Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=63035
Story Retrieval Date: 12/12/2013 12:48:11 PM CST
"Take one step: Reduce your carbon footprint."
Those words on a sign inside the Field Museum invite visitors to pay an extra dollar for admission that will go toward reducing the carbon emissions they generated in getting there.
They call it a carbon offset credit, and say 100 percent of the funds go toward reducing greenhouse gases. But carbon credits can be a tricky issue to get your head around. Would you pay that extra dollar?
“Global warming is one of the most important issues today,” said Kirk Anne Taylor, the Field Museum’s urban conservation manager. “One of our missions is to engage the public in these issues, and this is a way to get people involved in reducing the impact they have on the environment.”
The program started Tuesday. In the first three hours, 100 out of 549 visitors, or about 18 percent, paid the extra dollar for the carbon offset credit. Out of that 100, nine people paid more than one dollar.
Some people who chose not to buy the carbon offset credit said they didn’t understand the program or were unsure about the efficacy of offset credits.
“I haven’t been convinced that buying credits for carbon usage is effective,” said Ron Blum, 60, a museum visitor who didn’t pay the extra dollar. Blum, a physician from Maine, said people should focus on reducing the use of fossil fuels, rather than buying credits after the fact. “The point is we have to reduce use,” he said.
But some applaud the museum’s step toward carbon offsetting.
“I didn’t buy one today, but that’s because my son bought me an offset for the entire year,” said Kathy Sheikh, 64, a teacher from Milwaukee whose son gave her the gift for Mother’s Day. “It’s just great to see,” she said.
Employees who greet visitors at the museum went through five training sessions so they would be equipped to answer visitors’ questions about the program.
“We learned about carbon emissions, and the causes and consequences of global warming,” said Anya Chatterjee, who works at the museum’s front desk. “So when people say, ‘Sure, whatever that is,’ we can tell them what it is.”
The money the program raises purchases carbon offsets through the Chicago Climate Exchange. A small amount also goes toward Field Museum programs, such as forest conservation and habitat rehabilitation, which focus on reducing greenhouse gases, Taylor said.
The credit’s one-dollar price tag was calculated by the Chicago Climate Exchange, based on the amount of carbon emissions generated by the average visitor’s travel to the museum.