Guide to going carbon neutral

There are steps you can take to reduce your environmental footprint.
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  • Updated:3 Nov 2007

01.Going carbon neutral


Recently, we heard of a case where a man approached the company Climate Positive and asked if he could offset the environmental damage his grandfather’s previous 70 years on the planet had caused.

This is an unusual example, but it highlights the fact that people are increasingly taking personal responsibility for their effect on the environment. Just a year ago, it was hard to imagine being offered 'carbon neutral' phone calls, a ‘green ticket’ for a rock festival, or the option of swapping your credit card reward points for greenhouse gas offsets.

Now we’re being presented with green and carbon neutral options at every turn. In some circles, greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters are considered social and environmental criminals. Recently, the ABC even unleashed ‘carbon cops’ to catch GHG offenders.

Most of us want to help the planet and reduce the damage we’re responsible for, and we certainly don’t want to be among the world’s highest greenhouse gas polluters, but where should we start? This report offers some suggestions.

Direct causes of carbon emissions

Direct causes

The pie chart shows the main contributors to consumers’ direct greenhouse pollution, which make up about 30% of our total carbon emissions. They include transport/travel, but not other 'consumer' emissions however, it doesn’t include emissions from the production and transport of food. (See Indirect carbon emissions for more.)

This is average data; your lifestyle, where you live, your income (or what you do with it) and your activities all play a part in your personal impact on the environment.

Source: Global Warming Cool It 2007, Australian Greenhouse Office.

Why carbon matters

Carbon emissions matter because climate change is caused by an increase in greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the earth’s atmosphere, and carbon dioxide is a greeenhouse gas.

The greenhouse effect is the phenomenon where greenhouse gases build up in the lower atmosphere and prevents heat escaping into space, acting like a 'blanket’ of gases around the earth. This increases the planet’s average temperature. Carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and manufactured gases like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are the main GHGs caused by human activity.

Research by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that greenhouse gas emissions result in the earth getting warmer, sea levels rising, glaciers melting, and changes in weather patterns causing more severe droughts, heatwaves, floods and storms, changes in rainfall patterns and a higher likelihood of bushfires.

Please note: this information was current as of November 2007 but is still a useful guide to today's market.



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