You may have heard about commitments from major companies including Apple, Starbucks, and Amazon to become carbon neutral in the near future. Companies aren’t the only organizations making these pledges, however. Many government entities, including the U.S., the European Union, China, the United Kingdom and South Korea also have carbon neutrality plans in place. The Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance is a collaborative effort among cities around the world to achieve carbon neutrality within the next two decades.
In 2020, the United Nations called for a global coalition to address this issue as “the world’s most urgent mission.” But what does it mean to be carbon neutral?
What is Carbon Neutrality?
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas contributing to climate change on our planet. Some natural processes such as plant and animal decomposition and wildfires or volcanic eruptions produce carbon dioxide. However, as noted in an overview by NASA, 97% of actively publishing climate scientists agree that human activity has caused climate warming trends in recent decades.
This human activity includes industrial, agricultural, and transportation methods that consume fossil fuels, which results in the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Therefore, the goal of reducing carbon output has gained popularity.
According to a CNET article on the topic, carbon neutrality means that individuals or organizations “emit the same amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that [they] offset by other means.” It’s difficult-to-impossible to become completely carbon neutral, so this definition represents a balancing act between carbon output and eco-friendly inputs to offset the effects of climate change.
As carbon dioxide is produced by human actions, the goal is to offset those emissions by taking actions that support climate-friendly practices such as reforestation or renewable energy projects. Companies and municipalities will purchase “carbon offsets” that fund third-party renewable projects. This allows them to leverage the work done by other organizations instead of creating their own initiatives to plant trees or build windmills.
Steps You Can Take to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
Mitigating the effects of climate change is a group effort on the part of humanity. According to the EPA, the vast majority of excess emissions comes from industrial and agricultural use of fossil fuels. However, this doesn’t mean that individual actions don’t count.
Here are some simple steps you can take to make a lighter impact on the environment by taking actions that reduce carbon emissions.
Calculate Your Carbon Footprint
To reduce your environmental impact, it’s important to understand how your actions can affect it. Try a carbon footprint calculator at CarbonFootprint.com or the EPA website to get an idea of the specific changes you can start with or improve upon. These calculators will give you ideas for actions you can take.
Support companies that are committed to carbon neutrality
One way to get companies to reduce carbon emissions is to support those that are committed to carbon neutrality. For example, the latex used to make Naturally Nestled toppers and pillows is certified carbon neutral by Control Union. Letting companies and government officials know that reducing and mitigating emissions is a priority can encourage them to act. This can have a snowball effect, as many businesses will adopt similar carbon neutral initiatives when they see their competitors doing so.
Look for carbon neutral commitments on product labeling and company websites and purchase from carbon neutral certified businesses.
By working to reduce carbon emissions through individual and organizational action, we can potentially rest easier knowing we’re reducing some of the more harmful effects on our environment.