For an organisation to be “carbon neutral”, it must balance the amount of greenhouse gases (also known as carbon emissions) it puts into the atmosphere with the amount it takes away.
Carbon emissions are gasses that contain carbon, like carbon dioxide and methane, released during the burning of fossil fuels. Such burning is often attributed to electricity production, building, manufacturing and transportation.
Ways of taking away greenhouse gases from the atmosphere include reforestation and investing in clean energy projects. These types of activities are commonly known as carbon offsets. It's also important to adopt energy-efficient practices such as using renewable energy, driving less and shopping responsibly.
The total amount of carbon emissions released by an organisation, minus what it takes away from the atmosphere, is commonly known as its carbon footprint.
Why is it important to be carbon neutral?
Over the last 50 years, global temperatures have risen by 2% due to the rising emissions from mass industrialism. This has led to an increase in droughts, flooding, and other negative environmental impacts, causing death, famine, and human suffering, as well as wildlife damage.
It is therefore vital that we, as a global community, act towards reducing carbon emissions.
While governments across the world are taking actions to reduce them, organisations in market economies like Australia need to take responsibility for their own carbon footprints if we are to see meaningful results. The concept of becoming carbon neutral is commonly considered to be industry best practice in this respect.
The aim of reaching ‘net zero’ emissions also aligns with many of the sustainable development goals set out by the UN in 2018, including climate action and sustainable cities and communities.
How do you become carbon neutral?
Organisations can reduce emissions in many ways, like switching to renewable energy sources, using recycling materials and offering initiatives to employees to use public transport.
Swinburne, for example, has recently switched to renewable electricity, updated its waste management procedures and added sustainability guidelines for development.
View more of Swinburne's initiatives to reduce emissions.
Becoming carbon neutral takes time, a lot of planning and total buy-in from the committed organisation. Organisations usually commit to a long-term target to ensure sustainable alternatives can be found and allow for cultural change.
Further research in sustainability and related new technologies will make it easier for organisations to commit to, and reach net zero emissions. This is why Swinburne is committed to research in the field.
Organisations that have unavoidable carbon emissions can still reach zero carbon emissions through carbon offset programs.