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Carbon Emissions 101

Before the industrial revolution, carbon emissions were relatively low due to the limited use of fossil fuels. The majority of energy used during this time was from renewable sources such as wood, wind, and water. The industrial revolution saw a dramatic increase in the use of fossil fuels, which led to a significant increase in carbon emissions.

Current carbon emissions globally are at an all-time high. In terms of which activities contribute the most, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, transportation accounted for 27% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2020, while electricity generation and industry accounted for 25% and 24%, respectively. Additionally, agriculture and other activities accounted for the remaining 25%.

Deforestation and other land-use changes contribute to the increase in carbon emissions. Reducing emissions from these industries is essential for tackling climate change

What is the race to net zero?

The race to net zero is a global effort to reduce carbon emissions and reach net zero emissions by 2050. This goal is supported by governments, businesses, and individuals worldwide and is a critical step in tackling climate change. To reach net zero, businesses and individuals must reduce their emissions as much as possible and offset any remaining emissions with activities that remove carbon from the atmosphere, such as planting trees or investing in renewable energy.

Reducing emissions requires business leaders and individuals to measure their carbon footprint to identify areas of opportunity and benchmark with peers to reach the lowest emissions levels.

What is a carbon footprint?

A carbon footprint measures the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere as a result of an individual’s or organization’s activities. It is typically measured in terms of the amount of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emitted over a given period. Carbon footprints can be calculated for individuals, businesses, and even entire countries. Reducing your carbon footprint is an essential step in tackling climate change.

How to calculate your carbon footprint?

Calculating your carbon footprint is essential in understanding your business’s environmental impact. There are several online tools available to help you calculate your carbon footprint, such as the Carbon Footprint Calculator from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These tools can help you estimate your emissions from energy use, transportation, waste, and other sources. Once you estimate your carbon footprint, you can start taking steps to reduce it.

Typically, operations classify their emissions into three categories:

  • Scope 1: Direct emissions from owned or controlled sources.

  • Scope 2: Indirect emissions from the generation of purchased electricity, steam, heating, and cooling consumed by the measuring company.

  • Scope 3: Includes all other indirect emissions that occur in a company’s value chain.

Steps to reduce your carbon footprint

A growing number of businesses and individuals are taking initiatives to reduce their carbon footprint. Though simple changes can generate a big impact, a systematized and organized approach will deliver better results. It is important to measure, commit, change, implement and continue improving. Here are a few simple steps to help you start.

1- Measure your carbon footprint using the calculator from the EPA. Remember, you cannot manage what you don’t measure.

2- Develop strategies to decarbonize your operation. Depending on your industry, you will identify those activities that generate higher emissions. Typical areas involve travel and transportation, waste, and energy consumption.

3- Make the easy changes first and then partner with suppliers and community organizations to drive change across your industry. Real change requires systematic changes that go beyond your individual operation.

4- Offset residuals.

What is carbon offsetting?

Carbon offsetting is an internationally recognized way to take responsibility for unavoidable carbon emissions. To offset your emissions, you must purchase the equivalent volume of carbon credits to compensate for them.

What is a carbon credit?

​​A carbon credit is a tradable certificate or permit representing the right to emit one metric ton of carbon dioxide or its equivalent. Carbon credits are used to help reduce emissions and promote sustainable development. Companies, governments, and individuals can purchase carbon credits to offset their emissions or sell them to generate revenue. Carbon credits are an important part of the global effort to reduce emissions and combat climate change. These credits help finance reduction projects such as improving technologies, raising community awareness, renewable energy production, planting trees, etc.

It is important to understand that carbon offsetting should be the last resource. Governments and businesses should continue their efforts to transition to low-emission economies. Inaction is our greatest threat and action will have to be taken by every company regarless of size and industry. Carbon emissions also matter to smaller operations because they can significantly impact the environment and the economy. We all need their contribution to combat climate change, extreme weather events, rising sea levels, and other environmental issues. The devastating effects of climate change also have a direct impact on smaller businesses, such as increased costs due to extreme weather events, or decreased sales due to changes in consumer behavior. Additionally, reducing carbon emissions can help businesses save money by reducing energy costs and improving efficiency. Carbon emissions also matter to smaller operations because they can affect their reputation as more and more consumers are increasingly aware of the environmental impact of businesses and may choose to support businesses that are taking steps to reduce their carbon emissions. This can help businesses attract new customers and build loyalty with existing customers.

Are you ready to be part of the group of sustainable businesses facing the changes of this ever-evolving environment? We encourage you to engage in this journey and transition your operation into one that behaves more responsibly with our planet and its people. Contact us. We love to help you take action to reduce your carbon emissions.

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