Spending Our Way to Cleaner Air

Credit card reward programs are ubiquitous. We all expect to spend money and get something more than than the goods and services we purchased in return. Maybe it's miles, or cash back, or concierge services or some other "make our lives more fun" kind of reward. But, it's something extra. Such is the price of our loyalty.

There's a new card coming out that rewards the planet first and us, second, by knowing we did something to reduce our own individual impact on the environment (not sure what yours is? Check out Caroline Heine's blog entry on calculating it: Called the "GreenCard", this credit card calculates the carbon emissions associated with your purchases and figures out the "sustainable credits" needed to offset your consumption. The example in Fast Company's Fast 50 issue: "Moneymaking, World-saving Ideas" is that a $300 airline ticket generates 2,037 pounds of carbon. It takes 46 trees to offset that much carbon so the GreenCard pays to have 46 trees planted - rather than giving you miles or cash back.

They've figured out the immediate gratification angle we all want, too. Monthly statements show both your emissions total and your offsets. It's supposed to be out in the US in April.

Sounds great, doesn't it? I wonder if they've figured out the accountability angle as well...how am I going to know my trees got planted?

Nancy DeFauw

Posted at 6:11 AM, Feb 27, 2007 in Cross-Sectoral Strategies | Environment | Social Entreprenuers | Permalink | Comments (1)


Hey, I saw that you had mentioned offsets and I wanted to let you know that there is a new report published this last week on the offsets industry, The Carbon Neutral Myth - Offset Indulgences for your Climate Sins. Free download from www.tni.org

Carbon offsets are the modern day indulgences, sold to an increasingly carbon conscious public to absolve their climate sins. Scratch the surface, however, and a disturbing picture emerges, where creative accountancy and elaborate shell games cover up the impossibility of verifying genuine climate change benefits, and where communities in the South often have little choice as offset projects are inflicted on them.

This report argues that offsets place disproportionate emphasis on individual lifestyles and carbon footprints, distracting attention from the wider, systemic changes and collective political action that needs to be taken to tackle climate change. Promoting more effective and empowering approaches involves moving away from the marketing gimmicks, celebrity endorsements, technological quick fixes, and the North/South exploitation that the carbon offsets industry embodies.

Posted by: kevin smith