What is carbon neutrality?
Carbon neutral, carbon neutrality, carbon offsets, carbon footprint-these phrases are often lobbed around in the company of each other.
Many companies are proclaiming the intent to go carbon neutral across multiple industries and platforms.
At its’ simplest, to be carbon neutral is to put into the atmosphere and take out of the atmosphere the same amount of greenhouse gasses, giving you a 0 balance. A net 0 carbon “footprint” means reaching a balance between the emission of carbon into the atmosphere and its removal through sequestering or other offsets.
This is a big deal because carbon dioxide makes up about 80% of our planets' greenhouse gasses. Greenhouse gases absorb and emit energy, causing a “green house” like, warming effect.
We are facing a looming climate disaster, and combating this will be the toughest challenge humanity has ever faced. Experts estimate we have about 30 years before we hit a critical tipping point of no return where natures ability to correct itself will be thrown off by the cumulative impact of our industrial lifestyle. We need to be carbon neutral by 2050. To be able to be successful in avoiding this catastrophe, we will need to cooperate like never before on a world and industry wide scale.
We will need innovation in every aspect of modern life-agriculture, transportation, manufacturing, energy, every sector of business and commerce in the world economy. As of now, everything we do releases CO 2 into the atmosphere. But, we have hope, industry leaders and world figures are speaking out, drawing attention to the facts and science of the matter and connecting the dots to real life current events.
Younger generations will be the ones bearing the brunt of this and are making their voices heard. Exemplary people like young Greta Thunberg are leading the charge and voicing that eliminating all greenhouse gas emissions is a must or else; 100 years from now it will be too late. Our natural ecosystems will break down and fail, unable to fix the damage. We will be looking at massive climate shift, migration, starvation, and tragedy.
There are many others that see the danger and are making strides to do something about it and educate people. Bill Gates is a great example of a self-educated and passionate individual that is committed to raising awareness of the danger of climate change and putting his notoriety and resources towards finding solutions.
Although effort is going into the funding and expansion of alternative energy, there is more to do in other areas that is just starting to be addressed. For example, industrial steel and concrete. The demand for concrete is expected to grow about 16% , that amount would be equal to another New York every month for the next 40 years.
It was discovered that injecting carbon dioxide into concrete helps speed up the curing process. People realized this was a great opportunity for long term and large scale carbon sequestering because of the huge amounts of cement used in building. Bill Gates backed one of the companies in this area. Gates also galvanized other wealthy high profile individuals like Mike Bloomberg and Jeff Bezos to invest in other long term energy, agriculture and tech ventures whose goals are to combat climate change. An example of one of these ventures is a food company that creates food using fungi-not the mushroom type but a microbe that does not need soil or fertilizer that can be turned into food, leaving a small carbon footprint. Along this line, plant based meat substitutes are also gaining notoriety and popularity, as about 4% of greenhouse gas emissions come from cattle.
Wind and solar power can possibly provide up to 80% of energy needs but that may not helpful unless we can figure out a way to store it. Gates is a huge proponent of safe nuclear power and supports a method using liquid sodium instead of water in the reactors, which will help protect against the danger of a meltdown. Gates and others in the public eye are encouraging people to buy green products to drive down the “green premium” by increasing demand, thereby helping to drive up availability and drive down the prices.
Within the past decade, voter and consumer patterns have changed in reflection of a world in a climate crisis. Many consumers are more interested in dealing with retailers, products, and services that offer a product made sustainably and this is forcing the hand of many organizations. Some companies comprehend the big picture, long term effects on the environment, society and their finances and see that as reason enough to pursue carbon neutrality.
How do you track or who keeps score of carbon neutrality?
Companies and individuals can calculate carbon emissions first to understand how much and where their emissions are coming from. There are a variety of apps and websites that they can calculate from. Here are a few examples:
Calculators like these can help your understand your carbon footprint and how to reduce the impact of emissions that have already occurred.
We need to understand that setting a goal to be carbon neutral and net 0 for the future is well and good, but doesn’t account for what is already going on. For example, a 5-year target means there is still 5 years of carbon output that going to happen before anything committed to happens to balance it out.
Offsetting allows doing that right away by funding projects around work. Solutions need to address decarbonizing energy grids, transportation, stopping deforestation and planting more trees to take more carbon from the atmosphere and sequester it away. We see are seeing the importance of this now in our news in real time events-flooding, glaciers melting, typhoons, and the hurricanes of 2020.
Carbon offsetting helps to fund worldwide projects helping to decarbonize in the now. Offsetting can often make an impact sooner than as a single individual or company. Offsetting supports projects that focus on energy grids and transportation, for example, or combat deforestation (which contributes to about 10% global carbon emissions) on a global level.
How do we know they are happening, achieving what they promise? There are standards and accountability checks. An example of this is Verra https://verra.org and Gold Standard, https://www.goldstandard.org/articles/gold-standard-global-goals. Organization like these monitor and verify projects on an annual basis and compare results and savings year to year. The United Nations set up the Clean Development Mechanism, the first world-wide environmental investment and credit program that encourages sustainable development and emissions reductions, giving industrialized nations flexibility on how they meet their emission reduction or eradication goals.
We are recognizing we are all contributing to climate impact. Focusing on reducing first can delay real action. Carbon offsets allows us to address that problem and start the sea change by funding projects like re-forestation and renewable energy.
What you can do.
Total carbon neutrality may be in reach of larger organizations and corporations, especially those that have funding to new initiatives in the area, however may be out of reach for many. However, smaller businesses and each one of us can take steps individually to offset their carbon footprint.
A simple thing we can all do is walk instead of a drive. You will also reap the mental and physical benefits of this simple form of exercise. If you must drive as many need to, carpool whenever possible or take mass transit. Keep your car well maintained to keep it more efficient. If withing reach, buy an electric or hybrid car. Fly less.
Cut back on red meat. Cattle make up 4% of emission and consume a lot of water, feed and land. Consider a vegan diet, as red meat can have up to 100 x the impact of plant-based food. As an easy guide, eat towards the base of the food chain (plants, legumes, vegetables, fruits and grains). Consider where your food came from-eating locally produced food contributes less emissions than food items transported from somewhere else. Plan your meals so you waste less-Americans waste about 40% of the food they buy. Steer clear of disposable plastic or Styrofoam plates and utensils. Washing your dishes actually will take up fewer resources and is energy/more environmentally friendly. If you must use disposables choose biodegradable or compostable options if available. Wash and reuse take out containers.
At home, turn off lights -that seems a no-brainer but many forget. Turn down the heat and water temperature-120 degrees is a good water setting and you won’t notice any difference in your hot water. Use a laptop instead a desktop-they use less energy to charge and run. Change your lights to LED, they use 85% less energy and last about 25% longer.
Look for the Energy Star symbol when buying a new appliance https://www.energystar.gov. Recycle. Make your home more energy-efficient by sealing drafts and checking your insulation. Plant trees and shrubs around your home help cool it naturally during hot months. Install shades or drapes.
Shop sustainably-consider vintage or gently used clothing. Take into consideration the material-different fabrics have different impacts on the environment.
Look for the Carbon Neutral, Fair Trade or Certified Organic logos on products, these will indicate the item was made sustainably with minimal impact on the environment.
Bring re-usable bags to the store-leave them in your car so you don’t forget them! If you can, skip the packaging. Buy quality products that will last-reducing the amount you toss out.
Know your facts-join local groups that espouse pro-climate action. Be involved-reach out to local reps and vote on environment protection policies.
Ultimately, we all share in the responsibility to minimize our carbon footprint. And although daunting, there are things within each of our grasps that we can do individually that will help achieve our collective goal of climate stability. Simple choices, like carpooling, done collectively, can make a huge impact. We as consumers have purchasing power and can choose to buy products that are sustainably made and carbon neutral.
We at Terra Thread Home are proud to offer luxury quality, Fair Trade 100% certified organic cotton products for your home. Our products are organically farmed and carbon neutral.
We believe in creating goodness that returns goodness. We are committed to quality and purity. Starting from an organic farm in India, every product we make is a messenger of goodness-good for the planet, good for the farmers and factory workers and good for you.
When you choose our products for adding a little goodness to your homes, you are helping to put a little good back into the world.
Source: Photo Terra Thread Home