Everyone agrees keeping the environment healthy is critically important, but the associated challenges can seem overwhelming and the ways to make a difference are not always clear.  Our efforts sometimes feel like we’re picking up plastic bottles on the beach and then looking out at the ocean, wondering how many more bottles are out there.  The people at Piedmont Federal had some of these same thoughts and decided to get involved.

Piedmont Federal wanted a way to tie their daily business and the work they do with customers to environmental efforts.  The result was a pilot program called The Zero Carbon Footprint Mortgage, and it’s an interesting way to make a difference, home by home, customer by customer.

Each time a customer gets a mortgage, Piedmont Federal purchases carbon offsets.  Offsets pay for diverse projects to improve and protect the environment, produce energy from greener sources, promote forest management, and many other efforts.

Every customer getting a new mortgage with Piedmont Federal is automatically a part of The Zero Carbon Footprint Mortgage program.  There’s no paperwork, no cost to the customer, and no obligation.  “The challenges facing our environment are far-reaching, calling for solutions which will involve us all,” explained David P. Barksdale, Piedmont Federal Chief Executive Officer.  “Our customers and the Piedmont Federal team are excited about the environmental projects the new program is funding and the linkage it creates between homes and the environment.”

Piedmont Federal reached out to Terrapass, a leading provider of carbon offsets.  A partnership was quickly formed.  Terrapass estimated the amount of carbon the average family of four in the central North Carolina area generates and calculated the offset required to make the carbon amount neutral.  Piedmont Federal agreed to fund the cost of the offsets for the first year Piedmont Federal customers are in their homes.  Terrapass reviews and monitors the environmental projects funded, providing expertise in the field and ongoing reviews.

The heating and cooling, operating, and material used in homes generates carbon. Terrapass estimates the carbon released and identifies offset projects addressing that volume of carbon.  Projects help with water restoration to lakes and rivers with the most efficient use possible of water resources.  Renewable energy projects augment other energy sources while creating jobs.  Forests are restored, preserved, and their use and management improved.  Other programs capture methane gas at farms and landfills and then use it for energy production.

Terrapass was founded in 2004 by Dr. Karl Ulrich and 41 of his students at the University of Pennsylvania as a way to help everyone reduce their impact on the environment.  Within its first year of operations, the organization registered over 2,400 members, gaining notice and growing quickly.  Since its founding, Terrapass has worked with more than a thousand businesses and institutions and hundreds of thousands of individuals.  Ned Ford with the Sierra Club says, “Terrapass is mind-opening.”

Carbon offset projects sourced and monitored by Terrapass have a wide geographic footprint, with most occurring within North America.  One such project is in Surry County, North Carolina, at the landfill where methane gas is being captured and used to produce renewable energy.  These landfill gas to energy (LFGTE) systems perform many tasks by capturing the methane, harnessing it for use in combustion units generating energy, while creating jobs throughout the process.  Terrapass maintains strict project standards for offset projects ensuring their results are real, additional (to activities which would have occurred via other efforts), permanent, quantifiable, never double-counted, and independently verified.

Piedmont Federal is bearing 100% of the cost of the carbon offsets, prepaying most of the cost, so the dollars go to work right away.  “We estimated the cost of the homeowner carbon offsets based on the number of new mortgages we believed probable in the coming year and funded the offsets accordingly,” commented Ginger Salt, Piedmont Federal’s Chief Experience Officer.

“We would like nothing better than to have underestimated the need for offsets based on our mortgage volume, leading to even more project funding by Piedmont Federal.”  The Zero Carbon Footprint Mortgage program debuted last month, growing week by week as awareness of it grows among customers and the public at large.


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