If done properly, calculating, reducing where possible- and offsetting the remainder of your carbon footprint is a climate action that, in my opinion, can have a much bigger impact on society than it currently does.
Personally, I believe that awareness is the first stepping stone that needs to be put in place in order to initiate change. Ask yourself, do you know what the largest contributing factor is to your carbon footprint? Do you know how many tonnes of CO2 you actually emit every month? And how much you are allowed to emit in order to stick to the goals of the Paris agreement? Without knowing the answer to these essential questions, how can we know which changes in our individual behavior will have the most significant impact on our carbon footprint?
The process of tracking your carbon footprint makes you aware of the very real climate impact of your lifestyle, and the actions you can take to improve this.
"So how can we reimagine the stigma around calculating, reducing and offsetting your carbon footprint to produce societal change of the kind we so urgently need?"
A common perception around offsetting is that it looks like a distraction from the major policy changes that are necessary to tackle global warming. Yet, a study by Prof. Robert Frank from Cornell University shows that ‘behavioural contagion’ can have rippling effects on our economy for two reasons. The first and most important being that individual awareness changes who we are, making us much more likely to support the large-scale policies needed for progress. Secondly, they change the behavior of those around us. In a lot of western societies “environmental status signaling” is becoming more and more popular. To quote Robert Frank;
“Conscious consumption is neither irrelevant nor merely a way to advertise our virtue. It creates cascading changes in social behavior, as well as deeper changes in how we view the world.”
Whilst buying solar panels for your house or buying a hybrid car may be a more tangible asset to showcase to your neighbor, carbon offsetting should not be seen as a separate issue. It fills the final gaps in your pattern of ‘conscious consumption’ and thereby represents the final step in taking control over your own carbon footprint. Once you know where the biggest chunks of your footprint come from, it is easier to think about small steps that you can take to reduce your impact on the planet. Creating these micro-interventions into society has been my main driving force for setting up CarbonCancel.
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