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Gaiam and Go Zero: Aiming for the Tree Tops
More than 138,000 trees and counting!
When Gaiam launched Go Zero®, the word’s first sustainable shipping program, in partnership with The Conservation Fund® in 2006, the company had no idea how successful it would become.
“We hoped that 5 percent of our customers would sign on,” says Chris Fisher, Gaiam’s director of customer experience and the one who created and launched the partnership. “But it became so popular that it quickly reached 20 percent.”
The groundbreaking Go Zero program allows Gaiam customers to add a small contribution to their online or catalog order to “zero out” the carbon impact of product shipping. And 100 percent of all contributions go directly to The Conservation Fund (regularly ranked as one of the nation’s top charities) to help plant indigenous trees in protected parks and wildlife refuges across the nation, a major reforestation undertaking. Each tree planted will trap more than one ton of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere over the course of its lifetime. Additionally, Go Zero’s efforts aid habitat restoration, water and air quality, and provide recreation areas for the public.
Model citizens — and companies
Since the program launched five years ago, other companies such as U-Haul, Dell and Travelocity have signed on to Go Zero and launched similar sustainability programs with Fisher’s help.
“One of our goals with Go Zero was to make a big impact by creating a model that could be replicated by other companies,” Fisher says.
Another goal of this innovative program was to make individuals feel like they could make a difference, even with the donation of just a couple of dollars. Jena Thompson, The Conservation Fund’s director of corporate relations, is a big advocate of the idea that through small change, you can make a big difference. “Gaiam’s customers are really changing the world,” she says. “They care about the planet.”
Climate scientists estimate that between 12 to 17 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions are caused by deforestation. In the United States alone, we have lost more than 20 million acres of forest over the last century. Giving Gaiam customers a chance to help remedy the ongoing depletion of forests through reforestation is a win/win for everyone involved. One customer writes: “This is a marvelous idea and a great opportunity to help. I am glad that Gaiam is environmentally conscious and also gives us the opportunity to be. Getting to plant a tree every time I shop is a great feeling."
It’s clear from Fisher and Thompson that this unique partnership has been a match made in heaven. “Gaiam has really helped pioneer and then champion what I call the customer pass-through. It works so well because it’s a clear and easy part of the purchase path, it’s priced right and simply stated,” Thompson says.
In addition to customer contributions at checkout, Gaiam also donates the Go Zero contribution for all Seventh Generation™ products purchased. The company also offsets some of its own corporate carbon emissions.
Aiming for the tree tops
Since 2006, Gaiam and its customers have helped plant more than 138,000 trees in nine wildlife refuges that will offset 114,681 tons of carbon dioxide, as well as help countless bird and wildlife populations thrive. It’s also important to note that The Conservation Fund focuses only on indigenous mixed planting to restore fully functioning natural systems. “They take the time to plant whatever was found in that micro-ecosystem,” explains Fisher.
Last year, Go Zero planted oak, pecan and cypress trees across 814 acres in Grand Cote National Wildlife Refuge and Lake Ophelia National Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana. Now, the Go Zero program is gearing up for its biggest restoration project to date: The plan is to plant about 800,000 trees on more than 2,600 acres in the Upper Ouachita National Wildlife Refuge, near Monroe, Louisiana.
“We’re really excited that Gaiam, and all our corporate partners, are enabling us to do such an incredible restoration project,” Thompson says. “It’s great for the wildlife, fabulous for the climate and a strong benefit for the local water quality.”
This new large-scale project, she explains, will not only help restore the forest but will also help re-establish habitat for the federally threatened Louisiana black bear and numerous bird species. Additionally, the nearby city of Monroe will greatly benefit because the trees will be planted smack dab in the middle of a flood zone, helping slow and filter water as it moves downstream. The Monroe News Star’s editorial board wrote: “The benefits of this restoration will be measurable, and will at some point save lives and property as the Ouachita hits flood stage.”
Gaiam visits Go Zero (and spots some gators)
Recently, Fisher (third from left in the photo) visited the Lake Ophelia National Wildlife Refuge and Grand Cote National Wildlife Refuge in Marksville, Louisiana to see the oak, pecan and cypress trees for themselves.
“The wildlife employees showed us around the local ecosystems and also our specific plantings,” says Fisher. “They described why this fragile and biologically diverse ecosystem needed help, and how our plantings were already helping the wildlife, not to mention the carbon capture.” Another highlight from that trip: spotting alligators at night in a flat-bottom boat at one of the Go Zero planting areas!
Fisher says it’s important to be “interactive” with the partnership. “If you care enough, you’ll go visit the site. Make sure that it’s true.”
“It’s a testament to Gaiam’s commitment to the program that they continue to perform due diligence,” says Thompson. “It’s important to understand where the money goes.”