In March, Dave Rochlin -- former CEO of Transfair USA, the organization which created the U.S. Fair Trade certification process for consumer goods -- jumped into the carbon market in a for-benefit venture (for-profit with a nonprofit beneficiary) called ClimatePath, which brings the principles of fair trade to the morally ambiguous world of carbon trading.
Now a second "fair trade carbon" product is being offered by the newly formed Big Tree Climate Fund, founded by the former CEO of Dagoba Chocolates (now sold to Hershey's).
This is a good thing for the carbon offset market. Big financial institutions with little care for the environment have been jumping onto the carbon offset bandwagon simply because they see an economic opportunity.
According to the World Bank, the global carbon market grew from $32 billion in 2006 to $63 billion in 2007, and then doubled again to $126 billion in 2008.
But not all carbon offsets are created equal. Beyond the Voluntary Carbon Standard (VCS) used to certify carbon credits there are higher standards like the "Gold Standard" used by ClimatePath. But companies still want more.
They are looking for stories ... they want to be able to show their customers that they are not just carbon offsetting because it looks good on paper, but because it is helping make the world a better place.
This is where fair trade carbon companies like Big Tree and ClimatePath come in. They are aiming to capture the high end of the market by providing their clients with documentation on how their carbon offsets are helping the planet by protecting key environmental hot spots in the developing world and supporting the indigenous people how make their livelihood off the natural resources they steward.
To that end, both companies offer "galleries" of their different projects, which describe each project's specific environmental and cultural benefits.
Big Tree in particular has outlined an incredibly rigorous standard which it trademarked "Fair Carbon" requiring regular reporting on everything from improvements in water quality to the increase of attendance in local schools.
Both sites offer carbon calculators which, while not very good, will offer a rough idea of your carbon footprint. Big Tree lets you purchase individual tree offsets for $2. They also has the added claim to fame of being the first B-Corporation offset company, which means they have committed to triple bottom line practices (people, planet, profit).
To get a better idea of your real carbon footprint read MNN's guide to carbon calculators.