I was reading about carbon offsets the other day and checked out the store at HubCulture. They offer a product in their store called carbon offset, it’s basically $8 to pay for one tonne of carbon. The idea is that the money is invested into sustainable, green businesses. Businesses that reduce their carbon footprint are likely to be invested in.
On the one hand, it is a bit of a guilt trip. On the other, it is nice way to incentivize lowering your carbon footprint in a free market.
It’s a marketing tactic and something like a mutual fund or broker; let someone worry about figuring out which cleantech fund or environmental non-profit will do the most to decrease the carbon footprint.
From the HubCulture product page for Carbon Offset, they explain:
Hub Culture carbon offset purchases are aggregated by individual purchases to pool resources for offset purchases at a slightly larger scale. Hub Culture offset purchases are linked specifically to REDD forest protection with Wildlife Works and to the Nike Mata no Peito project, which is actively protecting Amazon rain forest through the development of carbon protection purchases to save this important natural resource.
Carbon Offsets but for Proprietary Software?
So I was wondering whether or not this would work for free and open source software. For example, if you received a copy of Microsoft Windows pre-installed on your computer, you could pay $5 (or some other amount established by various signals like Windows market share) for a Windows License Offset. That $5 would then be invested into businesses that exclusively use GNU/Linux or into free/open source software projects that are not available on Windows, perhaps as bounty money for fixing bugs.
The idea is that most people do want to support free and open source software but it can be difficult to choose projects to donate to. Further more, there is a hidden cost to using Windows such as vendor lock in or poor quality software. Making the cost visible with a Windows License offset product will be the same as making visible the carbon footprint of businesses, products and homes.
This would be another marketing tactic to encourage people to donate to free/open source. A far-fetched idea perhaps.