In 2006, Oxford chose carbon neutral as its Word of the Year explaining that “we are always looking for a word that is both reflective of the events and concerns of the past year and also forward-looking: a word that we think will only become more used and more useful as time goes on.” Fast forward to 15 years later, becoming Carbon Neutral is a concept easily part of our vocabular and is starting to be replaced by the next big step, going Carbon Positive.
In May 2009, the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group’s Climate Positive Development Program (Climate Positive) was launched to create a model for large-scale urban communities and to support projects that serve as urban laboratories for cities seeking to grow in an environmentally sustainable, climate resilient and economically viable way.
Among the 17 global projects that will collectively reduce the emissions impact of more than one million people, two are located in Australia: the Victoria Harbour in Melbourne and the Barangaroo district in Sydney.
But what does being zero emissions, carbon neutral or carbon positive mean?
For those less familiar, to be carbon neutral means that your daily life choices total to net-zero carbon emissions, by either reducing your carbon footprint and/or by purchasing carbon offsets.
Carbon Neutrality is a concept similar to Net Zero Emissions, but one key difference is that carbon neutrality can be achieved with carbon offsets funding an equivalent amount of carbon savings elsewhere in the world while net zero emissions have to be achieved in the same jurisdiction.
Climate positive takes it a step further by saving MORE greenhouse gas emissions that you are generating.
There are 2 ways you can do this:
- Offsetting more than your carbon footprint.
You can do this by donating to carbon offsetting projects in Australia or around the World however, the long term goal will ultimately have to be reducing the actual amount of carbon emitted to get to net zero.
- Reconsidering your daily choices to reduce your footprint by:
- Purchasing more sustainable products and make sure your waste is reused or recycled, which reduces the huge greenhouse emissions associated with landfill.
- Purchasing from Companies committed to reduce and offset their emissions.
- Making some changes to the way you move around, to your resources consumption and shopping habits, which we will discuss more later on.
The second approach and its “avoided emissions” is what we actually need to achieve the overall reductions necessary to get to net zero by 2050.
Being carbon positive or carbon negative means the same thing but the first has been chosen as marketing term as it sounds well...more positive!
Both the processes of going carbon neutral and carbon positive start with a full accounting of your total carbon emissions.
Some areas you will have to consider are:
- Electricity & Heating: How many kilowatt-hours & gas your household uses?
- Travel: How many kilometres did you travel (inclusive of flights/trains)? What is the fuel efficiency of your car?
- Online Shopping: How many orders you placed? Did the items come from Overseas?
For a more precise idea, this handy calculator will give you a quick carbon footprint estimate and with the final number in hand, you can then look into purchasing carbon offsets.
By purchasing the dollar amount that your footprint costs, you’ll become carbon neutral and by purchasing more than that you’ll reach climate positivity.
As mentioned before, purchasing carbon offsets is an admirable thing to do but the next step further is to look into your daily habits and actually reduce your carbon emissions altogether. Here below we’ll give you some tips to do just that!
A mass grounding of flights during the peak of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic saw CO₂ emissions from aviation reduce by up to 60%. It is also important to note that the non-CO₂ emissions from aviation are not included in the Paris Agreement. This means they could be easily overlooked – especially since international aviation is not counted within any country’s emissions inventories or targets.
If you do have to fly, then at least you can purchase carbon offsets before checking out (most airline companies offer this service now).
Similarly, public transportation is a great option to travel to work and at the same time catch up with the latest book or podcast, while choosing your bike is definitely the greenest option currently available.
If you do have to drive, pay attention to:
- The fuel efficiency of your car.
- Your tires are pumped (if they have low pressure, they’ll consume more fuel)
- When your service is due to make sure your car is in tip top shape.
- Cruise control to keep your speed constant.
Increase your home efficiency
Making sure to check for and seal any possible cracks that will let your warm or cool air escape, updating your exterior insulation, replacing old doors and windows with double glass ones are some of the more structural ways to increase your house efficiency.
If you own your house, you can also upgrade your place to start using solar energy.
Some smaller and economic changes include:
- Replace all lights with LED ones.
- Unplug appliances and turn light off when not in use.
- Keep your shutters/blinders closed in every room during cold winter nights and hot summer days.
- Replace your older appliances with Energy Star certified appliances.
- Turn down your water heater.
For more on this topic, read our blog here.
Reduce water consumption
Not only water is not an infinite resource and some areas in Australia deal with this in person every year, the water you use in your home needs treatment and to be pumped and all this require energy (and therefore produces carbon emissions).
Therefore, consider buying low-flow showerheads and turning the faucet off when you are not using it (like when you take the time to brush your teeth).
Eat locally, seasonally and organically
Buying food from producers somewhere nearer to where you live, means that your food had to travel that much less to get to your plate so you will both benefit the environment and support your local community.
If your budget allows for it, consider replace as much food as you can with organic alternatives as they grow without pesticides and create far less harm (if no harm at all with proper harvest rotation) to the soil.
Choose Vegan alternatives
Researchers at Oxford University and the Swiss agricultural research institute, Agroscope, discovered that cutting meat and dairy products could reduce an individual's carbon footprint from food by up to 73%.
Reducing consumption of meat, especially red meat, can therefore have a big impact on your carbon footprint.
We have an entire blog about why eating vegan is good for the environment at this link.
The benefit of composting (commercially or, even better, at home) is that natural decomposition emits the least amount of carbon dioxide, whereas the landfill is a major greenhouse gas offender.
Therefore, diverting as much waste as you can to your home compost bin or your municipality green waste collection, will greatly benefit your carbon emissions.
Make sure to check with your council what can be included in your bin!
Hot tip: 90% of our products come in home compostable packaging (we do have some glass bottle exceptions that can be recycled) and our shipping mailers and stickers are home compostable too!
Skip fashion trends
With the surge in online shopping and more companies offering easy returns, it’s normal to fall into the trap of fast fashion: items that are often thought with a specific fashion trend in mind and therefore had to be produced quickly at the expense of quality, environment and ethical labour.
This type of clothing is more likely to fall apart much faster than the more expensive and better-quality alternatives that will stay “in season” for many more years to come.
In 2017, over 11 million tons of textile waste ended up in the landfill for a slow methane emitting decomposition, and most of this textile waste was actually discarded clothing.
The next time you shop, try asking yourself how many outfits you can recreate with that piece of clothing, how it goes together with the rest of your wardrobe and of you can see yourself wearing it 5 years from now. If not, then maybe it’s time to rethink the purchase.
Look for Fairtrade labels or some other certification that certifies ethical and sustainable sourcing and buy more from vintage shops, where you can also donate those clothes that don’t fit you anymore.
Soft plastic is one of the hardest material to recycle as the recycling plants used by your municipality is not able to treat it (read our blog about soft plastic and how to dispose of it properly here).
Remember to bring your own reusable bags (we sell them here) when you go shopping and don’t purchase a new plastic shopper every time.
Check if your local supermarket accepts your own containers and ask them to use them for things from the deli counter, for example.
By refusing disposable plastic bags, you’re not only diverting waste away from landfills, you are also reducing the production of unnecessary products.
Have a look around at which items in your house can be replaced with more sustainable alternatives (and, if you are reading this blog, you are in a good place – wink wink!) which can be disposed of more naturally or will last for longer. When possible, check if your online purchase’s shipping can be offset with a donation to a carbon reduction program (yes, you can do it on Biocasa!).
Look after your garden
Your garden is the best place to start a carbon capture system to offset your household emissions. Planting any type of tree appropriate to your local climate will help you absorb approx. 6kg of CO₂ emissions when it’s young up to 21kg when it reaches maturity.
Curious if some plants absorb more CO₂ than others? Plants use CO₂ during photosynthesis to make glucose, its basic building block then used for energy and to make the structure of the plant itself. The faster a plant grows, the more carbon dioxide it will uses so by this logic, bamboo would be the best choice.
However, fast-growing plant not to live long so in the end the plants that are considered the best at capturing CO₂ are the longest-living ones, with the most mass: hardwood trees.
Thank you for reading this blog and good luck in implementing at least some of these points. It will take time but it’s important that we all work together to offset that impact by investing in powerful environmental projects across the world.