The physical beauty of our Pacific Northwest region combined with a booming tech industry continues to draw people to our high-growth cities of Seattle and Portland. Daily, we feel and see this change with more traffic on the roads, more cranes on the skyline, homeless encampments in what seems like every nook and cranny, and an overflow of cars at our favorite trailheads.
Green Canopy launched in 2009 to combat and lessen the negative impacts of climate change and resource scarcity through in-city homebuilding. Nearly 10 years later, we find ourselves in the epicenter of rapid change. As a mission-driven Certified B Corp Company, Green Canopy inherently feels a responsibility to lean in further to the challenges we are experiencing in our high-growth cities: resource scarcity and global warming, urban sprawl, and housing crisis of affordability and access.
The Company recently paused to examine the broader purpose of our work as an urban infill residential developer and fund manager — going through a process to define our Theory of Change. A Theory of Change is a visual road map to creating the change we want to see in the world and provides a target to which we align our strategies, outcomes, and goals. We began this process with guidance from Jane Reisman, a Social Impact Advisor with over 29 years of experience in strategy and evaluation. The benefits to developing Green Canopy’s Theory of Change became clear early on and continue to bring stakeholder alignment, shared language, and metric alignment.
Green Canopy’s Theory of Change was recognized as a model for transformation in the impact investing community through a case study funded by the Rockefeller Foundation: “The case study provides an illuminating example of how investors can adapt Theory of Change to serve their impact management needs. By demonstrating the relevance and transferability of this tool for articulating, measuring, and managing impact, the hope is that this case study can contribute to strengthening other investors’ approaches, in turn contributing to building the evidence base for the “impact” of impact investments.”
The 2017 Green Canopy Impact Report takes the first step towards aligning our current metrics to our Theory of Change. Our intent for the coming year is to reassess and refresh the metrics to ensure we continue to make progress towards achieving our Theory of Change as well as to further align with common industry standards.
We believe in a better future and the Green Canopy Team — with our partners and communities — is doing the deep work to help us achieve this vision.
Thank you for being an integral part of our
Director of Investor Relations & Impact
The book Drawdown maps, measures and models the 100 most substantive, existing solutions to reverse global warming. The analysis identifies clear opportunities for the building sector to help play a role in drawing down carbon from the atmosphere (Rooftop Solar #10, Electric Vehicle #26, LED Lighting #33, Heat Pumps #42, Walkable Cities #54, Net Zero Energy #79). The Seattle Master Builders Association’s Built Green Program demonstrated this potential in the 2017 report, which found Built Green 4-Star and 5-Star homes were 33% and 40% more efficient respectively than comparable code-built homes.
2017 marks an important pivot point for Green Canopy as the company completed our first Net Zero Energy Home. Net zero energy homes produce enough energy to offset their energy consumption needs over the course of a year through solar energy and ultra-efficient systems. This represents the future of the Company as we rotate our entire pipeline to build only Net Zero Energy Homes in the coming months and years ahead.
“Our Net Zero Energy program is the result of a culmination of 10 years of system, process and team development... This is not the end of our sustainability journey, but it is a very important next step.” — Sam Lai, Cofounder
FIRST NET ZERO ENERGY HOME COMPLETED | 100+ IN PRODUCTION | 728,112 POUNDS OF CARBON MITIGATED IN 2017
Green Canopy builds good homes that are affordable by utilizing best-in-class materials and construction methods. Our homes use non-toxic materials and finishes, fresh air ventilation systems, and Blueskin technology to provide a weatherproof structure with high air quality. In 2017, all Green Canopy’s homes were certified to Built Green or Earth Advantage standards.
In addition, the Company reviewed and assessed the “Red List” of commonly used harmful building materials. Of the 65 materials listed by Miller Hull and the Living Future Institute, Green Canopy identified 30 materials the Company was already compliant with, and immediately removed 12 additional materials in our supply chain. We are working to find alternatives for the final 27 materials.
Green Canopy’s program with the Washington State Housing Finance Commission (WSHFC) has allowed the Company to sell 11% of its total sales at more affordable and accessible prices compared to standard market rate homes. In 2017, Green Canopy built an average of 5 homes for each project site, where there typically was one — offering more homes at a lower price-point in urban communities and adding walkability to schools, parks, transportation and amenities.
In 2017 Green Canopy developed its fourth fund offering, Cedar Fund, which provides greater access and affordability to families earning 80% of area median income.
“The Cedar Fund puts us in a unique position to not only draw down carbon, but to also lift up our communities.” Aaron Fairchild, Chief Executive Officer
100% CERTIFIED BUILT GREEN OR EARTH ADVANTAGE | 6 AFFORDABLE HOMES IN PRODUCTION WITH WSHFC
Our Pacific Northwest identity is interwoven with our farms, forests, wild lands, and salmon streams. Green Canopy believes honing the ability to develop density in our urban infill walkable communities is essential to reduce sprawl and preserve our wild lands. Green Canopy has created the skill to selectively develop unique lots in our high-growth cities while consistently containing costs, providing a model for residential developers nationwide. For each project site, Green Canopy responsibly deconstructs and recycles the majority of the existing structure and replaces one home with an average of 5.
Green Canopy continuously strives to keep as much of the deconstructed home out of the landfill as possible. In addition to recycling and reusing, Green Canopy developed a partnership with 118 Design, a program that offers job skills to former gang members and recently incarcerated men from the 98118 zip-code. The 118 Design team salvages lumber from the deconstructed homes and repurposes the wood into urban-inspired furniture and wood-clad walls inside Green Canopy’s homes.
“My environmental ethic formed through hours and hours of playtime as a child in our Pacific Northwest mountains and forests. I am motivated to preserve these spaces so my daughters acquire the same sense of connection to our planet.” — Andy Wolverton | Chief Financial Officer
90% OF ONSITE CONSTRUCTION WASTE RECYCLED | 95% OF DECONSTRUCTION WASTE RECYCLED
In addition to reducing operating costs and providing a healthier, livable space, a net zero energy home is generally more resilient. The shift to develop all Net Zero Energy Homes combined with efforts to transform the real estate market towards more sustainable and resilient housing will provide critical built environment infrastructure improvements.
Cities with strong social networks and social inclusion have also been shown to bolster resilience. Green Canopy is working to increase access and inclusivity to highly desirable neighborhoods through efforts including increasing density, partnering with the Washington State Housing Finance Commission to increase affordability, by launching the Cedar Fund and authentically engaging neighbors in Community Meetings. Before acquiring a property, Green Canopy invites surrounding neighbors to a Community Meeting to engage in an authentic dialogue around Green Canopy’s mission and the project design.
The Company also bolsters the resilience of high-growth cities through job creation. In addition to the 27 high quality jobs provided within the company, on average 95 jobs across the trades are utilized for every project site.
“I appreciate that you offer community meetings and a seemingly genuine interest in what matters to the neighborhood.” — Green Canopy Property
95 JOBS CREATED FOR EACH HOME BUILT | OVER 10 MEETINGS WITH POLICYMAKERS AND EDUCATIONAL TALKS GIVEN IN 2017
Impact investing is a rapidly growing industry powered by investors who are determined to generate social and environmental impact as well as financial returns. Green Canopy is an experienced fund manager and has earned a strong reputation for being engaged and transparent. The Company has successfully managed three real estate funds totaling around $45M AUM with over 100 investor accounts. Green Canopy routinely achieves financial and impact returns aligned with investor expectations. The third fund, the Birch Fund, has returned a total of $2.8 million to Green Canopy investors, with a realized annual return of 11.19% through Quarter 4 of 2017.
Green Canopy’s sophisticated approach to creating new financial vehicles for the impact investor is highlighted in its fourth fund offering — the Cedar Fund. The Cedar Fund was developed in response to the current challenges in our high-growth communities, bringing net zero energy homes to market alongside greater affordability and inclusivity for families earning 80% area median income.
“I’ve been happy with the reliable returns I’ve received with Green Canopy’s fund offerings. They’ve been a win-win: solid returns paired with environmental outcomes I value.” — Kathy Washienko | Investor
$2.8 MILLION RETURNED TO BIRCH INVESTORS IN 2017 | RAISING CAPITAL FOR 4TH FUND OFFERING — CEDAR
Deep work refers to the ability to focus, quickly master complicated information, and produce better results in less time. While Green Canopy hones this skill across all channels there are four areas of practice where the Company shines:
“Green Canopy’s monthly Leadership Training has been instrumental in fostering a culture of engaged employees who are actively working toward maximizing their potential." — Ami Nieto
8 PROFESSIONAL LEADERSHIP TRAINING SESSIONS GIVEN TO ALL EMPLOYEES | 63 BROKERS GIVEN GREEN BUILDING TRAINING
By Alexa Ashley | Marketing Manager | Green Canopy
At Green Canopy, we believe living in a net zero energy home goes hand in hand with a zero waste lifestyle. Partnering with Seattle Zero Waste, Zero Waste Washington, Eco Collective Seattle and Seattle EcoWomen in welcoming zero waste activist, Bea Johnson, to Seattle was an honor.
According to research outlined in Drawdown: 100 Solutions to Reverse Global Warming, “Over the course of a century, methane has 34 times the greenhouse effect of carbon dioxide. Landfills are a top source of methane emissions, releasing 12 percent of the world’s total.”
The Zero Waste Movement has been an important piece in the pursuit of greater sustainability and reducing our landfills. In 2002, The Zero Waste International Alliance was formed to tackle waste management issues globally from the front end and defines zero waste as, “designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them.” They believe that by “implementing Zero Waste we will eliminate all discharges to land, water or air that are a threat to planetary, human, animal or plant health.”
Bea Johnson — a French native living in California as a mother of two, — took this concept, and applied it to her everyday life and decisions. Johnson’s blog, Zero Waste Home, that she started in 2008, shows how to create less waste in a practical and cost-saving way.
Since 2008, her family of four has only been producing enough trash to fill one small jar every year. In the process, she’s found that a zero waste home has simplified her lifestyle and afforded her family more time together, with a priority on creating experiences and memories together. Bea has inspired a global community of Zero Waste bloggers and lifestyle adopters. Her bestselling book, Zero Waste Home named after the blog, has been translated in 20 languages, she’s given 200+ speeches in 30+ countries and been featured in publications and TV Shows around the world. The New York Times, the Today Show, BBC Breakfast.
Johnson spoke to a sold-out crowd of about 200, centered around her 5 Rs:
Refuse what you absolutely do not need — and especially disposables or plastics.
Reduce what you do have. Look at what you have and ask yourself, “Can I do with less?” Can I donate this or give it to someone else that needs it more?”
Whatever you cannot refuse or reduce then you reuse. Make the things that you do purchase, long-lasting re-usables and not single-use items. This can also look like reusing the compostables you’ve bought as many times as possible as Johnson will freeze the discarded pieces of vegetables from cooking to make vegetable stock.
Whatever you cannot refuse, whatever you cannot reduce, whatever you cannot reuse — then you recycle. Sending back the products and materials that wear out to the initial supplier or a local recycler to be turned into something else. If you absolutely cannot refuse using a laptop and it breaks, recycle it at a local business or mail it in if needed.
Whatever you cannot refuse, reduce, reuse or recycle, then you allow to rot in the compost. This is the last of her R’s because it is the last resort and typically a very small amount leftover after going through the first four Rs.
The most impactful part of Bea Johnson’s talk for me, was hearing how implementing a zero waste lifestyle has shifted her family’s focus towards giving gifts of experience instead of things, allowing for more memories and bonds to be made. Instead of new toys for Christmas, her son got to go skydiving for the first time and still talks about it.
After the presentation, Green Canopy’s Director of Investor Relations and Impact, Susan Fairchild and Zero Waste Washington’s Heather Trim, kicked off happy hour by asking, “what is the next step you want to take in living zero waste and how can you make it happen?”
All photos by Karya Schanilec
Green Canopy Cofounder, Sam Lai, was featured by Presidio Graduate School (PGS) in the article, "Net Zero Hero". Sam is an alumnus of the Sustainable MBA program at PGS — the graduate school that "educates and inspires a new generation of skilled, visionary and enterprising leaders to transform business and public policy and create a more just, prosperous and sustainable world." Presidio Graduate School has earned accreditation in the sustainability-sphere and acquired Pinchot University (formerly Bainbridge Graduate Institute).
Sam tells Shawna Cain, "I selected PGS after a process of visiting classes and interviewing students and asking what their experiences were like. I realized that what I wanted was:
Finally, the biggest impact that I think graduate school has had for me, beyond some of the hard skills, is that when you go to Presidio Graduate School you're able to look deep within yourself, and understand how to optimize our own personal growth, and I don't think any graduate school is able to do that the way PGS does."
Green Canopy's Alexa Ashley further interviewed Sam on his time at Presidio Graduate School and the value he took away from the Sustainable MBA Program:
AA: How did PGS teach you to think in systems?
SL: One of the things we did in first quarter was systems mapping, which is its own discipline, where you look at different components of how the world is structured, how businesses are structured, environmental systems are structured. You deconstruct them, allowing you to understand the components and then you can see how they’re integrated. So often in business you might be a specialist and you might have mastery in one thing — but you may be working 100% in the wrong direction because you haven’t taken that high-level, systems-level view.
AA: What is the most value that you took away from the Presidio Graduate School MBA Program?
SL: The opportunity to practice and take big risks, and explore ideas, that typically — in the business setting — there just isn’t enough bandwidth or space or willingness from everyone, to just take a wild idea, to play with it, to deconstruct it, and to go all the way with it in a risk-free environment.
I saw lots of people grow from not having much experience in public speaking to feeling comfortable with it at the end of the program. For me, I was able to take storytelling and public presentation and be able to have a very formal structure to bounce off of and play with to where now I feel very confident. I now have a process to be able to get from point A to point B in a very short amount of time because that’s what the process forces you to do. It says, “Okay you have an idea? Okay, test it. Prototype it. Get up and talk about it." That’s a lot of what we do in business. We iterate through ideas very rapidly — and that’s what’s required for progress.
It’s really encouraging and energizing to see other people that are just as passionate about sustainability and improving our world and that they are professionals engaged in business, and the curation of those two characteristics are unique to the PGS tribe.
Watch Shawna Cain's interview with Sam Lai below and read her article, "Net Zero Hero".
The Green Canopy blog is written by our CEO and Culture Curator, Aaron Fairchild, as well as our staff and a few very special guests.