By John DeFore

It had to happen eventually: With credit card rewards programs offering everything from brighterplanetvisa.pngfrequent flier miles to movie tickets, eventually one would offer soothed consciences, one carbon-offsetting “point” at a time.

The Brighter Planet card, a Visa credit card offered by Bank of America, dispenses what it calls “EarthSmart points” for every dollar charged to the card. Those points in turn fund carbon offsets in the form of supporting existing clean-energy projects and helping fund the construction of new ones. (The well-regarded NativeEnergy organization, which has supplied offsets to everything from the new film There Will Be Blood to the historic homestead of Silent Spring author Rachel Carson, administers the offset program.)

Of course, one important method of offsetting the impacts of consumption is to reduce what you buy in the first place, a fact that isn’t lost on the group behind the card. In their documentation, the Brighter Planet team puts it simply: “Can I buy my way out of polluting? No, there is no free pass to pollute. Your efforts to conserve and recycle are crucial to the health of our planet. Still, there is no way for you to reduce your emissions to zero. Brighter Planet products enable you to ‘make up the difference’ between what you conserve in your everyday life and your total impact on the climate.” They’ve happily teamed with Bank of America (who last year announced a $20 billion Green initiative), arguing that the “leading issuer of credit cards in the world” is in a unique position to push the offset idea into the mainstream. The web site advertising the credit card is heavily stocked with reduce/reuse/recycle tips — even if it never comes right out and discourages your next point-earning trip to the mall.