Sustainablog editor Jeff McIntire Strasburg did a great series last year on Enterprise Rent-A-Car’s “move to a greener business model” and I’ve followed up recently with posts on their addition of “hybrid branches” and the expansion of the Enterprise Ridesahare program in Atlanta. Not to inundate our readers with news from one organization, but if the news is continually positive, I think we should report it! Of particular note today is the opt-in carbon offset program started last year in partnership with TerraPass.
In the year since Enterprise started the program along with sister companies Alamo and National, more than 175,000 customers have opted to pay a $1.25 premium on their rental fee, generating $220,000 to help fund certified offset programs and making it the most popular customer opt-in carbon offset program in the country. With the company’s commitment to match those contributions dollar-for-dollar up to $ 1 million, the total contribution to the various offset programs has totaled $440,000.
“We believe this is the most popular consumer opt-in offset program in the travel industry and quite possibly any industry,” said Erik Blachford, chief executive officer of TerraPass. “It’s certainly the most popular program we’ve seen, and participation continues to grow.”
What you can get for $1.25
The overall impact from the projects funded by the program represents an offset of more than 42,000 metric tons of carbon. According to Environmental Protection Agency standards, the offest is equivalent to saving 4.8 million gallons of gas and 98,000 barrels of oil.
The program funds a variety of TerraPass projects and initiatives that work to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, including farm power projects that convert animal waste into electricity and gas-capture facilities that trap and destroy methane gas (a more potent greenhouse gas than CO2) produced by landfills.
The Worcester County Landfill Gas to Energy Project is the largest project funded by the program thus far, and is one of the nation’s first offset projects validated under the internationally recognized Voluntary Carbon Standard.
“This used to be just another landfill,” said Lee Broughton, director of corporate sustainability for the Enterprise family. “Together with our customers, we have helped give it the financial boost it needed to incorporate equipment and generators that will allow this landfill to keep roughly 100,000 metric tons of carbon emissions out of the air each year.”
Admittedly, there are problems with many carbon offset programs, from lack of transparency for where money is spent and questionable or no verification for programs that do little to permanently remove greenhouse gases, to blatant greenwashing and concerns over “checkbook environmentalism” or the idea that we can simply “buy our way” out of the climate crisis.
To be sure, no carbon offset program will be a complete solution to mitigating climate change. But a well-funded, fully verified program funding projects that permanently remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere is a good start, a beginning to a more holistic solution, and a means through which consumers can voice their concerns and desire to make a real difference.
Says sustainability director Broughton, ““That is exactly the kind of impact we envisioned when we started this program a year ago.”
Image Credit: TerraPass – A landfill gas-to-energy project funded in part from proceeds of the Enterprise carbon offset program