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Dee Lawrence of Cool Effect: “Keep pushing forward”

Positive disruption comes when a new way of thinking or doing something helps the industry and its stakeholders (businesses, employees, and consumers) move forward and achieve greater success as a whole. Or it brings greater honesty and transparency to the process involved. As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things […]

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Positive disruption comes when a new way of thinking or doing something helps the industry and its stakeholders (businesses, employees, and consumers) move forward and achieve greater success as a whole. Or it brings greater honesty and transparency to the process involved.


As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dee Lawrence.

Dee Lawrence serves as Co-Founder and Director at Cool Effect, a non-profit fighting the climate crisis by reducing carbon emissions across the globe. With her husband, she co-founded Proyecto Mirador, a carbon offset cookstove project in Honduras 16 years ago. Based on that experience, she co-founded Cool Effect in 2015 and at the Paris COP launched the initiative to help individuals measurably reduce their carbon emissions with high quality carbon offsets.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

A medical mission visit to Honduras many years ago was actually the catalyst for founding Cool Effect. In 2002, my family and I traveled to Honduras to act as translators for a medical mission that went to rural Honduras to help following the destruction from Hurricane Mitch. During several trips we noticed many women and children suffering from respiratory illness. It was our daughter Skye that made a connection between the respiratory illness we saw, and the unhealthy, smoky, dirty living conditions created by cooking indoors on wood-burning stoves.

It seemed better to us to solve the health problem at the source and so we founded Proyecto Mirador, a carbon emission reduction project that builds and installs improved cookstoves that vent toxic smoke out of the home. The stoves also use just half the amount of wood as a traditional one, saving families time and money gathering wood. When wood use is cut by nearly half, so are CO2 emissions. The emissions can be measured and can undergo the necessary qualifications to become a carbon offset. Now, this 16-year family effort is a long-standing carbon project with the highest quality carbon offsets that include social benefits, considerable science, third-party verification, and has prevented over 2,000,000 tonnes of emissions of carbon dioxide (CO₂).

Our experience creating a quality project and selling our carbon credits sparked an idea. If Mirador was verifiably reducing CO₂ and scaling and improving the quality of its work because of its ability to sell high quality carbon offsets, why couldn’t it be grouped with other projects doing the same thing? At the same time, individuals and other organizations wanted to take action against climate change. Why not make it easy for all to purchase the highest quality carbon offsets that help the planet and provide local benefits? Our idea was to become THE trusted source that could advise on quality credits while helping to foster sustainability goals. From these questions, Cool Effect was born.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

Cool Effect is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit committed to full pricing transparency as part of its Carbon Done Correctly promise. When my husband Richard and I created Cool Effect to meet the demand from individuals and businesses looking to take action to reduce their carbon emissions, it became our mission to provide a new level of trust and transparency in the carbon market. It was important to us to ensure that any buyer could rely on Cool Effect to provide the highest quality carbon offset projects that demonstrate a true carbon benefit, full pricing transparency, and secondary benefits in the communities where the projects are based.

Since inception, we have committed to providing any buyer of carbon offsets from Cool Effect full pricing transparency, no hidden fees or undisclosed markups, and confirmation that every project represented is triple-verified to ensure the highest quality.

To seal our promise, we recently announced The Seller’s Pledge— a legal commitment to transparency in pricing as part of Cool Effect’s Carbon Done Correctly program, made to any buyer of carbon offsets from its platform. Cool Effect takes a 9.87% markup on every tonne it sells so both the seller and the buyer know what the project will receive.

We hope to disrupt hidden pricing practices in the market in order to build trust among carbon offset buyers that the funds invested in projects go to the projects.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

We had our share of mistakes mostly involving technology in the early days. One memorable — while not funny at the time — mistake myself and our team made was the inability to figure out what to wear when marching at the March for Science in D.C. a few years ago. Even though we talk about erratic weather patterns all of the time, we were completely unprepared. Off we went to D.C. without rain jackets or umbrellas, and it was pouring rain and freezing on the day of the march. We returned the next weekend for the People’s Climate Movement march in the blazing sun. My feeling is that if it’s freezing and wet, I’ll be in a tee shirt, and if it’s 100 degrees in the shade, I’ll be wearing a felt snowman suit. I just can’t seem to understand to use a weather forecast!

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

David Yarnold, Chief Executive Officer of the Audubon Society and an expert communicator told us to keep putting messages out to determine what most resonated with people. It was great advice, but it wasn’t until Greta Thunberg came along that people began to finally pay attention to the climate crisis. Her efforts, along with changing weather patterns and fires made it clear to people that there was no more time to waste.

We learn from our project partners all the time. They do the hard work of working with stakeholders, finding financing to execute their projects, achieving the requirements for monitoring reporting and verification. Their resilience, their stories and the good work they do on behalf of the planet inspires us every day.

And, we’ve learned from our customers — from the questions they ask, the ideas they present, and the knowledge they have acquired and share with us.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

Absolutely — there are definitely ‘good’ and ‘bad’ ways to go about disrupting an industry.

Positive disruption comes when a new way of thinking or doing something helps the industry and its stakeholders (businesses, employees, and consumers) move forward and achieve greater success as a whole. Or it brings greater honesty and transparency to the process involved.

Positive disruption includes things like telemedicine — making healthcare more accessible and affordable, and more scalable to achieve a greater impact. Negative disruption is often a result of greed or personal gain. At Cool Effect, we’re in the business of positive disruption — we want to make the biggest impact on our planet by delivering financing to projects around the world that are creating better, more sustainable lives for communities by reducing emissions that cause climate change, alleviating poverty, improving health and sanitation, creating jobs, and protecting forests and biodiversity.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

  1. Keep pushing forward
  2. Treat every potential client as if they were already a client.
  3. If the powers that be shut a door, they usually open a window!

Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business. Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?

As you mentioned, quality leads are an incredibly important aspect of our business. We’ve tried just about everything from cold calling and emailing, direct mail, social, to good old fashioned in-person conference networking!

We’ve found that person to person contact and just talking to others is the most important part of generating quality leads. More often than not, businesses are looking for ways to make their organization more sustainable, but they don’t know where to start! We try to demystify carbon emissions by providing information and education for buyers. It is vitally important that every individual and organization understand that they have a personal responsibility to permanently erase emissions by reducing waste, using less energy, using renewable energy and the host of other recommendations on reducing a carbon footprint. It is only then that carbon offsets can help reduce the emissions that can’t be reduced any other way.

As part of the education we do, we’ve created a number of resources and guides that provide more detailed information about carbon offsets and answer some of the most frequently asked questions, so that the process is quick and efficient for potential partners.

Finally, our current partners and supporters have been our biggest champions — thanks to our team’s commitment to building authentic relationships anchored in trust and expert customer service, our existing partners have been an incredible voice for Cool Effect, regularly providing recommendations and sending leads our way. We couldn’t be more thankful for their support.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

Our goal at Cool Effect is to continue to develop new solutions and educational resources for individuals and businesses to easily calculate and offset their carbon footprint. We’ve launched new tools specifically for offsetting the footprint of travel — one area where we’ve seen incredible interest. Similar to the module currently on our site that allows travelers to easily calculate and offset the impact of air travel, we’ve launched modules which will help travelers calculate and offset the impact of car commuting, cruise travel and hotel stays. Head to our website to check out just how easy and convenient it is.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

The Uninhabitable Planet is my latest read. If you don’t think you should do something about climate, read this book!

We do believe in hope and we believe we have solutions in hand to keep global warming to 2 degrees C.. There are incredible technologies for reducing emissions in test phases, activists have hit the streets to denounce fossil fuels, financial experts are taking aim at the industries causing the greatest problems for our planet, health care experts are working to broadcast the effects climate change has on humans, and conservation organizations are setting aside forests and sounding the alarm about biodiversity. We can do this. But every individual must do their part.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I would have to say that a phrase from a childhood book has resonated with me for my entire life. It has become more of a phrase these days, but I’ve always thought it was a fitting way to live a life. It is always better to light a single candle than to sit and curse the dark. So my advice is do something, no matter how small you think it is. Cool Effect is named for the Butterfly Effect, that thousands of small actions taken together can have a big impact on the planet.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Call your electricity provider with your bill in your hand and switch to renewable energy. You’d be surprised that even the most hardened climate supporters have not taken the time to do this. It’s not hard, it’s not time consuming and it is the best place to start permanently reducing your footprint.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can find me on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/dee-lawrence-carbon-offsets or to learn more about Cool Effect, visit cooleffect.org or follow Cool Effect on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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