January 01, 2007

happy carbon neutral year!

It's "Words of the Year" season. In about a week, the American Dialect Society will elect its Word of the Year at its annual convention. You can read about some of the entries here. In the meantime, the New Oxford American Dictionary has declared carbon neutral their WotY 2006.
Being carbon neutral involves calculating your total climate-damaging carbon emissions, reducing them where possible, and then balancing your remaining emissions, often by purchasing a carbon offset: paying to plant new trees or investing in “green” technologies such as solar and wind power.

The rise of carbon neutral reflects the growing importance of the green movement in the United States. In a CBS News/New York Times Poll in May 2006, 66% of respondents agreed that global warming is a problem that’s causing a serious impact now. 2006 also saw the launch of a new (and naturally, carbon neutral) magazine about eco-living, Plenty; the actor Leonardo DiCaprio is planning a environmentally-themed reality TV series about an eco-village; and colleges from Maine to Wisconsin* are pledging to be carbon neutral within five years. It’s more than a trend, it’s a movement.

Erin McKean, editor in chief of the New Oxford American Dictionary, said “The increasing use of the word carbon neutral reflects not just the greening of our culture, but the greening of our language. When you see first graders trying to make their classrooms carbon neutral, you know the word has become mainstream.”

Runners-up include the compound dwarf planet (bye-bye, Pluto), the not-so-new comparative funner (fun has been used as an adjective for many years), and elbow bump ("greeting in which two people touch elbows, recommended by the World Health Organization as an alternative to the handshake in order to reduce the spread of germs").

*The University of Wisconsin has pledged "to trim campus energy consumption per square foot by 20 percent by 2010".

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