How to Reverse Your Car’s Environmental Impact

green gasFrom left: David Cooch, Kyle Kornack, Liam Madden. Photo by Craig LeMoult / WGBH.

You use reusable shopping bags. You recycle, and maybe even compost. You take the T whenever you can. But sometimes, driving is unavoidable—maybe your job is inaccessible by public transit, or maybe the bus never showed. You take your car, even though you cringe when you think of the impact non-electric cars have on the environment.

Local nonprofit Green Gas is pioneering a new system that will let drivers offset their carbon footprint at the gas pump. The Green Gas Card automatically donates 10 cents per gallon to projects that reduce carbon—the total amount necessary to counteract the damage of driving, according to the nonprofit’s founders.

“There are a lot of people who are looking for a way to channel their frustration about this climate impact that we all have and looking to do more,” Green Gas Co-founder and Executive Director Kyle Kornack says. “And as the federal government is failing to do so and regressing, more and more people are standing up in different ways. So our hope is this can just be another one of those tools for people to take a step in the right direction.”

Kornack grew up in northern Los Angeles and got a firsthand taste of climate change when the hills near his community “started catching on fire more and more.” What he saw inspired him to major in environmental studies and philosophy at Northeastern University, where he grappled with climate change from the vantage point of ethics.

He started toying with the idea of carbon offsetting while working at a juice startup. The team initially used mason jars to avoid plastic, but once the company gained steam the mason jars weren’t scaleable. The founders looked into ways that they could make up for the company’s negative impact on the environment.

Kornack’s focus turned to driving, and he was surprised to discover that it takes just a dime per gallon of gas to offset drivers’ carbon impact. Transportation accounted for 27 percent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2015, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. “We basically created the business plan overnight,” Kornack says.

Green Gas launched its card earlier this month, which users can tie to their bank accounts and then use to fill up at the pump. The 10 cent per gallon donation—which Kornack notes is tax deductible—is automatic with the card.

Green Gas

Green Gas Card. Photo courtesy of Green Gas.

One of the main projects Green Gas will support is a reforestation program in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley that is working to restore 1 million acres. Another project in New Bedford, Mass. captures the methane emitted from a landfill and turns it into enough electricity to power 2,500 homes.

Kornack sees the Green Gas program as in line with other ways that people choose to spend their money responsibly.

“There’s a wide body of research, [but] you don’t even need the research, you just look around and see people are willing to pay more for fairly produced goods,” he says. “This is just another form of fairness, fairness to our general climatic balance.”

Kornack and the nonprofit’s other cofounders, Liam Madden and David Cooch, started a partnership with MIT after winning the institute’s Solve Initiative last year. The three-person team works out of Somerville’s Greentown Labs.

For more information or to sign up for a Green Gas Card, visit greengasmovement.org.

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