'Climate Positive' Companies Are Taking Sustainability to the Next Level—Here's What That Actually Means

We can do more than neutralize our environmental impact.

We're fortunate to live 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, and companies that offset their environmental impact by reducing their carbon emissions to zero. A climate positive company goes a bit further: It will not only achieve net zero carbon emissions but it will also work to reduce and remove more greenhouse gases than it emits. In short: Climate positive means 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 individuals get in on this climate positive trend? Here are some ways.

Shop smart—and locally.

For individual consumers, adopting a climate positive lifestyle requires a higher sensibility and awareness of our daily lives. It means being vigilant about the brands we consume and businesses we support.

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."

Speak with your wallet.

Some people question how much individuals can do to help the environment when the most significant shifts need to come from big, polluting companies. That's fair enough, but individual consumers can use their spending power to sway these companies' policies. They can choose to support brands and services with sustainable practices, especially those with transparent carbon-offset plans.

For example, 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.

Pay attention to what companies are saying.

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. 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.)

Choose plant-based options when possible.

We can support brands whose mission and actions focus 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 transportation combined. Dairy production is responsible for approximately one-third of those emissions," explains founder Aylon Steinhard. Through its Earth-first, climate-positive processes, the brand saves millions of gallons of water and reduces carbon and methane emissions. (Both are greenhouse gases.)

Make the environment a personal priority.

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."

"When we say 'positive impact' we don't mean a feel-good belief that we're somehow helping out," Steinhard says. "We mean a real, measurable, and scalable impact informed by data and peer-reviewed research." This quantifiable data is available through in-house research and outside organizations, including the UN, Dear Wise Earth, Climate Alliance, EWG, Greenpeace, and more.

Climate positive actions not only pick up the slack of degrading systems and industries, but they also ensure that we don't take more resources than our planet can handle. Then Mother Earth can function within its comfort zone, and we can reap the fruits it sows (in moderation).

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