How to Go Carbon Neutral

Going “Carbon Neutral” is becoming increasingly popular, as public awareness and understanding regarding the environmental impact of excessive carbon emissions has increased. But what does going “Carbon Neutral” actually mean? It sounds more complicated than it really is. In fact, going carbon neutral is quite simple.

First, the basics: Carbon dioxide (Co2) and other gases (collectively known as greenhouse emissions) warm the planet, making it habitable for humans, by trapping solar heat inside the Earth’s atmosphere. However, when too much carbon dioxide is emitted into the air, as has been the case for decades, it ultimately traps too much solar heat within our atmosphere thereby causing what has come to be known as “Global Warming.” The increase in Co2 emissions is caused by excessive burning of fossil fuels (gas, oil, coal etc…), along with massive deforestation around the world. Global warming is real and the science now proves it. Fortunately, this is a problem that we CAN solve by making minimal changes in our lifestyles. One of these changes is making the choice to become “Carbon Neutral.”

So, what is “going carbon neutral?” It’s an uncomplicated way to reduce and/or “cancel out” our individual global footprint OR personal carbon emissions. Each time we drive, fly, turn on our computer, microwave food, cook dinner or vacuum we create greenhouse gas emissions. However, now we’re able to purchase “carbon offsets” which are actually credits for emission reduction.

“A ‘carbon offset’ is an emission reduction credit from another organization’s project that results in less carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere than would otherwise occur. Carbon offsets are typically measured in tons of CO2-equivalents (or ‘CO2e’) and are bought and sold through a number of international brokers, online retailers, and trading platforms. For example, wind energy companies often sell carbon offsets. The wind energy company benefits because the carbon offsets it sells make such projects more economically viable. The buyers of the offsets benefit because they can claim that their purchase resulted in new non-polluting energy, which they can use to mitigate their own greenhouse gas emissions. The buyers may also save money as it may be less expensive for them to purchase offsets than to eliminate their own emissions.” http://www.davidsuzuki.org/Climate_Change/What_You_Can_Do/carbon_neutral.asp

In addition, there are companies involved in what are called, “Renewable Energy Projects (REC’S).” This means that companies like NativeEnergy (www.nativeenergy.com) will actually replace the energy we use right back onto the power grid from alternate energy sources. Again, this essentially cancels out our individual energy usage.

“Under federal law, renewable generators can force utilities to buy their power.  As a matter of physics, if the utility uses the renewable project’s power, it must, for any given level of demand, use less from other sources – the electricity grid cannot have more electricity flowing into it than is being used at a time, so when a renewable generator generates power, the grid operators turn down other generators (run by fossil fuel plants) to compensate.  The result is that for every kWh generated by a renewable generator, one kWh less is generated by fossil fuel plants.  Renewable power directly reduces emissions from burning fossil fuels.” http://www.nativeenergy.com/faq.html#1

Here are some basic tips to get you started:

• Choose which emissions you’d like to offset. For instance you might decide to focus on air travel or an upcoming event. Or you might decide to target ALL your emissions.

• Calculate your personal emissions using an online calculator. There are many out there but here a few of the most comprehensive tools available: http://www.climatecrisis.org/, http://planetair.ca/ http://www.myclimate.org/index.php?lang=en

• Now that you have calculated the amount of emissions you produce (FYI: the average American generates about 15,000 pounds of carbon dioxide every year from personal transportation, home energy use and from the energy used to produce all of the products and services we consume) you can now purchase the necessary offsets. One of the best vendor resources is at www.davidsuzuki.org.

Finally, going carbon neutral is easy, will save you money and will ultimately benefit the environment on a global level. This, coupled with reducing your overall energy usage day to day (ex: turn off lights & appliances when out of the house, recycle, replace regular light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs) is the key to climate change. So, go get your calculators!