Prove your humanity

A Lancaster-based nonprofit aims to give people and businesses a way to take responsibility for their greenhouse gas emissions while helping their neighbors.

RegenAll is starting a Community Climate Fund as a way for people to pay for their carbon footprint. For a $75 contribution, RegenAll says it will reduce one ton of carbon.

Lowering emissions outside your direct control is known as an offset. Offset projects include planting a tree or replacing a gas furnace with an electric heat pump.

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Eric Sauder, the company’s founder, said global offset programs often lack transparency. Keeping offsets local will hold the project accountable.

“It also, hopefully, inspires people to be more involved in their community and addressing other equity needs and challenges right in their backyard,” Sauder said.

Sauder says he was inspired to start RegenAll after working for an agricultural consultancy firm and learning more about regenerative solutions to the climate crisis. Those measures draw carbon out of the atmosphere and improve soil and ecosystem health, rather than just limit the bad things people put into the atmosphere.

RegenAll’s first offset projects will support energy efficiency upgrades and heat pump installation in low-income households. Sauder said he is looking for partners to do this work.

The fund will be administered and overseen by a volunteer board.

“We’re trying to enable projects that, it wouldn’t have been possible for this person to be able to make these investments in their home, and so it would have continued to pollute at the level that it did,” he said.

The Natural Resources Defense Council says high-quality offsets are real, enforceable, permanent, and additional. For example, paying to preserve an acre of forest that is in line to be cut down for timber is a successful offset. But paying to preserve an acre of forest that is not under threat, and would have been preserved anyway, is just a gift.

The environmental group encourages people to reduce their own emissions before looking to offsets.

RegenAll’s fund director Leilani Richardson said energy efficiency projects have greater durability as a carbon offset than tree-planting programs, which are susceptible to issues like pests, disease, and wildfires.

Richardson, whose background is in education and program development, said the fund is a way to accelerate a business’s climate work, but it’s only one part of the solution. RegenAll works with companies to first calculate the business’s carbon footprint and then helps design a climate action plan for reducing those emissions.

RegenAll has also worked with the City of Lancaster on climate solutions. Lancaster hopes to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.

This story is produced in partnership with StateImpact Pennsylvania, a collaboration among The Allegheny Front, WPSU, WITF and WHYY to cover the commonwealth's energy economy.