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Development of Sustainability Program: November 2021

Defining Net Zero & Its Importance To Sustainability

Monday, November 29, 2021  by qrelihan

What is net zero?

              Also referred to as carbon neutrality, net zero is “the balance between the amount of greenhouse gas produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere” (National Grid 2021). This means that we are trying to find ways to offset the carbon emissions that our daily activities produce.  However, this also involves reducing your current carbon emissions, so that offsetting your carbon emissions is much more feasible. 

How is it achieved?

              One of the most obvious ways to achieve net zero is to source your lighting and HVAC systems from a renewable energy source.  Among these sources that can help a building become net zero include solar, geothermal and wind energy.  If any of those renewable energy sources are available to you and affordable then it is an easier way for your office to achieve the goal of net zero.  However, not everyone has the financial capital or the desired geographic location to access renewable energy sources therefore they must find alternative ways to become carbon neutral. 

              Among those ways is to focus on the waste that is produced in the office and where it gets disposed.  This can be done by diverting waste from landfills and identifying opportunities for beneficial reuse.  Alternative waste disposal methods include, composting, recycling, and reusing waste whenever possible so that it can be repurposed at least once prior to going to a landfill. If there is excess product that is in good condition, then there is an opportunity for you to contact the manufacturer to see if they will take the product back.  Once again this is keeping waste out of landfills which decreases the amount of methane emissions that are emitted to the atmosphere.  

What can I do as an individual?

              On an individual level net zero can be much more difficult since we cannot control where the energy that powers our homes comes from.  However, that does not mean its impossible, because just as there are many ways for offices to achieve carbon neutrality on a large scale, there are many ways to do it on a small scale as well. 

              For instance, you can be responsible for knowing where the goods you purchase come from and what the process looks like to manufacture it. Try your best to buy and shop local whenever you can to reduce the carbon footprint of the products you purchase.  Ask questions and do your own research about products to learn about how they are made where they are made and what is in them so that you can make environmentally responsible decisions.  Overall, the best way to start a net zero lifestyle is to reduce your carbon emissions from daily activities whenever possible. 

How can we encourage the industry?

              Part of living a net zero lifestyle is encouraging those around us to do so as well so that we can reduce everyone’s impact on the environment.  One of the most powerful tools an individual has is their ability to ask questions and do their own research. For instance, be aware of the environmental impact of the products you purchase by finding out where it comes from and how it is made. This means asking industries to do better, by opting to purchase products that have a more sustainable manufacturing and distribution process over those that emit greater amounts of greenhouse gases. One way you can do this is to start buying the same product from a company that does a better job at reducing their carbon emissions.  The hope is that it will become the industry standard to find environmentally sustainable processes so that more companies will make be encouraged to do so.  

First steps that can be taken at home & at the office to work towards a net zero world:

  1. Recycle, compost, or find alternative methods for diverting waste from landfills
  2. Participate in local clean-up events
  3. Purchase green paper products for your home & office
  4. Carpool or take public transportation whenever possible
  5. Use reusable water bottles instead of plastic water bottles
  6. Turn off lights when you are done in a room
  7. Unplug devices when they are finished charging or not being used
  8. Shop local
  9. Ask questions & do your own research

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