To the skeptical consumer, carbon offsets can seem as shady as Karl Rove. I’ll be the first to admit it, I’m totally overwhelmed by the sheer number of carbon offset providers out there — which ones are reputable, where does my money go, how effective are they? That’s why I was eager to check out a new Web tool called Carbon Catalog, which launched today and is looking to add a bit of DIY transparency to your choices.
The site, started by Internet entrepreneur Gideon Greenspan, organizes data about carbon offset projects and providers according to location, type of project, and company info. A lot of the data is displayed on a clickable Google map. Greenspan told us in a phone conversation that he started the site because the carbon offset market “…is a real mess at the moment, and it is very difficult to know where you’re money is going.” Greenspan also started websudoku.com and copyscape.com.
There’s a lot of things I like about the site. The details about which companies are nonprofit providers vs. for-profit providers is valuable information when selecting a carbon offset choice, as well as the information about how much money goes to the company vs. the carbon offset project itself. I also liked that the layout was simple, clean and easy-to-navigate.
The biggest issue I have with the site is that it’s a work in progress. The data isn’t terribly detailed; it’s mostly gleaned from the carbon offset providers’ Web sites, according to Greenspan. Also, some info I really wanted about what percentage of the money goes to the project and how much to the company is left blank. Greenspan said he plans to add more details in the future.
Given that the market for carbon offsets is so far a largely unregulated — and somewhat confusing — one, any attempt at transparency is a good thing. As Greenspan said, “Transparency is the key to building credibility.” We’re looking forward to when Carbon Catalog beefs up its features and gives us a bit more to work with.