Daniel Poynter: Three steps to take toward carbon neutrality

Keywords Opinion / Viewpoint

According to the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, more than 50% of Hoosiers are worried about the climate and the negative impact of carbon emissions. But a person or thing can be carbon-neutral, by operating in a way that does not add greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

Carbon neutrality means being net-neutral—you still emit some greenhouse gases, but investing in projects that soak up the same amount makes you neutral. Anything can be carbon-neutral: an individual, a household, a company, a product, a city, even the entire world.

In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change declared the world must become carbon-neutral by 2050 or face expensive and horrific consequences. Carbon Neutral Indiana is a not-for-profit social enterprise that’s helping Indiana become carbon-neutral as soon as possible. Founded in April 2020, CNI analyzes the carbon footprints of households, businesses and academic institutions at no charge and connects them with verified projects that offset their footprints.

Here are three steps to take toward a life of carbon neutrality.

1. Measure your carbon footprint and other greenhouse gases from activities.

It’s important to first calculate your carbon footprint to see where your emissions come from. Some of the largest sources of greenhouse gases in a typical household include electricity, natural gas, transportation and consumption, which means buying goods and services. For example, if you calculate all the energy required to create, ship and operate an iPhone, as well as the energy to run the servers that store its data, it’s about as energy-intensive as a refrigerator.

2. Reduce emissions wherever possible.

To reduce a household’s direct emissions, you might consider investing in energy efficiency to reduce the amount of electricity used per product. As an example, you could use LED light bulbs or energy-efficient appliances, including dishwashers and refrigerators.

There are so many other ways households can reduce emissions. Use a heat pump, work from home a couple of days a week, go for a plant-based meal by participating in “meatless Monday” and buy high-quality clothing as opposed to fast fashion, which creates about 10% of global emissions. Take more time to seal air that leaks in your home, fly less or not at all, install a solar energy system, and switch to a hybrid or an electric vehicle to get higher miles per gallon.

3. Offset the remainder as you go.

Investing in the carbon market by purchasing carbon offsets is a great, affordable way to balance the remainder of your emissions. That is, buy carbon offsets generated by internationally verified projects that either reduce emissions or pull them out of the atmosphere. Examples include a tree-planting project or a landfill methane-capture project.

Due to so many project types and developers, there’s a massive competition to offer the lowest-cost, highest-quality “negative emission.” This results in a cost-effective reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. So far, CNI has invested in three internationally verified carbon projects: forestry and land use, methane capture and use, and nitrous-oxide avoidance from nitric-acid reduction.

Although these steps might seem intimidating, CNI makes it easy by measuring your carbon footprint for you over the phone in 15 minutes or less and providing the best carbon-offset investment options for you.•

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Poynter is founder of Carbon Neutral Indiana.

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