Becoming The World’s First ‘Net Negative’ Gardening Company

Becoming The World’s First ‘Net Negative’ Gardening Company

Apr 21, 2022nate

Urban Leaf was founded upon the belief that addressing the environmental impact of our food system represents one of, if not the, biggest challenges that our generation faces. It is simply not possible that humanity can continue to feed itself the way it does. 

While we believe that our mission is an important one, and we are thrilled to be helping people grow their own food, the truth is that as our business grows so too does the environmental footprint we create. This is just a reality of doing business – manufacturing ‘stuff’ and moving it around the globe consumes energy and creates emissions. This is a reality that most ‘Eco-Friendly’ brands conveniently ignore. 

We are delighted to share that starting in 2021, we are going ‘Net Zero’ on our GHG Emissions. In 2022, we intend to go a step further and actually become The World’s Very First ‘Net Negative’ Gardening Company.

This is an enormous accomplishment and a commitment that we are incredibly proud to be making, as it formalizes our commitment to the planet and ensures that as we grow we do so in a way that continues to create a positive contribution to the Earth and all its people.     

Note: We have posted two updates to this post since it was first announced in April 2021

  1. Urban Leaf's 2021 Carbon Footprint Review
  2. Urban Leaf's Path To Net Zero for 2021

What Does ‘Net Zero’ Mean?

“Net Zero” means that we achieve a balance between the emissions that we put into the atmosphere and the GHG that we take out of it. Simply put, inputs and outputs ‘net’ to zero. There are two ways that we can do this:

  1. Reduce the emissions that we put into the atmosphere in the first place, and 
  2. Increase the GHG that we take out of the atmosphere.

Where Does This ‘Net Zero’ Idea Originate From?

The Paris Agreement on Climate Change is a legally binding international treaty on climate change adopted in 2015 by the United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change. In this agreement, 196 parties committed to a goal of limiting global warming to “well below 2 degrees”, and ideally below 1.5 degrees. Controlling this temperature increase means controlling our GreenHouse Gas emissions. 

The Paris Agreement provides a framework for how countries will achieve this, with the ultimate goal being for all countries to achieve ‘Net Zero’ by 2050. 

How Will Urban Leaf become Net Zero?

Urban Leaf plans to achieve Net Zero status through a combination of three key measures:

  • Our first priority is reducing the emissions we are already creating. These come from a number of sources, commonly categorized as Scope 1, 2, and 3 (see explanation below), which are generated both directly and indirectly across our business and supply chain. We have already completed some preliminary estimates of our footprint, but later this year, we will be building a full emissions inventory plan to more accurately account for all of our emissions. 
  • With data and insights in hand, we will then review our materials, suppliers, freight, packaging, and delivery options to minimize our current emissions
  • Whatever residual emissions that exist after we’ve done all we can in terms of adjusting our core business practices will be addressed by purchasing offsets. Purchasing offsets for emissions helps push the cost of those emissions up, and we believe that driving the price of emissions such as carbon higher is a critical thing to do because a high carbon price creates an economic incentive for our economy to invest in things like renewable energy and carbon capture projects. 

What Does Net Negative Mean?

It’s kind of clunky terminology, but being ‘Net Negative’ is actually a good thing! It means that we intend to move past Net Zero and get to the point where we are removing more emissions from the atmosphere than we are contributing. The larger Urban Leaf grows, the cleaner the atmosphere becomes. Most businesses become a larger and larger environmental burden as they scale. Our intention is to do the exact opposite. The larger we grow, the more we want to invest back into our global community and utilize our position of influence to make the world a cleaner, healthier place for our families to live and eat. 

The most common way for a business to go beyond ‘Net Zero’ and become ‘Net Negative’ is by purchasing offsets. Many different types of offsets exist, and we intend to thoroughly research this topic before settling on the right final approach for Urban Leaf and our plant-loving community. 

What Are Scope 1, 2 and 3 Emissions? 

Scope 1 emissions are direct emissions from the activities that a company has under its control. These include on-site fuel combustion and fleet vehicles. Urban Leaf has neither, and we believe our Scope 1 emissions to be zero.

Scope 2 emissions are indirect emissions coming from the electricity used by an organization. Urban Leaf does not have a corporate office, however, a portion of our home-office energy consumption is considered to be Scope 2 emissions and will need to be addressed.

For us, as for most businesses, Scope 3 emissions are the largest contributing kind of emissions and include all other indirect emissions occurring from sources that we do not own or control. This includes freight, trucking, packaging, waste, water, and travel.

Although we’ve not come across it mentioned elsewhere, we do feel that a ‘Scope 4’ emission might be missing from this list. We imagine that would cover the embodied energy and emissions of the materials we use to make our products, which includes a range of plastics, wood, and paper products. Technically, our customers ‘own’ the emissions associated with the materials they consume, but we feel this is a shortcoming of the existing carbon accounting frameworks and something we intend to research further and address within our Net Negative framework. 

An Even Greater Impact

Beyond the topic of emissions, we continue to believe that our greatest environmental contribution relates to Urban Leaf’s mission: motivating, encouraging, and inspiring our community to explore the joys of gardening and that growing their food is not only something that we thoroughly enjoy doing, but that research also shows is one of the most powerful ways for us to influence the types of food choices which we make. As we discussed in last year’s Earth Day post, the world’s most powerful climate change tool, and one that remains underrated, is the fork.

Our entire Urban Leaf team is wishing you a Happy Earth Day 2021.  We look forward to continuing this journey toward a cleaner, healthier earth with all of you. Here’s to creating a Net Negative globe within our lifetime!

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