Climate-neutral living means that one’s behavior, products or services do not increase the amount of climate-damaging gases in the atmosphere. Both companies and private households can help reduce CO2 emissions. According to experts, this is sorely needed, as excessive emissions of CO2 and other pollutants are the leading cause of global warming. For this reason, the EU has set the goal of becoming climate neutral by 2050.

How to become climate neutral

People produce and consume products and services, inevitably releasing greenhouse gases. The concept of the carbon footprint was developed to determine the impact of activities or products on climate change. Learning how personal consumption affects the global climate increases awareness and responsibility.

In most cases, even small changes make a difference. These changes can be as easy as considering your transportation decisions, purchasing food and clothing, handling waste, and much more.

In the following areas, everyone can contribute to improving their own carbon footprint:

Food: To avoid long transport routes and the associated CO2 emissions, buy local and seasonal products. Meat and fish (especially those from non-sustainable fisheries) are best served only occasionally or not at all. To avoid food waste, buy only what you really need.

Clothing: The fashion industry produces an enormous amount of CO2 and contributes to environmental damage through very high water consumption, among other things. Instead of relying on “fast fashion,” you can buy less clothing that is produced sustainably (for example, with an environmental label).

Transportation: It is good, for example, to use a bicycle or public transport more often instead of always driving. You can also consider how you can reduce the number of flights you take – for example, by taking the train on vacation sometimes.

Energy: To save energy, be considerate of your heat usage, take shorter showers, and don’t leave electrical appliances such as the TV on standby. Energy-efficient appliances with an energy efficiency label also bring big energy savings. Many people also neglect their “digital footbath pressure.” This increases, for example, if you store an unnecessary amount of data in the cloud.

How to calculate a carbon footprint:

Numerous sites are available online that help assess your personal CO2 footprint. In most cases, this involves filling out a questionnaire divided into sections such as living, mobility and consumption. The Federal Environment Agency and some non-profit organizations provide CO2 calculators on their websites. After determining your CO2 emissions contribution with a climate calculator, you often receive valuable tips on reducing your CO2 footprint.

Climate-neutral products

To be considered a climate-neutral product, the CO2 emissions caused by the product must be offset by a certified climate protection project. After all, greenhouse gases are already produced during the extraction of raw materials – for example, cotton for a T-shirt. The situation is no different during storage and distribution of the goods.

To sell a product as climate-neutral, the emissions generated must be reduced to zero. Manufacturers have the following options to do this:

– Producing a climate-neutral product: It is possible to adapt one’s own processes to create a (nearly) climate-neutral product. For example, a clothing manufacturer would have to use sustainable cotton and switch the operation of production facilities to renewable energy. In distribution, CO2 can be saved by, among other things, minimizing routes and dispensing with climate-damaging packaging materials. However, CO2 emissions cannot be completely avoided even after such measures have been taken. In order to be climate-neutral, the remaining emissions would have to be offset.

– Offsetting the CO2 emissions caused by the product: This option to achieve climate neutrality outsources the problem. Instead of reducing greenhouse gases at the point of production, they are offset in the same amount. So, the T-shirt manufacturer would pay money to another organization. In return, he receives a certificate stating that the amount of emissions created will be taken back out of the atmosphere. How the offsetting is done depends on the company in question.

With both options – process optimization and CO2 compensation – less CO2 is ultimately released into the atmosphere. Accordingly, the T-shirt produced is likely to call itself climate-neutral and also be marketed as such. However, regardless of which variant the producing companies choose, it is still not.

Here, too, manufacturers have the option of certification, namely as a “climate-neutral product.”

Conclusion: Climate-neutral

Every company and every person inevitably contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. This applies to industrial companies using energy and materials in production and administration, just as it does to private households. Thus, it is not only how we shop and what food we consume that plays a role but also how we handle our electrical appliances. In large companies, however, emissions can quickly accumulate to several hundred or thousand tons of CO2 per year.

In practice, the release of climate-active gases can be reduced through energy-efficient measures, but it cannot be completely prevented. Nevertheless, to become climate neutral, it is advisable to follow the three steps “avoid – reduce – compensate.” Avoiding and reducing emissions, for example, by switching to green electricity or e-vehicles, should always have the highest priority. Only those emissions that cannot be avoided can ultimately be offset by supporting global climate protection projects.