New crowdfunding site for carbon offsets forges unique path

Based on the belief that storytelling is the most effective way to capture hearts and minds, a new crowdfunding site for carbon offsets aims to use its platform to go beyond engaging concerned individuals.

CarbonStory wants to get companies on board to launch employee engagement programs -- and perhaps even the customers of company brands -- through offsetting projects of their choice within a gamification framework.

The website first guides users through its carbon footprint calculator, then enables them to choose from almost two dozen offset projects around the world to offset their monthly consumption. Rates range from $4/ton (for renewable energy projects) to $16/ton (for a drinking water project in Kenya distributing filters that eliminate the need for heating). After purchasing the offsets, users can boast about their carbon neutral status with their social network (they must log onto Facebook first) – and possibly entice others to do the same.

Co-founder Andreas Birnik, an adjunct business professor at the National University of Singapore, said CarbonStory’s roots were based on a desire to create an improved carbon offset experience that calculated a more comprehensive carbon footprint, as well as one that provided more transparency around offset projects.

He also started the project as a way to engage his students more deeply.

“I was getting their minds around it, but not capturing their hearts around it,” he said of his efforts to get students to understand the global impacts of a consumer-focused lifestyle.

So Birnik built a platform that shares the story from each offset project with photos (videos too, in some cases) and click-through links enabling the user to check its certification, including verification and validation reports.

“If you look at Bill Clinton’s project in Malawi you can look at the maps, photos, and the methodology it uses for sustainable agriculture,” Birnik said. “You can also have full transparency down to the third party auditor.”

Normally, this documentation is only provided to corporate customers, Birnik added.

Screenshot of Kenya water filter carbon offset project featured on CarbonStory platform courtesy of CarbonStory

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