The Greenback Effect

An investment in the environment can help reduce harmful emissions, boost productivity, and save money

Greenback EffectReducing the amount of CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions in the earth’s atmosphere is a challenge of global proportions. For Carbon Credit Environmental Services, a Detroit-based company founded last year as part of Wayne State University’s Tech Town initiative, the solution comes down to an investment in social responsibility and renewable energy. More specifically, Carbon Credit helps businesses offset harmful emissions through an investment in alternative-energy programs like renewable solar energy, wind, reforestation, and methane recovery sources.

Mike Dolkowski, president of Carbon Credit, says he came up with the concept with his wife and partner, Dona Dolkowski, after “taking a look at what we could do to help [others] lower energy costs and assist companies in obtaining green products.” In recent months, Carbon Credit has developed and trademarked a “carbon-neutral logo” for companies to place on products developed with renewable energy. The logo is good for one year, and it allows companies to market their offset progress.

Using a series of calculations, businesses and individuals can measure their carbon footprint (the amount of CO2 used) and purchase carbon credits. Programs include tree planting in the United States, China, and Ecuador; reusing manufacturing materials; and planting non-edible oil plants. Carbon Credit will also help businesses with a complete audit of their energy use. Costs can range from $5 to $25 per ton (U.S.) based on the level of pollution emitted in the environment. For example, a large manufacturer may emit as much as 400 tons of CO2 a day, meaning its annual offset cost would be close to $750,000 (at $5 per ton).

More companies are pursuing conservation measures as Congress considers the taxation of greenhouse-gas emissions. Late last year, President Bush signed legislation that raised CAFE standards on vehicles, and now politicians are turning their attention toward energy plants, refiners, and other manufacturing operations. “Every business is different, but we essentially price emissions as a commodity,” says Dona, who is Carbon Credit’s vice president of operations. “Some factors that influence the offset price include the size of a facility, the amount of electricity or water used, and where the company has its operations.” Companies such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc., General Electric, and Dell Inc. have purchased carbon credits.

On a related front, Carbon Credit will assist companies with conservation measures, such as recommending the replacement of fluorescent lighting with more efficient products utilizing metal halide fixtures. In some cases, new, more concentrated lighting has led to productivity gains, as employees working in a factory are able to recognize more product defects. Carbon Credit can also recommend offset programs from South America to Asia, or focus on local efforts. For example, the company works with the Greening of Detroit, a longstanding grassroots organization that beautifies city neighborhoods through tree planting.

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