The Wonderful World of Carbon Offsets

So I’m browsing through my bank’s reward-related website so I can cash in my accumulated 15,000 or so bonus points that I’ve hoarded over the past four years or so, in an effort to maybe get something of value. And big shocker, the only thing worth trading those points in for is cold, hard cash at a conversion of $0.008 per dollar spent using the card (not including bonus points or whatever).

None of this matters, what DOES matter is the fact that I happened upon something that you can apparently trade in your bonus points for, something I had heard of but thought was strictly related to lifestyle choices: Carbon Offsets.

Yes my friends, for a mere 9,000 bonus points (that’s $9,000 spent using the World Points Card) you too can purchase… donate? Buy? 11 metric tons of carbon offsets. So essentially, you can donate non-money in order not own something that won’t be produced: carbon.


According to this particular listing, the offsets (I’m already talking like it’s some sort of commodity) are as such:

These particular offsets come from a methane capture project happening on Indiana farms. The project brings together four dairy farms that use bio-gas digesters to convert manure from up to 17,000 milking cows into methane that is used for heat and electricity.

Wait, so what am I buying here? Some methane powered dairy farm “project?” Does it play MP3s? Or am I literally just donating money to a farm enterprise that has decided to do what so many other farms have done and use cow dung as a fuel source? It’s a bit confusing.

Fortunately, the intertubeaweb is absolutely rife with information regarding the definitions and history behind this emergent economic ….uh, tool. And there are even several websites through which you can purchase your very own offsets.

I read a little more into it, and as it turns out there are several carbon offset programs out there available for you to throw money into, in an effort to alleviate eco-guilt for all those nasty pounds of carbon we’re all belching into the air. You can even buy carbon offset gift cards! It’s the perfect totally worthless gift! And it would seem that the going rate for carbon offsets is $10 a ton, and for only $240 you can be CARBON FREE by offsetting the average 50,000 pounds of carbon that the average person is responsible for annually! A $10 savings (trading my 9,000 bonus points is a better savings though)! There are even handy dandy calculators available so you can calculate just how much carbon you or your wedding are putting out, so you know EXACTLY how much money to give these saviors of Mother Earth.

To put it in the plainest terms: you give these people money, they donate it to a 3rd party “offset program,” and you are absolved of you carbon footprint. And maybe you get a postcard or sticker advertising that fact.

Are you sensing my tongue in cheek disapproval of this method of guilting you out of your money? Good. Well, Christian Lander, the author of Stuff White People Like put it pretty much perfectly:

In much the same way that Catholics sin and then ask forgiveness in confession, white people commit a sin and then just pay a bunch of money to remove the guilt. It is an astonishingly efficient system.

(although, Catholics used to do the same thing too)

At any rate, if you really want to donate money to causes that would otherwise help the environment and reduce our impact on it, I would suggest you do so directly. Don’t give these people your money just so you can have some sort of bumper sticker on your car that advertises your absolution of environmental guilt. Or better yet, just throw you money in the trash. Not participating in the economy is the most environmentally friendly practice of all!

2 thoughts on “The Wonderful World of Carbon Offsets

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *