You’re probably guiltier than you think. That’s what I learned when I calculated my carbon footprint with Project Wren, a startup that sells carbon offsets to individuals. According to the program’s calculations, I’m responsible for 19.51 metric tons of carbon each year, a bit more than the average American and three times more than the global average. To rub it in further, the Project Wren website explained that my emissions are equivalent to those produced in manufacturing 10,817 burgers or taking 20 roundtrip flights from Los Angeles to Paris. Yikes.
Then came the pitch: For $15.70 a month, Project Wren would pay one of the three carbon offset projects they support to sequester or reduce emissions equivalent to my supersize footprint, about 1.6 metric tons per month (Wren’s option to offset the emissions from my entire life cost $4,631.04). I could choose from a “community tree planting” project in East Africa, “clean cooking fuel for refugees” in Uganda, or “tech-enabled Amazon rainforest protection” in Peru.
I picked community tree planting. Cha-ching.
“You are now offsetting your carbon footprint!” Project Wren congratulated me. “This is a big step for you and our planet.”
After the warm (or shall I say cool) feel-good feeling passed though, I had to wonder how big a step it really was.
In theory, without changing a thing, I’d gone net zero. But had I really done my part? Was my $15.70 a month impacting anything other than my guilty conscience?
Project Wren, which launched in June 2019, joins a growing field of companies that sell carbon offsets to individuals and institutions. Though the carbon offset market for individuals has been booming for decades, much of the recent growth is due to expanding interest from companies hoping to burnish their green credentials. (This “voluntary” carbon market is dwarfed by the market for offsets mandated by regulation, such as the United Nations Clean Development Mechanism.)