Photo: natgeo go green team

National Geographic Society's Green Team

Photograph by Laura Wallach, National Geographic

The Society's GoGreen initiative, launched in February 2007, invites all employees of the National Geographic Society and National Geographic Channel to help walk the talk and find sustainable solutions for the Society's operations. Five cross-divisional subcommittees of volunteers keep us on the path of sustainability, a path we are all committed to and that stands as a shining example of employee-driven change.

As a result of these actions, the Society headquarters today:

  • Uses 2.8 million fewer kilowatt hours of electricity than we used in 2002 (16.7 percent reduction)
  • Uses 6.7 million fewer gallons of water than we used in 2002 (35.8 percent reduction)
  • Keeps over 50 percent of all our waste out of landfills through recycling, reuse, and compost programs

Some of our 2013 goals:

  • Work with suppliers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions of NGS products
  • Implement UPS offsets with Enterprise
  • Develop and implement Business Travel offsets plan
  • Reduce electrical use by 5 percent over 2012
  • Implement desktop-based video conferencing
  • Target converting 150 users to virtual desktop tool

Our major accomplishments:


  • Joined the US EPA Climate Leaders
  • Measured and documented the carbon footprint of the Society's headquarters
  • Certified one of our headquarters buildings as Energy Star (US EPA) compliant
  • Initiated two-sided copying
  • Introduced local organic foods and eliminated plastics from our Cafeteria
  • Began composting all food waste and non-recyclable paper products, including bathroom hand towels
  • Installed video conferencing and reduced staff business travel by 20 percent
  • Carbon-footprinted all of our Expeditions travel (educational travel service)
  • Implemented an alternative commuting plan to encourage car pools, mass transit use, telecommuting, etc.
  • Committed to developing a comprehensive carbon assessment of all our products


  • Developed a carbon footprint for all the locations in North America where the Society does business (including leased office space)
  • Calculated the carbon footprint for all Society business travel, including air, accommodations, and rental car use
  • Implemented Green Fridays that close the office on several Fridays in summer to reduce energy use in our buildings
  • Announced a goal to reduce business travel by an additional 20 percent
  • Purchased offsets for all Expeditions travel and built that into the program cost
  • Implemented after-hours computer hibernation that shuts off all related equipment
  • Eliminated all plastic clamshells from Cafeteria and all bottled water from our campus
  • De-bulbed all buildings of excessive lighting and installed CFLs
  • Bought wind-power renewable energy credits to offset all electrical use in our buildings (signed a long-term contract)
  • Eliminated unsustainably harvested seafood (shrimp, tuna, salmon) from our Cafeteria


  • Achieved carbon neutrality for our buildings (using EPA metrics)
  • Joined World Wildlife Fund's Climate Saver Program (made a commitment to reduce our electrical use by 10 percent)
  • Achieved LEED EB Gold Certification for our buildings (in 2003 we were the first LEED EB Silver certified building in the U.S.)
  • Qualified our entire campus to be Energy Star certified
  • Completed a very comprehensive life cycle assessment on National Geographic magazine
  • Calculated our energy reduction that showed the results of a 10-year initiative. Found electricity consumption was cut by 18 percent; water usage was down by 20 percent; gas usage was cut by 3 percent
  • Calculated the carbon footprint for all Society products and services, including Digital Media and television programs
  • Held training classes for safe bike commuting, installed additional bike racks, and promoted Bike to Work Day, which culminated in the Society being designated a Bike Friendly Business
  • Expanded local and organic offerings in the Cafeteria
  • Adjusted the temperature setting of our buildings (down in winter, up in the summer)


  • Upgraded our Energy Management System, allowing building services and engineering staff to monitor and better control energy use in our facilities
  • Launched EnerNoc voluntary energy reduction initiative, a tangible effort that engaged staff at all levels in energy reduction efforts
  • Implemented/updated 20 LEED operating policies for the complex
  • Achieved 60 percent recycling rate for all recyclables (e.g. wood, electronics, metal, wire, carpet tiles, paper, plastics, glass)
  • Developed sustainability policies for travel, general purchasing, and paper purchasing
  • Expanded composting efforts by placing compost bins on every floor
  • Expanded and promoted locally sourced and organic food options in the headquarters Cafeteria
  • Launched the Society's Sustainability public-facing website
  • Calculated the Society's total carbon emission for all products and services
  • Implemented a commuter strategy program that includes:


  • Expanded the computer hibernation project to include all computers (Mac and PC)
  • Helped certify 790,000 acres of forest land in Maine to the SFI protocol
  • Implemented a public transit subsidy for employees
  • Sourced hormone-free and organic beef and chicken for the Cafeteria
  • Printed National Geographic magazine on 47 percent PEFC-certified paper
  • Installed a beehive and a Monarch Watch-certified butterfly way station on campus
  • Society was recognized as a "Best Workplace for Commuters"
  • Society was re-certified as a "Bike Friendly Business," and our rating was upgraded to "Silver"
  • Held our first annual ECO Day to promote the Sustainability initiative
  • Reached a recycling rate for all waste of 56.3 percent


  • Adopted Triple Bottom Line accounting for the Society
  • Established the very popular farmers market on Tuesdays, spring - fall
  • Reduced our electrical use by 2 percent from our record year of 2009 and by 4 percent over 2011 (cost saving of over $93,000)
  • Reduced major food deliveries to twice a week; reduced office supplies to once a week
  • Installed shadow box displays in Cafeteria to promote greater recycling and composting
  • Committed to help certify 10 million acres of forest land by 2017
  • Re-certified the headquarters complex for LEED EB Gold (fourth certification)
  • Replaced 17th Street building chiller
  • Society was designated an official pit stop for Bike to Work Day
  • Launched Artisan program and Community Table lunches (family-style sustainable dining) in Cafeteria