Carbon is the new gold standard

May 16, 2017

I have shared the mantra of Local Matters alongside the progressives of my generation for over a decade now. Buy and support local; sports, schools, strawberries and carrots, artists, startups, incubators, investors.

But when it comes time to invest money for my family’s future, I hit a wall: Where are the real opportunities to invest locally? Municipal bonds don’t give me the return I need. Stocks are a long play and risky in the short term (especially now). Mutual Funds diversify my risk but fail to impact my community. Sustainable Index Funds don’t feel authentic. What I’m left with is a decision matrix that leaves real local impact on the bench.

It’s a lot to consider as a whole and left me in the same place we all start: How can I balance a profitable investment with a responsible future?

elon musk quote

My tipping point for Responsible Investing stems from 1971, when the US abandoned the gold standard and severed the last link between the dollar and the very thing that ties us to our economy; our physical place.

For Location to become carbon’s gold standard, it will have to bind our new economy to our communities. This federal administration won’t give us one, I’m proposing that we make our own.

For Location to become a real ‘home base’ for the new economy, I think it will need to address a couple issues:

Disconnection – My money goes into a black box, which puts out a number that goes up, or down, in my Stash Invest account.

Out of touch – CSRs don’t make a dent in my quest for authentic impact. You save the wales, maybe; or the polar bears, or indigenous tribes, or any other thing that I cannot see. Face value isn’t enough in a world of alternative facts.

Too Big to Fail – My community, city, and family need to be Too Big to Fail. We can’t all move to tropical Thunder Bay in 50 years.

Risky and Volatile – Markets crash because computers somewhere did something right, or wrong, or were hacked…The lack of control in investments today and the volatile nature of our national leaders makes it feel that the world is getting riskier.


Local Matters.
The 21st century economy will flourish by reconnecting our economy to our place once again, but with a twist. In the next few months, we will begin to connect the stocks, bonds, index funds, mutual funds, and commodities that make our economy grow with certified carbon offsets and Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) that help sustainable brands and universities achieve their carbon neutrality commitments and, the piece that ties everything together, Urban Offsets’ Community Carbon Projects.

Step 1: Over the past 6 months, we built Community Carbon Projects for Duke University, Arizona State University, Elon University, and Davidson College in 26 communities across North Carolina and Arizona. We recently began serving New York City as well. Buying carbon offsets and RECs from these Community Carbon Projects supports the planting and growth of healthy trees by local nonprofits like TreesCharlotte and the New York Restoration Project.

Community Carbon Projects today

[Offsets + RECs + Local Tree Planting and Care]


The future we want is built on the risks of today.
Developing the world’s first scalable Community Carbon marketplace ( was Step 2. This is where we monitor our Community’s trees, connect carbon offsets and soon, RECs, to each project, provide universities with urban forestry and carbon data, to name just a few. Step 3 is our most ambitious step yet: Use Community Carbon Projects to lower investment risk and allow them to trade on a new TD Ameritrade-like website for carbon.


  1. Choose Community Carbon Projects in the communities around you, at your daughter’s university, or where you plan to go on your next vacation. We will probably start with local tree planting projects using the Duke University Carbon Offsets Initiative standard and then grow to include recognized weatherization projects and others.
  2. Choose an index or set of public stocks from domestic exchanges like the New York Stock Exchange or the S&P 500. Provide themed options like Sustainable tech, Fair labor, or even Oil & Gas to build your bundle around.
  3. Select carbon offsets from the country’s most trusted set of standards like the Climate Action Reserve and the Verified Carbon Standard. Choose offsets from forestry, wetlands, or landfill gas.
  4. Add in Green-E certified RECs sourced from solar and wind projects around the country.

The result of 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 is called a Bundle, for now. I think of it as more of a locally grounded mutual fund…but will hold off on the final name for now.

tdameritrade equities mastercard

Local reduces everyone’s risk. It should also influence the investments we make.
In Step 4, we will evaluate and provide context for carbon risk by offset source, supplier, verifier, and standard (to name a few) in order to help us make better investment decisions and better Bundles (ugh). Risk-graded Bundles will help us analyze and project bundle valuations, profitability indexes, growth rates, and their all-important environmental, social, and financial strengths.

I think that will keep us pretty busy for now.

Shawn Gagne
Founder & CEO of Urban Offsets
(336) 686-0614