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Learn about the Visa Program, Carbon Offsets and Climate Change with our in-depth Q and A:

Visa Program

Carbon Offsets & Climate Change

Visa Program

Is there any application or annual fees or hidden charges for the ReDirect Guide Visa?
No. There are no annual fees or hidden charges associated with this card. The application has a disclosure section that outlines the interest rate and other important information.

Can I transfer balances from other credit cards?
Yes, please see the application for important information as well as a section to request balance transfers.

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How do I know this offset program is effective?
We chose to work with Sustainable Travel International (STI) for a variety of reasons, including the fact that their offset programs have both domestic and international benefits. STI sources offset credits through MyClimate, in part because of the positive environmental and social externalities associated with the offsets. These offsets comply with the Clean Development Mechanism specifications of the Kyoto Protocol. STI sources renewable energy credits through the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, and those credits are Green-e certified. STI was in the top 10 list in both major recent consumer reports analyzing carbon offset programs, and one of only two North American, nonprofit providers recognized in both Consumer's Guide to Retail Carbon Offset Providers and Voluntary Offsets For Air-Travel Carbon Emissions.

Where can I find green businesses and sustainable products and services?
Visit the ReDirect Guide's search-enabled directory of green businesses by visiting our homepage and choosing the region you live within. Many of the businesses that qualify to be in the ReDirect Guide also offer their products through internet and phone sales, and would be happy to serve you even if you live outside the regions currently served by the ReDirect Guides. There are also a growing number of other green business directories and resources available. If you would like to inquire about bringing a ReDirect Guide to your region, or inquire about other resources in your area, please contact us.

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Does the ReDirect Guide earn money from this program?
No. 50% of the proceeds go to One Pacific Coast Bank. The ReDirect Guide directs all of the remaining 50% of proceeds to Sustainable Travel International (STI) who then allocates the entire amount to their carbon offset and renewable energy program.

To learn more about how funds are generated and where it is directed, please read the next section.

How much money is generated and how does it get spent?
Funds for this program are generated in two ways. First, for each person who signs up for a ReDirect Guide Visa, $30.00 is generated. Second, for each purchase made with the card, 30% of the interchange income (currently 1.4% of total purchases) also goes to fund the programs.
Funds that are generated go to One Pacific Coast Bank, who retains 50% of the total amounts to fund this and other sustainable community banking programs. ReDirect Guide then directs One Pacific Coast Bank to send the remaining 50% of the funds to Sustainable Travel International, who invests the money into offsets and renewable energy credits.
Periodically, STI will provide reports back to the ReDirect Guide delineating the exact amount of carbon which has been offset through this Visa program. This will be regularly updated on this website so that all cardholders can see the cumulative benefits of the program.

To learn about how the integrity of this program is protected, please read the next section.

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How is the integrity of this program ensured?
First, it is important to understand that ReDirect Guide does not receive or handle any money generated in this program. All of the funds go directly to One Pacific Coast Bank, who retains 50% for their programs. The second half goes directly from One Pacific Coast Bank to Sustainable Travel International (STI), at the direction of ReDirect Guide.
In this way, ReDirect Guide acts as an intermediary – the amount of money generated is reported to us, and we then instruct STI to purchase the corresponding amount of offsets. ReDirect Guide then posts updates on this website, so that all carholders can monitor their cumulative, positive impact in terms of greenhouse gas reduction.

Additionally, STI protects the integrity of their offset transactions in several ways.

1 - First, STI is diligent to invest in offset projects that are in operation and are inspected, verified and certified by independent third parties. Specifically, all domestic Green Tag projects are certified by Green-e, and international Carbon Offset projects are based on internationally recognized criteria and are developed in accordance with the CDM Gold Standard of the Kyoto protocol.Green Tag sales are also inspected by an independent auditor to verify that the power and related renewable energy certificates were produced from a specific facility, delivered to STI in the amounts specified, and not double-sold to any other party.

2 - Second, STI and its project partners, Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF) and MyClimate are all non-profit organizations whose financial records are available to the public. This helps to ensure that each organization’s accounting records and trade books balance.
Sustainable Travel International (EIN #37-1461679) is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization pursuant to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS); MyClimate is a non-for-profit association in the Canton of Zürich, Switzerland (Record Number 10 363); and, Bonneville Environmental Foundation (EIN #93-1248274) is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization pursuant to the IRS.

3 - Third, STI’s partners at BEF have contracts with suppliers that carefully define the emissions offsets and all other "Non-Power Attributes" of each domestic renewable energy project, and reserves all these for the Green Tag. BEF uses these enforceable contract provisions to establish a "chain of custody" that protects these attributes from the moment they’re created (and metered, along with the electricity) until they are delivered to you.

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What are some examples of projects funded by this program?

The Americas
Residential and Commercial Renewable Energy Generation in the United States
Solar energy in Costa Rica

Africa
Solar energy in Eritrea
Electricity from methane in South Africa
Wind energy in Madagascar

Asia
Solar greenhouses in the Himalayas
Electricity from biomass in India
Green electricity for settlements in India
Hydroelectricity in Indonesia

Why aren’t reforestation projects included?
There are two primary issues regarding reforestation (planting trees in an area that previously contained forest) and afforestation (planting trees on lands that have not been recently forested) as a means to sequester carbon.

1 - First, there are arguments about the permanence of reforestation and afforestation projects (i.e. oftentimes they are temporary carbon storage sinks). As a result, these types of projects don’t currently meet the criteria of Green-e or the CDM Gold Standard. It should be noted that that this argument could be applied to some other types of emission reduction projects as well.

2 - Second, there are technical concerns regarding reforestation and afforestation related to the science of calculating the carbon offsetting amounts, but methodologies are being developed to address these concerns and ensure that related projects satisfy Kyoto Protocol.

Stakeholders are now beginning to realize the need to address all human-related sources of greenhouse gas emissions simultaneously to help reduce global climate change. This includes adding reforestation and afforestation into emission reduction portfolios since it’s proven to be a cost effective approach that delivers value-add benefits like protecting biodiversity and creating jobs. STI will offer reforestation and afforestation projects in its offset portfolio once the science for calculating the carbon offsetting amounts related to these types of projects is sound and is globally accepted by those organizations that certify the quality of emission reduction projects.

How does STI ensure the quality and integrity of the projects?
The Green Tag and Carbon Offset projects STI offers must fulfill a whole set of stringent criteria. All of the Green Tags STI offers are verified and certified by Green-e. Whereas, Carbon Offset projects are developed in accordance with procedures, criteria and methodologies from the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).

All projects supported by STI are constantly monitored and certified by independent organizations including BEF and MyClimate, their local partners, as well as independent certification bodies at least once a year throughout each project’s entire life cycle.

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Carbon Offsets

What does Offset mean?
Offset – verb (offsetting; past and past part. offset) 1. counterbalance; compensate for. noun 2. something that counterbalances; a compensating equivalent.

What are Carbon Offsets?
A carbon offset is a market-based mechanism by which the impact of emitting a ton of greenhouse gases (GHG) like carbon dioxide (CO2) can be negated or diminished by either avoiding the release of a ton elsewhere, or absorbing a ton of GHG or CO2 from the air that otherwise would have remained in the atmosphere. Renewable energy, energy efficiency, reforestation and afforestation are all strategies for offsetting.

Carbon offsetting occurs whenever someone pays someone else to reduce CO2 emissions on their behalf. Although reducing your personal and business-related emissions is the best way to address global climate change, carbon offsetting is the least expensive and one of the most convenient ways to offset unavoidable emissions.

How does Carbon Offsetting work?
Greenhouse gases (GHG), like carbon dioxide (CO2), are emitted when fossil-fuels are consumed. We all emit CO2 emissions when we drive a car, fly in a plane, use electricity, or generate waste. It is also important to understand that fossil fuels are used in the production and transportation of the foods, goods, and services we buy everyday. You can use less energy, travel less, or use public transport, but some emissions are unavoidable.

Carbon Offsets and Green Tags are designed to support energy efficiency and the generation of renewable energy. One Green Tag is produced for every 1,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity generated from a new renewable source. Whereas, one Carbon Offset is produced for every metric ton of CO2 that is either not released into the environment or is absorbed from the air that otherwise would have remained in the atmosphere.

Through this card program, you are helping fund renewable energy and energy efficiency projects domestically and internationally that reduce CO2 emissions. The funding, construction, and operations of these projects come directly from offset purchases.

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What is meant by the term “Carbon Footprint,” and how can I measure mine?
A carbon footprint is a way for each person to measure and understand the amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emitted as a result of their daily activities. Because energy is required to produce everything we commonly consume, including food, electricity, heat, clothing, housing, and other daily needs, each of us have direct and indirect responsibility for the GHG released to the atmosphere through the use of energy. As a quick example, consider the fuel used to simply transport a tomato from the farm to the grocer and finally to your table – as the consumer of that tomato, the fuel used to get it to your kitchen is part of your overall carbon footprint.

Energy comes from a variety of sources; fossil fuels are currently the most heavily used including coal, natural gas, and oil derived fuels such as gasoline and diesel. The term “embodied energy” describes the overall energy used in the creation of a product – consider how much energy is needed to make a car, for example – from the original mining for metal ore to the shipping of the final vehicle to the auto dealer. By understanding that every one of our purchases has its own embodied energy, we have a lot of power to reduce our carbon footprint by choosing products and services that are “lower on the carbon (energy) foodchain.”

For illustration, consider that tomato again – if you purchase a tomato in January that was grown in Argentina and shipped to your grocery store in Hometown, USA - that tomato has a much larger embodied energy than a tomato grown in your own backyard in August, because of all the fuel used in shipping. Choosing a locally grown, seasonally appropriate tomato, in this example, is a great and tasty way to lessen your carbon footprint. Imagine how much each of us can do to fight greenhouse gas emissions by making each purchase with embodied energy in mind!

Want to measure your own carbon footprint? It is very difficult, currently, to measure the embodied energy of everything you buy or do. However, to get an idea of how common decisions can increase or decrease your carbon footprint, try Sustainable International's carbon calculator. Simply enter different values to see how quickly your actions add up – for example, try entering different amounts of driving and flying miles to determine how significantly you can decrease your carbon footprint by traveling wisely. When you are ready to actively start reducing the impacts of your everyday purchases, visit www.redirectguide.com to find environmentally and socially preferable products and services, and sustainable living tips. Also, click here for a “starter” list of easy actions that you can do today!

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What is the Greenhouse Effect?
The greenhouse effect is the rise in temperature that the Earth experiences because certain naturally occurring gases and gases emitted as a result of human activities into the atmosphere – such as water vapor, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane – trap energy from the sun. Because these gasses warm the Earth, they’re referred to as greenhouse gases.

How can renewable energy and energy efficiency projects reduce greenhouse gas pollution?
Simply put, investing in Carbon Offsets and Green Tags reduces greenhouse gases by replacing fossil fuels with renewable energies, through energy saving measures and by introducing both energy efficient technology and processes.

For example, when a renewable energy facility sends electricity to the grid, less electricity needs to be generated from coal and other fossil fuels. Therefore, investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects reduces the amount greenhouse gasses and other pollutants emitted.

Why is climate change my personal responsibility?
1 - First, the average American causes 15,000 pounds of greenhouse gas (GHG) – like carbon dioxide (CO2) – to be released into the Earth's atmosphere each year – the highest of any country in the world, and more than China, India and Japan combined.

2 - Second, everyone travels some, and travel is widely regarded as one of the main culprits of climate change, accounting for 1/3 of world-wide climate damaging GHG emissions.

3 – Businesses don't currently have to account for their GHG emissions in the US, the Government is not acting at all in other countries, and there is growing scientific concern that countries that require emission reductions – such as those which ratified the Kyoto Protocol – do not go far enough.

Scientific evidence proves beyond any reasonable doubt that manmade GHG emissions cause global warming. The effect of GHG in the atmosphere is cumulative, so acting now has more impact than acting later. The bottom line is that global climate change is a serious threat to the health and well being of our planet. We must act now to protect our children, grandchildren, and their grandchildren.

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Are Carbon Offsets merely a means to reduce guilt?
No. Carbon Offsets and Green Tags funded through this program stimulate demand for renewable energy, increase energy efficiency, and provide incentives for renewable energy production. In this manner, we can reduce the unavoidable GHG emissions related to all of our daily purchases (food, heat, electricity, etc) and activities.

There is no better way to reduce a person’s overall carbon footprint than to simply limit consumption and choose more sustainable products. Understanding that our daily activities and the products we buy contribute to our GHG emissions is an important step to limiting our negative environmental impacts. Funding offsets through this program is a way to take responsibility for pollution that can’t be avoided.  We encourage everyone to consider how they can lessen their carbon footprint, and then offset the remaining GHG emissions. Are some Carbon Offsets and Green Tags better than others?
Carbon Offsets and Green Tags (collectively “offsets”) are as varied as the providers offering them, which is why it’s import for businesses and consumers to consider the differences between them.

1 - The first consideration is whether the ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) would be reduced anyway. STI’s offset projects go beyond business-as-usual and would not happen without the funds generated from individuals and programs like this visa program. Our offsets generate a physical reduction or avoidance of CO2 emissions over what would have occurred if the investment had not been made - this type of offset is referred to as providing environmental additional benefits.

2 -A second consideration is whether the projects that generate the offsets exist or not. If an offset project is not in operation, businesses and consumers who invest in the project cannot claim to have offset their emissions. Although “future offsets” may be a good place to invest money, there is no emission reduction achieved until the project is operational. It is important to note that all the offset projects funded by this visa program are in operation.

3 - The third consideration is to determine what, if any, ancillary benefits are provided and who specifically benefits.

All of the international offset projects that STI offers must contribute to sustainable development. Positive impacts include improved quality of life, transfer of knowledge and technology, local job generation, and reductions in air and water pollution. All of the domestic Green Tags investments support renewable energy projects that are independently reviewed and endorsed by leading environmental groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council. These projects are carefully sited and operated to minimize local environmental impacts. In addition, Green Tags help build a market for renewable energy, reduce global climate change, and may have other environmental benefits, such as reducing regional air pollution.

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What is environmental additionality and why is it important?
There are many ways to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions like carbon dioxide (CO2) other than investing in Carbon Offsets and Green Tags (collectively “offsets”). Buying “green” products and services, choosing locally grown foods, and replacing old light bulbs with energy efficient light bulbs are all examples of how to reduce GHG emissions, but these things are often done for other reasons than reducing CO2.

The offset programs supported by this visa program are designed to reduce GHG emissions in addition to those reductions that would already happen for other reasons. This environmental additionality is important to achieve the desired GHG emission reduction sought by those wishing to lessen their carbon footprint.

Who is behind STI’s Carbon Offset and Green Tag Projects?
STI is a US-based 501(c)(3) non-profit and is the exclusive provider of MyClimate™ Carbon Offsets in North America. And, STI is Bonneville Environmental Foundation’s (BEF) travel and tourism partner in providing Green Tags. MyClimate™ is a Switzerland-based registered charity that falls under the strict requirements of Swiss law, which state that at least 80% of the money it receives must benefit the projects it endorses. The MyClimate™ Charitable Foundation Board defines the standards, criteria and processes to ensure the integrity and credibility of all MyClimate™ transactions.BEF is a US-based non-profit environmental foundation. All of the net revenues from the sale of Green Tags are reinvested in the next generation of new renewable energy projects and in watershed restoration projects.

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What are Green Tags?
Green Tags, also known as Renewable Energy Certificates (REC), are market-based commodities representing 1,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity from new renewable resources like solar, wind, hydro and biomass (i.e., Energy produced by combusting organic materials such as wood and agricultural crops and wastes).The Green Tags reflect the avoided pollution that results from substituting new wind, solar and other renewable electricity sources for coal or gas. The net revenues realized by selling Green Tags are then invested in developing the next generation of renewable energy facilities. Want more detail?
A renewable energy facility produces two distinct "products." The first is electricity. The second is the package of environmental benefits resulting from not generating the same electricity – and emissions – from a conventional gas or coal-fired power plant. The renewable electricity displaces the dirtier power that would otherwise have been generated and delivered to the power pool.

These environmental benefits can be separated from the electrical power and packaged into a Green Tag. The Green Tag then represents those collective environmental benefits (e.g. so many tons of CO2 displaced). For example, 1,000 megawatt hours (MWh) generated at a hypothetical average fossil fuel power plant (that's about as much as 100 homes use in a year) will result in the release of approximately 700 tons of CO2, 4 tons of sulfur dioxide, 2 tons of nitrous oxides, and additional amounts of carbon monoxide, mercury, and other pollutants that affect air, water, and the earth's climate. The same 1,000 MWh from wind or solar generation produce none of these pollutants.

The electricity generated by the renewable project is sold as generic power, separately from the Green Tag. No environmental claims can be made for this power because the Green Tag now represents the entire package of environmental benefits associated with these specific megawatt hours. The distinction between the two products is protected by enforceable contractual agreements.

Green Tags are good because they significantly benefit the renewable energy industry by broadening the market beyond local utilities that offer green power programs to include corporate and residential end-users.

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How do Green Tags Work?
When a renewable energy facility operates, it creates electricity that is delivered into a vast network of transmission wires, often referred to as "the grid." The grid is segmented into regional power pools such as the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC), for example, which covers much of the Western part of the US. The Green Tags that are produced by the projects that STI offers deliver energy into the WECC. In many cases, these pools are not interconnected.

To help facilitate the sale of renewable energy nationally, a system was established that separates renewable electricity into two parts: the electricity or electrical energy produced by a renewable generator and the renewable "attributes" of that generation. The renewable or "green" attributes are sold separately as renewable energy certificates, or Green Tags. Only one certificate may be issued for each unit of renewable energy produced.This separation of energy and attributes allows anyone to support new renewable energy development, regardless of whether or not their utility company offers it to them.

Green-e Certification
Green-e is the leading independent certification and verification program for renewable energy and companies that use renewable energy in the US. STI’s supplier, BEF, and each of its suppliers are required to disclose the quantity, type and geographic source of each Green Tag.

For information about Green-e, please visit www.green-e.org or call toll free 1-888-63-GREEN.

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CDM Carbon Offset Projects
CDM projects are official projects pertaining to the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and are controlled by the Kyoto protocol. The projects are established in developing countries and registered with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UN - FCCC). They generate Certified Emission Reductions (CERs). A CER unit refers to one reduced ton of CO2.

The CER certificates can be traded within the European emission trading system e.g. they can be purchased by a company in the European emission trading group in order to achieve a part of their reduction goals. The CER certificates are also suitable for compensation on a voluntary basis.

VER Carbon Offset Projects
VER projects allow us to finance small projects in rural and economically disadvantaged regions. These projects are implemented in accordance with the guidelines of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) procedures but are not registered with UNFCCC because they are too small i.e., Carbon Offset projects that reduce less than 5,000 tons of CO2 per year do not meet the requirements for CDM registration.

Verified Emission Reductions (VER) are the type of certificates generated during such projects. A VER always corresponds to one reduced ton of CO2 and can be used exclusively for voluntary greenhouse gas (GHG) compensations. The most important features of the VERs STI offers follow:

The emission reductions are calculated in accordance with CDM regulations using the same methods and documentation templates. An independent institution controls the emission reductions. Depending on the size of the project, the validation occurs through an expert committee from Swiss universities (for significantly lower transaction costs than those of CDM) or through CDM accredited certification programs such as the SGS Climate Change Program and the programs offered by TÜV Rheinland Group and Det Norske Veritas.

All VER projects are developed in accordance with CDM Gold Standards criteria.

Find out more about VER project procedures here.

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The CDM Gold Standard
The Gold Standard is an independent eco-label designed to honor superior carbon offset project standards, and the emission reduction certificates generated from them. The Gold Standard criteria were developed to supplement existing Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) Joint Implementation (JI) procedures under the general management of the World Wildlife Fund. The concept came into being to effectively reduce greenhouse gases, to offer increased transparency, and to contribute to sustainable development in developing countries. The Gold Standard may be applied to CDM - JI and VER projects.

Find out more about the criteria that Gold Standard projects must fulfill here.

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