|Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge California||Dave Menke/USFWS
Soon after a special Green Team of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees began working to make the Conserving the Future conference carbonneutral, team members decided to toss that goal out the window. Not because it wasnt attainable, but because it wasnt ambitious enough.
We need to go further, says Green Team leader Paul Charland, a Great Lakes Big Rivers Region wildlandurban interface coordinator based at Leopold Wetland Management District in central Wisconsin. In order to stop the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, we need to be carbonnegative.
Charland and other team members believe the Service should lead the way to a carbonnegative future. So they are striving for a carbonnegative conferenceone that, they expect, will result in a net reduction in atmospheric carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas fueling climate change.
The conferences biggest fossil fuel use is attendees travel, Charland says. Madison, WI, isnt served by direct flights on major airlines, so two flights are necessary for most of the 1,200 attendees. The second flight, on a commuter plane, uses proportionally more fuel. The Green Team urged regional leaders to ask attendees to skip the second flight and instead carpool with coworkers from a larger airport to Madison.
The switch from puddlejumper to renta van symbolizes the behavioral changes people need to make to reduce their carbon footprints, Charland says. The goal is to initiate new ways of thinking and new ways of going about the things people do every day.
In Madison, attendees are encouraged to use public transportation.
The decision to hold the event at the Monona Terrace Community and Conference Center helped shrink the carbon footprint. The center has been designated LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) silver by the U.S. Green Building Council, and it purchases all of its electricity from renewable sources, mostly wind power. The centers caterer shuns petroleumbased plasticware in favor of reusable china and compostable cups made of corn resin.
The conference is scheduled to feature two presentations on how refuges can reduce their carbon footprints. And John Knox, a Conserving the Future Fellow who helped plan the event, has prepared a collection of energysaving green tools to be included in attendees takehome material.
A transportation consultants initial estimate found that about $5,000 worth of carbonoffset credits would compensate for the fossil fuel used to fly participants to and from the conference, with a more comprehensive estimate to come. Meanwhile, Charland says, the Service has pledged to invest $15,000 in carbonoffset credits administered by The Conservation Fund. The Green Team expects those credits will make the conference carbonnegative. In any event, the credits will pay for a reforestation project on a national wildlife refuge.
Heather Dewar is a writereditor in the Refuge System Branch of Communications.