Big Sky residents take note: For about $15, you can do a ton of good for the environment. PHOTO COURTESY TRADEWATER

Pay it forward Big Sky

How offsets can help you help the planet

As part of their net carbon neutral goal, Big Sky Resort now gives their guests the opportunity to help one of the most innovative green companies do its work: collecting and destroying millions of tons of the most powerful greenhouse gases in the world. The project the resort is participating in was the first of its kind for a mission-based operation called Tradewater. Company CEO Tim Brown encourages other hotels and companies in Big Sky and elsewhere to consider joining resort guests in using the companies’ resources to offset their carbon impact. “This project type is one that has a very large impact and we can make it available to people at any level,” said Brown, “We want to make known and do our best to make this option available.”

Unlike many carbon offset programs, Tradewater’s work focuses on refrigerants--which if released into the atmosphere are 10,900 times more potent (and damaging) than carbon dioxide. While production of these substances were banned in 1987, “All the refrigerants that had been produced prior to that time are still in use, either installed in chillers and air conditioning equipment, or in cylinders and cans that just haven't been used,” said Brown. “We're really trying to cast a wide net and try to find these leftover gases and make sure that they don't get released into the atmosphere.”

The only reason Tradewater can collect and destroy these harmful refrigerants is because of individuals paying to offset their carbon emissions. “Whenever we are developing projects, we create a carbon benefit, we sell the carbon benefit to people who are involved in sustainability commitments in one form or another and want to be supportive of this particular project type; and then we use those funds to go and extend our collection networks around the world,” said Brown.

Tradewater has a number of projects, each aimed for different people and businesses in order to create a mutual benefit. The Carbon Neutral Collective “is geared towards small to medium sized businesses, enabling them to use our tools to help identify and to calculate what their carbon impact is, and then to address it through carbon offsets from this project type as they continue to work on emissions reductions,” explained Brown. The Catalytic Coalition “is about working with companies that have large holdings of buildings that may have a lot of refrigerant under management that we inventory and work on creating an end of life solution for,” said Brown. Tradewater then looks to convert cooling systems to lower Global Warming Potential (GWP). The benefit: “Companies that are 100% carbon neutral will get promoted a lot. There's a bunch of branding and promotional materials that come with social media stuff on what you have that is available.”

You do not have to be a part of a business to offset carbon emissions. “Individuals can help by calculating their carbon footprint and purchasing carbon offsets to mitigate the impact; and individuals can help by letting us know if they have any CFCs or HCFCs that they may stumble across,” said Brown.

Once Tradewater has the refrigerants they bring them back to Chicago where the company operates an aggregation facility which bulks the refrigerants into large cylinders and then sends them to a destruction facility to be destroyed. The gases are destroyed using a kiln that heats from 1,800°F to 2,200°F which kills 99.99% of the refrigerants. Tradewater has a global and national reach, with a team of 44 people working in 49 of the 50 states as well as in Ghana, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Argentina, Guatemala, Chile, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, and various other locations.

“Tradewater’s first international project was with Ghana, “There was a really wonderful organization in Ghana called City Waste Recycling, that was recycling old refrigerators and they had collected the gas out of the refrigerators but didn't have any place to take it,” said Brown. “They contacted us, and we decided to give it a try. So, we went to Ghana and collected it and then worked through the very complicated process of shipping it to the United States, so that it could be destroyed.” The team found so many refrigerants in Ghana that they had to take a second trip in 2018 to collect the remaining refrigerants.

While Tradewater’s main focus is collecting CFCs and HCFCs, they also hope to bring attention to other pollutants. “Our specialty is to really look for a solution to these kinds of gases that otherwise wouldn't be addressed in any other way,” said Brown. Recently, the company has been focusing on methane from abandoned coal mines and took on a project of collecting and destroying that methane. So far, the company has collected and destroyed 5.1 million tons of some of the worst global warming gasses.

“The work that we are doing is in support of preventing runaway climate change and that catastrophic climate change by getting after these gases that others won't collect and destroy, because there's no other reason to,” said Brown, “Tradewater is doing our best to contribute to this overall goal and of course in order to be successful at it, we will need support from individuals and companies that want to help make that happen, too.” With more support, “Our goal is to increase our impact from about 1 million tons a year to 3 million tons a year,” said Brown.

“In order to effectively fight this climate crisis, we all have to find a way to contribute in one form or another,” said Brown. “We all have a responsibility to address this problem and we all need to work together to make progress.”

Next Week: How being a member of the Clean Plate Club can help stop global warming.

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