Posted by bessie on Thursday, June 11, 2009.

"Caveat emptor," says GOOD Magazine re carbon offsets. And we agree.

It’s all web-app, all the time here at Brighter Planet world headquarters—we’re totally immersed in making our soon-to-be-unwrapped rebuilt website as good as it can be before we open it up to early birds.

But I did take a few minutes today to catch up on reading, and now I’m carving out a few more to talk about GOOD Magazine’s recent post on carbon offsets. Writer Ben Jervey has served up a guide for anyone who’s thinking about purchasing carbon offsets, and it’s good stuff. His sage advice is “buyer beware,” and he goes on to name names of some offset providers who are trustworthy and one that, in his opinion, is not.

In my experience, Jervey’s caution is on target. Real carbon offsets are a legit way to neutralize your remaining carbon impact once you’ve reduced your emissions as much as possible. But there are “rip-offsets” for sale out there as well, and buying them is a terrific way to get nothing for something.

How to tell the good from the bad?

As we’ve looked at projects to add to our portfolio over the last 18 months, we’ve subjected each to intense scrutiny. Those selected to date have been the best of the best from NativeEnergy, cited in GOOD’s piece as one of three trusted sellers. The piece also pulls some good questions for buyers to ask, from a report by Clean Air-Cool Planet, our partner on retiring carbon offsets once they’ve been used.

Here’s how we do it at Brighter Planet:

  1. Brighter Planet earns the trust of our 100,000 customers by providing practical education about their lifestyle’s impact on climate and helping them find ways to reduce it.

  2. We make it easy for our customers to offset their remaining impact by supporting real, additional, transparent projects that help local communities and the environment.

  3. We meticulously review every project to ensure it meets our carbon offset policy and only accept those that are unanimously approved by the highly respected luminaries who sit on our project selection committee.

  4. We work with Clean Air-Cool Planet, a non-profit organization, to ensure that every offset we sell is permanently retired and can’t be double-sold.

  5. Finally, we subject all our processes to an annual third-party audit to make sure we’ve done what we said we were going to do.

In this still-maturing business, a company’s values – its commitment to using the best available science, to complete accountability, to transparent process, to simply doing things the right way – are of paramount importance. We know our offsets are on solid ground, and we’ve made sure to implement systems to keep it that way

Offsets alone clearly aren’t enough to tackle climate change, but they can be an important part of the solution by funding much-needed renewable energy projects. Ultimately, offsets fulfill their potential when they’re held to high standards.

Ian Hough, science guy @ Brighter Planet

p.s. - Ben Jervey’s a good friend of ours; he might be characterized as a James Brown of environmental journalists – the “hardest working man in the [green news] business.” We’ve no idea how he manages to write for GOOD, HuffPo Green, and his own SustainNYC; manages and writes for Greenlight, a citizen-journalism project from NRDC’s OnEarth Magazine; co-founds start-up web enterprises; and writes books. With an overflowing schedule like that, we’ll give him a pass for not including Brighter Planet in his carbon-offsets piece – even though he’s rocking our 350 Challenge badge (and thus earning offsets!) on SustainNYC. ;-)

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