Zerofootprint - Toronto's Best Green Organization

On February 26th, Zerofootprint and Mayor Miller officially unveiled Zerofootprint Toronto, a web site that lets residents, businesses, neighbourhood and community groups measure, track and reduce their carbon footprint. It was the latest in a string of community focused tools that empower individuals and organizations across the world take steps to combat climate change.

To date this Toronto-based non-for-profit (their offices are at 862 Richmond Street West) has won awards and acclaim for a variety of web-based tools like their One Minute Calculator. Today we're adding to their trophy case as we announce they've been voted Best Green Organization in our recent Best of Toronto survey. Zerofootprint beat out strong competition from Toronto-based green organizations including Planet in Focus, Bike Pirates, Green Shift and Green Enterprise Toronto.

Keep reading to learn more about Zerofootprint in my Q&A with Zerofootprint Communications Manager Samantha Newton.

For those who aren't familiar, can you describe what it is that Zerofootprint does?

Zerofootprint is a registered Canadian not-for-profit. Our goal is to mobilize and empower large groups of individuals and organizations worldwide, to reduce their collective carbon and ecological footprint. We do this by harnessing the power of social networking, the Internet and software.

We target large organizations such as collections of cities, multinational corporations, universities, schools and multinational communities, which may span many countries. We enable them with infrastructure that can measure, aggregate, track and manage their individual and combined footprint. We also provide them with the tools to foster a local marketplace with news, events and green commerce. aggregates the combined initiative into the most comprehensive worldwide view of green activities and commerce.

How many people to date have used your calculators? What about the kids calculator?

Many thousands of individuals, youth and kids globally.

In what ways are your calculator and offsets program different from, say, CarbonZero?

Zerofootprint is not just a calculator or just about offsetting. Offsetting is only a small part of our system and is optional. We are the first organization that we know of that has used software to empower individuals around the world in the fight against climate change.

Our software provides users with a metric that lets them know where they stand in the climate crisis. It is scalable, multi-lingual, and multi-unit. Unlike other calculators, it is not one size fits all. Users can customize it to reflect their lifestyle, so when they come back and track their progress they will have their own calculator saved.

We measure not just carbon, but ecological footprint as well. We also simulate the reduction in a user's footprint if they are thinking about taking up a specific activity like carpooling for example. The focus here is on the three Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle. Our system also allows users to set goals and join groups.

Users can also create groups around environmental challenges or aspirations. So, there is a social networking component to it as well. Finally, we also provide even more content - a marketplace, which allows users to find sustainable goods and services where they live, an events calendar and a news feed, which keeps users current on environmental news.

If an individual wishes to offset, we guarantee a blue chip offset. Our offsets are ISO-certified, audited by a third party, meet the highest standards available, and are additional according to the International Institute for Sustainable Development. Our main project is currently a forest restoration project, but we have also used other projects to help make businesses, events, and individuals carbon neutral.

Zerofootprint likes to encourage clients to reduce their environmental impact before taking the next step and purchasing offsets. Through our consulting services, we can help you understand your environmental impact and the various ways you can reduce it, so that hopefully there is nothing left to offset.

Are you in favour of Toronto banning plastic bags? If so, how do you think this can be achieved?

Zerofootprint is in favour of actions that help people and businesses fight climate change. Limiting our reliance on plastic bags is a key action that we can take to reduce our environmental impact. While some organizations lobby government to bring about reform, Zerofootprint focuses on showing people, through technology, how we can collectively affect our planet by making small changes to our lifestyle.

Anyone can logon to our free calculator at to measure their carbon footprint and access green tips. The site will even show you how much CO2 you'd avoid emitting by switching from plastic bags to more sustainable options!

What is the latest progress with Zerofootprint Energy? How many homes in Little Italy have had geothermal systems installed?

A handful of homes in Little Italy have deployed geothermal. Our role was in educating and connecting people to the resources they needed to deploy the system.

Any new initiatives planned for 2008?

We recently launched our One-Minute calculator on Facebook. We're hoping the application will have a viral effect and that it will help millions of users understand their environmental impact. To access the tool, all you have to do is log on to Facebook and type "Zerofootprint" in the search bar. We have integrated the application with Earth Hour, so that after you calculate your carbon footprint, you can easily sign up for this important, worldwide event.

Zerofootprint has also licensed the One Minute Calculator to a hotel chain and travel company. We're expecting that many companies will adopt the tool to help their customers fight climate change. We're even planning on releasing a new version of the tool with expanded functionality in the next few months.

To help companies quantify and reduce their environmental impact, we recently set up a for-profit software company to market enterprise carbon management to corporations. A number of large corporations are now customers and in the early stages of releasing our software. We hope to have many more clients on board in 2008.

This month, Zerofootprint will launch an updated version of its Kids Calculator. iEarn, our educational partner, has committed to having the Kids Calculator used by 1 million children in 90 countries by July of this year. The new calculator has a database of over 30,000 schools and will be released initially in 10 languages. It will also provide teachers with the resources they need to help their students learn about the environment and the importance fighting climate change.

Finally, given the success of Zerofootprint Toronto, we are discussing rolling the platform out to a number of Canadian and international cities. We've even begun to expand as an organization and are opening offices throughout the world. We have already set up Zerofootprint Australia, and are in the process of adding locations in England, France, and Mexico. So, for 2008, expect to hear more about the initiatives we've got planned in Toronto and globally!

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