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Nobody loves carbon offsets

February 07, 2020

If you want to watch this message instead of read it, here's the video.

As part of my work on the Negative bracelet, I've been learning a lot more about carbon credits and carbon offsets. I'm really curious about how do other people understand carbon credits?

I wanted to take a step back and get a broader picture of how the climate community sees carbon offsets. So I went to this great event called Climate Designers Meetup to ask climate folks what they think. It's a meetup for industrial designers, graphic designers, packaging designers, the works, who all want to apply their skills to climate solutions.

I asked a few attendees what they think of carbon offsets and here's what they told me (video here):

"Have you ever bought carbon offsets?"
- No never have
- No, I have not
- I have never bought them

Have you heard of carbon offsets?
- No
- I've heard of them
- I'm kind of aware
- Only in the context of airline tickets

What are carbon offsets?
- It's when you plant trees to offset your flight to China
- A portion of what you pay for your plane ticket offsets your carbon footprint in to another program that hopefully that offsets that

You have a friend who tried carbon offsets?
- I think they called it "bullshit"

What does this mean? To me this means that no one really gets carbon offsets. At the very least, nobody seems madly in love with carbon. If they were, I'd be seeing it in people around me and people in the climate community.

It's important to me that we figure out how to make carbon offsets work. There's a trillion tons of excess carbon dioxide in the air, and we need a reliable way to take it out, use it, or store it. How do we find that emotional connection to carbon offsets, so that it make not only makes sense from a carbon accounting standpoint, but is desirable, something we're emotionally connected with.

If you have any connections to books or articles or people who seem to really "get it", please introduce me!

Thanks to all the designers who talked with me for these interviews!

It's important that we figure this out because there's a trillion tons of extra carbon dioxide in the air. I'll keep you posted about what I find!


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