Maybe it is a sign that environmental issues and concerns are being mainstreamed a little more, and that companies can see the sales and marketing benefits of pushing low-carbon products and services. Then again, maybe not. It could simply be a case of a serious global imperative in need of innovative new business strategies.
Whatever the source driver, or reasons, the level of media attention and business marketing surrounding all things carbon related is phenomenal. Everyone in business and government and all those in between seem to be signing up for improved carbon management in some way.
Forget all things green being synonymous with environmental quality and protection; there is a massive body of information, data, knowledge, products and service suggesting that carbon is the new black. One could be forgiven for thinking that ‘carbon’ is a new brand rather than a serious global environmental issue.
Reducing our carbon footprint is a necessary and ecologically sensible objective, and minimising energy use and associated greenhouse gases (GHG) is a critical goal for all sectors of society.
There is a vital need to cut through the jargon, or at least better under-stand its relevance to protecting the planet. The carbon prefix needs some work and some elaboration, otherwise consumers, designers and business alike will rapidly lose sight of its meaning.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of Victoria has led the way in Australia with some of its work on carbon management. This government regulator is not only proactive about encouraging and resourcing business and the wider community to become carbon neutral, it has also implemented a major internal program to make it a carbon neutral operation.
Together with the Global Sustainability Institute at RMIT University, EPA Victoria has tackled carbon management in a robust yet accessible manner.
It is worth highlighting some of the useful information developed and promoted by EPA Victoria on the subject of carbon management.
Whether you’re a designer, engineer, marketing professional, manufacturer or consumer eager to reduce your carbon footprint, the EPA Victoria program and associated website can help demystify the jargon, while also providing strategic and practical information on the what, why, who and how of carbon management.
The following information sourced from the Carbon Offset Guide – a joint initiative of the Global Sustainability Institute at RMIT and EPA Victoria – should go a long way towards reducing scepticism about carbon-related initiatives. It signals very clearly that effective carbon management is an essential part of the process when designing new products, systems and services.
So what do Carbon Management Principles involve according to EPA Victoria?
What are you emitting?
You can’t manage what you can’t measure. Calculate your direct and indirect GHG emissions.
2. Set objectives
What do you want to achieve?
Does your company want to set GHG emissions and/or energy reduction targets? Is the goal to be carbon neutral?
Can you avoid generating emissions?
You may be using energy or emitting GHGs unnecessarily. Look for opportunities to turn off equipment when it is not in use. Consider walking instead of driving, and video conferencing rather than travelling to meetings.
Can you change your activities to reduce emissions?
Your approach to emissions reduction will depend on your circumstances. Modify processes or equipment to ensure they run efficiently. When buying new equipment, look for high-efficiency ratings. Recover energy or GHG emissions from a pre-existing process. For example, re-use heat for cogeneration.
Can you switch energy sources so they are less greenhouse intensive?
As well as opportunities to reduce your energy use, there are also opportunities for ensuring that the primary fuel source you are using is being delivered in the most GHG efficient way. This can be delivered through renewable sources, or by switching to lower GHG intensity fuels.
What options are available for sequestering emissions?
You may be able to sequester your GHG emissions. Technology is being developed to artificially capture and contain GHGs from major power stations and similar facilities. Another option is natural sequestration such as establishing on-site biological sinks through afforestation.
What are your residual GHG emissions?
Assess if you are meeting your targets.
Can you offset your residual GHG emissions?
Carbon offsets can provide a legitimate means of lowering your residual GHG impact and are an important final component to becoming carbon neutral. Offsets should meet accreditation requirements. Before purchasing carbon offsets, it is important to conduct research to ensure that products have been verified as delivering the environmental outcomes claimed.
EPA Victoria’s Carbon Management Strategy
Carbon Offset Guide
The following definitions from EPA Victoria
should help designers and manufacturers
navigate the carbon management landscape with greater ease.
carbon dioxide (CO2): A greenhouse gas that is produced as a by-product of oil and gas production, burning fossil fuels and biomass, and also by animals, plants and a number of other natural sources. Carbon dioxide is a major contributor to climate change because it is emitted in such large quantities.
carbon footprint: The impact of businesses, industry and human activities measured in terms of the amount of greenhouse gases (GHGs) they produce or are responsible for. The footprint calculates the direct and indirect level of CO2 emissions produced. Direct emissions include the burning of fossil fuels for energy and transportation, while indirect emissions can focus on the whole life cycle of products, from procuring raw materials to waste management.
carbon offset: A carbon offset is an investment in a project or activity that reduces GHG emissions or sequesters carbon from the atmosphere. It is used to compensate for GHG emissions generated by your own activities.
greenhouse gases (GHGs): Greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere absorb and re-emit infrared radiation. The Kyoto Protocol lists six major GHGs: carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide (N2), HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons), PFCs (perfluorocarbons) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6).