Etsy helps its 1.6 million merchants sell everything from belly chains to gingerbread dollhouses. And now it's helping them install solar panels too. From this May, the marketplace for homemade goods will start offering steep discounts on rooftop solar, in a partnership with Geostellar, a national solar installer.
The program will start with a pilot in four states: West Virginia, New York, Utah, and Florida. About 300 sellers will be able to get average discounts worth $2,000 compared to standard prices. If successful, Etsy will then expand the initiative to all 50 states.
"Most of our sellers are running their businesses from their home or home studios. That's a lot of roofs," says Devon Leahy, Etsy's director of sustainability and social innovation. "We're looking at a significant solar potential."
Etsy hopes to cut its own carbon footprint by booking its sellers' emissions reductions as its own. The actual discount amount will be calculated based on Geostellar estimates for solar generation in each state multiplied by that state's emissions "factor" (that is, how dirty its existing energy generation mix is), and the "social cost" of carbon. The Environmental Protection Agency calculates this currently at $37 a ton, measuring all the impacts of climate change to society.
"This is a unique and creative soliton to reducing our emissions. We think this is a model that can be applied and grown outside of Etsy," Leahy says.
About 95% of Etsy's own footprint comes not from its direct operations but from shipping goods between its sellers and their buyers. To have a bigger climate impact, it was therefore logical for the company to look at ways to offset its sellers' emissions, Leahy says.
Etsy chose Utah, West Virginia, Florida, New York as starting states because they have relatively high-energy-related carbon emissions and fewer incentives to switch to solar than other states. "We looked for places where the grid mix is dirtier so we could generate more offsets and then we could give our sellers more money in the discount," says Chelsea Mozen, who helped set up the program.
It will be interesting to see if sellers want to take up the discounts, and whether Etsy can spread the program to other states over time.