1. Social Action

CES Greenery: Offset Carbon Credits

A number of the exhibitors at CES this year in Vegas are showcasing their environmentally friendly products, and CES is doing the same with its Green Guide online. It also partnered with the Carbon Fund so attendees like myself can figure out how much of a carbon footprint they’re making and then make a donation to offset it.

What surprised me is how cheap it is. For my roundtrip from JFK to Vegas, it’s about 4,500 miles and .8 tons of carbon dioxide, coming in at under $4.50. If I include "radiative forcing" (please don’t ask me to define this stuff; I’m learning with everyone else), it jumps to just over $12.

Three thoughts on this:

  1. Even without understanding what exactly I’m doing when I offset my footprint, it feels like a good thing to do, so I went ahead and did it. Maybe I’m a sucker for some left-wing eco-maniacal conspiracy, or maybe I’m just doing my part. Spending a few bucks to plant a tree doesn’t sound so crazy though.
  2. While the tool’s great for calculating your footprint, there’s a complete disconnect between the tool and the donation. It’s a more laborious process than it needs to be.
  3. If airlines offered the option to do this when buying tickets online, I probably would. If I’m paying $300 for a roundtrip flight, why not pay another $5 or $10 to make me feel like a responsible citizen of the world? And as a bonus, it’s a tax write-off. This is a great opportunity for an airline to take the lead on this. Who’s going to?
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Comments to: CES Greenery: Offset Carbon Credits
  • January 7, 2008

    You’re right. I will implicitly trust the airline to shuffle the extra 15-bucks into an escrow account. I will implicitly trust the company to not use it on a CEO parachute bailout. And I certainly think that in no way will that money be spent on hookers at the Airline Industry Greening Conference at the Bellagio.
    Making it easy AND making it trusted are two different things…

  • January 8, 2008

    Great idea if the airlines would offer that. I would like to know about how it is being monitored. One of the most powerful buying forces today is to offer upper-income consumers an option to “feel better” about their purchases, hence the green, organic labels. And in some cases, those labels or green offerings reflect more of a desire for companies to have their consumers to “feel good” than actually offer a true green solution. Nevertheless, I would hope that such experimentation can lead companies to seek out viable products that both make consumers “feel better” and also offer true green solutions.

  • January 9, 2008

    Cynical? Maybe. I happen to want people to do the right things for the right reasons, because then they’re following principles and not rules.
    But… if it is a proper incentive you’re looking for, how about this:
    Let people buy the carbon offset from a declared third-party organization, then offer premiums to those customers. Like chances at a random upgrade, or even upgrade preference.

  • January 8, 2008

    Great news, David! About a month ago I bought a ticket from Christchurch to Wellington and got exactly that: ‘Want to offset your flight with carbon credits?’ God bless Sir Richard Branson and Pacific Blue (Virgin’s Aus/NZ airline). Interestingly, a cynicism identical to Ike’s went through my mind, but I thought, ‘Hey, I trust Richard…’
    It was just under $3 on a ticket that was only $118, but it was a very easy upsell, and, yes, I bought it.

  • January 9, 2008

    Ike – wow, my blog audience is getting much more cynical these days. Seriously, though, I think it could be remedied by having that part of the payment clearly go to a select non-profit (and ideally a 4-star organization from Charity Navigator).
    Joe – there’s an old proverb I learned growing up: “He who starts doing the right thing for the wrong reasons will wind up doing the right thing for the right reasons.” The motivation isn’t as important as the action.
    Kaila – WOW. I’m surprised it’s already happening, and not surprised who’s pioneering it. While I was flying back from Vegas on JetBlue, I got a notification that if you book a certain trip through them (I forgot where), they donate $50 to some beach renewal fund. This is such a no-brainer for an airline that wants to live up to the so-called “don’t be evil” mantra (hey, maybe Google can start an airline too!).


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