The Story of Upfront Carbon

How a Life of Just Enough Offers a Way Out of the Climate Crisis

We must cut carbon emissions to halt climate change. But they aren’t just produced by driving a car or heating a home. Upfront carbon – all emissions involved in manufacturing an item – can dwarf operating emissions, which is why when you look at the world through the lens of upfront carbon, everything changes.

By: Lloyd Alter

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When you look at the world through the lens of upfront carbon, everything changes

Think that buying an electric car or switching to a heat pump is going to save the planet? Think again. We must cut carbon emissions to mitigate climate change. But emissions are not produced just by driving your car or heating your home. “Upfront carbon” refers to all emissions involved in making your car, your home, or any other item.

As we seek to incorporate more renewables and less fossil fuels into our energy supply, upfront carbon becomes increasingly dominant compared to operating emissions, yet they are often ignored. This is why the pursuit of sufficiency, or making and buying just what we need, has become a powerful strategy for tackling climate change.

By focusing on consumption rather than production, The Story of Upfront Carbon:

  • Demystifies the complex web of cradle-to-grave life-cycle assessments, demonstrating that the accepted concept of “embodied carbon” is just one part of the carbon accounting equation
  • Establishes the compelling rationale for carbon minimalism, arguing that only through frugality, simplicity, and materiality can we address global inequality and avoid climate catastrophe
  • Shows how big-picture thinking and a broad, systemic approach to determining a product’s ecological footprint is indispensable to help guide the transition to degrowth and a zero-carbon society.

Packed with concrete strategies for minimizing the upfront carbon produced by transportation, agriculture, consumer goods, the built environment, and more, this highly readable and accessible guide is required reading for a world on the brink.

About The Author(s)

Lloyd Alter is a writer, public speaker, architect, inventor, and Adjunct Professor of Sustainable Design at Toronto Metropolitan University. He has published many thousands of articles on TreeHugger where he was Design Editor, and on such diverse platforms as Planet GreenHuffPoThe GuardianCorporate Knights Magazine, and Azure Magazine. A former builder of prefab housing and a tiny-house pioneer, Lloyd is a passionate advocate of Radical Sufficiency – the belief that we use too much space, too much land, too much food, too much fuel, and too much money, and that the key to sustainability is to simply use less. He is the author of Living the 1.5 Degree Lifestyle. Lloyd lives in Toronto, Ontario.

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Book Specifications

ISBN: 9780865719927

Page Count: 192

Dimensions: 6 × 9 × 0.45 in

Publication Date: May 21, 2024

Images: Black & White Images

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