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Small Change for Reducing Your Utility Bill

Ylan Mui

If we were saintly as well as frugal, we would consider saving money an end in itself.

But we are far from saintly. And the frugal part is still a work in progress. So our ears perked up when we heard about a new local company that promises to pay you money for saving money.

Earth Aid Enterprises was founded in the District in 2007 as an online retailer for energy efficient products such as LED night lights and oxygenating showerheads. The firm tracked not only how many items it sold, but also the amount of energy it expected consumers to save.

Those energy savings are valuable not only to us in the form of lower utility bills, but also potentially to companies that want to buy credits to offset their own carbon footprints. Earth Aid soon realized it could bundle the energy reductions of a household over the course of a year and then sell them off -- returning most of the profit back to the consumer.

“We had the notion that we probably shouldn’t be being paid for something that our members were doing," said Ben Bixby, Earth Aid managing partner. "We thought they would be the rightful owner.”

Large corporations have been engaging in so-called carbon offsetting on a larger scale for several years, and some environmental groups have criticized the process for allowing them to get credit for other folks' reduction in energy use. Earth Aid said it is one of the first to engage individual households in carbon offsetting.

Ok, so where's the money? Earth Aid compares one year of your energy use against the previous year. It then sells any reductions as a carbon credit and returns the proceeds to you, minus a brokerage fee. If your energy use goes up, you are not charged anything -- well, except a higher utility bill!

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a household of two people emits an average of 27,290 pounds of carbon dioxide from gas and electricity useage over the course of a year. Carbon credits are typically measured in metric tons, so that would be equivalent to about 12 metric tons.

On the Chicago Climate Exchange yesterday, one metric ton of carbon was selling for about $1.50. That means that your annual carbon output from gas and electricity was worth about $18.

On its site, Earth Aid lists the price of carbon on the European Climate Exchange, which is $14.62 per metric ton delivered next year. That would make your total output worth $175.44, though U.S. household energy reductions don't qualify for sale on the European exchange.

But remember, you only get paid for the reduction in your carbon output. Still, small change matters. Signing up for Earth Aid's service is free, and reducing your energy useage is always a good thing for your wallet and for the planet.

Bixby said he anticipates bypassing the exchanges and selling credits directly to companies that would be willing to pay a premium to say they are working with U.S. households to offset their carbon footprint.

“Energy efficiency is a common sense choice," Bixby said. "Eventually, it’s always going to pay itself back.”

By Ylan Mui  |  April 23, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Cheap & Green , Ylan Q. Mui  
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Nice post! I had never heard of Earth Aid before. Now I might have to sign up since there doesn't appear to be a downside. I just need to find the time to register.

In a related note, check out my new green-info site for the Washington, DC, region:

In a blog post today, I note that in Maryland you can even buy green power for less than traditional, brown power (for now, at least).

Posted by: dankulpinski | April 24, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

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