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Money in the air

Name bar Watching the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico spread, it's hard not to feel guilty about why the oil well that malfunctioned and triggered the mess was there in the first place.

My whole life circulates around my car, whether or not I like to admit it or think about it in those terms. My wonderful significant other lives about 65 miles from my house and we like to see each other -- a lot. I happen to live fairly far away from where I work, stuck in a place I can't sell. I only live three miles away from the grocery store, but I've never even tried biking there. The last time I used my bike was just to get some exercise and hang out with friends. Carbon footprint

I'm working from home a lot more these days, which has cut my gas consumption (and spending). But I need to do more to cut my polluting ways. Luckily, a few months ago, I found a website that gives me just the incentive I need to whack my electricity bill (in addition to the savings on my bill -- and in addition to providing some kind of salve for the images of oil-soaked birds burned into my brain).

MyEmissionsExchange.com asks you to enter all of your electric bills (or gas... whichever service you'd use to heat and cool your place) for a year, to find out what your energy consumption is. If you decrease the amount of kilowatt hours (in my case), you eventually earn carbon credits that can be sold -- and I get the cash.

The site, which is for-profit, is blunt about its premise. "In order to actually effect change, we at MyEex feel it is necessary to make individuals responsible for the external cost of pollution. How do we do this? With money."

The cold, cold winter has helped me cut my electric bills overall compared to a year ago. But I feel like we skipped spring and any comfortable weather all together, so I'm using my a/c more than I did last year at this time. Still, I'm already about a fifth of a way to earning my first credit. The website says that the value of a credit varies, but last year, one credit was worth about $18. That may not sound like a lot, but considering you don't have to do much to earn this, I'd say it's a good deal. (No cheating: You'll need your electric bills so the site can verify your savings.)

The site offers a ton of solutions for reducing your carbon footprint, many of which come with savings somewhere along the line -- even if you pay money upfront to save in the long run.

Have you ever used a site like this? Would it change your behavior? I think the mere act of entering my bills into a website and watching my credits fluctuate will have an effect on me, even if subtle. Surely more often I will be able to survive with just the ceiling fan on instead of turning on the air conditioner. (And maybe I'll even turn off this computer and take my bike for a spin more frequently too.)

At least I hope so.

And I hope those birds can tell, somehow.

Posted by Nirvi Shah at 10:25 AM on May 25, 2010 in Savings , Utilities | Permalink | Facebook | Digg | del.icio.us | AIM

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