Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Offsetting Innovation

An AdAge video promotes the partnership between Brooklyn Brothers and the Versus TV cable network as being "pioneers" for developing a software program that allows them to track how much tonage of carbon emissions they use on a commercial shoot. The tonage is then offset with a purchase of (I'm guessing here) RECs (or, renewable energy credits).

This is a tricky subject. On the one hand, I applaud the idea of offsets. I am thankful that the desire here with Brooklyn Brothers, Versus TV, and ERM (the London-based enviro-engineering company that helped develop the software) is to take ownership and responsibility of their impact on the environment and, ostensibly, to do something about it.

However, carbon offsets are slowly becoming the e-z pass to corporate guiltlessness. It's like deciding the leaking roof is fixed by putting a bucket underneath the spill rather than fixing the roof.

True innovation would have been to partner not with a software company, but with a hardware company. Instead of figuring out how they could "neutralize" their carbon impact, why not work with someone to develop a camera, an editing suite, heck, how about a food services refrigerator, all that run off of an easily renewable energy source? NOW you've got me standing up and applauding and saying "pioneer".

Again, I preface this by saying that I think the idea of purchasing various offsets is at least a step in the right direction. I think it enables a person to make a gesture of taking responsibility for their (generally unwanted but necessary) eco-unfriendly actions (taking a plane, running exorbitant amounts of energy, etc.). But, I think with the amount of money, power, and leading-edge thinking out there, I think companies should be looking to do more than be able to lay their guilt aside at night. I think it's all too easy for major corporations with large factories or other significant emissions-producing workshops to buy their way to surface-level ecofriendliness.

Where are the leaders? Where are the risk-takers? Where are the dreamers? Build us a better filter, a better smokestack, a better generator, a water-based engine. Partner with those doing this work. Yes, yes, plant trees. Of course. Support solar and wind energies. Do the things that offset the world's emissions. But start making tangible, physical changes in your own backyards. THAT's the kind of pioneering I'm looking for. That would be noteworthy, new, daring, exciting, and dare I say, creative.

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the thoughts and opinions expressed below are entirely my own, and are not necessarily shared by my friends, family, or employer. (though they very well might be...)