Green Guilt

Yesterday was Father’s Day. I got a great gift from my wife. A TerraPass.

Since time immemorial, man has paid for his sins, quite literally, by slipping a little something to God. At the temple, the church and the mosque the pundits, priests and mullahs will always make it easy for you to leave a little behind in the collection box, in case it makes you feel better. With TerraPass, I just put something into the collection box of the temple of the future, and I must confess, it does feel better.

In a weaker moment last year, I bought myself a sports car (a BMW 645Ci for those in the know). Its looks, the ride, they awaken the senses. Unfortunately, it gives just 17 miles to the gallon. Energy efficiency and such green thinking happens to matter to us. So my passion for the car was contaminated by this guilt – Greenhouse Gas Guilt. The guilt of adding to the world’s CO2 was gnawing at me well before Mr. Gore’s well reviewed documentary An Inconvenient Truth. But it was still not enough to get me to trade in my car for a Prius.

Enter TerraPass. For $50 per year or so, my car is now ‘carbon neutral’. I pay TeraPass and they in turn invest that money into clean energy projects which are ‘carbon negative’ thus neutralizing my gas-guzzler. TerraPass became my Ganga Jal. Instant moksha.

I think TerraPass is a terrific idea. The company is for-profit and so it keeps a portion of your fees for operational costs and profits, but the rest is invested in projects that may not have happened were it not for TerraPass. I can see carbon-neutrality become a hip thing among businesses too.

While we’re on the subject I’m glad that finally some real marketing minds are working for the Green camp. Till a couple of years back we were calling it Global Warming. Most of the developed world happens to live in temperate climates. If you live in Chicago, Global Warming doesn’t sound all that ominous. I can see some people in Minneapolis not being scared at all of the warm toasty images that Global Warming created. The term then changed to Climate Change (still weak) to now Climate Crisis, which I like the best. Fear and Greed – that’s what makes people move. Mix well and add a little Guilt to taste.


  1. Harish B says:

    Forgive me for being harsh, can we be happy by donating some money for helpage india while our old parents are helpless at their home?
    carbon credits are like that only isnt it?


  2. random says:

    Terrapass is a marketing gimmick to play on people’s guilt.. I doubt if they use even 10% of the money raised for reducing emissions. You would be apalled to know the kind of projects which gain carbon credits..


  3. Karan says:

    Let me respond to the second comment before I address the first.

    Terapass invests a large fraction of the $50 in funding carbon reduction projects– I beleive everything except some administrative expenses, which are of the order of a single percentage point. All these expenses are audited by multiple repsected environemental auditors (such as green-e). More details can be found on the TerraPass website
    As far as the quality of projects goes, TerraPass does not invest in any project that can “earn” carbon credits. TerraPass only invests in projects that it (and thrid parties) certifiably visit and verify. Hence all their projects are based in the US. They have also restricted the technologies they invest in, avoiding anything with the slightest question. TerraPass does not invest in any project which claims it can earn carbon credits.

    Drawing the equivalnce between carbon reduction and taking care of the elderly is dubious. Soicetal ambitions with respect to taking care of the elderly, children should be such that we take care of *all* children and *all* elders. An unfair metric in this context would be the total number of elders cared, but should be %age of elders not cared for. In contrast, with respect to carbon emission what we care about is total number of carbon emitted (since all carbon goes up in the atmosphere and pretty much has the same effect). The environamental impact is directly related to the total pounds of carbon emitted, thus reducing emissions form one source while increasing them form another source is actually working along the dimension we care about. Taking care of elders and reducing carbons are not similar objectives- they are assocaited with different functional relatiosnhips to outcomes and such comparisons are dubious.



  4. Blogging at midnight says:

    This brings back teenage memories for me… I come from a orthodox Indian family with several customs that one had to keep up with on a daily basis. Invariably someone breaks a rule or misses doing something when one is supposed to. I had this uncle who used to have a work-around to offset the wrath of the gods for virtually any rule that one had to break…(oh, sprinkle some ganga jal or keep 50 rs. aside for tirupathi – that should take care of it).

    This sounds like one of my uncle’s ideas….a great way to absolve yourself of your accountability to this planet.

    As cool as carbon neutrality sounds, (and I agree it is better than doing nothing and driving that suv around), does’nt it make having clean air a very expensive affair for all of us?

    I get to buy a gaz-guzzler, pollute the air, and pay some one else who has an expensive bureacracy at work to invest in cleaning up the air to rid myself of guilt?

    Hip yes, Smart – hmm???


  5. David says:

    You really cannot be too serious about “energy & green thinking matter to us”, or you would NEVER buy a car thar gets 17 mpg. I would ease up a wee bit if the car were used, but if purchased new, don’t allow yourself to feel too good about a $50 donation. That 17 mpg IS the problem, and 50 bucks is not going to make a dent in the amount of EXTRA pollution and greenhouse gasses that will be emitted compared to a car that got 34 MPG ( which still leaves you quite a few choices, if you are not a Prius fan @ 50+ mpg ). THE CAR YOU DRIVE IS ONE OF THE EASIEST & LARGEST IMPACT CHOICES AN INDIVIDUAL CAN MAKE.


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