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Carbon Counting  & Offsetting. The balance of our lives

Carbon Counting & Offsetting. The balance of our lives

Balancing Carbon emissions and offsets is essentially a financial spreadsheet. Which is why most people return to cat videos when you bring them up, but CO2 accounting will come to rule our lives

Balancing carbon emissions is a game we are all in, whether we like it or not. Carbon counting is set to become one of the hottest trends from 2021 onward, whether you believe it or not. (Same as cat videos. I could never believe it either.) It's not only time to get on board - to sit up and start counting, but the honest truth is that we all need to. 

We are going to be hearing a whole lot more about carbon offsets this year. The facts are that we are on a carbon budget and we don't have any carbon savings. We only have huge amounts of carbon debt. We are in debt to the tune of around 150% of our budgeted income. That is, we are spending more than we are earning and the cats might have to go. Just joking. About the cats at least. But something has to if we want to keep the cats. (That's called Carbon Offsets.)

Carbon counting, accounting and offsetting is emerging in many forms and you are going to see emissions and offsets declared more and more often on all kinds of companies, home products, offices and industrial goods and services.

What is Carbon (CO2) Emissions in simple terms?

CO2 is a greenhouse gas (GHG) that is emitted in the process of making most things we use to live. GHG emissions are responsible for global warming and we have to reduce the amount of them in the air in order to reduce the impact of climate change.

CO2 isn't the only GHG, but it is about 80% of all emissions and is the one used as the 'counter' or 'reference'. The other GHGs include Methane - about 10% of emissions, Nitrous oxide about 7%, and Fluorinated gases about 3%. Often GHGs are measured as CO2 equivalents (CO2e) to make counting easier.

THE ISSUE WITH GHGs IS THAT WHILE INDIVIDUALS DON'T DIRECTLY CREATE THE BULK OF THEM, OUR DEMAND FOR AND USE OF THE ITEMS THAT DO, IS THE PROBLEM. THE BURNING OF FOSSIL FUELS IS RESPONSIBLE FOR NEARLY ALL CO2 EMISSIONS.

AT THE HEART OF MOST PRODUCTS AND SERVICES IS SOMETHING RELATED TO FOSSIL FUELS AND WE NEED TO CHANGE THAT.

What can everyday people do?

Everyday people consume things and make decisions that impact others. The problem with GHGs is that no matter who creates them, we are all going to wear the consequences. 

As a consumer, refuse single use plastic and any kind of plastic fashion (like polyester pieces); fly, ride or drive any fossil fuel transport as little as possible; eat less meat; use green energy and don't waste. 

While you have probably heard these options before, the reality is that they don't change. Think about each option and make a plan for your own situation. In 99% of decisions you save money, feel healthier and absolutely make the world a better place.

What can people with power do?

Power isn't only about being the CEO or the Prime Minister or the energy grid. Even if you aren't a CEO, you might be someone who decides what gets stacked in office kitchen, or you might be in company procurement or working at a child care centre. Everyone of us has some kind of influence - making decisions way beyond our own personal use of stuff and we have the power to influence both what others do and their understanding of what is important. 

Choose to not waste, choose to recycle, choose not to overstuff cupboards or to stuff stockings with plastic crap fun things at Christmas. Choose to buy bulk where you can, send food home with guests when you don't eat it all at dinner, and choose to do business with companies who are transparently working on reducing their carbon emissions. 

Here's an example

A great example is lighting. To reduce emissions to zero, you can 1. Change; 2. Stop; 3. Offset


  1. Change the way you live, work and operate and cut out as much as you can to emit less GHGs. Change your lighting to LED. Lighting accounts for 5% of all emissions and LED lighting has been recognized as one of the most actionable and ready-to-implement technologies.

    At home, make the switch as you old lights give out. If you are a public decision maker or you manage one of the buildings in the main picture, do the same. A global switch to energy efficient light LED technology saves you 50-70% and could save over 1,400 million tons of CO2 and avoid the construction of 1,250 power stations.
  2. Turn off lights you aren't using. This city pic is pretty in some ways, but it's downright ugly when you start seeing it as millions of unnecessary emissions points.
  3. Offset what you emit. Offsetting emissions is achieved by working out out how much COyou are emitting and buying offset emissions to counter them.

How do you work out your carbon emissions?

There are plenty of carbon calculators online and many apps that encourage and support you in counting your carbon emissions and footprint - some down to the most granular levels that can have you obsessing all day long. The average Australia is around 16 tonnes of CO2 per year.

How do offsets work and which ones do I buy?

The most important thing to do first is amend anything you can to improve your footprint, then buy offsets to know that you are mitigating the emissions you can't offset. You can buy formal offsets, which are typically in environmental projects around the world and designed to reduce future emissions.

Or you can support projects like 15 Trees, who will inform you of how much carbon you are offsetting with tree purchases.

Corporations and carbon counting

You will quickly realise too that when you buy products that are CO2 neutral or buy from companies who are, that you are minimising your CO2 emissions. Companies working on reducing their emissions or doing good generally will pretty much always tell you. In a world where most companies know that they can no longer sit idle without having a company policy and action set to be more responsible corporate and business citizens, the question is simply how far they are going.

The technology to track CO2 and CO2e is readily available and more importantly there are many accreditation services who will tell you if a company is certified. Some companies self declare and that is fine too. 

One PS. What is greenwashing and carbon about?

We are already seeing a big rise in the number of companies focusing marketing on carbon status while still polluting. Just because a business is CO2 neutral, does not mean their products aren't poisonous or unnecessary. It just means they are carbon neutral. One step in the right direction.


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