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Here’s a good holiday gift for anyone despairing about climate change

Here’s a good holiday gift for anyone despairing about climate change
[Source Photos: zanskar/iStock, Jens Johnsson/Unsplash]

In his day job, Jeffrey Engler runs Wright Electric, a startup designing electric airplanes. Now, in a side project, Engler wants to help cut carbon emissions before his own technology comes to market. The “Polar Bear Protection Plan,” the first project in a collaboration called LiveNoTrace, is a holiday present for the environmentalist you know who doesn’t actually want a physical gift: a yearlong carbon offset.

[Photo: LiveNoTrace]
“We realized that the average person’s carbon footprint is about 15 to 16 tons a year,” he says. “And then you could offset each ton for about $10 to $15 per ton.” For a little less than $200, it’s possible to pay for tree planting and other projects that can suck in as much carbon pollution as a typical American emits in a year. A “frequent flier” version of the plan offsets more carbon for those who tend to travel and consume more than usual.

[Image: LiveNoTrace]
Carbon offsets aren’t new, of course. But they aren’t used as often as they could be. “It’s a relatively underserved market,” Engler says. By packaging offsets as a present–along with a polar-bear themed certificate–he hopes to convince more people to take the step to pay for pollution. The money goes to projects managed by Cool Effect, a nonprofit that supports everything from wind turbines in Costa Rica to digesters that help family farmers in rural Vietnam turn poop into clean energy.

It’s a gift that might be in particular demand in the wake of a year of disastrous hurricanes, wildfires, heat waves, and landmark reports talking about how much worse the situation could get if we don’t make radical moves toward a low-carbon economy now. Instead of despairing, Engler says, people can do something. “There’s something nice about feeling like you can take action as opposed to just feeling bad.”

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