As the criticism of Whole Food’s wind power cards (created in partnership with Renewable Choice Energy) has shifted a bit from the nature of buying wind credits to the ethics of the “gift card” format of the cards, I wanted to share some information and pictures I received from RCE. I think the criticism that arose on Boing Boing and Strange New Products yesterday probably stemmed largely from the common graphic we all used, which only showed the cards. According to RCE, the cards come on a backer that explains the product, along with certification information from Green-e. They’re also placed in a display that uses text and language to explain what the consumer is buying. Here’s a look at the display itself:
Since it is physically impossible to deliver electricity from a wind farm directly to your house, certified wind energy credits make purchasing wind power possible. The Wind Power Card™ buys these credits, which represent the additional cost and value of wind energy. It ensures that the electricity you use is replaced onto the national power grid with wind energy. It does not replace or reduce your conventional electric bill.
It seems to me that RCE and Whole Foods have done their duediligencee in terms of explaining the concept of the wind card and renewable energy credits. I’m sure there will be people who still misunderstand — it took me a little time and reading to figure out the concept of offsets. At the same time, I don’t think there’s deception involved, as some have claimed. Rather, they’ve produced a product that requires some understanding on the part of the consumer. That may prove the wind cards’ downfall — perhaps WF shoppers won’t take the time to understand them — but I’m guessing they’ve done their duediligencee there, too. Regardless, I do think the products are being presented as what they are: an opportunity to offset power consumption from dirty plants by supporting the development of cleaner ones. I’m glad Whole Foods and RCE are offering consumers this option, but won’t try to predict how those same consumers will respond.