Carbon Neutrality

In the workplace and at home

The climate change dialogue is full of buzz words like Carbon footprint, Carbon Neutral, Carbon Emissions, Carbon Zero, ‘Net Zero’ all of which related to the measurement of our carbon waste, produced by everyday life. The ideal solution is carbon zero, where we emit no greenhouse gases. An impossible goal while trying to maintain our current lifestyles. The first step towards this is aiming for a reduction in our carbon footprint by striving for Carbon Neutrality. This is finding a balance between the carbon we emit with the amount that is absorbed out of the atmosphere. This is achieved by a reduction in waste or emissions and carbon offsetting.

In Ireland, agriculture makes up about a third of greenhouse gases while energy amounted to 60% in 2017. Renewables (Considered carbon zero sources as they don’t emit any carbon) only account for 16% of energy output meaning on average an Irish person is responsible for 17 Tones of carbon per year which is 6 tonnes higher than the EU average. Meat and dairy alone contribute to 14.5% of global greenhouse gases. Switching to meat alternatives for some meals and reducing our meat portions overall, will make significant contributions. Shop local and shop Irish where possible, this reduces transportation of food.

Ways we can reduce our carbon footprint at home include wearing jumpers and using thicker blankets in bed, this reduces the need to turn up the heating. It will save you money too. Avoid electric blankets and plug-in heaters, they consuming allot of energy. Wash clothes at cooler temperatures and always fill the washer. Buy energy-efficient devices and plug them out when not in use.

Choose an electricity provider that promotes renewables. This applies to business too and although that won’t change the electric source immediately, supporting them redirects investment opportunities into renewable sectors.

As for corporates, many, including communication company Woo Doo have made significant reductions in carbon emissions by reducing unnecessary business travel. This has been achieved through cultivating an environment of online video and teleconferencing, work from home options and encouragement to replace driving with public transport by contributions to public transport subscriptions for employees.

Canteens are another great area to reduce; replacing disposable cutlery and packaging with reusables and stricter procedures on food waste. Policies that include efficient lighting and heating systems and auto PC shutdowns greatly reduced energy consumption.

Once a business has reduced its emissions to the lowest practice level the next step in reducing the carbon footprint further is carbon offsetting. This is where businesses (or individuals) buy an offset. A business pays companies to plant trees or fund projects that provide Carbon Sequestration (essentially technology that absorbs carbon from the atmosphere and either store it underground or converts it into a usable commodity.) This practice is very convenient for Aviation or businesses whose actual business directly produces carbon emissions. Countries (like Ireland) who have legal obligations to meet certain emission targets, can buy off-set figures from other greener nations like Scandinavia who have a negative carbon footprint.

This is an easy solution but its not a long term one because we are achieving ‘net zero’ meaning on paper we’re neutral but the reality is different, especially long term. Finding cleaner ways of travelling, eating and powering our lives is ultimately the longterm sustainable solution. The evidence to support climate change research is becoming indisputable. We can’t live in a Carbon zero world until we take the first step and become carbon Neutral.