Travelers flying out of San Francisco International Airport can be the first in the nation to wipe away some of the damage their flights wreak on the planet by swiping their credit cards.
"We realize people are going to fly," said Steve McDougal, executive vice president of 3Degrees, a San Francisco company that helped SFO develop the program. "This gives them something they can do to reduce their impact. This is just one of many small things people need to do."
The kiosks are located near the entrances to Terminal 3 and international terminals A and G - behind security checkpoints and perched in front of large signs reading, "Keep our skies blue. Purchase your air travel carbon offset here."
Setting up the Climate Passport program cost $190,000 in airport funds, said Kandace Bender, deputy airport director.
Judging from the reaction of the first two travelers to take a test spin of the touch screens, it's not clear whether the program will fly.
Soon after a press conference to unveil the kiosk in Terminal 3 concluded, Shane Johnson, 39, a traveling salesman from Vancouver, B.C., strolled up to take a look.
"What is it?" he asked.
Johnson punched in his starting airport and his destination - Vancouver to SFO and back - entered the number of passengers in his party - one - and hit the "add flight" button and the "calculate my flights" button.
His round trip would produce 1,186 pounds of carbon dioxide, which could be offset with a contribution of $7.26, the computer said. Johnson chose not to tap the "purchase now" button and slide his credit card into the kiosk.
"I don't live here, so I prefer to make my donations at home," he said.
A few minutes later, Bostonian Ari Peskoe, catching a flight home after a job interview, stopped by the machine and became the first person to purchase a carbon offset at SFO.
"My flight was free, so I thought buying some greenhouse gas reduction was the least I could do," he said.
His one-way trip home, the computer concluded, would produce 1,999 pounds of carbon dioxide, which could be offset for $12.24.
Despite his purchase, Peskoe said he's a bit skeptical about the concept of carbon offsets. Some critics question whether some of the programs that receive money are effective in reducing carbon dioxide.
McDougal said he understands such doubts, but that the projects funded by SFO fliers have been approved by an independent third party.
Climate Passport contributions fund the Garcia River Forest, a reforestation project in Mendocino County where redwood and Douglas fir trees are being added to a forest that had been heavily logged. They also go to the SFCarbon Fund, which is steering the money to Dogpatch Biofuels, a bio-diesel fueling station in southeastern San Francisco.
E-mail Michael Cabanatuan at firstname.lastname@example.org.