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Big Companies Go ‘Carbon Negative’ Leading the Way to a Carbon-Neutral Future

Sustainability News
by Tim Wenger Sep 4, 2020

This week’s Climate Win focuses on the term “carbon negative.” This term has been in the news a lot lately, headlined by Microsoft’s recent announcement that it plans to remove every ounce of carbon it’s ever emitted by 2050. From then on, Microsoft says it plans to actually pull more carbon from the air than it produces, its products produce, and its customers produce by using them. The company plans to make this happen through tree planting, soil restoration, and direct carbon removal technology funded by its new Climate Innovation Fund.

“While the world will need to reach net zero, those of us who can afford to move faster and go further should do so. That’s why today we are announcing an ambitious goal and a new plan to reduce and ultimately remove Microsoft’s carbon footprint,” said Microsoft President Brad Smith at the company’s announcement event in January. “By 2030 Microsoft will be carbon negative, and by 2050 Microsoft will remove from the environment all the carbon the company has emitted either directly or by electrical consumption since it was founded in 1975.”

Smith points out that while not everyone can go carbon negative, some businesses can and should do so. Is going carbon negative really possible on a large scale for businesses and governments? We’re beginning to find out. The country of Bhutan is carbon negative, for example. Though small and without major industry, Bhutan’s government makes a point of prioritizing the climate in its policy decisions, which ripple through the country’s economy.

IKEA is another company going carbon negative, as are QuickBooks and Mint, according to TerraPass. Carbon negativity is possible for some, but carbon neutrality is possible for all. As an added bonus, you can help the world get there. Let’s break it down.

How to become carbon neutral

Three primary approaches must come together in order for the modern economy to become carbon neutral, and for segments of it to be carbon negative. First, businesses and governments must employ natural solutions, such as the restoration of coastal habitats including reefs, mangroves, and others that have been damaged by development. This approach needs also to include reforestation, afforestation (the growing of forest on historically non-forested land), and the halting of most deforestation.

The second method is agriculture. Organic farming methods for vegetables and meat production, permaculture, seed saving, and other ways of growing food and tending to the land that leaves the soil in a continually improving state, are essential. For more on this, watch the documentary, Seed: The Untold Story.

The third is technology, which is what catches the most headlines. We’ve reported in this column on companies pulling carbon out of the air, the increasing ease of taking road trips in electric vehicles, and cities creating energy through wastewater. Intel is working with local researchers to restore a marine habitat in the Philippines, the Financial Times reported. Each is an important step toward going carbon neutral and eventually carbon negative, and developments like this are increasingly common as the wheels of technology move forward with sustainability top-of-mind.

Also necessary for this method to succeed is big businesses following through on pledges of climate neutrality — and, as noted above, those like Microsoft going carbon negative. This is where you come in. Industry reacts to what its customers want. So, in short, here are a few things you can do to support the continually progressing movement toward a world that removes and sequesters more carbon than it emits:

  • Shop and eat local and organic as much as possible, plant a garden, and follow the advice of food activist and author Michael Pollan: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”
  • Support businesses that make drastic pledges toward sustainability. It’s more than just good PR for them. Your dollar in support helps to sway public opinion.
  • Reuse and recycle tech products whenever possible. (Send your old iPhone back to your service provider after you upgrade, for example.)
  • Pay attention to new studies and the news, but don’t get too discouraged by all the negative information.

What’s encouraging is that each of these three approaches is trending in a big way right now, pushed forward by younger generations who are more eco-conscious than ever. Science has spoken, and now the technology, along with public opinion, is slowly catching up. There’s a lot of work to be done and many parties that will do everything they can to slow progress. But through all the noise, remember this: progress is being made, and progress begets progress.

More climate wins

General Motors is “position(ing) our company for an all-electric future,” its CEO Mary Barra said earlier this year, and this week the company took a big step toward that future. It has moved the engineering team that developed the Corvette, one of the highest-performing cars ever made, to its Autonomous and Electric Vehicles program team, InsideEVs reported. The move signifies the company’s dedication to producing top-performing electric vehicles at scale and to doing so quickly.

Wolverines were spotted in Mount Rainier National Park for the first time in 100 years, a nod to work by local activists and the park service in maintaining a strong ecosystem inside the park. A mother and two kits were seen inside a den and appear to be living there.

New Jersey passed a law making it nearly impossible to build or expand projects that create high amounts of pollution in low-income neighborhoods, a massive step toward environmental justice in the state. reported that the law will help rid affected areas of the high pollution levels that have posed health and environmental risks for decades.

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