In a move that is equal parts Al Gore, Coldplay and Web 2.0 e-commerce experiment, Topeka, Kansas-based Ogden Publications—home to Mother Earth News, Natural Home and Utne Reader among others—will announce later today the launch of EarthMoment.com, a customized retail portal that buys users carbon-offset credits in exchange for online purchases.
“We’ve kind of invented a new business,” says Ogden publisher Bryan Welch, who partnered with Moment Marketing for the launch. Over 1,000 retailers, including Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Blockbuster and Wal-Mart, have signed on to the project, Welch says. The site contributes half of its commission on a customer’s purchase to Carbonfund.org, a certified carbon offset vendor. (“Nothing you buy costs any more than it would if you went directly to the retailer,” Welch says.) The carbon credits, in turn, are accumulated by users to offset the carbon footprint they generate annually—as determined by the site’s carbon calculator.
The other half of the revenue from retailers is put in Ogden’s pocket. “It’s a business,” says Welch. “We want to make real money.”
Welch says his company put very little upfront—a cash investment of about $50,000, he says—to fund the project. Ogden has dedicated a team of 10 across departments to the project.
“I told our shareholders this thing will make between $2,000 and $200,000,” says Welch. “Honesty, I have no idea. It was just a no-brainer because it serves our mission—we’re all about positive solutions to problems, which also engage enthusiasm.”
“We have to do a better job of engaging people,” adds Welch. “For a long time, the message was ‘Have less fun, go fewer places, buy less stuff.’ We don’t think labeling consumers ‘sinners’ is the best way to do it.”