Environmental economics research in practice: Carbon onsetting

This article originally appeared in the Spring/Summer 2024 issue of The Bulletin.

SINCE HE BEGAN teaching in 2007, Professor of Economics Jerrell Ross Richer ’85 has been at the forefront of revitalizing the global economics minor at Goshen College, infusing it with a focus on climate change and sustainability. At the heart of Richer’s approach are the three sustainability guiding principles: Is it planet-friendly, people-friendly and profitable?

Jerrell Ross Richer ’85

These tenets serve as the foundation for two alternate-year classes designed to explore the intersection of economics and environmental responsibility, with a carbon onsetting project connecting them. Carbon onsetting seeks to not only reduce carbon footprints (frequently referred to as “carbon offsetting”), but also to give back environmentally in equal measure, from tree planting initiatives to investments in carbon-neutral and climate supporting organizations and technologies like carbonsequestration.

The genesis of the carbon onsetting project at GC can be traced back to students’ curiosity about the economic implications of environmental sustainability. Inspired by Richer’s classes and exposure to prairie planting projects on campus, students embarked on a journey to quantify the financial impact of ecological initiatives. Through rigorous research and collaboration, students developed a project linking prairie planting efforts at Goshen College to tangible environmental and economic impacts. Their findings demonstrated the benefits of environmental stewardship, from reduced maintenance costs to enhanced biodiversity and community well-being.

Rewarded with success, students have expanded their focus to include the environmental impact of the college’s global education programs.

By Ashlee Hoogenboom