Introduction to Carbon

Calculating your carbon footprint is a complex, confusing and often times expensive aspect of any sustainability program. In our everyday actions, we emit greenhouse emissions from our daily lives. Driving cars, using electricity, cooking food, charging our phones – they all have greenhouse gas emissions.

What are greenhouse gasses? Greenhouse gasses are gasses that prevent heat from leaving our atmosphere. The most discussed greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide with carbon being the most widely calculated emission. Just as a greenhouse at your local nursery works, the atmosphere allows sunlight to pass through, but doesn’t allow the heat to escape, creating a warming effect. It is a widely held belief that humans are contributing to the increased levels of greenhouse gasses in our atmosphere.

How is carbon calculated?

Through years of research, certain actions (such as driving a car) have been analyzed and measured to determine its equivalent carbon emissions. From this data, you can calculate carbon emissions for many everyday activities and actions we perform each day. To explore some data points, visit EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator.

What is carbon neutrality?

Carbon neutrality is reducing your greenhouse gas emissions and performing offsets to achieve net zero emissions. It is a standard many companies and businesses are working towards. These efforts have greatly reduced the amount of the emissions in our atmosphere over the last decade.

What are carbon offsets?

Carbon offsets are methods you can use to neutralize your emissions. Examples include planting trees and supporting a local solar panel project. Offset projects can be difficult to set-up as an individual person, which is why dozens of organizations have formed to facilitate carbon offset projects. Some organizations are more reputable than others, so do your research and as always, be careful who you do business with.

Where do you start?

If you are considering calculating your carbon footprint, here are some steps to follow to set you up for success.

  1. Determine why you are calculating your footprint. Do you wish to mitigate your carbon footprint? Do you want to know your carbon emission number just for the sake of knowing? Do you have a sponsor or stakeholder who has a vested interest? Are you looking to form a greater climate action plan for your organization or city? From your data, are you looking to create a carbon mitigation plan or offset project? Answers to these questions are important because it will help guide you as you answer the remaining questions.
  2. How in-depth do you want your calculation to be? Your carbon footprint can be complex. Knowing your direct impacts – such as your impacts from commuting to/from work – and your indirect impacts – such as your supply chain – will determine how big of a project the work will become. The more involved your calculations, the more time, resources and energy your carbon project will become.
  3. Do you need to hire a consultant? If you are looking to create a climate action plan or a comprehensive carbon mitigation plan or offset project, we recommend you hire a professional consultant who can help guide you through the process. If you live by a university, you can tap into their academic programs, as carbon calculating is often a part of many sustainability curriculums.
  4. Do thorough research. Carbon calculating can be complex. Do thorough research on your calculations and any consultant or offset company you choose to hire. If you chose to release your carbon footprint publically, make sure your research is accurate and from verified sources.
  5. Be patient. Carbon calculations take time. It takes a commitment to perform the research, accurately perform the calculations, and prepare your data to be presented to your stakeholders.

Call our office for a free consultation on your carbon project.

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