Carbon neutrality in the workplace – is it possible?

Written by Eliza Parry-Okeden

Discussion surrounding carbon emissions footprints and neutrality has gained plenty of global momentum this month. It began with the global #climatestrike which had things simmering in the lead up to the United Nations Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit in New York, before reaching an exhilarating peak with an impassioned speech on the world stage by 16 year old Swedish activist, Greta Thunberg. In amidst all this global buzz, it is easy to forget that climate action starts with the individual. 

So, as an individual, where is the best place to start?  Research compiled by Roy Morgan found that Australians spent a combined 20.5 billion hours at work in 2018, so in the spirit of reducing your carbon footprint and  

What is ‘Carbon Neutral’?

The concept of carbon neutrality aims to reduce the net greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere to zero or neutral levels. In theory, in order to achieve this it would mean that everyone – including governments, businesses and families – would need to make serious lifestyle changes to reduce our own carbon footprint to zero. These changes would include limiting energy usage, so say goodbye to charging your phone and using the air conditioning for example, and emissions created through transportation such as cars and aeroplanes. If this sounds impossible, that’s because it is virtually all of our everyday activities create carbon emissions and it can be overwhelming to try to calculate and keep track of the emissions that we create.

In practice, however, a more achievable method of maintaining a carbon neutral status by offsetting the emissions you create, in conjunction with working to reduce your footprint. Carbon Offset literally means cancelling your own carbon emissions by planting or purchasing carbon offsets elsewhere. ‘Carbon offsets’ are essentially trees and plants, as photosynthesis is a natural converter of carbon dioxide into oxygen.

Bringing carbon neutrality to the workplace

Like any sort of systematic change in the world, the most effective place to begin is with our own practices. Travel is one of the biggest generators of carbon emissions globally and something as simple as using public transport instead of driving can reduce your own emissions significantly. The Department of Main Roads and Transport have estimated that you could save 1500kg of greenhouse gas emissions every year by cycling 10 km each to work. A way to encourage your workplace to jump aboard is to get involved in the National Ride2Work Day which is held around the country annually and includes perks such as a free brekky in major cities.

Another great way to ensure that your workplace is keeping its emissions to the minimum is to plant a tree. Now while it sounds fun, planting a tree with your co-workers may not be possible in practice. Luckily, there are a number of organisations and charities dedicated to offsetting carbon emissions by planting trees and restoring natural habitats without you having to lift a shovel. Many of these organisations, such as the Carbon Neutral Charitable Fund (CNCF) and Carbon Neutral offer plant-a-tree initiatives to get you and your co-workers involved. For example, Carbon Neutral encourage companies to be creative and use their Plant-a-tree program in a variety of interactive ways, such as planting a tree for every invoice received, workplace event attendance or likes received on Facebook. Another interactive initiative for your workplace might the introduction of ‘meat free Monday’ as it not only helps to reduce your carbon emissions but also encourages your colleagues to be involved. A recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in America found that your diet can have a significant impact on your carbon footprint; a diet of chicken compared to a diet of meat can reduce your emissions by half.

There are also physical changes that can be made around your workplace the installation of energy efficient lighting, more effective insulation and a switch to solar panels for example, however these sort of changes are generally dependant on your workplace rental agreement. On the other hand, little personal contributions like making sure your desktop computer is unplugged, lights are and power-points are switched off at the end of the day and ensuring that the temperature of the heating and cooling systems throughout the day is not excessive, can go a long way. You may also do your bit by being conscious of paper waste; while this point may seem moot in our current technological age, you might be surprised how much paper still accumulates in the workplace, particularly office spaces.

Who is Carbon Neutral in Brisbane?

If your still not convinced to give it a red hot crack, here is a list of workplaces and companies in Brisbane that are carbon neutral certified by the Department of the Environment and Energy:

  •  The Brisbane City Council
  •  North Australian Pastoral Company
  • Knauf Australia Manufacturers
  • Allens Legal Services 

You can find a complete list of carbon neutral companies in Australia here.

Even if your workplace is not sold on the whole carbon neutral thing, all these things can be done individually and can, of course, be used in any facet of your life to reduce your Carbon Footprint and contribute to global climate action.

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