Sustainable Awarded Forest Restoration project!
Tuesday, 15 November 2011 00:00
Sustainable Solutions is pleased to announce that it was recently awarded a Forest Restoration contract by the Army Corps of Engineers Baltimore District!
Through a competitive bid process, Sustainable was awarded a contract for over 200 acres of invasive species control work in the Raystown Lake watershed. The objective of the project is to remove the invasives, and encourage the growth of native tree and shrubs species.
The variety of invasive and non native species in the project area will require a variety of control methods. We are excited to showcase our methods that maximize impacts on the target species, and minimize impacts on native flora and fauna.
We are especially excited to include the Corps in our growing list of clients!
Bay Bank Fast Company Article!
Wednesday, 19 October 2011 17:26
First Wired magazine, now Fast Company!
The more press we get on Ecosystem Markets, the faster they will become an everyday reality.
We're committed to providing our clients with the expertise in ecosystem market design and development to help make that happen.
"Fast Company profiles progressive business leaders who use innovation, technology, design, and sustainability to make positive changes for the future. By focusing on true innovators who believe in the power of business to solve world problems, Fast Company attracts a nimble, open-minded, and future-focused audience of business leaders"
LandServer Presentation to the Conservation Finance Alliance
Wednesday, 15 June 2011 14:39
The Innovative Finance Mechanisms Working Group is a subset of the Conservation Finance Alliance.
I was invited to present to the group by the IFMWG Chair, Josh Donolan (Kinship 2008) on the work we are doing on LandServer.
Kinship Conservation Fellows Update
Thursday, 28 April 2011 10:52
I was honored to be part of the lead story in Kinship Conservations Fellows Spring 2011 newsletter. The newsletter highlights our LandServer work in the Chesapeake. While its great to see our work in print, its also really inspiring to read about all of the great work the other Kinship fellows are doing around the globe. Kinship truly is a global network of conservation leaders!
Sustainable Solutions gets written up in Wired Magazine!
Wednesday, 13 October 2010 14:58
The new green economyBy Hillary Rosner | 10 September 2010
Want to save nature? Put a price on it. A new green approach is to put a market value on ecosystems -- and preserve the planet along the way
Stretching across parts of Virginia and North Carolina on the east coast of the US, the Great Dismal Swamp is a ghost of landscapes past. In 1763, George Washington led a group of investors who formed the Great Dismal Swamp Company, which felled trees, drained sections of the marsh and turned it into farms. A century later, during the build-up to the Civil War, remaining portions served as part of the Underground Railroad, providing hideouts for escaped slaves.
During the 20th century, more of it was logged, drained and carved by roads. In 1974, the federal government declared the last 45,000 hectares a national wildlife refuge, restoring a swath of it to wetlands.
Today, viewed via Google Earth, the Great Dismal is a jagged oval of dense forest, an unbroken sea of dark green -- save for a lake at the centre and a little chunk of light-green farmland perched on the eastern edge that makes it look as if someone took a bite out of the foliage. For decades, the US government and environmental groups, such as the Nature Conservancy, had been eyeing that missing piece of swamp. But the farmers’ will to sell and the buyers’ ability to raise cash never coincided. Finally, three years ago, the owners of Dover Farms -- one of two farms on the former swampland -- told the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency that administers the nature preserve, that they were ready to do a deal. Needing to act quickly, government officials turned to Nick Dilks.
Dilks, who had spent a decade working for the Conservation Fund -- a non-profit that buys and preserves land for government agencies and green groups -- had become fed up with the constant scramble for money. “It got me and others thinking, could we find another source of capital to do those deals without stealing from the same pot?” he says. “So we began thinking about the for-profit sector.” Dilks, along with business partner Fred Danforth, founded Ecosystem Investment Partners (EIP) in 2006, with a mission to raise an initial round of $150 million, beginning with small pools of money that would be used for demonstration projects. Instead of soliciting donations, the company offered a chance to invest while helping protect nature.
It’s an approach that’s spreading throughout the environmental world after years of resistance: by some accounts, turning nature into a sound investment represents the last hope of saving it. Humanity’s survival depends on healthy ecosystems -- for freshwater, fertile soil, flood protection and climate control. Scientists call these benefits “ecosystem services”, and society generally takes them for granted. We assume rivers will run to the oceans, soil will sustain crops, major cities won’t drown. Yet these assumptions are becoming less certain. And despite our dependence on nature, we essentially value it, financially at least, at nil.
Its absence from balance sheets is particularly striking in the business world, since virtually every business relies on nature. Think of a microchip manufacturer that needs huge volumes of water to make its circuits. Its profits may depend on a nearby river, and yet it pays nothing to ensure that the water continues to flow. Or imagine a farmer who relies on bees to pollinate his crops, but never considers that it might make financial sense to protect their breeding habitat. Such ideas have spurred a new approach to conservation, based on assigning financial values to ecosystems. The “ecosystem-services” approach, proponents say, could be its salvation. “The new story,” says Adam Davis, an EIP partner and a pioneer of the ecosystem-services movement, “is the opportunity to align incentives with outcomes, so that people can participate in the protection of the world in the course of doing business.”
Ecosystem Investment Partners and other emerging environmental investment firms are trying to usher in this new economy. EIP ultimately bought Dover Farms, using private-equity capital. It filed a conservation easement on the land (so it can never be developed) and donated the easement to the Nature Conservancy. It then set about filling in canals, planting 250,000 trees and allowing water to return to Dover -- turning the 400 hectares into a “wetland mitigation bank”, a model for a new economy.
In March, Dilks and a few colleagues drove across the Intracoastal Waterway -- an inland route along the Atlantic coast -- over a steel World War II-era bridge. The owner of the last farm in that missing chunk of swamp operates the bridge, pushing and pulling it across the narrow channel by tractor, in exchange for the right to hunt on the Dover land. A short while later, with the bridge retracted and the farmer busy, Dilks’s crew commandeered a Huck Finn-style wooden raft to ferry additional visitors -- including officials from the nearby city of Chesapeake, Virginia -- across the water.
Sleet was hurtling sideways by this time, raining gobs of slush upon the Gore-Tex-clad group as they gathered at the muddy edge of the Great Dismal. The sky was pale grey; thin patches of snow clung to the yellow grass. In the distance, a tall forest of cedar closed in. Unfazed by the weather, several pairs of ducks floated on a shallow pond, while a bald eagle flew overhead. More than 100 trumpeter swans had shown up earlier in the day, though they had since moved on to somewhere deeper in the swamp. Just a year-and-a-half earlier, corn and soy had grown here in neat, irrigated rows.
Leading the group across a soggy meadow and into a pool of calf-deep frigid water was James Remuzzi, an independent environmental consultant who is overseeing the wetlands' reincarnation. Remuzzi proudly pointed out some small trees poking up from the water. Some bore coloured ribbons, indicating that he and his team had planted them. Sloshing beside him, David Mergen of Chesapeake's public-works department was impressed by a pair of metre-high black willows. They were ribbonless, meaning they'd sprung up on their own. "It's evolving back to what it should be," said Remuzzi, whose company, Sustainable Solutions, is based in Washington DC, four hours to the north.
Beyond Cap and Trade
Monday, 27 September 2010 10:31
Sep 24, 2010 K. Gregg Elliott
The days of calling environmental pollution "externalities" are almost over. The days of accounting for the value of complex ecosystem functions - previously the sole purview of ecologists - may be dawning. By the end of 2010, three new trading platforms for the exchange of ecosystem credits will have opened in the past 16 months.
What is an ecosystem market?
For eons, ecosystems have supported human civilizations in myriad ways that, until recently, were largely unrecognized. Societies harvested timber, wild game, water and cultivated a diversity of crops. However, the abundance of the timber and game, the purity of the water, and the richness of the soil were simply considered part of the package. Now, scientists know better.
Soils won't support crops without organic inputs, earthworms, and in most cases, pollinating bees. Wildlife won't increase without sufficient habitat, movement corridors, and migration stopovers. Water cannot remain pure without wetlands and forested watersheds to hold and filter the rain that runs into the rivers. Yet these are the very processes, sometimes called ecosystem services, that are most often degraded by human activities such as chemical fertilizers, construction, and clear cuts.
Enter ecosystem markets. The founders of the Willamette Partnership, the Bay Bank, and Mission Markets Earth view ecosystem markets as a means of inspiring ecological stewardship. They intend to inspire that stewardship by recognizing its inherent value in the way that seems to count most in this world: helping people to pay for it.
Ecosystem markets will allow investors, businesses, and interested parties to make discrete and highly measured purchases of a broad variety of ecosystem services. The purchases may be in response to regulatory drivers, such as the no net loss wetland provision of the Clean Water Act, or the purchases may be voluntary, such as carbon offsets purchased by a company that wishes to zero out its carbon footprint.
From carbon credits to fisheries catch shares
Ecosystem markets have been evolving rapidly since the opening in 2005 of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, the world's first carbon market. However, they are building on decades of work by scientists, nonprofit conservation organizations, and forward-thinking green businesses. For example, the concept of fisheries catch shares, first touted in the United States by the Environmental Defense Fund in 1990, is a concept long advocated by economists and successfully employed in other countries before the United States. As of 2010, 16 federal catch share programs regulate fisheries in the U.S., according to EDF's "U.S. Catch Shares" summary (accessed 9-24-2010).
Catch shares work in the same way that most ecosystem markets work: by setting up a program that expressly recognizes the economic value and ownership of a commodity, in this case the right to a certain portion of the catch. This gives fishers the incentive to conservatively manage their catch, since they benefit when a healthy fishery grows more productive.
Ecological functions as economic assets
The business community increasingly recognizes the value of ecosystem services that are less tangible than fish or timber. The carbon markets that have sprung up as a result of the Kyoto Accord and voluntary efforts to combat global warming are an excellent example. A tree's ability to take carbon out of the atmosphere, or sequester it, is valued as a means of offsetting carbon emissions in most markets. Although the accounting methodologies for carbon offsets are still controversial, their value is reflected in the markets.
The Willamette Partnership in Oregon is pioneering credits for water temperature. This may seem strange until considered from a cold-water salmon's point of view. The Bay Bank, established to foster improved environmental stewardship in the Chesapeake Bay region, seeks to help small landowners estimate all the kinds of ecosystem credits their property could generate through a program called Landserver.
Ecosystem service markets, particularly carbon markets, began as a response to regulations. As of 2010, in carbon at least, compliance transactions are where most of the money is. Yet voluntary transactions in carbon and other ecosystem markets will grow. These are the markets supported by individuals and businesses, which because of stakeholder, investor or consumer demands, will take the initiative to voluntarily decrease their ecological footprints by purchasing "offsets" for their impacts.
Michael Van Patten, founder of Mission Markets Earth, believes that the voluntary market component will be key to the economic valuation of viable ecosystems in the long term. "In addition to regulatory participants, we need nontraditional buyers who are not subject to purchase by regulations, the voluntary buyers," he says, because compliance markets are not currently broad enough to counter our overall impact on the planet's resources. With sufficient vision, voluntary markets just might be.
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1 : capable of being sustained
2 a : of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged
b : of or relating to a lifestyle involving the use of sustainable methods
1 a : an action or process of solving a problem