Carbon Neutral vs Net Zero: What Is the Difference?

If you’ve spent more than five minutes on our website you’ll have noticed that we’re pretty easy going here at The Cheeky Panda. We like to keep things light — besides, it’s hard to be serious when you’re telling your customer how good your product will feel on their bum cheeks.

 But, when it comes to protecting the planet, we mean business. We don’t bandy about green talk just to impress our customers. We’re genuinely excited about doing our bit to save the planet, both in the workplace and at home.

Not a day goes by that we don’t talk about sustainability here at Panda HQ. If you love sustainability as much as we do, you’ve probably heard the terms ‘carbon neutral’ and ‘net zero’ by now. But, what do they mean and is there a difference?

Is There a Difference Between Net Zero and Carbon Neutral?

In 2019, the UK government set a target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to reach net zero emissions by 2050. That’s a lofty goal, but what does it actually look like in real terms? In their statement, they said net zero meant:

“Any emissions would be balanced by schemes to offset an equivalent amount of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, such as planting trees or using technology like carbon capture and storage.”

In truth, what they’re actually aiming for is carbon neutrality. While they might be two sides of the same coin, there is a difference between net zero and carbon neutral.

Carbon Neutral vs Net Zero: Same Same, But Different

With so much talk about the environment, sustainability, greenhouse gases and so on, it’s easy to get confused with some of the terms and phrases. Carbon neutral and net zero are a case in point.

They’re not just different ways of saying the same thing. There’s an important distinction between the two. Carbon neutral means offsetting greenhouse gas emissions with carbon credits. Net zero means reducing them through your own actions.

You could claim to be carbon neutral and still enjoy multiple flights overseas each year by supporting carbon reduction initiatives, such as planting trees. Not that there’s anything wrong with that mind you.

The world can always do with more trees. But, you’re still flying long distances, which means your actions are still adding to the greenhouse gases being emitted into the atmosphere.

If your aim is to achieve net zero carbon, then you’d stop flying as much. Maybe even altogether, depending on how hardcore you are about your goal. Most of us accept that we still need to live in the world, so we aim instead for a semblance of balance. And Colin agrees.

Carbon neutral vs net zero - Colin says why not both?

Carbon neutral vs net zero - Colin says why not both?

Rather Than Either/Or, How About We Shoot for Both?

We produce carbon every single day. It’s unavoidable. From washing our socks to driving our car, everything we do produces some sort of carbon. The problem is, we’ve been producing too much carbon for too long and this is causing our planet to heat up.

That doesn’t just mean more days in summer to fire up the BBQ — it means extreme weather, rising sea levels and melting ice caps. It’s scary stuff, but the good news is we can all work together to slow these processes down.

In a nutshell, we need to eliminate the avoidable emissions from our operations and offset those emissions that we do create. This will enable us to reach a sweet spot, where carbon out and carbon in are equal.

How Do We Balance Greenhouse Gas Emissions?

Okay, so how can we offset emissions and remove carbon from the atmosphere? We’re glad you asked. Here are a few ways we can support carbon removal:

  • Planting more trees (and bamboo too!) to absorb CO2 and release oxygen
  • Managing and maintaining existing forests
  • Protecting wetlands, such as mangroves and seagrass beds
  • Direct air capture

The last example is a little more technical, but it basically entails capturing the CO2 before it gets released into the atmosphere and storing it underground where it cannot be released. (I told you, technical.) Read more about it here.

On a day-to-day level, there’s also a lot we can do as individuals to reduce carbon emissions. Some examples include reducing air travel, driving more efficiently, eating less meat and switching to clean energy.

The road to net zero carbon will be a challenge for everyone, but the important thing is that we all work together to achieve this goal. It’s vital not just for us, but for future generations as well.

Here at The Cheeky Panda we are proud to be doing our bit to help fight the climate crisis, as we continually strive to find new ways to become better as a business.

With love, 

The Cheeky Panda 

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