Sure, buying your limited-edition Voltron action figure online instead of at the local comic book store may save you a 3.8-mile drive to the shop and back, creating the illusion of gas unburned and carbon still safely locked in 1988 Camry, but what about the UPS truck idling outside your door? And the semi truck that it arrived from the airport in? And the Boeing 757 that flew it over from Taiwan?
If a steady flow of brown boxes to your front door has you suddenly feeling a little self-conscious about your purchases and the carbon footprint they create, Little Green Tree may help nibble away some of that guilt. The Portland-based startup has made buying carbon credits and on a purchase-by-purchase basis easier with the addition of a new widget for retailers. When checking out at a Web-based business, customers can choose to offset the carbon emissions from their purchase with a simple click on the Little Green Tree. A reasonable 98 cents offsets a day’s worth of carbon emissions for the average person (70 pounds in the US), or shipping on an item like biodegradable trashbags from LGT’s first retail partner, GreenTrashBags.com.
That figure comes from EmissionsCalc, which does the number crunching to figure out just what kind of impact comes from shipping a roll of trash bags to your house, based on factors like weight, the total distance it has to travel, and whether it’s moving by plane or truck. Funds are funneled into charities that verifiably reduce CO2 emissions with projects, most recently the Arbor Environmental Alliance, which does everything from promoting renewable energy to managing forests and collecting leaves for composting. A controversial way to negate your environmental impact? Sure, but better, perhaps, than shrugging and leaving the diesel burned in your name completely unaccounted for.
Although it’s not the first company to offer individuals carbon offsets, Little Green Tree is one of the few to directly tie the offsets to purchases as you make them – an approachable jumping off point. Offset companies like Carbonfund.org might ask anywhere from $11.33 for offsetting a flight to $16,320 for offsetting an entire life’s worth of carbon output.
Still in the earliest stages of its rollout, Little Green Tree is only available on GreenTrashBags, but expect more as the inconspicuous widget starts popping up on retailers around the country.