After 11 years as the president of Great Meadow Foundation in The Plains, Va., Rob Banner ’75 knew it was time to reinvent himself. At Great Meadow, famous as the home of the Virginia Gold Cup steeplechase, he led fundraising efforts to double the size of the property, build a world class equestrian arena, and lure international competition to the property. Little did he know that one fundraising project — during which Great Meadow netted $200,000 growing trees for nutrient credits on an underutilized part of its property — would ignite a passion for preservation that ultimately inspired him to embark on a new career.
Banner left Great Meadow and joined ACRE Investment Management, which grows trees at scale for carbon and nutrient credits in the Mississippi Delta and Virginia, helping companies and individuals offset their carbon footprints. The company was founded by Woodberry graduate Chandler Van Voorhis, who connected with Banner through their parallel work with Great Meadow. “So much for school rivalries,” Banner joked. “We clearly can do more arms linked than head-to-head on the field of play!”
ACRE is also the parent company of GreenTrees, which manages more than 120,000 acres dedicated to growing more 42 million trees in the Mississippi Delta. According to Banner, GreenTrees is the largest reforestation project in the world by credit issuance. They sell carbon credits to a wide range of companies, from Shell to Disney to Norfolk Southern Railway. “With 1,400 corporations across the country looking to offset their carbon footprint, there is no end in sight,” says Banner of ACRE’s future.
Together, these two companies help landowners join the fight to reverse climate change while making a substantial reward for their work. The carbon credit, the nutrient credit, and all other credits available for doing ecologically sound work have become the new “currency of conservation,” as Banner calls it. On working together with a formal rival, he has learned: “When a guy from Woodberry hires a guy from Episcopal to help in this effort, it demonstrates how we all can work together to find solutions.”
As his career continues to morph and grow, Banner is particularly thankful for the people he has met along the way, especially Van Voorhis and Banner’s fellow Old Boys. “The longer I live, the more I realize the people that I met at Episcopal are the best people I’ve ever been associated with.” And he now can include a certain Woodberry alumnus in that distinction: “I want to pay homage to Chandler because of his brilliant, visionary idea.”