Archive for the ‘FAQ’ Category

Why COTAP’s focus is outside the U.S.

July 2nd, 2012

A recent article titled “Carbon fund does good in two ways – They’re acting locally to save the world” covers Sustainable Tallahassee’s Community Carbon Fund, which takes offset-based donations from community members and channels those dollars towards emissions-reducing local projects that benefit their disadvantaged neighbors.

Once you get past the unoriginal lip service to carbon offset drama themes like indulgences and cheat offsets (C’mon Mark! That’s so played out!) it’s a very cool piece of coverage, as is the program itself.  We don’t agree with one aspect of the program, that being that the emissions reductions are not certified or retired, though they are apparently overseen by third party non-profits.  But on the balance, that’s a forgiveable and correctable flaw for something innovative, new, and moving in a very meaningful direction.

We’ve been repeatedly asked “Why doesn’t COTAP do domestic projects that alleviate domestic poverty?,” which is an extremely valid question.  The answers are many and complex, but the main answer comes down to focus.  COTAP was born specifically because we felt that accredited forestry carbon projects in least developed countries could be much better funded if their poverty-alleviating potential was highlighted and if the credits were made available to individuals as a tax-deductible donation.  Our mission is to make that happen, and pursuing that very specific mission is keeping us plenty busy.

Sustainable Tallahassee’s Community Carbon Fund is on the right track and is one of many examples of how domestic carbon programs can benefit people in the U.S., and specifically disadvantaged communities.  There is vast and mostly unexplored potential in this arena, there is a colossal opportunity to create tons of local, domestic, and well-paying energy efficiency retrofitting jobs.  It doesn’t necessarily need to involve carbon offsets, though, and it needs to be tied into a systemic mechanism of incentives and replicated, and that’ll probably take a domestic, national-scope NGO to pull off.

Organizations like Green For All are doing a noble job on the advocacy and policy aspects of this challenge.  For-profit, domestically-focused carbon offset entities like Terrapass and Native Energy have done a good job of supporting domestic projects, just not with an equal focus of poverty alleviation embedded in what they do.  You can also see glimpses of this wider opportunity in what GRID Alternatives does.  So with so many different types of organizations, roles, and project types, a domestic version of COTAP will be as much of a Rubik’s Cube to pull it all together like our initial, cross-borders version has.

Though COTAP’s ‘Phase 1′ has been a success, it’s still in its infancy.  We want to make sure we’re fully accomplishing what initially set out to do, and to be serving, at an ambitious scale, those we initially aimed to serve, in this first phase before adding such a complex new scope to what we do.  The thing is, the opportunity of transforming individuals’ footprints into wages for rural farmers in least-developed countries is so vast that we may stay happily in Phase 1 indefinitely, and find a way to facilitate another new standalone intermediary to take on the domestic version of COTAP.

So, in our opinion, Sustainable Tallahassee’s program is onto something big that needs to be refined and expanded nationally.  COTAP would love to be the organization to do it – to connects individuals’ footprints with accredited, domestic offset projects that create and increase wages for the poorest Americans.  But, as mentioned, that’s simply not our current focus.

Receipt Emails & Tax-related Documentation

September 29th, 2011


COTAP currently uses an online processing tool called Shopp, which is compatible with both Google Checkout and PayPal.

It’s important that COTAP use such shopping cart software, instead of a simplified “Donate” button, because:

  • We track the actual tonnes you offset and match them with specific projects, and we will be sharing projects’ progress with you based on the time of your donation and which project(s) you matched your carbon footprint with.
  • We need to manage inventory and availability of project tonnes per our contractual agreements with our forestry carbon development partners.

COTAP’s current e-commerce setup has the following known imperfections, which we are in the process of addressing:

  • Multiple email receipts.
  • The mention of “Taxes” and “Shipping,” which are irrelevant to your COTAP transaction.
  • Reference to Downloads in your online account summary.

Further, the COTAP receipt emails you receive currently do not include sufficient information regarding our tax-exempt status as a 501(c)3 organization.  In early January 2012, we will be sending out formal and specific donation email acknowledgments with all of the information necessary for your proper income tax record-keeping purposes.

COTAP is in the process of pursuing a more streamlined e-commerce experience.  We appreciate your understanding and patience!

The COTAP Team

What is a carbon footprint?

September 17th, 2011


A carbon footprint means the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions generated by someone’s lifestyle, primarily through the burning of fossil fuels.

COTAP’s carbon calculator is designed to enable you to quickly and accurately assess your annual carbon footprint.

COTAP’s carbon footprint calculator and its underlying methodology deliberately focus on what are likely to be the primary sources of your carbon footprint: car travel, air travel, and home energy use.

We do not currently include emissions calculations related to categories such as public transit, diet, pet ownership, or recycling.  If you would like to include these categories, you are more than welcome to refine your calculation before matching your footprint to one or more COTAP projects.

This post can also be found on COTAP’s FAQ and customer community on Get Satisfaction.

What are carbon offsets?

September 14th, 2011

The basic answer

Carbon offsets are a way to pay another entity to remove the carbon dioxide (CO2) you emit through driving, flying, and home energy use.

COTAP and carbon offsets

At COTAP, we enable individuals to calculate their CO2 emissions, and then donate to our projects based on those emissions.  We pool donations from many individuals and then match them with accredited forestry projects in least-developed countries that commit to creating meaningful and verifiable economic benefits for the poor.  COTAP commits to the annual monitoring and reporting of our projects’ social and environmental progress throughout the lifespan of each project.

The more detailed, “nerdy” answer…

Carbon offsetting is a structured transaction through which one entity compensates another entity for performing project activity which counteracts a specific quantity of its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.  By paying another party to remove GHG’s, an entity is able to counteract emissions it has not yet eliminated itself.

Carbon offsets are the transactional instrument used in carbon offsetting, and offsets are measured, accredited, issued, tracked, and retired in increments of one metric tonne (2,204.6 pounds) of carbon dioxide-equivalent (CO2e).  Thus, a carbon offset is a metric tonne of CO2 removed, or to be removed, from the atmosphere by an accredited project, or one tonne of CO2e of one of the other five other primary GHG’s (methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbon, perfluorcarbon, and sulphur hexafluoride).

Offsets are a tool which must be used properly

Carbon offsetting is a highly compelling transaction for individuals who are concerned about their emissions and want to take action in parallel to, but not in place of, longer-term and more expensive efforts to directly reduce their carbon emissions (like buying a more fuel efficient car or re-insulating their attic).

Like any other tool, carbon offsets can be misused.  COTAP does not support the use of offsetting by entities which plan to do nothing about eventually making direct reductions to their emissions, nor do we support the use of carbon offsets as a way to compensate for increasing one’s emissions.

This post can also be found on COTAP’s FAQ and customer community on Get Satisfaction.