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The un-trademarked term began with a group of activists who created a website and online tool to allow any group or individual to measure, reduce and track their personal Carbon footprint. This original group was brought together by Gregor Barnum from Seventh Generation Inc., Jasna Brown from Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and Bob Ferris from Yestermorrow Design/Build School with the intent of launching a national effort to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
The "Mad River Valley" Carbon Shredders gained some notoriety in local and national media after they successfully petitioned several local towns to approve resolutions, referred to as the "Carbon Shredders 10 by 10 initiative," to reduce residential CO2 emissions by 10% over 2008 levels by 2010.
An expanding list of "carbon shredder groups" involving thousands of individuals and groups is now spreading across the United States via the internet. This is to many people a movement about environmentalism and re-localization. Yet for many others, being a carbon shredder is simply a new twist on old-fashioned thriftiness applied to energy costs.
Carbon shredding is similar to the "low carbon diet" concept pioneered by author David Gershon, which walks people through a "recipe" for reducing CO2 emissions, combined with web 2.0 online group-collaboration concepts.