Our policy at UC for several years has been to get our campus emissions down, for real, on site, by insulating old buildings, changing out inefficient equipment and building only green new buildings. Only recently has this policy begun to prove sounder (in the poorly educated public eye) than those of some of the other green colleges, who went "carbon neutral" by buying offsets. Being a relatively modest institution, we didn't have the money to do that, thankfully, nor would we have chosen to spend our students' tuition dollars that way, so we had to be "real" and actually get our emissions down without buying offsets. We have been very successful, and our per capita emissions are down 28% from 2001, while overall emissions are down 21% (Even though we built four new buildings in that time period and added forty new students). And students have been intimately involved in the process and learning as they go.
Especially upsetting to some of our students, after all their efforts, was the NYT article declaring one of these campuses the "world's greenest" college for buying offsets and becoming "carbon neutral." (I just learned last night that it was Unity College alums that designed and are installing their new solar power system. Go figure.) But our own State o' Maine government has noticed and figured out that we're in doing more exceptional things.
Offsets markets will settle down only slowly as the offset bubble deflates and wiser heads plan more sensible, better accounted schemes. Offset fans in the campus sustainability profession are suffering from "groupthink." Remember your economic history? The South Sea Bubble? Or Darien? We're working on this issue with our State government. Look for more posts ahead as we design a better, locally-based, properly verified, fully additional, carbon offset program. These things take time to do right, but we'll figure it out.
Here's another offset bubble article....
Shares in carbon offset business dive after collapse of crucial deal
Tuesday December 4 2007
The fledgling carbon-offset market was undermined yesterday when AgCert International, a producer and seller of certified emission reductions (CERs), said a key deal had collapsed leaving it with an overhang of uncovered liabilities.