Carbon neutrality is the creation of a net zero of carbon emissions through waste reduction and the use of carbon offsets or alternatives to sources of energy that generate carbon dioxide. In addition to carbon dioxide, a carbon neutrality initiative may also include other greenhouse gases with a known deleterious impact on the environment. There are a number of ways to approach carbon neutrality.
Businesses, educational institutions, and other large facilities may want to achieve carbon neutrality in order to be responsible citizens. Concern for the environment can be an important part of business practices, especially in a community where prospective customers may have a favorable view of companies that work to reduce their environmental footprint. In some cases it can also cut costs by reducing resource usage, and it may qualify companies for awards, special certifications, tax exemptions, and other benefits.
Part of a commitment to carbon neutrality often includes a mandate to reduce energy use. This may be done through the use of better appliances, new policies, and changes to working conditions that make it easier to save energy, like adding windows for natural light. Companies may also promote carpooling among their personnel and can develop reduced packaging for products and take other steps to limit waste. All of these steps can cut down not just on carbon emissions, but other forms of waste.
It is not possible to reach a state of carbon neutrality through reductions alone, as some carbon emissions will still occur. One option to push toward a net zero is to use energy derived from sources like wind and water that do not generate carbon dioxide. This can cut down on the carbon produced to run a company. In addition, it is possible to purchase carbon offsets to pay for activities like tree planting and alternative energy development. The offsets balance out the carbon emissions the company cannot eliminate.
If a carbon neutrality program also wants to address other greenhouse gases, it may consider measuring these gases in carbon dioxide equivalents. In addition to working to offset the actual carbon dioxide it produces, the company will also work off the carbon dioxide equivalents. Carbon neutrality initiatives can also be paired with programs to cut water waste and contribute to environmental health and safety in other ways. Companies that plan to use such programs to qualify for benefits like tax exemptions will need to maintain documentation.