Greenpeace and other environmental organizations have been reluctant to completely reject carbon offsets, which are supposed to help achieve goals they support: drawing down greenhouse-gas levels in the atmosphere, protecting forests, promoting alternative energy, and encouraging individual action on the global climate problem.
Groups such as The Nature Conservancy, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the Sierra Club argue that some offset projects are run by well-intentioned developers and succeed in their claims. And offset retailers say they do good work.
“There is a great opportunity here to be able to subsidize the reduction of emissions,” says Pete Davies, president of the retail operations of Terrapass, a San Francisco offset provider that helps farmers pay for methane capture systems. “We see farmers being able to do the right thing that otherwise they wouldn’t be able to do. We’re excited to be a part of that.”
The appeal of doing something to help the environment has fed the rapid growth of offset sales.
“I buy them every time I fly,” says Matt Durden, a Reston, Va., attorney who figures he spends about $30 on carbon offsets through Expedia when he and his wife travel. He did not ponder the purchases long; they seemed a cheap and easy way to help the environment, he says.