We don’t make a habit of linking to press mentions of TerraPass, but Katharine Mieszkowski’s article in Salon on the consumer carbon offset market is recommended reading. (Salon requires a subscription, but you can read the article for free if you agree to watch a short ad.)
The lengthy piece skips right past the usual red herrings, such as carbon offsets as indulgences, and instead digs into some of the meatier but more arcane issues around carbon markets.
For example, the article is one of the first that touches on the issue of quality in the consumer carbon offset market place. Our industry is like any other — you can find offerings available at many different points on the spectrum of price and quality. If you want to ensure your purchase has an impact, third-party verification matters, and the source of the offsets matters.
(One minor quibble — the article states: “To back up their own research, carbon-offset groups hire nonprofit, third-party auditing firms.” As far as we know, TerraPass is the only company to do this.)
Carbon offsets are sold by the ton, buy they’re not all are created equal. For example, offsets generated by planting trees, while highly appealing from a marketing perspective, are problematic from an environmental perspective. It’s very difficult to quantify or guarantee the carbon reductions from these projects, which is why TerraPass doesn’t fund them.
And the article gets into some truly deep weeds in its discussion over who should be able to claim the environmental benefits from wind energy — the wind farm that produces the energy or the utility whose coal-powered energy is displaced.
It would be easy for a layperson to come away with a sense of despair over the complexity of some of the issues facing the nascent carbon industry. This would be a mistake. We’re in the early stages of evolution of what will eventually become a widespread movement, and it is fitting that the industry is now wrestling with basic questions over standards and procedures. Every movement starts this way.
Anyhow, read the article and let us know what you think. The comments section is open for any questions about how TerraPass addresses the issues raised in the article.