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What is an Environmental Exhange?

Putting Back What Is Used Through Offsets and Exchanges

Sustainable business requires making changes to the way your business thinks; it means changing business practices through purchasing and providing products and services that have a positive impact on the environment AND the economy.

Why an Environmental Exchange? Sometimes in the course of business, we use material resources, emit pollution into our waterways or send emissions into the atmosphere. As responsible business owners, our job is to:

    prevent these things from happening in the first place
    measure how we do use resources, create pollution, etc
    minimize our impacts and create a strategy to phase out or change our practices
    pay for what we use.

Paying for What Your Business Uses. If our environment (water, energy, materials, waste, emissions, etc) are finite resources, and we use these resources in the context of our business, then it seems fair that they would be paid for with money or a trade in like.
What is an Environmental Exchange?
In the context of doing business, an Environmental Exchange is when the organization pays the environment back to offset consumption used in creating a particular good or service.

When a business puts back 100% or more of the natural resources it uses to create a product or a service, then in theory the business is considered a sustainable business.

These exchanges are typically voluntary, and are not all created equal.
Types of Environmental Exchanges
There are many types of environmental exchanges, and the type you choose are dependent upon the type of organization or business you run, and what types of environmental impacts are created in what you do. Organized in order of most common, here are a number of environmental exhanges to consider:

    Carbon Exchange. A carbon exchange is purchased to mitigate climate change created by your organizations carbon footprint. Carbon Exchange is by far, the most well known of the environmental exchanges, and is often referred to as 'Carbon Offsets' or 'Carbon Credits.' Don't be fooled though, these are not one in the same!

        Carbon Offsets: Carbon offsets are verified tools to achieve greenhouse gas emission reductions. Buying a carbon offset allows you or your company to claim a reduction of your net carbon footprint.         Carbon Credits: Carbon credits are purchased when you want to buy 'green power' through a 'renewable energy certificate (REC)'. This certificate provides proof that renewable energy has been supplied, but do not offer verified proof that greenhouse gas emissions are reduced. Instead of planting trees to reduce the green house gas emissions created from your last flight from Seattle to Boston, your company can purchase Offsets or Credits from a company that does the work of mitigating your carbon for you.

                Habitat Exchange. A habitat exchange is purchased to consolidate lands that are home to endangered and threatened species. For example, the Living Building Challenge requires that for every square foot of building development, a square foot of habitat is placed under conservation for the next 100 years.
                Nutrient Exchange. Nutrient exchanges aim to improve water quality in impaired watersheds by offsetting the discharges in one source by decreased discharges in another water source.

By Marni Evans, Guide

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