From one experience of philanthropy, another was born. When Dee and Richard H. Lawrence joined a medical mission to Honduras with their family two decades ago, they only expected to help those affected by Hurricane Mitch. Upon noticing that women and children were suffering from unexplained respiratory issues, “my daughter said, ‘I know why everybody’s so sick. It’s smoke from their wood-burning cookstoves,’” Dee remembers.
The family founded Proyecto Mirador to build better cookstoves that used half the wood, reduced emissions by 3 tons per stove annually, and vented smoke outside the homes. The Gold Standard offset project has provided rural families with more than 240,000 stoves, which got the name “Dos Por Tres” or “in an instant” through a contest between local children.
“Our experience creating a quality project and selling our carbon credits sparked an idea. If Mirador was verifiably reducing CO₂ and scaling and improving the quality of its work because of its ability to sell high-quality carbon offsets, why couldn’t it be grouped with other projects doing the same thing,” explains Dee. At the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, therefore, the Lawrence’s launched Cool Effect as co-founders, with a mission to “give people the power and confidence to band together and reduce the carbon pollution that causes climate change.”
Cool Effect’s approach is “carbon done correctly.” The nonprofit discovers and carefully picks projects around the globe, from the United States to Kenya and Uganda, to Indonesia, and then goes about a process of triple verification to make sure it is reducing carbon. Two independent technical advisory committees measure it against international standards before it is reviewed internally to ensure that:
- It is committed to reducing carbon, the science checks out, and a significant carbon standard has issued credits for it;
- It has environmental or social benefits beyond carbon reduction and is embraced by the local community;
- It is 100 percent additional, in that “the reductions achieved by a project need to be ‘additional’ to what would have happened if the project had not been carried out”;
- It is committed to the long-term in terms of quality and crediting;
- It is run by experienced managers, with financial durability and revenues directed back into project improvements.
When the best project is selected and added to Cool Effect’s platform, transparency is key. More than 90 percent of every dollar received goes straight to the project partners, with only a standard 9.87 percent fee taken for research, payment processing, and registration fees. Under the Seller’s Pledge, “a legal commitment to transparency in pricing” adopted by Cool Effect, these fees are fixed and fully disclosed to both sides of the transaction: “we hope to disrupt hidden pricing practices in the market to build trust among carbon offset buyers that the funds invested in projects go to the projects.”
Some of Cool Effect’s most exciting projects are stateside.
In Oregon, “Watering the West” seeks to address the logging that has historically taken place in Klamath National Forest, home to diverse animal and tree species and part of a watershed responsible for providing California with water.
Green Diamond Resource Company uses carbon finance to apply sustainable management practices and protect the watershed.
In Colorado, the new “Where the Buffalo Roam” project supports the Southern Plains Land Trust in its acquisitions of prairie land that it protects and restores. According to Geisa Príncipe, Director of Project Research, “the addition of land to this project area will secure the passage of animals through newly evolved animal corridors and shortgrass prairie preserves and enhance further improvement to their ecosystems.”
Businesses and individuals can purchase offsets through any available projects. Cool Effect provides calculators for calculating carbon emissions from business operations and events. American Airlines partners with the Cool Effect to help customers offset the emissions generated by their flights, with proceeds split between the Mirador Clean Cookstoves project and Indonesia. Meanwhile, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology offset its Sustainability Summit through a project in Costa Rica.
In 2021, two times more businesses connected with the nonprofit, and 317 percent more individuals purchased personal offsets. At this rate, the sky is the limit.