon footprint, we offset the equivalent of 21 homes’ electricity use for the year.

Heather Schrock of Bonneville Environmental Foundation discusses carbon offsets on the Pennsylvania Legacies podcast


Once this information was gathered, we were able to easily plug it into a workbook which provided the calculations to convert our mileage, office square-footage, and hotel stays into the approximate metric tons of CO2 emitted.  Based on PEC’s estimated carbon footprint, we purchased 103 carbon offsets, generated through wind energy production projects, and 132 Renewable Energy Certificates to offset our electricity use by funding renewable energy sources.  This is the equivalent of offsetting 21 homes’ electricity use for the year.

Individuals and small businesses can use carbon offsets as a way to balance out the footprint of their households or business operations, and it is more affordable than you may think.

The purchase of carbon offsets is not only limited to large events or organizations. Individuals and small businesses can use carbon offsets as a way to balance out the footprint of their households or business operations, and it is more affordable than you may think. For example, according to Bonneville, the average American car travels 11,493 miles a year, which is equivalent to the release of approximately 10,582 pounds of CO2e emissions into the atmosphere annually. For less than $50 one could purchase the carbon offsets to balance out this amount of travel.

Establishing one’s carbon footprint gives the opportunity to reduce it, as this is the most effective way to lessen our overall impact on the planet.  Carbon offsets are a great way to stay accountable for the carbon emissions that remain, to some extent, unavoidable.  PEC will continue to track our carbon footprint going forward, committed to being the best environmental stewards we can be.

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