Corporate enterprises are responsible for a significant portion of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. “[With climate change], we’re dealing with a catastrophic challenge to humankind,” says Aman Daro, chief operating officer, Red Oak Realty, an independent brokerage in the East Bay area of San Francisco. “We feel like it’s not someone else’s problem. We all need to think about how we can make a difference.”
To do just that, Red Oak Realty, ranked No. 167 by transaction sides and No. 303 volume in the RealTrends 500, decided to become green-certified and carbon neutral. Beginning several years ago, the company worked with the California Green Business Network, an organization that helps businesses minimize their carbon footprint. “This was a fairly involved process because it involved a lengthy audit of every office,” Daro explains. Red Oak needed to consider about 300 different data points across its five offices and nearly 160 agents.
This meant looking at a spectrum of factors, from the larger to the more detailed, even down to cleaning products. “We needed to crawl on our hands and knees to make sure there were no aerosol cans under the sink,” says Daro. “We also did a lot of due diligence around waterflow,” he adds, explaining that they switched out faucets in some cases and installed bubblers onto faucets in others.
In addition, Red Oak transitioned to LED lightbulbs, Nest thermostats and low water landscaping and began encouraging employees to bike or walk to work. Overall, the financial investment was minimal, says Daro, pointing out that the green certification itself was free.
During this process, the California Green Business Network recommended that Red Oak Realty also considered purchasing carbon offsets to become carbon neutral. The company decided to pursue this initiative as well, since “it was true to who we are, and we thought it could be a leadership opportunity to hopefully inspire more brokerages, clients, residents and businesses to do their part.”
Purchasing carbon offsets was relatively inexpensive. Basically, Daro explains, you use a carbon calculator to figure out how much energy you’re using and, therefore, how much carbon [your company] is generating per month based on your facilities.
You then go to Terrapass (or a similar entity) and pay to support projects that help mitigate or offset that amount of carbon. After researching the options, Red Oak Realty decided to invest in the nascent technology of carbon capture and is investigating allowing its agents to buy carbon offsets for their clients.
After becoming green-certified and carbon-neutral, Red Oak Realty decided to spread the message. In addition to creating marketing materials for its agents to share with current and potential clients, Red Oak promoted these initiatives through social media, public relations, blog posts, office signage and its newsletter.
All these efforts were gratifying to Daro. “I no longer felt helpless [about climate change],” he says. “I felt like I could do something, even if it was a small thing. If we could inspire a few businesses and residents to take similar steps, maybe we could create some sort of cascade.”