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What Does It Take To Reach A Zero-Carbon Footprint? It's All In The Detail

How you live, travel and spend all impact your carbon footprint - but companies also need to do their bit to make things more transparent for consumers...
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Photo: Polestar

One crisis has dominated headlines - and our innermost thoughts - for the past year, but the climate crisis has quietly raged on alongside the global pandemic.

If anything, the pandemic has served to highlight how drastic the need for urgent environmental action is. It’s not enough to use a reusable water bottle anymore and pat ourselves on the back for it - significant change needs to happen. The Paris Agreement’s goal is to stop temperature rising above 1.5 degrees C.

Nearly a third of the UK’s top businesses, from AstraZeneca to Unilever, have pledged to eliminate their contributions to carbon emissions by 2050. As individuals, we’ve started to accept that every choice we make, from the brands we buy to the car we drive, will have an impact on our environment.

As brands become all too aware of a concerned and educated consumer base looking for eco-safe products, “greenwashing” is rampant - and something we all need to be increasingly wary of. A sinister marketing technique adopted by brands across different industries from fast fashion to fast food, greenwashing can be tricky to spot as customers eager for convenience and affordability accept the eco-friendly messaging presented to them, lulled into a false sense of security that the brands are doing the work for them.

Why Carbon Offsetting Schemes Aren’t All They’re Cracked Up To Be

Carbon-offsetting schemes have become a popular, easy way to win eco-points. These typically promise to plant trees to offset carbon emissions for purchases made.

While reforestation efforts do help counteract global warming there are lots of factors to consider with tree-planting, carbon-offsetting schemes. Environmental experts have warned that offsetting is not sustainable in the long run. Questions around the long-term carbon-storage capacity of forests and soils remain as a forest might be logged, devastated by fire or altered by climate change.


Swedish electric car maker Polestar is taking a novel approach by striving to create a car that is climate neutral from the start. The Polestar 0 project aims to eliminate all emissions through its supply and production chains by 2030, with the aim of creating a car that has no carbon impact as it rolls out of the factory gates.

Electric cars present a genuine route to zero carbon travel. All cars today have a climate impact from production, but we know that if charged with green energy, that number remains flat. So, if you can make a car that has no carbon footprint from production, and then charge it green, you are actually looking at completely climate neutral travel in a not-so-distant future.

A 100% pure electric car is the most sustainable option for motorists and by the end of the year, it’s been predicted that we’ll have over 200,000 electric vehicles on the UK’s roads. The UK government has committed to stopping the sales of diesel and petrol cars by 2030, which is great, but simply going electric is not enough.

Polestar’s ambitious project is focussing on detail as it goes back to the drawing board and designs towards zero. Its teams are designing away waste and finding new innovative materials with circularity front of mind - adopting circular batteries, recycled materials and renewable energy across the supply chain.

It’s Precept ’commitment car’ utilises a wide range of sustainable materials, including flax-based natural composites instead of plastics, seat covers made from recycled plastic bottles, cork-based vinyl for head rests and carpets made from reclaimed fishing nets. It has also partnered with renewable energy companies like GeoPura and tracks the Cobalt that goes into the batteries through blockchain to ensure transparency on how the risk mineral is extracted, transported and processed.

How To Trust Brands: Traceability & Full Transparency

Traceability is something that both brands and individuals are now being held accountable for. Where we put our money matters, and the brands that pride themselves on being ethical and fair to workers through the supply chain are also so often the ones being kindest to the planet.

Not sure how to check a brand’s integrity? Whether you’re buying fashion or cleaning products, look out for businesses that are certified B Corporations. These brands have committed to business as a force for good, submitting to regular rigorous checks across social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability.

You can also track your own carbon footprint using apps like CoGo and Evocco, which let you see how you can improve your ethical and environmental impact.


Full transparency is at the heart of Polestar’s approach, with product sustainability declarations showing the impact for each product made in a Life Cycle Assessment report. And it hopes this transparency will encourage other automotive industry leaders to release their own numbers in an effort to push the collective needle forward, towards the common goal of climate neutrality.

Circularity Is Key

We’ve all heard the expression that the most sustainable item is the one we already own. Next best? Promoting circularity where we can - such as handing down your unwanted baby clothes to friends and neighbours – that sort of thing. You can start playing an active role in the circular sharing economy for those everyday items. Clothes, your child’s toys, DIY tools, even beauty products can now be rented instead of purchased flat out. Extending the life of these items through months of active use lowers carbon, water and waste footprints – and it is something that equally applies to industry.

The Polestar 0 project will come to fruition through a combination of innovation and circularity: circular batteries will be used in the car’s production, as will recycled materials. Renewable energy will be used throughout the supply chain. All little details that collectively builds toward a zero-carbon footprint.