How To Be Net Zero Carbon

Climate change is a complex and overwhelming issue that will require action on a world wide scale to make a lasting impact. But that doesn’t mean we are helpless. There are many steps all 7+ billion people can take to help with this crisis. Becoming as close to carbon neutral as possible is one of the most important. 

Carbon neutrality-It’s a simple enough concept: the sum of all the greenhouse gases that you put into and take out of the atmosphere should balance out to zero.

“Carbon Neutral – or Net Zero Carbon – is a term used to describe the state of an entity (such as a company, service, product or event), where the carbon emissions caused by them have been balanced out by funding an equivalent amount of carbon savings elsewhere in the world. These savings are generated through helping to fund renewable energy projects and energy efficiency projects, many of which bring additional social and community benefits in developing countries as well as reducing greenhouse gases.”  -As defined by Carbon Footprint, the web’s most popular (and independently audited) Carbon Calculators.

The best practice is always to avoid or reduce carbon emissions in the first place.

But in some cases, where sustainability is still not available (with current technology so far), it seems wise to balance out emissions with a carbon-neutral approach. As individuals, we can work on reducing our carbon footprint.

“A carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions that come from the production, use, and end-of-life of a product or service. It includes carbon dioxide — the gas most commonly emitted by humans — and others, including methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gases, which trap heat in the atmosphere, causing global warming.” –N.Y. Times

Carbon Neutral Action Steps for Individuals & Families

Most personal carbon footprint issues stem from transportation, issues in the house,  and food choices.  Calculate your carbon footprint here. Gather this info to start:

  • Average miles you travel by car, bus, or train
  • Same for flying millage
  • Home energy usage
  • Shopping expenses

Action Steps

  1. Drive Less- Think about using your car as little as possible. Take a subway, train, bus, or ride a bike. Cars with lower emissions cost less to operate. Search for cars here, where they are rated by efficiency. 
  2. Fly Less- Air travel will continue to emit greenhouse gases until alternative fuels become available. Taking one less round-trip flight could shrink your personal carbon footprint significantly. One way to make up for the emissions caused when flying is to offset them by donating money to sustainable projects.
  3. Less Meat- Emissions are linked to animal meat. Most research agrees that cutting down on meat, and red meat in particular, is a better choice for the environment. Because red meat production uses massive amounts of feed, water, and land. Red meat can have up to 100 times the environmental impact of plant based food. 
  • Cows also produce methane emissions (a harmful greenhouse gas).
  • Beef gives off more than six pounds of carbon dioxide per serving.
  • Rice, legumes, carrots, apples or potatoes gives off less than half a pound. 
  • Eating lower down the food chain is a good way to reduce your carbon footprint. 
  • Fill your plate with vegetables, fruits, grains, and beans. 
  • Even swapping beef and lamb with chicken can make a difference.
  • What you eat is more important than where it comes from; most greenhouse gas emissions happen during production, rather than transportation.
  • Eating locally grown food for one year saves the greenhouse gas equivalent of driving 1,000 miles.
  • BUT eating one vegetarian meal a week for a year saves 160 miles more than that.
  1. No One-TIme Use- Responsibly washing your dishes (meaning don’t let the water run while you scrub) or using an energy efficient dishwasher is more environmentally friendly than using disposable items. If you do need to use disposable plates, bowls, and cutlery, there are compostable and biodegradable options. 
  2. Home- Electricity and transportation make up almost half of the global emissions according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, a non-profit offering practical solutions to climate change. 
  1. Turn down the heat– programmable or smart thermostat is optimal. 
  2. Shade- close blinds to help keep the temperature stable inside.
  3. Water heater– turn it down to 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
  4. Save electricity– turn off lights and appliances when not in use. Shut off at the power outlet to reduce even more energy. 
  5. Smart TV– when streaming movies don’t use the game consoles; it uses 10 times more energy to play films. Smart TVs and their plugins use just a few watts to stream movies. 
  6. Laptop vs desktop– laptops take less energy to charge and run. 
  7. Replace lightsLED lights use up to 85% less energy, last up to 25 times longer and are cheaper to run than incandescent lights. About two billion sockets in the United States still have an energy-wasting bulb in them! 
  8. Newer fridge– refrigerators are “energy hogs” and can cost up to $100 extra per year to run. Energy Star certification means a product has met energy efficiency standards for the United States.
  9. Seal your home– trouble spots include the attic, windows, and doors where heat and cool can escape. Insulation helps keep the temperature stable.
  10. Cool roof– Install a cool roof made of a reflective material which redirects light away from your house, keeping it cool. Of course solar is even better!
  11. Plants- adding shrubs and trees around your home is an easy insulation fix. 
  1. Recycle- before throwing something away, first ask: “Can I re-use or repair this?”
    1. Recycle paper. 
    2. Recycle steel and tin cans.  
    3. Donate working electronics. Recycle broken electronics.
    4. Recycle dry cell batteries through your local municipality. 
    5. Don’t put non-recyclables in the recycling bin. 
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