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Published: 30/01/2015

Help the Planet and Become Carbon Neutral

If you want to do your bit to help the planet, you could aim to become carbon neutral. In this article we talk about what this means and how you can achieve it.

What does ‘carbon neutral’ mean?

When people talk about being carbon neutral or having a zero carbon footprint, they mean that they, or their business, has net zero carbon emissions. In straightforward terms, this means that they are not increasing the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

It’s not easy to avoid carbon emissions entirely in modern life, however, there are steps that everyone can take to reduce their carbon footprint and help the planet.

What effect do greenhouse gases have on the environment?

Greenhouse gases (water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane and ozone) are so-called because they contribute to the greenhouse effect within Earth’s atmosphere. These gases absorb and re-radiate heat within our atmosphere, warming it up. It is generally understood that the increasing volumes of greenhouse gases being emitted into the air by humans, through burning fossil fuels, intensive farming, driving cars, and so on, is causing global warming.

Many of us, especially during the frigid British winters, would love to experience warmer temperatures, but global warming isn’t that simple. Tiny changes in air and sea temperatures can have devastating consequences on the environment, including changing ecosystems, melting polar ice caps and rising sea levels that threaten to engulf low-lying areas.

How can you reduce your carbon footprint?

As an individual or family, you can reduce your carbon footprint and if you’re really committed, become carbon neutral. To become carbon neutral you would need to either reduce your carbon emissions and offset those so that they’re compensated for, or avoid carbon emissions altogether.

One way of offsetting your carbon emissions is by utilising renewable energy. Some renewables, such as heat pumps, create a similar amount of useful energy as carbon dioxide released (i.e. they emit as much heat as electricity needed to operate). Other renewables do not produce any carbon dioxide at all.

Carbon offsetting

According to Oxford Dictionaries, the definition of carbon offsetting is “the counteracting of carbon dioxide emissions with an equivalent reduction of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.”

A common way to offset carbon emissions is to make a reduction in emissions elsewhere, for example by planting trees or funding carbon projects that lead to the prevention of future greenhouse gas emissions. When you see a business state their climate neutrality this is usually what they are referring to.

Reduce carbon footprint at home

There are some simple steps that you can take to reduce your family’s carbon footprint. These include reducing your use of electricity through using more efficient appliances, unplugging phone chargers, turning your TV off standby, and so forth. You can also use less energy to heat your home by taking measures to improve your property’s insulation, such as insulating your loft and cavity walls, draught-proofing and installing double-glazing.

In addition to helping save the planet one step at a time, reducing your carbon footprint at home can also save you money. It’s a win-win situation.

Another way you can save money on your energy bills and reduce your carbon emissions is to go for renewable energy. You could go the whole hog and generate your own power by installing a wind turbine at your property. But this might not be an option for everyone so you could perhaps opt for a utility company that uses renewables to supply your electricity.

When it comes to heating, if you’re using a gas boiler you could think about replacing it with a newer, more efficient one. If your property is ‘off-grid’ and you’re currently heating your home with electric, oil or solid fuel, you might consider installing a renewable heating system, such as a heat pump.

The benefit of heat pumps include reducing your dependency on non-renewable energy, reducing carbon dioxide production, and reducing your energy bills. Installing an MCS heat pump requires an initial outlay, but there are savings to be made on future energy bills and you may be eligible for the Renewable Heat Incentive, which can help to recoup the costs of installation. To find out more, take a look at our MCS heat pump design and installation service.

Other ways to reduce your carbon footprint

Aside from making your home more energy efficient and reducing carbon emissions that way, there are other measures you can take to reduce your impact on the environment.

Travel

Think about the journeys you make. Could you walk or cycle? Perhaps there’s no alternative to driving 20 miles to work but do you need to drive down the road to the shops? Could you walk your children to school?

If you do need to take the car, you could consider a newer, more efficient model that produces less emissions, an electric or hybrid car, or even just take steps to drive smarter.

We hope that this article has inspired you to do your bit for the planet and, who knows, you might even save some money in the meantime.