Erich Schwartz is a Sunshine Coast revolutionary. He says we need social revolution with sustainability as the spearhead. His company, Greenomics, based in Gibsons, BC is helping to lead the way to sustainability.
Greenomics was founded by Eric in 2002, by 2008 he decided to focus exclusively on sustainable business practices. "I worked all around the world for Fortune 500 companies. I lived in airplanes and hotels," he says. "I told myself I was contributing to the problem. So I began to focus on sustainability and helping other companies address the challenges."
While the sustainable movement evolved out of the environmental movement of the '60's, a lot of businesses backed away from it because it seemed to be a litany of "don't" and finger pointing. Erich gives companies a list of "to dos” that is a smart way to improve environmental and social impacts.
Sustainability is really common sense says Eric. Why pay $100 to have your garbage hauled away when you can reduce or eliminate it and save money? He gives an example of a company that generates 6,000 tonnes in cardboard waste each year. They can send it back and get a credit or even better, they can purchase their own shredder. The shredded cardboard can be sold for animal bedding. This creates jobs and eliminates waste and disposal costs.
When companies reduce their operating costs that gives them money to invest in their communities. Eric finds it exciting to be in the sustainability business and says, " There is such potential to super empower our communities and our economic development."
He sees lots of opportunities for coast businesses. "We spend over $100 million on electricity, diesel and gas here on the coast each year. Why not develop an effective strategy for local revenue with energy dollars that could stay here"? This could be done through wind, solar, run-of-river and wood pellets as examples.
Besides working with small businesses and corporations, Greenomics also advises governments. They recently gave a business of sustainability workshop co-sponsored by the SCRD. He sees a challenge for the SCRD as there has been a lot of talk but little action. They need to quantify their results, set targets and guidelines and really engage the community.
Eric says it is important for us to get off oil dependancy and that even though jobs will be lost in doing so, there will be new jobs gained as we become more sustainable. "There are more opportunities in the green economy," says Eric.
We must be creative and look at the big picture. The coast can create career opportunities for our young people so they do not have to leave the Sunshine Coast to earn a living.
There are regions in Europe that have totally transformed their community. He gives an example of Vauban, Freiburg, Germany , which has redesigned old buildings into passive solar energy homes that require 1/5 of the amount of energy to maintain as a normal home. These houses are so energy efficient as to require no furnace for heating. They generate more energy than they use and sell it back to the energy company.
This is a challenge here in BC he says because our electricity is comparably so cheap. People take it for granted. We need to remember that the First Nations and people who settled here did things for themselves. We need to get back to that self-sufficiency.
During this discussion, greenhouse gases and carbon offsets came up. Eric says he encourages his clients not to just be environmentally neutral, but to create carbon offsets and jobs. A company can invest as little as $1500 and five of their employees as volunteers in a community project such as a community garden. This will offset tonnes of greenhouse gas, is great public relations for the company and engages employees meaningfully . This in turn will effect change in the organization and increase production which makes the company more profitable.
Greenomics has invested in an orchard in the Czech Republic for their true carbon offset. Eric says this is very different from the Pacific Carbon Trust which allows a company to declare being carbon neutral without changing its behavior.
Greenomics has chosen, amongst other sites, a two hectare plot on a property where 1005 apple trees of mixed species were planted. There are several positive results of this such as the trees absorbing approximately 200 tonnes of GHGs over 20 years, providing approximately 10 tonnes of apples each year and local employment for 3-4 people during harvest. Greenomics did not just pay for the carbon to go “away”. They can point to where their contribution was made, was involved in the process, and has a personal connection with the project.
Unfortunately, some companies only pay lip-service and there is a lot of greenwashing in the marketplace. Greenomics offers marketing and communications advice and hopes to help companies meet the challenge. They have partnered with a number of organizations including Gibsons Recycling Depot here on the coast, the Global Reporting Initiative, UZD in Turkey, Reputations Communications and Green Table.
Using his favorite quote, Eric reminds us, "Do the right thing, be seen doing the right thing, and don't get the two mixed up."
Visit the Greenomics website for more info.