Like many discoveries, it was accidental. But it nonetheless confirmed a market trend that we’ve been seeing over the past few months: carbon offsetting is on the rise.
It started with a technical glitch in our email renewal system (for which we apologized and are still sincerely sorry). A string of renewal emails erroneously went out to a large segment of past and current TerraPass customers – some of whom had not purchased offsets since 2008 or earlier – reminding them to renew their environmental commitment and balance their driving, flying, or home energy use.
The results were staggering. In addition to the flurry of complaints (we replied to every one individually; did we mention we’re sorry?) TerraPass realized one of the biggest transaction days in its history. The vast majority of these purchases were from supporters who had not bought offsets in more than two years. Normally, TerraPass only sends out reminders at the one-year renewal point, so except for the error, we would not have contacted these people.
While not a recommended or replicable business practice, the mistake confirmed a trend that TerraPass has seen in the corporate market for voluntary offsets over the past several months: people are remembering the importance of offsets as part of their environmental strategy and recommitting to this effort.
In retrospect, we shouldn’t have been surprised. Consumer offset activity dropped off in late 2008 and 2009 for two main reasons, according to our periodic surveys. The first was financial – a worsening economy made it difficult for many people to continue supporting offset projects and other environmental initiatives. The second was the hope that the new Presidential administration, once it took office in 2009, would lead us swiftly and decidedly to a clean energy future, replete with rapidly declining greenhouse gas emissions.
Today neither of those reasons appear as compelling as they once were. While there is still a long way to go in terms of economic recovery, many leading indicators such as job growth have been on the rise for several consecutive months or quarters. More importantly, with the “death of cap-and-trade” on a federal level in 2010, the U.S. government has little to show for its climate change policy objectives.
All of this means that individual citizens — and corporations that are being spurred by their customers and employees — are once again taking the fight against climate change into their own hands. Recent climate data suggests that the fight has just (re)started… so let’s hope the trend continues.