We're fortunate enough to be living in a time of heightened environmental awareness, education, and activism. Sustainability has become a beautiful trend, but the word itself—and the related vocabulary—can be confusing or misleading, especially since it's frequently used as a marketing ploy to misrepresent products or practices as "sustainable" when they aren't (environmentalists refer to this problematic tactic as green-washing). The vocabulary of sustainability extends to related terms, such as green, carbon neutral, environmentally conscious, eco-friendly, regenerative, clean, and so on.
"Climate positive" is another new-sounding sustainability buzzword making its way into the fore. It takes the concept of carbon neutrality to the next level. Carbon neutral refers to activities, processes, companies that offset their environmental impact by reducing their carbon emissions to zero. Whereas a climate positive company will not only achieve net zero carbon emissions, but also work to reduce and remove more greenhouse gases than they emit. Climate positive means taking further steps to benefit the environment by saving more greenhouse gas emissions than you produce.
"It's no longer OK to be just neutral—we're past that mark. We now have to think regeneratively," explains Edouardo Castillo, a nature activist and owner of the sustainable hotel group Habitas. "We must reverse the damage that has been done."
The new paradigm of Earth-conscious living encourages us to not only neutralize carbon emissions, but actually create environmental benefits.
How can you be climate positive? Shop smart—and locally, if you can.
First and foremost, "we must think locally," says Castillo. "There is a process for everything, and if we can shorten the steps of that process, if we can track the journey by which it gets to us, we can make educated and conscious decisions that will minimize the [environmental] impact."
Even more simply, it's about paying attention. Consumers can choose to support brands and services with sustainable practices, and especially those with transparent carbon-offset plans in action. For example, the North Face's Climate Beneficial wool beanie (so popular it's currently out of stock) offsets the emissions from roughly 850 cars. Paravel Aviator suitcases offset "all of the emissions that come from sourcing, assembly, shipping" and "the estimated carbon emissions of your first trip" with one of its suitcases. These are the kinds of small, but tangible efforts you can support.
Another way to identify a clean brand is through its overarching mission. IKEA, for example, is on track to be entirely climate positive by 2030, and Paravel vows to be the first entirely sustainable luggage brand by the end of 2021. While many brands are carbon-neutral and sustainable, pay attention to the ways in which they go above and beyond.
"Climate positivity means taking an active and leading role in rebalancing our impact—and even our customers' impact—rather than waiting for solutions to come to us,'' says Andy Krantz, Paravel cofounder. The luggage company is dedicated to using upcycled materials, recyclable packaging, and low-emission freight methods. (It also plants trees via Eden Reforestation Projects, donates proceeds to the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program, and more.)
Climate positivity demands choosing nature over all else. "The more connected we are to the natural world the more empathetic we become to it," Castillo says. "We begin to feel the earth in a deeper way and build a powerful connection to it."
We can support brands whose mission and actions are directly focused on protecting natural life and its resources. Eclipse Foods, for example, offers plant-based dairy products that require no sacrifice on taste and texture, enabling mainstream consumers to substantially reduce their carbon footprint by choosing a plant-based option over an animal-based one.
"According to the United Nations, industrial animal agriculture is responsible for more climate change than all of transportation combined. Dairy production is responsible for approximately one-third of those emissions," explains founder Aylon Steinhard. explains. Through its Earth-first, climate-positive processes, the brand saves millions of gallons of water, carbon-emissions, and even reduces methane emissions (another greenhouse gas).
"When we say 'positive impact' we don't mean a feel-good belief that we're somehow helping out; we mean a real, measurable and scalable impact informed by data and peer-reviewed research," Steinhard says. Quantifiable data is available through both in-house research and outside organizations including the UN, Dear Wise Earth, Climate Alliance, EWG, Greenpeace, and more. The goal is to heed planetary boundaries and exceed our offset. The benefit of climate positive actions not only picks up the slack of other degrading systems and industries, and ensures that we don't take more resources than our planet can handle. Then Mother Earth can function within its comfort zone, and we can, in turn, reap of the fruits it sows (in moderation).