The other day I received an email that my favorite band’s tour will be carbon neutral. What does that mean?
-Audrey G., Hoover, AL
The particulars of your band going carbon neutral will vary, but generally speaking it means the tour is trying to reduce their carbon footprint. “Carbon neutral” can be defined similarly to the UN Environment Programme’s definition of “climate neutral”: “living in a way which produces no net greenhouse gas emissions.” “Climate neutral” is more inclusive, while “carbon neutral” is specifically concerned with carbon dioxide gas emissions. So, going carbon neutral means making sure no net carbon dioxide emissions are produced. To achieve carbon neutrality, services or events measure their carbon emissions, reduce them as much as possible, and then offset the amount of emissions that cannot be reduced, by purchasing carbon offsets.
To measure the amount of carbon dioxide they put into the atmosphere, those looking to become carbon neutral conduct energy audits. They can then make choices to reduce these emissions. For example, up to 70 percent of the carbon emitted from an average concert comes from fans travelling to and from the show. To combat this, tours can book venues that are easily accessible by public transportation or work with the venues to publicize other alternatives like ride-sharing. The tour could also reduce the amount of lighting at the concert and only use CFL or LED light bulbs in their lighting displays. Other sustainable alternatives include reducing special effects (no unnecessary confetti or pyrotechnics), and also ensuring proper disposal of waste by having clearly marked recycling bins distributed throughout the venues.
Although these strategies can significantly reduce carbon emissions, achieving a carbon neutral status with these alternatives alone is difficult. For remaining emissions, tours can buy carbon offsets, which cover the costs of emissions reductions elsewhere, thus reducing their net emissions to zero. Carbon offsets often support alternative energy projects, such as wind and solar, that provide energy without emitting greenhouse gases.
Companies or events can also receive a carbon neutral certification, which means that their efforts to reduce carbon emissions were monitored and approved by a certifying company such as Carbonfund.org and The Carbon Neutral Company. Certification gives a company or event a vetted claim to being carbon neutral, and since most of these certifications are periodically renewed, it means those pursuing certification are constantly working to maintain this status.