A simple slogan and a complex mission. At GreenBox, it is not just a name, we take the environment seriously. We believe plants have an incredible power to heal and promote wellness. It is not only better for your health, but also better for the planet. We are on a mission to educate, and today we want to talk about carbon. The reason you keep hearing about it is we are in a race against time to reduce our green house gases emissions before the planet gets too hot for us to live on. Read more below on the basics of carbon, the environment, and what you can do to fight green washing.
Why do we need to reduce greenhouse gases (GHG)?
Every year by current estimates, collectively we emit approximately 51 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. While this figure can go down like it did by ~5% during COVID, it is generally going up. So, this is a problem. You see, greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere. Over time, this leads to the warming of the earth’s surface temperature, which can have disastrous results.
A few degrees of warming may not seem like a big deal, but just think in the age of the dinosaurs the average temperature was only 4 degrees warmer than today. As a result, you see a big push towards net zero carbon emissions by 2050, a global attempt to limit the average yearly rise in temperature on our planet to 1.5 degrees Celsius. It is a big problem and will require the efforts of all of us in our lifetime to ensure we achieve this important target.
What are the different GHG’s?
There are a few greenhouse gases with carbon dioxide the most common, and others such as nitrous oxide and methane (the main component of natural gas). If you look at each gas, molecule for molecule, they cause more warming than carbon dioxide. For methane, this is up to 100 times more. We need to reduce the emission of all of them.
What is carbon neutral?
This is a buzz term thrown around by many consumer companies. If a brand is carbon neutral, it means their emissions of carbon into the atmosphere is zero. This can either mean the company itself does not emit any, or because they have purchased carbon offset credits to reduce their own footprint. For most “carbon-neutral” brands, they have purchased credits, but to solve the problem of climate change, we need to do more.
What is carbon negative?
This means a company pulls more carbon out of the atmosphere than they contribute. Here is a real-life example. Let us say the carbon footprint of a company is 150,000T of carbon. If the company buys 300,000T of carbon offsets, they have now taken out 150,000T – 300,000T = -150,000T of carbon from the atmosphere. This is a good thing!
Why does it seem like everybody is planting trees?
Trees absorb carbon and produce oxygen. This is great for the planet, and one of the reasons we are all able to breath on this planet. It is easy to understand that if you buy one product, you can plant a tree somewhere in the world. However, you need to pay careful attention to the company behind the project and where exactly the trees will be planted. One hectare area of reforested land can sequester (a fancy word for absorb carbon) roughly 150-180 tonnes of carbon over 40 years. Note that the average citizen in the UK emits 5 tonnes of carbon a year, or 200 tonnes over 40 years.
What is greenwashing?
We do not want to criticize tree-planting schemes or any other type of emissions reduction strategy. But you need to be aware that some may use green credentials to try and sell you something. This could be despite the fact they do not actually help the environment at all. This is what is called “green washing” and it is a term that will become more widespread as consumers demonstrate an ability to pay more for green solutions.
At GreenBox, we audit our carbon footprint through a third-party called BeZero and offset our footprint by 1.5x times. We do not greenwash, and you need to be vigilant of all the brands you purchase from to ensure they do the same. The easiest way to do that is just to ask! So, this could be as simple as sending an email, and asking for more detail around the carbon footprint of a company claiming to be “net zero”. All calculations should be audited by a third-party.
Stay tuned for more in our sustainability series on how plants can help the environment and your health.