First Advisor

Robert Bertini

Date of Award

Spring 2009

Document Type



Civil and Environmental Engineering




Carbon offsetting, Greenhouse gas mitigation, Emissions trading




Public and political consensus expresses the need for broad action to mitigate climate change. To this end, different forms of carbon trading exist to initiate carbon reduction projects. This thesis proposes the idea of carbon sponsoring, a new tool for personal carbon trading. Unlike carbon offsets, the main option for individuals wishing to mitigate their carbon footprint, carbon sponsoring is a purely social instrument involving carbon-reducing pledges. Carbon sponsoring is intended for individuals who seek immediate, direct carbon offsets for their personal emissions. It is not meant as a broad tool correcting the various deficiencies of the carbon trading markets, but a specialized mechanism with a small role in the struggle against climate change.

As a demonstration project, an online implementation for carbon sponsoring of personal travel was crafted with the following objectives:

  1. Increase awareness of size of carbon footprint from personal travel and activities,
  2. Increase awareness of personal carbon reduction strategies,
  3. Facilitate personal carbon reductions, and
  4. Familiarize users with carbon trading.

A three-week initial study period of the new tool showed good results, with participants reporting increased awareness of person carbon footprints, carbon reduction strategies, and carbon trading. While the overall results were positive, the website created for this study has some deficiencies related to the visual design and ease of navigation. These shortcomings are not central to the idea of carbon sponsoring, and skilled web designers can rectify them as a next step.

Carbon sponsoring sustains some of the problems of carbon offsetting, including insufficient quality control and lack of third-party verification of carbon reductions. Carbon sponsoring also offers new benefits and improvements in the areas of equity, user costs and co-benefits, and carbon reduction time accounting. Carbon sponsoring also accesses personal emissions reductions in a way that indirect, upstream methods cannot. This benefit, especially, secures carbon sponsoring a convincing role in broad mitigation efforts to address climate change. Carbon sponsoring might only lead to a small volume of carbon reductions with respect to the entirety of anthropogenic emissions, but it can provide important assistance in efforts to promote public awareness of carbon footprints, carbon reduction strategies, carbon budgeting, and carbon trading.


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A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirement for the degree of Bachelor of Science with Departmental Honors in Civil and Environmental Engineering.

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