While I was scrolling down on the adaderana.lk reading everything and nothing on COVID-19 and Sri Lankan political fiesta, one unusual headline grabbed my attention. “Commercial Bank becomes Sri Lanka’s first carbon-neutral bank.” Amidst all the news about deforestation, human-elephant conflicts, and natural disasters in Sri Lanka, this was a treat to read. I have always been keen on action against climate change and am very much attentive to the change that we need to bring forth to salvage our future. Therefore, reading about this achievement of carbon neutrality by Commercial Bank was very intriguing. 

But what exactly is this carbon neutrality? If you go by the definition, it refers to the achievement of net-zero carbon dioxide emissions. This can be done by balancing the emissions of carbon dioxide with its removal or eliminating the emissions from society. If this sounds like Greek to you, don’t worry, it is not that hard to understand. 

Most of the activities that we do in our day-to-day life like driving, shopping, flying, and powering up our house produce human-emitted greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide. These emissions increase the average worldwide temperature levels resulting in a rise in sea levels, change in weather patterns, and other issues contributing to climate change. Being “carbon neutral” means you redeem the same amount of carbon dioxide that you emitted by some means, like using renewable energy or using an electric vehicle. This would create a neutral impact on the environment. Many around the world are striving to achieve this carbon neutrality. 

But how can one become carbon neutral? Your carbon footprint or else your carbon emission won’t be a zero unless you live entirely off the grid. You can start your journey towards carbon neutrality by calculating your carbon footprint using an online website or an app designed for that. If you live in New Zealand, you can use futurefit.nz to calculate your carbon emission with the help of some simple questions. After discovering that you can always make environmentally friendly alterations to your daily life. Even if you know the amount of your carbon emission or not, you can take the following steps to reduce or offset your carbon emission. 

  • Plan your meals and waste less. 

Generally, all emissions are linked with what we put on our plate. Although it is hard to label a particular meal as the most environmentally friendly, experts agree that cutting down on meat, specifically red meat like beef and lamb, is a better choice for the environment. Production of red meat uses a lot of feed, water & land, and cows themselves also give off methane (a harmful greenhouse gas) emissions. 

For that reason, filling up your meal with vegetables, fruits, grains, and beans would probably be a better option to cut down your carbon emission. That means eating vegetarian or vegan meals would likely be a better choice. I know it is easier said than done. However, you can start with baby steps. For meat-lovers, replacing their daily red meat with chicken, which is white meat, would be step number one. The next step can be swapping a few meals of the week with a more vegetarian option. Such few alterations in your day-to-day life would make a great start in your walk towards carbon neutrality. 

Another major concern when it comes to what’s on your plate is how much of that goes into the landfill. On average, 17% of the total waste in New Zealand’s waste stream is food waste. That is 30% in Sri Lanka. They might not seem like big numbers, but their impact surely is. There are simple solutions that every one of us can do to lower these numbers. First and foremost would be to clearly understand what is there in your fridge before going to the supermarket. Making a grocery shopping list before you go to the store would add to that, as it would save you from buying things that you don’t need. In addition to that, you should always keep in mind to cook the right amount of food for the number of people eating. If there is leftover food, it would be best to be creative and reuse them rather than tossing them out. 

Okay, let’s say you do all this at your home, and you are working towards reducing your carbon emissions. But what happens when you go to a restaurant, and your meal serving is oversized? You would surely have leftovers. That is a problem that I face all the time. But there is a simple solution, a doggie bag. You can request a container from the restaurant to carry the leftovers home. It does not necessarily have to be for your dog; like the term suggests, it can be a treat for you later that day or for the following day. 

  • Save energy at your homes

Remember how annoying it gets when your mom or dad constantly nag you to switch off lights when you leave a room. Well, that is not just useless nagging. That is a very effective way to conserve energy and also reduce your carbon footprint. In addition to that, you can always replace your lights with LEDs as they use 85% less energy, last up to 25 times longer, and even cheaper to run than incandescent lights. 

Another way to reduce your carbon footprint would be switching to renewable energy sources like solar power. If you live in an area where there is a possibility to use solar power for heating and other purposes, that is definitely a better option for reducing your carbon emission. In Rotorua, New Zealand, some houses even use geothermal heating, which is also a renewable energy source. 

  • More climate-friendly travel 

Transportation is one of the major areas where carbon emission is high and mighty. In November 2017, carbon dioxide emission from transport became the top source of greenhouse gases surpassing the emissions from electricity generation. According to a 2017 study from researchers at Lund University and the University of British Columbia, going carless for a year could save about 2.6 tons of carbon dioxide. 

But let’s be realistic. You are more likely to use your car for your travel than to avoid it. So what can you do to reduce your emissions when you do so? Primarily, the best alternative would be to switch to an electric car. Your travel would be more greener that way. But what if you can’t afford such an option? Well, you can make your ordinary car a bit more climate-friendly. 

You have to regularly service your car to keep it more efficient and go easy on the gas and brakes to help you reduce the emissions. Cutting down short car trips, opting out to walk or ride a bike for short-distance trips would also cut down the carbon emission from your vehicle. Not only that, when you are travelling to work, you can always carpool with your colleagues and friends, thus splitting the carbon emission between the number of people in the car. 

  • Plant a garden. 

Planting trees would be the most effective and the best way to reduce your carbon footprint. As we all know, plants absorb carbon dioxide and emit oxygen for us to breathe. So, planting some greens would always neutralize at least a portion of your carbon emission. 

Whether you live in a house with a large backyard or in an apartment with just a tiny balcony, you can always plant a tree or two. You can plant some bee-friendly flowers, a few vegetables, and herbs in pots which would benefit the planet as well as your pocket when it comes to healthy eating. Balcony gardens are considered an excellent option for urban dwellings. 

These small changes in your daily life are easy to implement and would be very effective in reducing our carbon footprints. These could be your first steps in your long journey towards carbon neutrality. No matter how small they are, our actions and choices would ultimately make a difference and contribute to the betterment of our planet.