The Carbon Trade
The Offset Project enters its fifth year with a new focus on ways to trade environmental credits.
Thursday, September 27, 2012
As Monterey Bay businesses work to reduce their carbon footprints, the idea of buying renewable energy credits can feel a little ephemeral.
“Oftentimes, people have concerns about renewable energy credits because it just seems as if their money goes into the ether,” says Max Perelman, a senior project manager at BuildingWise, which guides clients through LEED certification.
Homegrown nonprofit The Offset Project, which is on the verge of celebrating its fifth anniversary, has set its sights on making that sustainability more concrete.
The organization is known for its work helping cut waste at myriad special events in the area. “In our last five years, we’ve gone from pretty much nothing to being able to partner with, well, I can’t think of a venue right now that we’re not involved with,” says Kristin Cushman, The Offset Project’s founder and executive director. Cushman rattles off a list of venues that includes Big Sur International Marathon, Mazda Raceway-Laguna Seca, the Monterey Jazz Festival, the Independent Marketplace and the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. ((Disclosure: Kristin Cushman is married toWeekly publisher Erik Cushman.)
“I am proud that we’ve been able to have that kind of impact on our community,” she says. “We’re serving a need that wasn’t really being fulfilled.”
Forecasting the next five years, The Offset Project is looking to help the business community in the same way it’s tackled special events.
“We feel that we live in such a destination market, and sustainability is so prevalent in our market,” she says. “Businesses and special events need to reflect those same values they see in our community.”
That’s where the Monterey Bay Carbon Fund, started in 2010, comes in. The fund works to reduce greenhouse gases in the greater Monterey Bay community. The Offset Project cemented a proposal last week, for example, to install solar panels at Bonny Doon Elementary School in Santa Cruz.
Here’s how it works: A big hotel, for example, wants to offset the greenhouse gas emissions of its operations. The hotel buys renewable energy credits from The Offset Project. That money gets poured into local projects, making buildings in the area more efficient or expanding their use of renewable energy sources.
The Offset Project is in final stages of an agreement with one as-yet unidentified venue to fund more renewable energy projects locally. And Cushman is optimistic more news like that is on the horizon.
“I think we’re going to see a huge potential to capture some of that revenue and invest it in larger and larger projects, whether it’s solar or energy efficiencies,” she said.
Perelman says his clients like the idea of local money paying local installers for a renewable-energy or energy-efficiency project that benefits local people. What he would like to see is the ability for his clients to also buy offsets locally from the Monterey Bay Carbon Fund, rather than on the open market.
“We have clients all around California and the U.S.,” he says. “We could potentially be importing money into the Monterey Bay area for this work, instead of exporting it out.”
THE OFFSET PROJECT is set to celebrate its fifth anniversary in a Spanish-themed party at 6pm Oct. 12 in the Memory Garden in downtown Monterey. At $75 a person, it’s a fundraiser; go to www.theoffsetproject.org for more information.