How to be Carbon Neutral

What does it mean to be carbon ‘neutral’? 

Carbon neutrality refers to the balance between the volume of carbon released versus the volume that is removed from the atmosphere. If you sequester (remove) more carbon than you emit, either as an individual or an organisation, then you have earned the title of ‘carbon neutral’.  

There is an associated carbon cost to almost anything that we humans do. Driving to work in the morning? Yep. The produce we eat for dinner? Definitely. That family holiday to the Caribbean? Absolutely. 

Once this fact has been realized we begin to understand the true scale of the task at hand.  

The idea of ‘neutrality’ is a much better goal than absolute gross zero carbon emissions. It may seem strange to not aim for zero carbon emissions, but it is simply impossible to achieve – any time soon, at least. By aiming for neutrality consumers are still able to purchase as many goods as they please, while remaining secure in the knowledge that they are not contributing to global carbon emissions by doing so. 

Why is there such a drive to reach carbon neutrality? 

Because for us in the UK there is a legal responsibility to do so. 

In June 2019 – the UK became the first major economy in the world to pass laws to ensure net zero targets are met by 2050, effectively ending their contribution to global warming emissions. This means that we are all working to a deadline… that is rapidly approaching.  

Previously the target was set as at least an 80% reduction from 1990 levels of carbon emissions. This reflects the changing attitudes in the UK towards building a more sustainable, green economy. We can also see this in changing consumer consumption, which now exhibits a preference for sustainable produce.   

The UK has already had considerable success in reducing emissions by 42% while simultaneously growing the economy by 72%. So, it appears we are already making great progress towards this lofty goal. It is hoped that this policy can help grow ‘green collar jobs’ to 2 million and value of exports from the low-carbon economy to £170 billion annually by 2030. 

This action is in response to a growing climate crisis, which I am sure we are all well aware of by now. Scientific data all seems to be pointing in one direction – we all need to make a change, starting today. 

How to be carbon neutral – Individual Action 

It is difficult to know where to begin when trying to lower your personal carbon emissions, which is why we have put together this short list of twenty or so different ideas to get you started! 

Area Idea Description 
Food Eat more veggies Vegetables have the lowest carbon cost as a food group. 
Food Choose seasonal and local Try to buy produce that is in season and/or local, there will be less emissions from transport! 
Food Buy in bulk Buying in bulk avoids regular, repeat trips. 
Food Plan By planning your meals, you can reduce your food waste. 
Food Compost This returns nutrients to the soil. 
Shopping Avoid ‘fast-fashion’ Fast and cheap fashion brands are some of the worst offenders. 
Shopping Vintage is cool Second hand clothing has a much lower carbon cost than buying brand new. 
Shopping Try a cold wash Some clothing is suitable for cold washes – this will help save energy! 
Shopping Do you need that? Just making a conscious effort to consume less ‘things’ will help. 
Shopping Bring a bag Single use plastics can be described in one word – absolutelyuselessandevil 
Shopping Support sustainable Try supporting any businesses that are doing great things for the environment. 
Home and Lifestyle Audit Bring in someone to energy audit your house – this will reveal where you can be more efficient. 
Home and Lifestyle Change your bulbs! There are energy efficient bulbs on the market that consume less power, last longer, and look better! 
Home and Lifestyle Switches and timers Installing timers for as many appliances as possible will ensure power is only supplied when you need to use them. 
Home and Lifestyle Shorter showers Take a little less time in the shower, less energy will be used. 
Home and Lifestyle Learn how to be cold Try turning your thermostat down in Winter (converse for Summer) – this will use less energy for heating and cooling. 
Home and Lifestyle Clean, ethical energy Source a renewable energy supplier for your property. 
Transport Don’t be a lazy git Walk more! You don’t always need to take the car. 
Transport Just… be a better driver? Aggressive drivers burn way more petrol! Try to go easy on brakes and accelerator.  
Transport Errands can be combined Heading into town for a quick errand? See what else you can get done while you’re already there. 
Transport Cruise control for the win If you have it – this can help burn less petrol. 
Transport Choose electric We can’t all afford a brand-new Tesla, but maybe look into a hybrid car for your next purchase. 
Travel Try to avoid flying Travelling by plane releases tonnes of C02 into the atmosphere – try to avoid if possible. 
Travel Offset! If all else fails, offset the difference! (more on this later) 

How to be carbon neutral – Business Behaviours  

Unfortunately, businesses see smaller returns on relying on individual action to reverse the balance of their carbon emissions. This is mostly down to scale and responsibility. 

Responsibility: Most lower-level employees feel much less buy-in and responsibility for corporate actions. This group makes up the majority of the labour force (usually) and also the least likely to engage with corporate sustainability policies. As such, relying on individual action is not enough. 

Scale: The individual action ideas above have been proven to be incredibly effective at making a sizeable reduction in personal carbon emissions, not so much for business. The difference between total emissions for the average UK citizen and for a UK business is absolutely massive! Trying to guide your business to carbon neutrality by focussing on individual action is akin to trying to bail out a boat with a colander – the idea is good in theory, but you’re still going to end up on the bottom of the ocean… 

How to turn your colander into a bucket 

For businesses, it is more prudent to follow a more comprehensive strategy. 

  1. Measure and calculate carbon footprint 
  1. Reduce as much as possible through any means available to you 
  1. Offset your remaining emissions as much as possible 
  1. Gain your carbon neutral certification 
  1. Publicise and encourage others to follow suit 

There are many businesses and schemes out there committed to helping your business to carbon neutrality, you don’t have to go it alone. You don’t have to take my word for it, there are numerous success stories that paint an idea of how wonderful these schemes can be! Continue reading to hear a little bit more about one of the more well-known schemes, and how you can get involved. 

Why should my business aim for carbon neutrality? 

A very good question to ponder – one that deserves two answers. 

Firstly, changing customer preferences. With the advent of the internet there is really nowhere to hide bad or unethical business practices these days. Consumers have access to greater amounts of information than ever before – which will include how good/bad your business is for the environment! 

Customers are now able to make more educated decisions and find competitors or substitutions for your product. The UK is exhibiting a growing preference for companies and products that do their bit for the environment. Any businesses that don’t respond to this change in consumer preferences will soon struggle to stay afloat.  

Secondly, the world is changing. Carbon neutrality really is a sink or swim scenario for the entire human race. Those countries (and businesses) who get onboard early have a chance to become leaders in the green new world that is being created. Those that don’t…? Their prospects don’t look quite as bright. 

As a finishing thought, researchers at NYU Stern Business School found that sales of products marked as ‘sustainable’ grew more than seven times as quickly as similar products… How is that for a reason?  

Carbon Credits – About 

The EU carbon trading scheme works on the fundamental basis of ‘cap and trade’. There is a limit placed on the total greenhouse gas emissions allowed for participants within the EU ETS. This cap is then converted into tradeable permits (credits) to be divvied out for all participating companies. 

These credits are allocated to members in the market through a mix of allocation and auctions. Those entities who give off higher emissions than others will have more of a financial burden to purchase more credits to cover off their higher emission numbers. Those who have emission levels below their allocation are free to sell on their credits – receiving monetary compensation for being emission-friendly. This system effectively punishes those who’s emissions are too high, and rewards those who come in under the limit.  

The carbon credit trading scheme has been a mixed success so far, but in recent years (with more companies becoming aware and getting on board) it has been turned into both an economic, and environmental success story. 

Who to partner with for carbon neutrality? 

Who should you choose to purchase your carbon credits from?  

Well, ideally you would want somebody who puts customer care at the front of everything they do.  

A business committed to environmental sustainability would be nice. 

Preferably a local UK business too, right? 

Good news, Niccolo Gas ticks all of these boxes! Niccolo Gas have a proven track record of providing green gas at incredible prices for a range of customers. Because of our expertise with gas and everything energy, the step into the carbon trading scene has been incredibly straightforward. 

If you would like to hear more about our services, call us on 0131 610 8868 throughout usual office hours. 

We look forward to hearing from you! 

Common Questions 

What does carbon neutral mean? 

Carbon neutrality refers to the balance between the volume of carbon released versus the volume that is removed from the atmosphere. If you sequester (remove) more carbon than you emit, either as an individual or an organisation, then you have earned the title of ‘carbon neutral’.  

Why is carbon so bad?  

Carbon is not necessarily bad – people often refer to carbon dioxide as simply ‘carbon’ as a form of colloquialism. Carbon dioxide when released into the atmosphere contributes to global warming, which is where it has earned the reputation from. 

What causes global warming? 

Global warming is caused by gasses in the earths’ atmosphere trapping heat from the sun. This creates a warming blanket-like effect globally. 

These ‘greenhouse’ gasses are predominantly released as a side effect of various human behaviours and activity. 

What are carbon credits? 

Carbon Credits are tradeable certificates that grants companies the legal right to release a certain amount of carbon. They are part of the larger EU Emissions Trading Scheme which works on a ‘cap and trade’ basis to lower carbon emissions.