The Birth of the “Chicken Offset”
The battle over gay rights and the Southern fast food chain Chick-fil-A has dominated the news in the last couple of weeks.
Kiss-ins, boycotts, and counterprotests have all ensued. But maybe the most clever response to the anti-gay marriage comments is the “chicken offset,” the brainchild of a lawyer, political operative, and all-around character named Ted Frank (disclosure: one of us – Sprigman – went to law school with Ted).
These build on the existing idea of “carbon offsets,” which started out as a way to bring market flexibility to CO2 emissions caps. If a polluter exceeds a cap, it can purchase an offset. The money that the polluter pays for the offsets supports projects that reduce CO2 emissions – say, the construction of a wind farm. The new, green projects “offset” the bad emissions.
Today, firms like Brighter Planet offer offsets that consumers can voluntarily purchase to balance out the carbon output of their flying, their houses, their weddings, and even their pets (did you know that the average housecat has a carbon pawprint of over 0.5 ton – mostly from production and transport of cat food?).
Ted’s stroke of inspiration was to tweak the concept of the offset and apply it to chicken sandwiches. As he explains on his new website, chickenoffsets.com, he loves Chick-fil-A sandwiches, but doesn’t want his love to come at the expense of his gay friends. And so every time you give in to that chicken sandwich jones, Ted will sell you an offset for $1. He promises that he’ll give at least 90% of that dollar to pro-gay rights groups. Which is much more than anti-gay groups are going to make on your lunch at Chick-fil-A.