Cabon Footprint and Carbon Neutrality

November 17, 2022

What do these terms mean, and how do they apply to sustainability?

By Catherine Haub

People across the globe are looking for ways to be more sustainable, leading to new terms describing different goals to be more sustainable. Two terms that have come up lately involve carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas negatively affecting the atmosphere, causing many are trying to limit how much they emit into the atmosphere. This is where the terms “carbon footprint” and “carbon neutral” come into play. But what exactly do these terms mean?

Carbon Footprint

A person’s carbon footprint refers to the amount of carbon dioxide they emit into the atmosphere [1]. When looking at their carbon footprint, they have to look at all aspects in which fossil fuels are used, including transportation, shopping, food, and energy from our homes since burning fossil fuels emits carbon dioxide [1]. It’s a way for someone to look at their impact on the Earth and find ways to cut down on their carbon dioxide emissions [1]. There are many different carbon footprint calculators out there that someone can use if they want to see how much carbon dioxide they emit and where most of it comes from. Carbon footprints can be calculated on both an individual level and a company level.

Carbon Neutrality

A person cannot completely cut out carbon, but there are ways to lower the amount of greenhouse gases a person emits. Many companies and even the European Union are striving towards carbon neutrality which means they are offsetting the amount of carbon dioxide they emit, having a net carbon emission of zero [2]. To do so, companies are looking towards more green operations such as using renewable energy resources, properly disposing of waste, and being more energy efficient [3]. Companies also work with organizations on carbon offset projects like planting trees and other restoration efforts to be more carbon neutral [3]. One of these organizations include One Tree Planted who work with many companies to plant trees where they are most needed for every dollar a company donates [4].

How Do Plastic Play a Role

Plastic is often characterized as the villain in the sustainability story, but there’s more to it than what’s on the surface. While we have been led to believe that the alternatives to plastic are much more eco-friendly than plastic based on recycling numbers, that may not be the whole picture, as sustainability also focuses on production on transportation. In the case of transportation, plastic has a much lower carbon footprint due to how lightweight plastic materials are when compared to the alternatives [5]. Another issue with the narrative around plastic is the low recycling number. In 2021, only 5% of plastic was recycled in the US, meaning the other 95% was incinerated or back in the environment, including recyclable plastics [6]. By not recycling plastics, virgin material is made using fossil fuels emitting carbon dioxide [7]. By recycling plastic, there is a reduction in fossil fuel consumption and emission [7]. If a company is trying to lower its carbon footprint, changing to recycled material can be a way to do so. At Placon, we offer our customers the option to have their packaging made with 25%, 75%, or 100% recycled material. Reach out to learn more and make the switch!

[1]What’s Your Carbon Footprint? | Center for Science Education (

[2]What is carbon neutrality and how can it be achieved by 2050? | News | European Parliament (

[3]What does carbon neutral mean? – CNET

[4]One Tree Planted | Tree Planting Non-Profit: One Dollar, One Tree

[5]Plastic Has A Big Carbon Footprint — But That Isn’t The Whole Story : NPR

[6]Only 5% of plastic waste generated by US last year was recycled, report says | US news | The Guardian

[7]How Does Recycling Plastic Help the Environment? (

For 55 years, Placon has been a leading designer and manufacturer of custom and stock plastic packaging for the food, medical, and retail markets. Placon has manufacturing operations in Madison, WI; Elkhart, IN; Plymouth, MN; and West Springfield, MA, and currently ranked in Plastics News 2020 Thermoformers Ranking Top 20. Placon delivers packaging breakthroughs that inspire better engagement between people and products with industry leading innovation and award-winning packaging designs. For more information, visit