Several months ago, a group of us at Kittelson got together to discuss how we’re incorporating environmentally sustainable habits in our offices and firmwide operations. While we found many individual locations were already implementing eco-friendly practices, we wanted to bring these practices to all of our offices and encourage any sustainable effort that makes us greener holistically.

Now formalized as the Sustainability Initiative and affectionately dubbed the “Green Team,” this group continues to grow in numbers. We’ve confirmed a close alignment with the firm’s leadership through our common interest in holding ourselves to a high standard around the impact our firm has on the planet. Within the Green Team, we’ve also traded habits and hacks in our personal lives to go through our days at our offices more sustainably.

Sustainability and Air Travel

The numbers show that it would take one person a full year of recycling, using clean energy, and driving an energy-efficient car to offset the CO2 emissions emitted by a long flight. For example, a passenger flying from New York to San Francisco is responsible for 1,300 pounds of CO2, or about as much as it would be emitted by manufacturing 29,000 plastic bags.

Getting together in person is integral to the relationship-building values that define Kittelson. “One firm, many locations” is our mantra, and we believe it takes face-to-face time to genuinely stay connected across our offices that span the country. So from an environmental perspective, we have to answer conscionable questions about how we can maintain these strong relationships while recognizing the impact of air travel on the world around us.

The numbers show that it would take one person a full year of recycling, using clean energy, and driving an energy-efficient car to offset the CO2 emissions emitted by a long flight. A passenger flying from New York to San Francisco is responsible for 1,300 pounds of CO2, or about as much as it would be emitted by manufacturing 29,000 plastic bags.

The first thing we can do is encourage one another to look for alternatives to flying. Teleconferencing technology has come a long way and is now our primary method of interaction with staff from other offices. Technology fills in the gap for weekly project meetings, coaching check-ins, interviewing candidates, and other discussions across multiple or different offices nationally.

When we do travel, modes other than flying sometimes make sense. Our staff have found that it’s quite doable (and enjoyable) to take the train between our offices in Boston and Washington, D.C., Orlando and Tampa, and other office pairs that are reasonably close.

We will also strive to maximize the time spent in other offices when we travel. Rather than making repeat trips to a location, we now encourage staff to make one extended stay to connect with the team and clients.

How Our Offices Are Becoming More Sustainable
How Our Offices Are Becoming More Sustainable
Left: Jessica Josselyn (Fort Lauderdale) meets with a coworker over videoconference. Right: Alek Pochowski (Washington, D.C.), Hermanus Steyn (Portland), and Jennifer Musselman (Tampa) catch up at the TRB Annual Meeting.

 

However, we know we’ll continue to travel by air, and we’re not here to flight-shame anyone! Travel is an important part of maintaining our one-firm values and fossil-fueled air travel is not going away anytime soon.

Purchasing Carbon Credits to Fund Sustainable Development Projects

At the end of 2019, we decided to offset all 2019 work-related air travel by purchasing carbon credits. A carbon credit is essentially a market price for carbon, and it’s purchased to balance the CO2 that’s already been emitted. These carbon credits fund projects like bringing energy-efficient appliances to developing countries, reforesting land, and building renewable energy infrastructure. Kittelson is working with Gold Standard, a nonprofit organization dedicated to funding sustainable development projects in communities around the world.

As we start 2020, we’ll continue to collect data on our air travel habits, offset our flights, and encourage one another to be more thoughtful about our travel choices to make additional efforts towards becoming more sustainable firmwide.

The Future is Green

In addition to spearheading our flight offsets, the Green Team launched a number of exciting projects last month, one of them being a toolkit for other organizations to incorporate sustainable practices into their operations. We are excited to share this toolkit later in the year—after all, this is the information we should be openly sharing!

Stay tuned for more updates from Kittelson’s Sustainability Initiative. If you or your organization has an interest in talking with us about practices that have worked for you or your business, or if you’d like to hear more about what we’re doing, we would be happy to meet up and share information. Please reach out by contacting us!