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How Earthwatch Works

Earthwatch Office Sustainability
Recycling may help organizations like Earthwatch move toward carbon neutrality.
Recycling may help organizations like Earthwatch move toward carbon neutrality.
Junko Yokoyama/Digital Vision/ Getty Images

Environmental sustainability happens in the field and in the offices at Earthwatch. In September 2006, the group hired Abbott Strategies, an environmental sustainability firm, to help it move toward carbon neutrality, or reduce its carbon emissions by producing less waste and relying on more renewable energy in the following ways: slashing paper usage, offsetting travel by purchasing carbon credits and relying on nearby suppliers.

­To conserve paper, Earthwatch has decreased paper mailings by increasing its e-mail communications. E-mail can save paper and ameliorate the impact of transporting mail around the country. The group also encourages employees to save paper by printing on both sides or by using the blank side of scrap paper. In 2006, they saved 208 pounds (94 kilograms) of paper by using scrap paper for printing, which comes out to less than one pound per person per week [source: Earthwatch].

As of 2006, Earthwatch offset the carbon dioxide emissions of all air and ground travel of its staff, as well as all travel associated with Earthwatch events. In 2007, the group raised the bar and began offsetting all volunteer travel from the person's home city to the starting point of their expedition by purchasing carbon credits from sources that can verify that real reductions in carbon dioxide are made. Examples are green-energy projects involving renewable energy, energy efficiency and forest restoration. The organization is also investigating ways to minimize carbon emissions, rather than offset them after the fact.

­Earthwatch expeditions may provide a boost to local economies.
­Earthwatch expeditions may provide a boost to local economies.
Frans Lemmens/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

Earthwatc­h strives not only to minimize its environmental impact, but also its social impact on the communities it serves. On expeditions, groups use local suppliers when feasible to cut the negative impacts of transportation. In addition, the group uses local suppliers to benefit the local economy, tries to fill available jobs with locals and involves community members in projects as much as possible. For example, a research team on Kangaroo Island uses locally grown vegetables and dairy products, and a scientist in Sri Lanka has set up a Field Scouts Program to train and recruit local youth to become future naturalists, guides or conservation professionals [source: Earthwatch].

To learn more about Earthwatch's projects and accomplishments, as well as how you can get involved, be sure to explore the links on the following page.