What Does It Mean To Be Carbon-Neutral



“Carbon neutrality, or having a net zero carbon footprint, refers to achieving net zero carbon emissions by balancing a measured amount of carbon released with an equivalent amount sequestered or offset, or buying enough carbon credits to make up the difference. It is used in the context of carbon dioxide releasing processes, associated with transportation, energy production and industrial processes.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_neutrality

You’ve heard of carbon offsets and credits, but haven’t known in detail what it means or what it has to do with you, much less what it has to do with yoga. Once you’ve practiced yoga long enough, connected to your breath and experienced first hand how intimately your breath, the air around you and your environment are connected you realize that the phrase “We’re all one” is more than a cute thing people say at far out parties. The molecules you breathe in have everything to do with not only the air quality in your home but in your city and coming out of the energy and industrial plants both near and far. All of the sudden this unity thing becomes a lot more practical.

But what can you do about how electricity is generated or how the manufacturing plant downtown monitors its emissions? First, you can become involved in your city and local government to have a direct voice in how emissions are monitored and controlled. You can also let your wallet to some talking by investigating your own, personal carbon footprint and how you can neutralize, or offset it with carbon credits.

Thought carbon credits were for governments and large multi-national corporations? Think again. With online sites like Terrapass, you can not only get a very concrete estimation of how much carbon you release into the environment yearly in the form of carbon dioxide, or CO2, but you can even buy carbon credits to offset what you create.

In an experiment, I entered the values for the three largest carbon expenditures in our household: our car, our plane travel and our home energy usage. We drive an older Toyota Rav4 all wheel drive, bike many places such as to work and to grocery, but we take at least a dozen medium length (2-4 hours) plane flights per year and have an average combined energy bill on gas and electric of about a hundred bucks a month in Silicon Valley. Turns out we generate about 36,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per year, with 15,000 of those pounds generated by our air travel. It would cost us a little over 8,700 dollars to offset our carbon footprint, according to Terrapass.

Each human being produces about 2.3 pounds of carbon dioxide per day, for a total of nearly 1,000 pounds of CO2 per year, a quantity it would cost a little over 200 dollars to offset. By biking one mile you save nearly as much CO2, according to one website. Replace one incandescent light bulb with a compact fluorescent and save 300 pounds per year. Have 10 lights in your home? That’s 3,000 pounds of CO2. According to cutco2.org, if you move your thermostat down by two degrees in winter and up by two in summer you’ll save 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide a year. Other energy and carbon saving changes you can easily make include wrapping your water heater insulation, buying local produce, turning off electronic devices not in use and replacing the filters on your furnace and air conditioner.

So whether you creatively arrange your life to offset your greatest carbon generating activities or feed the economy by buying carbon credits to ameliorate the wear and tear your daily activities take on our common atmosphere, you can do a great deal to not only become aware of the impact you have on our shared resources but to mitigate that impact and set the balance to neutral.

While we’re at it, why not consider becoming frown, complaining and meanness neutral? For every insult, put down or criticism a person receives, it takes five compliments, attaboys and attagirls or appreciations to neutralize its effects. What if we brought awareness not only to our carbon production, but to our production of interpersonal pollutants like needless complaining, scowling and undeserved ill will? Through a combination of carbon credits and genuine appreciation of the many ways our lives are eased and beautified by our technology and our co-habitants, we can create a cleaner more life sustaining environment for us all.

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