Rausch, John (University of Illinois-Chicago)

The Carbon Controversy

As most of you know, the 'green movement' is accelerating to the height of fashion and moving just as quickly across the mainstream. People are becoming just as concerned about the big issues of their carbon footprint, as they are about recycling. Fantastic!

The question is, what are they doing about it? Well, the answer is offsetting. In other words, they are paying companies to invest money into projects that reduce carbon dioxide emissions elsewhere or experiment with under developed reduction technologies.

As people realize the 'green movements' popularity, they also become aware of its money making potential. It is for this reason that the market is being flooded with green washing - (products and services advertised as having environmental benefits, but often are ineffective). This is certainly the case in the instances of people who wish to reduce their carbon emissions, but have difficulty reducing all of it themselves.

There are many companies offering the service of carbon dioxide offsetting. Some are good and some are bad. This can usually be determined by establishing if they are for-profit, or not-for-profit, whether they offer a choice to the consumer as to what type of reduction or research their money will benefit, and if the offset programs they invest in are certified by a reputable source (The Chicago Climate Exchange).

The issue for critics is that carbon offsetting is the 21st century equivalent to the 14th century sale-of-indulgences, where people can continue to emit harmful carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, guilt free. It is my position that although this may be true, the underlying intention behind this practice only has potential comparable to the size of the audience that it reaches.

Please check out my full project to find out how offsetting affects big business and the politics behind it, as well as how carbon reduction is applied to the building industry, architecture, and LEED.

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