Guide to going carbon neutral

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

08.Case studies

Green wedding

Clare and Johann, who live in WA, decided to try to reduce the carbon impact of their wedding.

“The wedding wasn’t carbon neutral, but the potentially negative environmental impacts were mostly either avoided or offset by many of the choices we made,” Clare says. “I researched the various carbon offset companies and found that Climate Friendly didn’t use trees as an offset, and took more than airplane fuel carbon content into account when calculating C02 emissions, using the appropriate multiplying factors for other gases.”

The couple bought the company’s wedding package, which they used to offset guests’ long-distance flights. “In total, we offset approximately 18 tonnes of C02, for around $360."

Clare and Johann were pleased with the outcome of their planning. "The general response to our efforts at the wedding was very positive and quite a few people learnt about the impacts travel can have, and what can be done to reduce or offset those impacts.”

Quiz case study 1: Low emissions

Ruth, who shares a house with two friends in Brunswick, Victoria, has taken great strides to reduce her direct carbon emissions from about 13 tonnes per year to less than 10, and she offsets a further 8 tonnes of the emissions her flights cause. This all means her net emissions are as low as 2 tonnes.

  • Electricity: Ruth buys 100% GreenPower from AGL. It costs $94 per year on top of her normal electricity bill, and saves of 3.4 tonnes of GHGs.
  • Petrol: The housemates share a car, but generally use their bikes to get around.
  • Gas: Heating is kept at a low setting.
  • Flights: Ruth purchased carbon credits to offset her 45,000km of air travel in the last year. She bought Gold Standard renewable energy credits from Climate Friendly.

"Air travel is always on my conscience," Ruth says. "My brother lives in Mexico and I visit him. But I’ll miss a friend's wedding in Norway next year because I can’t justify the flights. Air travel is my greatest environmental impact, so when I fly I try to find multiple reasons for my journey, and I can’t for this one."

Ruth believes in reduction, as well as offsetting. "Contributing to carbon-offsetting programs eases my conscience a bit, but reducing my carbon emissions is much better than simply carbon-offsetting them. “Other than flying, I do reasonably well on energy and transport costs, but recognise that we’re not counting the costs of producing and transporting our food, clothes and all the other items that are so easy to buy these days.”

Quiz case study 2: Average household emissions

Wal lives in Lindfield, NSW. In his two-person household, 60% of the GHGs come from electricity. At 8600kWh per year, his electricity bill (and usage) is higher than average. The rest of the household’s emissions come mainly from petrol (30%), with air travel and domestic waste making up the remaining 10%.

After improving his household’s energy efficiency and considering how he could use the car less, Wal realised he could reduce his household’s emissions by about 50% by buying GreenPower instead of normal (coal-based) electricity. If he signed up for 100% GreenPower from one of our recommended suppliers, it would cost him around $230 a year, in addition to the standard electricity rates.

Quiz case study 3: High emissions

Neill’s two-person household consumes 3500kWh of electricity per year. This is around half the national average and accounts for just 17% of his household’s emissions. Also on the positive side, he uses natural gas — which is less harmful to the environment than electricity per unit of energy consumed — for both room and water heating, and for cooking. Driving contributes another 16% of emissions, but at 60%, air travel is by far the biggest contributor.

“In the last year, we travelled about 70,000km, including flights to the UK and a couple of internal European flights,” Neill says. “The contribution that flying made to our carbon footprint [about 12.6 tonnes] certainly surprised me. However, these trips are important — for work, to see family and friends, and of course for a holiday."

Neill is willing to consider offsets. “The idea of buying carbon offsets to compensate for the flights is appealing — if they're real. If I buy some plantation trees, for example, I want to know that they wouldn’t have been planted anyway, regardless of the offset scheme, and that they’ll be looked after for their full life.”

 

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