Gaiam and The Conservation Fund Go Wild for Go Zero: Part 2

How Go Zero® has helped tackle climate change and habitat loss: A Q&A with Jena Meredith, director of the Go Zero program

In 2006, as part of efforts to improve the environment, build sustainable economies and promote healthy lifestyles, Gaiam, an eco-healthy lifestyle company, and The Conservation Fund, a top nonprofit, launched the world's first sustainable shipping program. Participating consumers can easily “zero out” the carbon emissions associated with shipping a Gaiam product by donating funds to plant trees in protected parks and wildlife refuges across the nation. The ground-breaking initiative has given Gaiam’s online customers the opportunity to add a small donation at checkout that goes directly to The Conservation Fund’s Go Zero® program.

Already, Gaiam and its customers have helped the Fund plant 120,000 trees across six National Wildlife Refuges. As the trees grow into healthy forests, they are expected to trap nearly 100,000 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. What’s more, they clean the air we breathe, filter the water we drink and create new places for both people and wildlife to play. That means big returns for our climate, our forests and our peace of mind.

Jena Meredith

The Conservation Fund is dedicated to advancing America's land and water legacy. From its headquarters in Arlington, Va., this nimble charity has saved land in all 50 states — over 6 million acres of wild havens, working lands, vibrant communities and more. For part two of our series, we spoke with Jena Meredith, who directs the Fund’s Go Zero program, about the effort to address climate change and habitat loss by planting trees in protected parks and wildlife refuges across the U.S.

Q: Why does the partnership with Gaiam work for The Conservation Fund?

A: First and foremost, Gaiam leads by example. As a nonprofit founded by entrepreneurs, we believe that with innovation, passion and commitment, we can develop market-based solutions to tough environmental challenges. Gaiam’s leadership has allowed us to reach new audiences who might not otherwise donate to conservation programs. The result is a better-educated consumer, who’s also a potential long-term donor for The Conservation Fund. Gaiam also helps us raise awareness about other key issues, including reconnecting children and nature. In fact, Lynn Powers, Gaiam’s president and CEO, has served on the Fund’s National Forum on Children and Nature, inspiring kids to use nature as a way to get outside and be healthy.

Secondly, Gaiam gives back. Gaiam does more than simply invite customers to donate. Since 2006, the company has also found creative ways to integrate giving back and growing greener — from measuring, decreasing and then offsetting its own electricity use and employee commutes to giving the “Gift of Zero” to loyal customers by offsetting the carbon impact of shipping their orders through direct company donations to the Go Zero program. These corporate donations leverage each customer’s investment and inspire many to give more and give often.

Red River tractor

Planting a Go Zero Grove at Red River National Wildlife Refuge, Louisiana. Credit: Jena Meredith

Gaiam does its homework. During our first Go Zero plantings, Gaiam staff traveled to Southern Louisiana to meet with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists and The Conservation Fund to better understand how and where the trees were planted, how forest-based carbon capture is measured and how restoration of native ecosystems can benefit wildlife. This hands-on approach resulted in dedicated “Gaiam Groves” at Bogue Chitto and Big Branch national wildlife refuges.

Finally, Gaiam understands the power of the pooled donation. Nonprofits often get bogged down in expenses associated with processing and acknowledging gifts. Just like any small business, we confront credit card fees, check cashing fees and more. Gaiam understands and values The Conservation Fund’s commitment to efficiency, so we created a way to track and pool small gifts from customers. Gaiam then passes 100 percent of these dollars on to the Fund every month, enabling the Fund to put donor dollars to work immediately and effectively, rather than spending it on processing fees.

Do these small donations really make a difference? How?

Absolutely. Deforestation accounts for 20 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. And in the United States alone, we have lost more than 20 million acres of forest over the last century. Thanks to Gaiam and its customers, as well as other Go Zero supporters, the Fund has helped parks and wildlife refuges across the nation access valuable, private financing to fulfill their conservation and restoration objectives.

Read parts one and three of Gaiam and The Conservation Fund Go Wild for Go Zero.

Watch this video to see how The Fund's partnership with Gaiam has helped address habitat loss and climate change.

Feature photo: Chris Fisher (right) from Gaiam joined Danny Breaux (center) from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Ray Herndon from The Conservation Fund to place the first seedling in the soil at the Bogue Chitto National Wildlife Refuge, about an hour outside New Orleans.

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