Month: December 2021

A walk in the woods: seeing the value of carbon credits IRL

The voluntary carbon market is experiencing never-before-seen growth. With the degree to which governments and corporations around the world are signing on to ambitious emission reduction targets, it’s clear that carbon credits will be part of a larger global net zero strategy. With unprecedented growth comes new opportunities for voluntary carbon investments.  Many industry leaders are committing to, or have already invested in, innovative nature-based or technology-based solutions that will help them achieve their future net zero targets. While the voluntary carbon market will continue to scale, we’re already seeing examples of real impact today.

Proof of this can be found deep within the vast forest region of rural southern Washington, where you can find imposing Douglas firs and lush, five-foot ferns. North of Mt. St. Helens, sprawling along the banks of a crystal-clear lake and in close proximity to its namesake Winston Creek, is the Winston Creek Forest Carbon Project. The project is owned by Port Blakely, a fifth-generation, family-owned and operated sustainable timber company with a mission to “cultivate a healthy world” by implementing and advocating for progressive forest management practices.

Recently, Port Blakely invited 3Degrees and members of the Sustainability team at REI Co-op to break away from our computer screens and spend a day immersed in the fresh air of the Winston Creek Forest.


REI’s commitment to the Winston Creek Forest Project

Founded  in 1938, REI has long incorporated environmentally-ethical business practices into its operation. Earlier this year, the long-time 3Degrees customer announced that it had achieved its 14-year carbon neutrality commitment. This commitment involved balancing its residual emissions with an equivalent investment in the sequestration or avoidance of emissions through the purchase of carbon credits. REI has also set a target to more than halve its emissions by 2030.

REI worked with 3Degrees to construct a diverse portfolio of high-quality carbon projects that both sequester and avoid GHG emissions, as well as support environmental and social co-benefits. As part of this portfolio, REI invested in the Winston Creek Forest Carbon Project. For REI, an organization dedicated to helping everyone experience the transformational power of nature, supporting this project was a natural extension of its commitment to the environment. And the fact that the Co-op’s headquarters is located just over 70 miles to the north of this dense forest, made the project all the more attractive.

Lessons in improved forest management

Mike Warjone, a fourth-generation descendant of Port Blakely’s founders and President of US Forestry at Port Blakely, along with Senior Director of Communications, Stacey Klum, greeted us with friendly smiles. As the sun timidly peeked through the clouds on this damp fall Pacific Northwest morning, Mike, with his booming, yet warm voice began what would be a 3+ hour education on sustainable forest management. He described the challenges that Port Blakely is up against. In a competitive market that doesn’t always reward improved forestry practices, the carbon project has allowed them to grow the trees in this forest nearly three decades longer than the industry standard.

Mike first brought us to a grove of 35-year old Douglas firs. As we peered around the thick spans of trees, one thing became clear: the forest was almost entirely homogeneous, with some low-lying undergrowth. This stand is representative of the industry standard for harvesting Douglas fir. In fact, most mills are designed to process this size of tree and cannot handle the older, larger trees. What this means for companies like Port Blakely, is that the market for larger trees has significantly declined over the last decade or more, making the need for alternate revenue sources such as participating in the voluntary carbon market even more critical.

As we made our way over knotted tree roots and dense ground vegetation, Mike brought us to another, very distinct area of the forest. Standing among 60 year old trees, there was a stark difference. This section of the forest was teeming with undergrowth, a much more diverse population of tree species, and a healthy smattering of dead and decaying trees, which provide homes to many of the local fauna. It was here that Mike explained to us what carbon credits allow his organization to do. The added 25+ years of growth for the forest exponentially increases its carbon storage potential. We were looking at thousands of extra pounds of stored carbon in every one of these trees which would not have occurred without the incentive from the carbon investment, and subsequently customers like REI supporting the project.

Carbon credits’ role in immediate climate action

Making our way back toward our cars, Mike paused to instill one more important point: He and his company are more than aware that carbon credits are not the long-term solution. They are indeed an effective and immediate tool for supporting carbon reduction activities, however, they really serve as a bridge to longer term solutions. The real opportunity lies in change-making policy, in creating a meaningful and universally understood price on carbon, and working collectively to reduce greenhouse gases from being emitted into the atmosphere in the first place.

Talk about breath of fresh air. It was refreshing to see an example of companies choosing to make this type of investment, not because of its impact on the bottom line, or because of the marketing claims that can be made, but because the planet requires bold action. Port Blakely and REI exemplify the types of businesses that are helping to shape the net zero economy. It was a privilege to spend the day in the woods with these folks — companies that fully understand the challenges that lay ahead and are committed to taking action against climate change.

Freshpet Enhances its Commitment to the Planet with Decarbonization Initiatives

Dog running through a field of wildflowers

Freshpet logo

Freshpet logo


Freshpet was founded with a mission to revolutionize the way all pets are fed by making fresh, natural food. Since day one, the company has been committed to changing the industry through positive innovation that is good for pets, pet parents, and the planet. So in 2019 when Freshpet reached out to 3Degrees to help address its global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions footprint, we were eager to support the company in its quest to be the most sustainable pet food that consumers can buy.


When Freshpet approached 3Degrees, the company was in the earlier stages of its climate action journey and was looking for a renewable energy and decarbonization solutions partner to help take its sustainability commitments to the next level. It had a lot of ambition and wanted to ensure it was making the most meaningful impact. While the Freshpet team members knew they were interested in making a renewable energy purchase, they were looking for a partner with deep expertise who could help educate them on their options and guide them beyond that initial investment.

How we helped

After the Freshpet team executed its first purchase of renewable energy certificates (RECs), it continued to gain stakeholder support to further build out its sustainability program. The company came back to 3Degrees with the desire to accelerate its climate commitments, and we crafted a multi-step approach to help the company build a more comprehensive climate action plan. 

This phased approach included:

  • Full Scope 1 & 2 greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory. As a first-time inventory, there were three important components to this analysis: to help Freshpet gather the needed data in the most efficient way possible, to educate relevant stakeholders on recordkeeping and data management processes which can streamline future inventory efforts, and to assemble the data, calculate the emissions, and present the full GHG inventory to Freshpet.
  • Scope 3 emissions screen. 3Degrees examined Freshpet’s indirect value chain greenhouse gas emissions – those related to but not directly controlled by the company (Scope 3). Because the universe of Scope 3 emissions is so large, we first screened Freshpet’s Scope 3 emissions using an industry-standard open-source tool that uses purchasing data to estimate emissions from fifteen categories.
  • Stakeholder education sessions and competitive benchmarking. During this workshop that 3Degrees hosted for the Freshpet executive team, we shared the following information:
    • The landscape of stakeholders influencing the standards by which Freshpet’s goals and actions may be judged (e.g. Environmental Working Group, CDP, CERES, etc.);
    • Key initiatives launched or used to encourage corporate action (e.g. RE100, Net-Zero, CDP, Science-Based Targets, UN Sustainable Development Goals);
    • A benchmark review of the goals and programs underway across a select group of companies in relevant sectors and industries.
  • Materiality workshop. 3Degrees facilitated a materiality workshop with Freshpet’s executive team members during which they evaluated near-term areas of focus for climate action according to criteria such as level of emissions, impact on the fulfillment of the company’s mission, and stakeholder expectations. As a group, we discussed Freshpet’s particular position as a leader in a new market category and the unique opportunities it presents to influence change. 
  • Deeper GHG footprinting analysis. In addition to updating Freshpet’s Scope 1 & 2 inventory for 2020, 3Degrees also added more granularity to the Scope 3 assessment by digging deeper into the details of the company’s largest categories of emissions. 
  • Goal setting & implementation plan. 3Degrees helped Freshpet set an ambitious, well-planned climate goal by using the company’s inventory data and growth projections to model reductions necessary to meet 3-4 goal scenarios. We then translated those reductions into categories of actions that Freshpet could take to achieve the goals and provided directional costs for those actions.
  • Introduction to the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD). TCFD is a risk assessment and mitigation planning tool that helps companies uncover the transitional, physical, and financial risks associated with climate change and develop appropriate governance strategies to manage these risks. Through an honest and transparent discussion with Freshpet’s executive leadership, 3Degrees helped them understand the “why” and the “what” of the TCFD required disclosures to kick start the process for eventually reporting to the standards.

Since its founding, Freshpet’s mission to nourish Pets, People, and Planet has included a significant focus on the environment. We were one of the first pet food companies to operate a landfill-free manufacturing facility and have been purchasing wind power since 2014. As we increased our efforts to help fight climate change, 3Degrees has been an instrumental partner in Freshpet’s sustainability journey. Their multi-disciplined climate science knowledge has allowed us to measure our carbon footprint and take meaningful actions that meet demands of our consumers, investors, and team members.

— Justin Joyner, Sustainability Lead, Freshpet


From the beginning, Freshpet demonstrated a dedication to digging deep and taking a strategic approach as it marched towards additional sustainability commitments. The team was curious and eager to take action once it had the appropriate information. As a result of this phase of work, Freshpet has a better understanding of the sources of its emissions, which allows the team to focus resources on high-impact reductions. Freshpet arrived at a carbon neutral goal for its Scope 1 and 2 footprint, while it works towards setting additional long-term decarbonization plans.