Committing to a Zero Carbon Campus

Crestone Mountain Zen Center intends to be a net zero carbon campus by 2020 and a true zero carbon campus as soon as societal and technological conditions allow it.

What does “zero carbon” mean?

Zero carbon means that the stabilization of climate and ocean acidification can only be achieved if all carbon emitting human activities are converted to run on zero carbon emitting energies.

Isn’t this impossible? Yes and no. Scientists say we already have the technological capabilities to reduce carbon emissions to 10% or lower, a level that is called “virtual zero carbon.” Virtual zero carbon together with “negative carbon” strategies such as reforestation or sequestration technologies would result in true zero carbon.

Virtual Zero Carbon + Negative carbon = Zero Carbon

So-called “net zero carbon” or “carbon neutral” approaches propose that reducing carbon emissions to less ambitious levels combined with “carbon offset” programs can achieve zero carbon. This is a questionable if not dangerous concept as it takes the urgency out of the situation. It insinuates that radical reduction to below 10% of current emission levels is not necessary because we will be able to create sufficient negative carbon sinks in the future. This is highly doubtful.

Realistically, however, it will be necessary to design a zero carbon pathway that temporarily combines radical emissions reduction with carbon offset strategies to eventually reach true zero carbon at a future time when more powerful negative carbon strategies are available.

The elements of this pathway at Crestone Mountain Zen Center include…



Working with direct emissions:

  • Comprehensive energy efficiency measures such as the implementation of energy-saving behaviors, remote-controlled thermostats, LED lighting, upgraded insulation and windows, and more efficient appliances and heat-emitters.
  • A general “design for less” and energy efficiency approach for all new construction.
  • Converting all propane-fueled heating systems and appliances to electrical.
  • Construction of a photovoltaic solar array to meet 100% of campus-wide electricity needs.
  • Construction of solar thermal arrays for heating and domestic hot water applications.
  • Adopting zero carbon wood harvesting and wood burning practices.
  • Converting to electric cars and charging them with home-produced solar electricity.



Working with indirect emissions:

  • Assisting with transportation plans to reduce carbon emissions from Zen and Guest Programs that require travel.
  • Choosing low carbon footprint consumer goods.
  • Developing local food systems and reducing food waste.
  • Using carbon offset programs and supporting negative carbon strategies (such as reforestation) to achieve net zero carbon until true zero carbon can be realized on a societal level.