Everybody talks about carbon emissions and how they are impacting the environment. But when it comes to reducing your carbon footprint, there is a lack of reliable practices or steps that can be implemented by everyone. The truth is that making improvements in your personal or business impact on the environment is complicated and often requires addressing specific aspects that may not apply to everyone equally.
For these and other reasons, it can seem that it is extremely difficult to make a difference when it comes to reducing your carbon footprint. However, there are several ways to make an impact that can apply to every person and every business. Below, we outline how you can make a difference by reducing your carbon output, offsetting excess carbon emissions, and improving your positive impact on the environment.
Reducing Your Environmental Footprint
Reducing your carbon footprint is part of a larger process that involves lessening your overall impact on the environment as a whole. So, while this applies to mitigating CO2 emissions, it also applies to reducing things like household food waste and plastic pollution, which inevitably also affect overall indirect CO2 emissions.
While many of the same principles apply for implementing these changes, there are more specific things that can be done for individuals that are not as pertinent for businesses, and vice versa. It is important to make changes that best reflect what you are able to control and affect, which can drastically differ depending on who is attempting to make these changes.
Impactful Reductions for Individuals
Individuals emit significantly less carbon than businesses, especially large corporations. However, there is also less that individuals can do when it comes to making impactful and meaningful reductions. This means that individuals can more easily reduce their personal carbon footprint and personal impact on the planet but are less well-positioned to make large-scale changes that so many people desire.
The good news is that these individual reductions are relatively easy to implement. They can be as simple as driving an electric car or hybrid electric vehicle instead of driving an internal combustion engine vehicle, or eating more plant-based alternatives and less meat a few times per week. In addition, individuals can now easily purchase carbon offsets to remove a set amount of CO2 from the atmosphere.
Using a calculator to determine your baseline levels for your environmental impact, such as Terrapass’ carbon footprint calculator, is essential to determining your initial levels. From there, you can measure and track your progress to see how much of an impact your choices have.
Impactful Reductions for Businesses
Businesses typically emit exponentially more carbon than individuals — after all, they are not only composed of individuals creating emissions with daily activities, but also, their products and services often create very high amounts of carbon dioxide over their life cycle. The flip side to this is that businesses have the ability to significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions by changing how business is done, such as by switching to renewable energy for production or by improving energy efficiency and heat efficiency in operations — for example, by using Energy Star appliances or LED light bulbs instead of incandescent bulbs.
Companies are also able to purchase large-scale carbon offsets through both voluntary or mandatory emissions reductions, depending on what industry they are in. When companies truly commit to going green and reducing their environmental impact, they have the resources to make a big difference in how they affect the planet.
The best way to reduce emissions is to not have them occur in the first place. However, with many businesses and with many daily activities for individuals, this is simply not possible — at least not at present. That is why offsets and other forms of secondary emissions reductions are needed. When combined, each of these practices can help to significantly reduce emissions in a meaningful way, depending on the commitment level and financial resources available to change the status quo.
Making Reductions at the Source
Reducing emissions at the source entails stopping emissions from happening during energy usage. This can be accomplished by improving energy efficiency, where the same amount of work can be done and the same amount of products and services can be delivered, just with a smaller amount of energy being consumed. Retrofitting machines and appliances is key to improving efficiency, as is making sure all new electronic equipment is as energy efficient as possible.
In addition to improving how energy is used, it is even more important to utilize forms of energy that do not emit carbon dioxide in the first place. Large companies can typically choose which type of energy is used in their operations, making it a matter of ensuring sustainability is important enough to warrant choosing carbon-free energy sources over fossil fuels. Smaller companies can also usually choose which type of energy they source their power from, particularly when it comes to electricity. However, they are usually bound by what is available on the electrical grid that services their business.
For individuals, there is usually a choice of what type of source energy is available for electricity — but the choices are still bound by what is available on the local grid, in most cases. Many areas across the United States have deregulated electricity markets, which means that there is open competition for utility companies to provide electricity to customers; those that provide wind or hydroelectric based power can be selected by customers to ensure their household electricity is carbon-free. Furthermore, many homes are now taking advantage of easier access to small-scale solar panels that can be affixed to rooftops and yard areas, making it so people do not even have to rely on a grid at all to generate and use clean energy (depending on to what extent solar is deployed).
Making Reductions Through Carbon Sequestration or Offsetting
While reducing emissions at the source is important — and necessary — it is not always easy, especially if you are trying to offset your entire carbon footprint to reach carbon neutrality or net-zero emissions. Becoming carbon neutral requires offsetting emissions in some form or another. This is due to the fact that almost everything in everyday life is inextricably linked with CO2 emissions, whether it is the toothbrush you use in the morning or the sheets you use at night. Fortunately, there are several different methods of offsetting carbon, all of which can make a real difference in the overall atmospheric CO2 levels if done properly and adopted by enough people and companies.
Carbon Credit Offsets
Perhaps the simplest and most straightforward form of carbon sequestration and offsetting is through carbon credits. These credits are generated through projects that remove CO2 from the atmosphere, such as through reforestation or tree planting, or through carbon avoidance, such as renewable energy projects providing electricity in place of carbon-intensive sources.
Carbon credits in the voluntary market are called VERs, which stands for both Voluntary Emission Reductions as well as Verified Emission Reductions. These are awarded to projects that are third-party verified and certified on one of the many carbon registries, which track their legitimacy and make sure they are not double-counted against reducing the same emissions twice. When purchasing VERs, it is important to make sure they are certified and come from a trustworthy source, as there is no international governing body that officially recognizes voluntary carbon credits as of yet.
Renewable energy credits, more commonly known as RECs, function in the same basic way as VERs. The only real difference between the two types of offsets is what they actually offset: VERs reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) by sequestering carbon from the air, while RECs offset carbon through CO2 avoidance by providing certified electricity use from renewable energy sources. Similar to VERs, it is important to make sure that any RECs that you wish to purchase are vetted and verified to offset the true amount that they claim.
Investing in Sustainability
Reducing emissions is crucial for climate action and staving off the devastating impacts of climate change — but there are other aspects that also need to be addressed to mitigate overall negative impacts on the environment. Investing in sustainable initiatives, such as reducing single-use plastic water bottles, reducing solid or liquid waste, improving living conditions for workers, or even a pledge to recycle or reuse more can make a big difference.
Reducing other greenhouse gases besides carbon dioxide, such as methane, also has positive impacts on the planet — along with avoiding landfills, like reusing clothes and avoiding fast fashion. Investing in these and other areas of sustainability will not only help to lessen your environmental impact but also your carbon footprint, as these aspects are all linked with carbon emissions or their equivalents (known as CO2e).
Where to Start on Your Carbon Reduction Journey
It can be overwhelming to even begin looking into carbon offsets and how to reduce your carbon footprint from less energy use — let alone making sure you purchase the correct offsets and implement the right carbon reduction strategy. That’s why Terrapass has made it easy to get started by assessing your needs with a free online calculator as well as a plethora of resources to ensure you are able to proceed on your carbon reduction journey in the best manner possible.
Terrapass’ carbon offset program was voted by EcoWatch as the easiest to use out of all available programs for 2021. In addition to this, it is one of the most comprehensive programs available and has made one of the biggest overall contributions to carbon reduction in the entire world since its inception in the early 2000s.
Whether you are an individual looking to offset your carbon footprint or a business looking to achieve carbon neutrality or net-zero emissions to fight climate change and global warming, there is a program for you that is easily attainable — and easy to implement as well.
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