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What Is a Carbon Handprint?


Do you dream of having a positive impact on the world?

In all honesty, most people do. There are a million and one ways you can make a positive impact, too, from a career that helps children to always giving your spare change to charities. Realistically, you can do something that makes the planet a little better every single day.

But there’s one area that most of us should be focusing on slightly more: climate change. It’s the biggest crisis our planet is facing right now, and we have the power to help.

If your business is already taking steps towards reducing your emissions and cutting out plastic, that’s amazing. We’re actually very proud of you! But, it doesn’t have to stop there.

You can go one step further, and instead of simply having no impact on the environment, you can start having a positive one. Let us explain how.

What Are Carbon Handprints and How Can They Make You Climate Positive?

You’ve probably heard of carbon footprints, but now let us introduce you to carbon handprints.

A carbon handprint is the opposite of a footprint. It recognises the actions you take to have a positive impact on the climate, over and above reducing your own carbon footprint if you do enough of these they might even outweigh the size of your carbon footprint. Where a footprint evaluates your activities that contribute to global warming, your handprint evaluates your actions that help reduce climate change beyond your own value chain.

When you have a handprint and a footprint equal in size, you’ve become carbon neutral. You’re not putting out any more than you’re taking back in (or offsetting). If your handprint continues to grow and becomes larger than your footprint, you’ve become climate positive.

What Does Climate Positive Mean?

A lot of people, businesses, and even countries stop setting CO2e reduction plans when they reach carbon neutral. They’ve compensated for the harm they are doing, and they’re a-okay to leave it there.

But, at Go Climate Positive, we know that your climate goals can be more ambitious than that.

The deeper we delve into cutting the emissions from our actions and reducing the total CO2e in the air, the less we’ll feel the impact of climate change. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

So, there is a step beyond carbon neutral where you start becoming climate positive. That means that your actions go beyond the bare minimum of eliminating your own negative impacts and start helping others reduce theirs, which would be an amazing thing to shout about in your marketing!

There are different approaches to going climate positive. Our approach is about going beyond your boundaries and looking at your suppliers and customers to help reduce the emissions of those around you. That leads us directly back to carbon handprints.

How Can You Start Creating Carbon Handprints?

When you become carbon neutral, you can only go so far before you can’t move anywhere else; that’s the point where your emissions are balanced. One of the things we love so much about handprints is that there is no limit on where you can go. You can keep building your carbon handprint infinitely, creating more positive change every year!

If you’re intrigued, here are some of the ways you can start developing carbon handprints as a business.

Helping Your Suppliers to Become Carbon Neutral

With carbon handprints (and a lot of other things in life), working collaboratively can often create the biggest changes. As a business, you can work with those around you, like your suppliers, to reduce their emissions. For example, if you help a company to switch to renewable energy to run its operations, you grow your carbon handprint!

This can have a tremendous effect that goes far beyond you and your businesses footprint. Any other companies who shop with that supplier will also see a reduction in their carbon footprint, leading to lower emissions across sectors. That one small change you make can have a domino effect that never ends.

Create and Sell Low-Carbon Products

Every product you sell has an embedded carbon footprint. This takes into account the entire lifecycle of emissions associated with it, including the CO2e released from your suppliers manufacturing the materials to make the product. Many items will also create more emissions throughout their life, such as from using energy (like electrical products) and creating waste (like non-recyclable plastic).

If you can develop an alternative product that offers a lower lifetime carbon footprint in total, you can add to your handprint. The amount your handprint grows by would be the emissions you’ve saved from being released compared to the original or alternative product.

Your handprint would then continue to grow for every item you sell. As your business grows, so does your positive impact!

For example, an electric car company like Tesla offers alternatives to diesel or petrol-powered cars. On average, an electric car in Europe will reduce a driver’s emissions by three times compared to when driving a petrol car. That reduction can be added to Tesla’s handprint for every vehicle sold, helping them to become climate positive.

Recycling or Reusing Materials

We just spoke about the embedded carbon of the things you produce and buy (the energy used to make the product in its entirety). When you recycle materials or reuse them, you’re reducing the impact of that embedded carbon.

The difference between carbon produced when reusing or recycling a product rather than making an entirely new product is known as “avoided emissions”. Good news, this counts as a handprint! But, there is a catch. You can’t just make a reusable or recyclable product; you need to make sure that it actively is reused or recycled when it’s with the consumer to count it on your handprint.

Some companies, like Sodastream, have a buy-back service in place. This means that when the user is finished with the product, they can send back the container for reusing or recycling by the company, usually for money off their next purchase. They can then clearly see how many containers can be counted as avoided emissions.

Go Climate Positive!

At Go Climate Positive, it shouldn’t really come as a surprise that we’re big believers in carbon handprints. Our whole name is based on going beyond carbon neutral, so it does make sense! If you’d like some help looking into how you can start creating a carbon handprint, or if you’re not quite there yet and first need to focus on reducing your carbon footprint, we’re the team you need.

We can help you start actioning realistic plans and communicating them to your customers, demonstrating your commitment to the environment openly and honestly. Get in touch with us today to find out more and let’s start making a positive impact every day.

Get in touch

Written by Eoin McQuone

Eoin (pronounced like "Ian") is the Chief Carbon Coach and founder of Go Climate Positive. He is a Practitioner member of IEMA (the Institute of Environmental Management) and a sustainability lead on the Cheltenham Economic Recovery Task Force.

Eoin says, "Sustainability is no longer a 'nice to do', it is business critical. My goal is to make it accessible and affordable for every business, however big or small , no matter their market sector."

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