Biz-School Students Launch Carbon Offset Program for Drivers

Biz-School Students Launch Carbon Offset Program for Drivers

MBA students at the Bay Area's Presidio School of Management have created a new program that helps individuals offset the climate impact of their driving activities.

Through the new DriveNeutral program, individuals can purchase a decal certifying that they have neutralized the impact of their vehicles' greenhouse gas emissions for an entire year. With the revenue generated by the sale of the decal, the nonprofit DriveNeutral enterprise then purchases Carbon Financial Instruments -- or "credits" -- through the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX), a multi-sector and multi-national market for reducing and trading greenhouse gas emissions.

"Drivers can now take responsibility for some of the pollution produced by their cars," said Jason Smith, CEO of the recently launched DriveNeutral program. “What began as a student project quickly became an opportunity for individuals to make a difference and participate in a free-market solution to climate change. As a startling example of the effect of driving, facts show that the average driver will emit approximately 11,500 pounds of carbon dioxide during a year -- this is nearly 70 times the weight of an average driver.”

Formed by Smith along with fellow students Kim Fox, Bob Gower and Jørgen Vos, and Presidio Board Member Shep Burton, DriveNeutral was developed as a way for conscientious drivers to offset their greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming. For each certificate sold, DriveNeutral will purchase credits through the CCX that equal the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced by a driver in one year. Drivers will receive a certified decal, which can be displayed on their car, and a certificate denoting the actual credits purchased from CCX members.

These credits come from primarily U.S. industrial companies like Dupont, IBM and Dow Corning who have joined the CCX and promised to lower their greenhouse gas emissions. As a requirement of their membership, companies must reduce emissions by 1% each year of the program. If they reduce more emissions than is required, they can then translate them into credits and sell the excess on the trading market to other participants who have not achieved their reduction target.

“Through the DriveNeutral enterprise,” says Smith, “we’ll then purchase these credits and retire them. This limits the supply and drives up the price of the credits -- encouraging more companies to undertake internal emissions reductions initiatives.”

DriveNeutral is a project of the Presidio Carbon Neutral Initiative (PNCI). The students and Burton created PCNI to educate the public about the imminent problems of greenhouse gas emissions and offer drivers the opportunity to participate in market-based solutions to global climate change. The student-run enterprise with oversight by the Presidio Board of Directors was created as a legacy campaign to be inherited and managed by the next generation of Presidio MBA students.

“Global warming is one of the top challenges of our time, and our intent is to stimulate a consumer market that allows us to help reduce greenhouse gases through the sale of our decal certificates,” explained Gower, who handles the marketing aspect of the DriveNeutral campaign.