What was the biggest challenge of turning Carbonfund.org into a national leader?
EC: We had a big hurdle to get over in convincing people that you can reduce your carbon footprint at an affordable price. Once we were able to do that, the entire market changed. There were groups charging $20 or so to offset a ton of carbon. We knew we could do it in the $5-$6 range, and thats what we charged at that time. After we got over that initial hurdle of saying basically a certified ton is a certified ton, we were off to the races. It was that explanation that got our first large partners. Now were known for both our high-quality projects and our low cost-per-ton.
Was it difficult to balance family with a shared work life? Did you take turns worrying about work and family?
LC: Absolutely, and really when starting on a mission that has a great impact, ones going to talk about it a lot. Its hard to separate work and home. How we did it was deciding that Eric would take the lead on the organization, and Id take more of a part time role so that someone would take care of the kids.
Do you have advice for young families starting on an entrepreneurial path?
EC: I think you have to take chances in life. You probably get three, four or five chances in life to jump and see whats going to happen. And if you dont, youll always regret it. So being an entrepreneur, taking that chance, leaving that job, hiking that mountain or doing whatever it is you decideyou should. Its exciting and those opportunities almost always work out better, whether they are instantly successful or not. So I think young people should become entrepreneurs. Now, how you manage that within your family, within your relationships, is a challenge, and you need to work at that almost as hard as running your organization or business.
LC: I think there have to be rules to ensure some balance. At some point the work discussion has to end so you have time for specific days or hours that are only family-oriented. Starting an organization takes a lot of work and time, a lot of thinking and conversation. But its nice because your family is then invested in something; our daughters definitely feel theyre part of the organization weve created.
What are Carbonfund.orgs key priorities?
LC: You hear people talk about some of the solutions. The Obama administration talks about green jobs, and just the other night Bill Clinton was talking with David Letterman about green jobs and how easily the transformation can be made. Carbonfund.orgs role needs to be helping make solutions easy and affordable, including keeping the message simplethat there are simple solutions out there, while building support for understanding and reducing ones carbon footprint.
EC: One of the things weve done very well is that we have simplified the problem of climate change and have made carbon reduction projects simple to understand. I think some of the policy discussion may have gotten far too complicated, and I think many people think a solution to climate change is both really complicated and expensive. I think were uniquely established to show there are simple, affordable solutions.
What are Carbonfund.orgs biggest accomplishments from your perspective?
EC: One of our biggest accomplishments is that weve been able to prove theres a viable market for carbon. There were academic reports that said it would cost $50-$100 to reduce one ton of carbon. Those of us in the energy-efficiency sector and other industries knew that wasnt the case. At $50-$100 ton, there is no climate legislation because it simply breaks the bank. We were able to show that you can reduce carbon for $10 or less a ton, and that these are the types of carbon reduction projects that people will support.
Read more of the Q&A with Eric & Lesley Carlson here.