What is Carbon Neutral: Meaning and Examples

Inspire Clean Energy

8 min read

category: Clean Energy 101

Carbon Neutral: Meaning, Definition & Examples

The current state of the planet has always been a major concern, but as of late, more and more people have been joining the conversation with the rise of the age of social media. As younger generations inherit the planet in its current state, they are quickly realizing that our quality of life on Earth is at risk if we don’t start to change our ways.

Many companies, institutions, and individuals are now turning to carbon neutrality as a way of offsetting some of the dangerous effects of burning fossil fuels. Scientists and climate experts agree that we need to start acting quickly to slow and repair the damage being caused to our environment on a daily basis.

That’s why Inspire and our customers are fighting for change by making the switch to clean energy sources. If you’d like to find out more about how you can join us and reduce your impact, consider a clean energy plan.

What is carbon neutral? What does carbon neutral mean?

The theory of carbon neutrality is based on the aim that the sum of all the greenhouse gases any entity puts into and takes from the atmosphere will balance out to zero.

For example, for a company to be carbon neutral, any emissions they create must be offset by emissions they reduce elsewhere.

This practice provides a planet-friendly alternative to whatever is being used, whether that’s airplanes, livestock, construction tools or cosmetics. It is often put into place through the use of carbon offsets, which use various systems to measure and value activities that are either greenhouse gas-emitting or offsetting.

Essentially, it’s balancing the two sides of the scale for our emissions and what the atmosphere can handle, which is currently overweight on our side of the scale.

Why do we need to be carbon neutral?

Carbon neutrality is vital if we want to stop and prevent climate change. When we overload the atmosphere with bad chemicals, it can’t function properly, and so the air begins to heat up.

Carbon neutrality provides accountability for entities, organizations, and individuals. Humans are the cause of this environmental damage, so it is our responsibility to take action and undo the damage. If we do our part and strive for (or achieve) carbon neutrality, we know we are living our lives in a sustainable way.

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How do I calculate my carbon footprint?

The easiest way to calculate your carbon footprint is by using the calculator on CarbonFootprint.com – a resource dedicated to helping you discover and reduce your carbon footprint. The free tool will ask you about the way you live to give you an estimate for how much CO2 you produce over a given period, and highlight the “worst” areas of your lifestyle.

(You can also find out the average American carbon footprint here.)

What countries are carbon neutral?

As of June 2020, no countries are entirely carbon neutral just yet; as far as global awareness goes, this issue is still fairly new, and offsetting entire countries’ worth of greenhouse gas emissions will take a while.

What is promising, however, is the number of countries that have made promises to reduce their carbon emissions over the coming decades.

Which countries have a net-zero carbon goal?

Austria has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2040. Canada has also promised to set a goal to achieve net-zero emissions, with legally binding five-yearly carbon budgets that will be adhered to. Chile vowed to cut their greenhouse gas emissions, which was particularly ambitious and noteworthy, given that Chile is such a coal-dependent country. Among other countries whose leaders have pledged to reduce carbon emissions over the next 20-40 years have been Costa Rica, Denmark, Fiji, Finland, France and Germany.

What does it mean to be carbon neutral?

A carbon neutral definition is:

Carbon neutral (also known as carbon neutrality) means that the emissions an entity (business, organization, individual, product, or service) produces has been “balanced” by funding the equal amount of savings elsewhere in the world.

5 Tips for how to be carbon neutral & carbon-neutral living

  1. Reassess the way you use transportation. One of the best ways we as individuals can reduce our carbon footprint is by being aware of the way we travel. Transportation and aviation are huge contributors to our carbon footprint, and driving less, or choosing electric vehicles are ways in which we can opt for more sustainable travel choices. If you want to dramatically reduce your own personal carbon footprint, consider walking or riding a bike when going on shorter journeys.
  2. Cut down on, or eliminate meat from your diet. Eating less meat is also another simple way of reducing our own carbon footprint. Red meat causes environmental damage due to the vast amount of land, water and feed that is necessary to maintain livestock. In fact, red meat is over 150% more greenhouse gas-intensive than fish or chicken. It is worth noting, however, that if you were to replace that red meat with dairy, your emissions would rise, as you’d still be consuming products that require the breeding of cows. In general, eating low on the food chain is a great way to live a planet-friendly lifestyle: vegetables, fruits, grains and greens are much lower on the food chain and thus require the fewest carbon emissions.
  3. Resell or donate unwanted items, and buy clothing second hand where possible. Similarly to food, clothing and cosmetics have a big carbon footprint, so buying clothing from vintage shops or thrift stores is an excellent way to reuse clothing and reduce its air miles. Also, landfills are a huge source of methane, with tonnes of clothing piling up and creating pollution, so by reselling or donating your unwanted clothes, you’re reducing the amount that goes into landfills.
  4. Reduce your intake of single-use plastic. This sounds obvious from a recycling standpoint, but to truly get into the practice of being carbon neutral, we must consider what actually took place before that plastic bottle made its way into your fridge. Not only are plastic bags, bottles and containers non-recyclable, they also require a huge amount of indirect energy, from the lighting and electricity needed to power and run the factory in which they’re made, all the way to the air and miles used to transport them to your local store.
  5. Keep an eye on your water usage. It can be very easy to forget how much water we use, from washing machines and dishwashers to showering and bathing. If you do have a dishwasher, use it, because it actually takes more water to hand wash dishes. Make sure to fully load your washing machine to avoid wasting water on smaller and more frequent loads, and try to limit the amount of time spent in the shower.

How can I make my house more carbon neutral?

It may be surprising to learn just how much carbon emissions come from average households’ heating and electricity energy use. Low-carbon generation could reduce emissions by as much as 79%, saving an annual amount of 1.2 tonnes of CO2 for the average home.

So, it follows that making the switch to a renewable energy provider is an effective way to reduce your impact. Clean energy is more cost-effective to produce (which will drive down energy prices in the future), creates zero carbon emissions, and reduces the pollution that is causing respiratory diseases for those living in our city centers around the world, particularly in impoverished places.

At Inspire, we're working hard to make it easy for people to switch to clean energy. We are passionate about providing a source of energy that will not deplete or damage the environment further – and our members are, too. To find out more and join our movement in minutes, simply consider a clean electricity plan.

How do companies become carbon neutral?

To become carbon neutral, businesses must change the way they purchase and use energy and reduce their overall emissions. This is a much easier feat for some than others. Some of the changes they can make are:

  • Join energy efficiency programs
  • Use clean energy sources
  • Use energy-efficient equipment
  • Change interaction style with clients (e.g., online meetings instead of flights to meet them)
  • Choose electric or hybrid cars for company cars and vans
  • Increase recycling
  • Aim to produce only recyclable packaging for their products
  • Allow employees to work from home

Is carbon neutral enough?

Going carbon neutral is absolutely a step in the right direction, but reducing carbon emissions is only the first step in reducing the harm humans do to the environment. Many businesses are purchasing carbon credits to compensate for the CO2 they emit, planting trees and investing in wind farms and solar panels.

While this is undoubtedly an excellent idea in theory, it has received criticism because unless it is monitored correctly, it may simply be a practice of “passing the carbon buck.” In other words, doing one positive thing in one area does not entirely compensate for the damage done elsewhere: it only really mitigates for it.

Ultimately, such acts as planting trees and funding renewable energy plants and farms must be our priority, alongside actively seeking less harmful transport, food and energy alternatives.

Want to get closer to being carbon neutral when it comes to your energy use? If you are interested in learning more about the benefits of renewable energy or want to switch to a clean energy plan, you're in the right place. Inspire is a renewable energy company focused on lowering reliance on fossil fuels.

Not sure if renewable energy is right for you? Read the latest Inspire Energy reviews to see how we've helped customers make the switch.

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