Fight Climate Change at the Gas Pump?

Green Gas harnesses consumer donations to tackle carbon emissions from fuel
green gas for pumps
Photograph courtesy of Green Gas Movement

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Will consumers pay more for gasoline if it would help offset the carbon emissions from their fuel purchase? Nonprofit Green Gas Movement aims to prove they will—and that fuel retailers can benefit by providing them the opportunity.

Before launching Green Gas in 2016, founders Kyle Kornack, Liam Madden and David Cooch owned a packaged beverage company, and they sold their product in Whole Foods. After realizing that they could offset the greenhouse gas footprint of their beverage factory with a small investment in a reforestation program, the partners worked to have their product certified as carbon neutral. They then tested whether Whole Foods customers would appreciate the effort with marketing material at the store. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive.

“Overall I saw something I wasn’t expecting: a marketing value to create environmental good—give back to the planet and community, and do it in a way that’s good for business,” Kornack, executive director of Green Gas, Cambridge, Mass., told CSP Daily News.

This success encouraged them to seek out other industries that could benefit from a similar consumer-driven approach. The retail fueling industry appeared to be an obvious opportunity.

A recent poll by Yale and George Mason universities that found nearly 60% of Americans are either concerned or alarmed about climate change. Meanwhile, transportation accounts for about 28% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, with light-duty vehicles supplying 60% of those emissions, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“Why not give fuel retailers the opportunity to reduce their customers’ stress by making it easy for those customers to clean up their pollution?” Kornack said.

Green Gas offers three programs for business customers:

  • Pump donations. At the fuel dispenser point of sale, customers can make an optional $1 donation to a local tree-planting project that Green Gas coordinates to clean up 100% of greenhouse gases emitted by an average 10-gallon fill up. The “Green Gas” option interfaces with major POS systems and requires no special hardware or software.
  • Green merchandising. Consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies can sponsor the Green Gas program at the store and donate a nickel or dime per purchase of their product to a reforestation program. Brands that have partnered with Green Gas include smartwater and Kind. Green Gas provides marketing material to call out the product on store shelves and at the pump.
  • App-enabled donations. Launching later in 2019, Green Gas will offer a “charity layer” for existing fuel payment apps that allows users to donate a portion of any applicable fuel discount to a carbon-offset project. “Think of it as digital charity box option that pops up as a promotion on apps,” said Kornack. Green Gas is the official carbon offset partner for private-label debit-card provider Zipline.

A Meaningful Experience

Green Gas’ program is available at 29 sites on the East Coast, at fuel retailers including Sandri Energy, Greenfield, Mass., which has 15 c-stores in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont; and more recently, Tiger Fuel Co., Charlottesville, Va., which debuted the program at nine locations.

Despite consumers’ reputation for being price-sensitive with gasoline, Green Gas and its retailer partners have found a surprising number are willing to pay a little more to offset the pollution caused by their purchase.

“With Sandri Energy, more than 15,000 folks in the first two months opted into the program,” Kornack said. “Every gas station with Green Gas at the pump will generate enough funding to remove one-quarter million miles driven of pollution from the atmosphere every year, so it’s a pretty significant impact.”

One sign the offer has a measurable business benefit: Sandri Energy’s Net Promoter Score—a metric that measures whether a customer is likely to recommend a business—grew nearly 20% after it implemented the Green Gas donation program.

Green Gas hopes to expand its program to more than 1,000 sites by the end of 2019.

“We see it as essential to involve both consumers and retailers to work together to benefit the community and the environment,” Kornack said. “It’s a more powerful statement in our research than just a corporation doing it on the side, behind the scenes. It makes for a more exciting program and engaging and meaningful experience at the pump.”

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