To learn more about Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF), we connected with Heather Schrock, BEF's Environmental Partnerships Director, for a Q&A. Heather's role involves interacting with various entities, such as nonprofits and sports teams, that want to reduce their carbon energy and water footprint, offering carbon offsets and water restoration certificates, as well as support for emissions impact reductions.
[The interview questions and responses were edited for clarity and the final article was approved by BEF before publication.]
About Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF)
Bonneville Environmental Foundation is an environmental nonprofit based out of Portland, Oregon nearing 25 years. They work at the intersection of climate renewable energy and water restoration, supporting various projects across the country to help businesses and organizations reduce their impact and balance their emissions. In addition, they work with traditionally-marginalized and excluded communities, including tribal nations, to promote inclusion into the renewable energy market. Finally, they are dedicated to STEM education through their program, CE Bright Futures, which provides comprehensive and long-term curriculum and clean energy educational empowerment across the country.
Read on to learn more about BEF's incredible projects, business operations, and giveback and why they're a great carbon credit partner.
EarthHero: How does BEF support businesses offset their emissions and be more data empowered?
Heather: BEF offers the "training wheels" to reduce the information gap for smaller businesses so that understanding carbon emissions and offsets is simpler. Emissions accounting standards, like Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol, can be incredibly complex, so BEF provides trainings and simplified education materials to make the process more digestible. Moreover, BEF provides high-quality carbon offsets and water certificates to reduce a business' residual carbon footprint as they work on their long-term reduction plans.
EarthHero: How has BEF and your carbon project portfolio evolved over the years?
Heather: Over time, BEF's evolution has leaned toward prioritizing equity and social justice as environmental issues. Given the historic exclusion of social justice issues within environmental activism, it became essential to incorporate it in BEF's work. One example is the Human Nature project, which works at the intersection of trauma, houselessness, and environmentalism. On the one hand there are individuals who are experiencing houselessness who need compassion and support and then there is the environmental community that wants protection for natural areas to prevent negative impact on the habitat. In response, Human Nature offers trauma-informed care training to naturalists and environmentalists who work in natural spaces so they are able to support the unhoused community through compassion and by offering resources.
Regarding carbon projects, BEF has become more sophisticated in the projects we onboard. Since the carbon market is continually improving methodologies as well as the technology to track offsets and project impact, BEF continues to evolve. These methodologies refer to the science and math behind a certain carbon offset, like what a landfill needs to do create a landfill gas sequestration project.
EarthHero: How did BEF begin partnership with Climate Neutral and how has it developed over the years?
Heather: This is a great story. One of the Climate Neutral founders, Peter, works at Peak Design, which was a 1% for the Planet client of mine. I visited their office in San Francisco and was introduced to the outline of their certification which I was initially unsure about but was open-minded to. When they explained the certification, it seemed like a great idea to support businesses offset and reduce their emissions because it had a lower threshold compared to other certifying bodies which were significantly more complex and made it harder for businesses to get involved. They created a great community around it and I wanted to be involved from ground zero.
[BEF has also worked closely with Climate Neutral to create a landing page for businesses to learn more about and shop Climate Neutral approved offsets. This is what EarthHero used to source our 2022 carbon projects which you can learn about at the end of this article.]
What are you most excited about in the world of carbon accounting and carbon project management?
Heather: On the carbon side, we are excited about more removals coming into market. Both SBTi (aka Science-Based Target Initiatives) and the net-zero folks have encouraged removals, which has promoted an acceleration of removals development. We are excited for both engineered removals and nature-based removals! At BEF's watersheds department, we are working on incredible collaborations between multiple Fortune 500 companies on projects to help with water restoration in the Colorado River Indian Tribes' water rights areas. On the STEM side, we won the EPA Green Leadership Award and have gained attention for the CE Bright Futures program from the U.S. Department of Energy and NREL, for instance. On the renewable energy side, I am excited about our tribal renewable energy projects coming down the pipeline and it has been a great experience for the department to learn more about the nations in their own space and in their own terms.
How can consumers be involved in climate action?
Heather: Starting with the calculator to understand your own footprint is helpful for learning about individual impact. In our minds, the most important thing is collective action! Everyone already knows the basics of what will reduce your carbon footprint, like eating less meat or driving less. This isn't new to people. But getting involved somewhere locally with an organization doing the work, whether tree-planting or water policy, is what's going to make a difference and influence the businesses that you patronize and your community.
Want to learn more about the two projects EarthHero is supporting through our partnership with BEF? Check out our Agrocortex Forestry Project and Landfill Gas Project!