Going Carbon Negative. What it Means and How You Can Do it.
Going Carbon Negative. What it Means and How You Can Do it.
Instead of waiting for government officials to launch climate action initiatives on their own, more and more businesses are taking action to reduce their carbon footprint and, in some cases, even eliminate more carbon from the environment than they add with their day-to-day business activities. Microsoft has recently stated that by 2030 they will be carbon negative and Google has been able to achieve carbon negative status since 2007 by reducing energy consumption and purchasing carbon credits in renewable energy to offset their remaining carbon footprint.
This is great news for the corporate world but what about individuals? can you make a difference and go carbon negative too?
The short answer is YES! You absolutely can, and there are many, many ways you can get started. The choices you make in your day-to-day life do have a huge effect on carbon emissions, good and bad, especially when you multiply that individual footprint by the 7 billion people that currently call Earth home.
Calculate Your Carbon Footprint
The first step is awareness. Calculating the carbon created by the things you do everyday, like driving to work or sending an email (yes that emits carbon!), will give you a good perspective on where you can start to reduce your own emissions.
You don’t need a big expensive corporate carbon audit to figure out what your carbon footprint is. There are a number of sites like carbonfootprint.com, openlca.org and even epa.gov that can give you an approximation just by spending a few minutes filling out a questionnaire on your lifestyle. ‘Close enough’ is more than adequate for this type of undertaking because if the goal is to go carbon negative, you’re going to want to go as far below your calculated footprint as is comfortable for you.
Obviously this is a must-do for everyone and there are plenty of ways to reduce your emissions which are all typically concentrated in transportation, energy consumption and how we get our food. Here are a number of easy things you can do to start small and begin building good consumption habits.
Walk, Bike or Take Transit One of the biggest polluters we need to combat is carbon dioxide emissions from transportation. Consider walking, biking or taking public transit over taking your car —even if it’s just some of the time.
Plan Ahead Take a step back and instead of rushing, plan ahead and enjoy your way over. Grab your headphones and your fave playlist or talk to a friend while you’re walking over. Did you know that you could save 2.4 tons of carbon dioxide by going carless for one year? That’s the equivalent of about a 2500 square foot house filled with carbon.
Be Efficient When You Drive We get it. It’s not always possible to walk or take transit so if you know you will be using a car, think about reducing how much you use air conditioning, use cruise-control to cut down on gas guzzling acceleration and always carpool when you can – all of which reduce gas consumption and carbon emissions.
Make Laundry ‘Cool’ Simple things like allowing your clothes to air dry or washing them in cold water is a simple change you can make to reduce emissions. One study showed that just one household can cut their carbon emissions by 864 pounds of carbon per year.
Become a ‘Fan’ of Sweaters and Open Windows Being mindful of your air conditioning and heating use during seasonal temperature extremes goes a long way toward reducing emissions. Instead of cranking up the heat when the temperature drops, try dressing in layers. And if it’s too hot, open a window and turn on a fan so you’re using only a tiny fraction of the energy, and therefore emitting much less carbon, compared to air conditioning. Also, ceiling fans are key whether it’s too hot or too cold, as long as you know which way they’re supposed to spin —counterclockwise when it’s hot to push cooling air down, clockwise when it’s cold to circulate warmer air around your home.
Use Your TV for TV (Duh) Streaming TV and movies on your PS5 or your laptop may be extremely convenient, but unfortunately they can use up as much as 40% more energy to run, turning Netflix and Chill into Netflix and Energy Bill (we’re so sorry).
Eat More Plants: The research is clear, reducing how much meat you eat has a positive effect on the environment. If you can’t go full vegan, any amount helps. You could try a flexitarian diet or give VB6 a try, where you eat a vegan diet and then magically turn into a carnivore after 6pm.
Eat Local: Salad is great, but you don’t need a salad that travelled all the way across the country on the back of an 18 wheeler. Opt for eating as much locally grown food as possible.
Eat Low Eating ‘low’ on the food chain with foods such as beans, grains, fruits and vegetables helps reduce emissions because these foods typically need fewer resources to grow.
Give VB6 a try - it’s where you eat a vegan diet but only until 6 PM.
Eat Leftovers 40% of food ends up getting thrown out. Don’t waste your food, people. Seriously. Try to make use of everything you buy so you’re not throwing away anything. Set the expectation with yourself that if you make something, you’re going to have it for two meals.
Offset Your Consumption
Very few of us will get to carbon negative or even carbon neutral simply by reducing our consumption, at least not with our current reliance on fossil fuels and our dirty energy grid. So most of us will have to offset our emissions and it’s not as expensive as you might think. At Impact Snacks you can add carbon reclamation and treeplanting to your Impact Story when you buy your snacks and there are a number of other companies like Choose Today that allow you to set up a monthly carbon reclamation subscription to help get you over the hump
Engage in Consumer Activism
At Impact Snacks we’re fond of the expression “Consumer activism is the strongest form of activism.” It’s a slightly more poetic way of saying “Vote with your dollars.” Is there any doubt that if we all stopped buying products and services from companies that don’t respect people and planet, those companies would figure out a better way to do things pretty quickly? They would. Or they would go out of business.
Too often, we as consumers forget just how much power we hold with the relatively small daily and weekly purchases that we make. Collectively, we need to start demanding more from big businesses in terms of their impact on both people and planet and one of the best ways for us to do this is by finding better alternatives for our everyday purchases. From sustainable clothing options to household cleaners and beauty products, and yes, snacks too – by learning what processes these products we use go through before they reach us we can make better buying decisions and empower businesses that are doing good. Identifying companies that are taking steps to replenish the resources required to create the products that they produce and using our buying power to reward them through our purchases we will force larger companies to make changes that will better serve the things that we think are important – like the environment.
Taking the time to learn where you are spending your money and how your purchases reflect your beliefs is becoming more and more important and fortunately, more people are taking the time to do this and share their findings in places like social media which allows more of us to participate in the discussion that is going on. The power of many is real and it is the influence of our collective buying power that will push these necessary changes into the mainstream.