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Carbon Counting. Why it is important

Carbon Counting. Why it is important

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 they are very very important

Balancing carbon emissions is a game we are all in. Carbon counting was one of the hottest trends in 2021, and it's continuing. Same as cat videos. Cats are real, but some videos are dodge. Our carbon issues are also real, but how and what you count is important. 

It's true. We've overspent the carbon budget

The facts are that from a global warming perspective, we are on a carbon budget and we don't have anywhere near enough carbon savings. What we have is huge amounts of carbon debt and that why things are heating up. 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 to limit warming. Just joking. About the cats at least. But something has to happen if we want to keep the cats. That's called Carbon Offsets.

It starts at the big end of town and trickles down

As our biggest emitters, carbon counting, accounting and offsetting are particularly emergent at a corporate level as big companies are legally required to be transparent about their emissions. This requirement and trend trickles through supply chains to smaller companies and that means we are seeing emissions and offsets declared more and more often for all kinds of companies, home products, offices and industrial goods and services.

What are Carbon C02 and CO2e emissions in simple terms?

CO2 is a greenhouse gas (GHG) that is emitted in the process of making, using and discarding of most things we use in daily life. 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. It doesn't matter where on earth a GHG is emitted, it all ends up in a kind of global soup.

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 consistent.



What can everyday people do?

Before you count a single gram of CO2, or open a footprint calculator, consider the things you buy and do that are unnecessary - that you really don't need and which you won't even notice if you stop. If we ditch the packaging, the silly stuff we add to shopping baskets we don't need, the many products that we not only don't need, but which do nothing for us, then we don't have to count their carbon.

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.

How can people use their power?

Power isn't only about being the CEO or the Prime Minister or what's on the energy grid. 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 easy example - lighting

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

  1. 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 your old lights give out. If you are a public decision maker or you manage a building, do the same. Blown up, 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. Twinkling city lights are pretty, but they become a  bit ugly when you start seeing them 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. Do this last. It's way more important to fix problems and avoid carbon than to offset.

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

Look for CO2 neutral labels. 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. 

We're in this together

Don't believe you can't make a difference. 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. And more vulnerable countries wear them first. 

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