The Carbon Neutral® label represents a new way that companies, events and pop stars are balancing some of the ill environmental effects of their enterprises - by planting trees.

There are two ways to counter the carbon dioxide emissions that are recognised to be the main cause of global warming, explains Future Forests, the company pioneering the new scheme. The ideal way, they say, would be to reduce our emissions to zero. At least we could limit our use of cars, electricity and so forth. This is carbon management, but unfortunately it is only happening to a limited degree, and the American government's withdrawal from the Kyoto protocol has been a step in the wrong direction. However, it is well known that plants and trees have a positive effect, absorbing CO2. Future Forests call it carbon offset, and are giving companies like MTV the chance to enhance their public relations whilst doing good for the planet, by planting forests on their behalf.

As a consequence, the MTV Europe Music Awards in 2001 were branded 'Carbon Neutral®', as have been the Brit Awards for two years and the Glastonbury and Purple In The Park festivals. On behalf of Future Forests, the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Management helps work out the level of carbon dioxide emissions arising from a given event, in terms of road traffic, electricity, goods sold and other factors, and the organisers pay to have a sufficient number of trees planted to neutralise it. The trees are always native to the country they are being grown in, and enough saplings are planted to make sure that there will be enough without those that die. Pink Floyd have taken part in the scheme, declaring their newest album Carbon Neutral®, with forests in Mexico, the USA, and Scotland. And Avis Europe boasts of being 'the world's first Carbon Neutral® car rental company'. Also signed up are Pulp, Atomic Kitten and Natalie Imbruglia, along with hundreds of corporations, such as Tower Records, Barclay's and Hilton Hotels.

Future Forests' founder and chairman, Dan Morrell, came up with the idea in 1990 and pitched it to a number of companies, but as he explained to the Guardian, "they all said they loved the idea, but nobody said yes to it." It was the support from Pink Floyd and much of the rest of the pop community that gave it appeal to the corporate world, and in the late 1990s his idea started to take off. But is it little more than a marketing ploy with scant environmental effect? How much Future Forests will actually limit the world's CO2 emissions is debatable, but it is this support from pop stars that Morrell thinks will be helpful, training a new generation to be aware of the effects of what they consume, making them aware of global warming, and changing their buying habits. "We live in the real world, so we're saying: 'Soak up the emissions you can, switch to renewable energy where possible, but also reduce the amount of energy you use". Hopefully next Atomic Kitten will stop polluting the planet with their music.


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