Home buyers in Seattle will be the first in the nation with the ability to obtain a “carbon-neutral mortgage” from local real estate lenders. Under such programs, the lender agrees to make a donation to offset the greenhouse gas the new home will generate in the first year.

“We anticipate seeing this [type of program] in other states because it will be an appealing thing to home buyers,” says Linda VerNooy, acting assistant director of the Seattle-based NetGreen, a nonprofit outreach group whose Portland, Ore.—based partner, Climate Trust, develops projects to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

According to NetGreen, the average home produces 18 to 20 tons of greenhouse gas per year, which is generated when electricity is produced. Under a carbon-neutral mortgage, the lending partner will make a tax-deductible contribution to NetGreen. The money will be used to fund carbon-offset projects around the country.

The contribution will only occur the first year of the mortgage, but the owner must pledge to make the contribution in the second year, in order to receive the carbon-neutral mortgage. VerNooy says the contribution works out to be about $180 to $200 per year, which is calculated at $10 per ton of greenhouse gas.

Former Vice President Al Gore has suggested the creation of a carbon-neutral mortgage association to stimulate the use of new financial instruments in the private sector by utilities, banks, and home builders as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

For more information on the NetGreen carbon-neutral program, visit www.achievenetgreen.org.