Green Office Initiative

July 26, 2006

Last week I posted about a project I have undertaken. What I am aiming to do is find ways that small professional services companies (i.e. web designers and consultants, many of which are home-based) can operate their offices in environmentally friendly ways.

Fundamental to this whole process is how you look at this exercise. Relative to most companies, our company does not put much stress on the environment. This is true of the offices of most FreshBooks users as well. But consider for a moment the cumulative impact of the thousands of FreshBooks users out there. All together…the impact is HUGE. Like a Fortune 500 company.

So, the first step in my project is to validate the need for the project and determine what impact small office has on the environment and I am going to be doing that with the help of a Toronto based non-profit called Zerofootprint. I met Zerofootprint’s executive director, Deborah Kaplan, at a dinner put on by Taking IT Global. (Very cool community of 100,000+ youths worldwide who are changing the planet. Check them out.) Deborah was really neat and energetic; we followed up after the event and that led to lunch last week.

I told Deborah about my project. As it turns out, one of the things Zero Footprint does is help companies offset their environmental impact. They do this by:

1. Quantifying the impact.
2. Calculating the offsets required to balance it.
3. Buying offsets on behalf of companies.

So you are probably wondering: what are offsets? In a nutshell, an office like the FreshBooks office uses resources like paper (for example). Paper requires trees, electricity and lots of water to make. Fuel is burned in the transportation of that paper to an office. Zero Footprint helps companies quantify the amount of resources required to operate their office, then calculates how to replenish the resources used. For example, they calculate how many trees will need to be planted to account for the paper used. They calculate how much water was used and then how you can take action to protect a watershed that will produce the same amount of water. Once Zerofootprint knows the amounts, you get a total for your offsets. You pay that total to Zerofootprint and they buy your offsets on your behalf.

Sounds like this might get expensive, right? Wrong. The replacement value of a tree is about $4.00. Apparently one tree makes about 8,000 pieces of office printed paper so the amount of paper we use will likely be about $5.00 (10,000 pieces) in offset/year. Incredibly low, no?

Over the coming months I am going to go through the audit process so FreshBooks can earn our Zerofootprint badge. The badge demonstrates we have a zero operating impact on the environment and I’ll chronicle the audit process here.

So, let’s work together. Let’s make that massive collective company green and raise our own awareness of the impact we do have.

about the author

Co-Founder & CEO, FreshBooks Mike is the co-founder and CEO of FreshBooks, the world’s #1 cloud accounting software for self-employed professionals. Built in 2003 after he accidentally saved over an invoice, Mike spent 3.5 years growing FreshBooks from his parents’ basement. Since then, over 10 million people have used FreshBooks to save time billing, and collect billions of dollars. A lover of the outdoors, Mike has been bitten so many times it’s rumoured he’s the first human to have developed immunity to mosquitoes.