Trees in a forest

Luminary goes carbon neutral

As participants in the information economy, we can no longer hide behind the idea that our environmental impact is minimal. So here’s what we’re doing about it...

Marty Drill

By Marty Drill, 28 June 20194 minute read

If you had to nominate a list of industries with high carbon footprints, the chances are your list would include typical suspects like mining, manufacturing and aviation. But did you know that the internet creates more pollution annually than the entire aviation industry? 

As a digital agency, we recognise that the work we do impacts the environment. In fact, we recently undertook a full assessment of our carbon usage, through an accreditation company called Carbon Neutral

The results were staggering. 

Over the last 20 years we have released thousands of tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Our impact stems from computers, offices, fridges, flights, staff travel to and from work, and web servers that run 24 hours a day.

While we are taking steps to reduce the day-to-day carbon footprint of the services we provide, we acknowledge that these measures alone do not go far enough. It was time for us to really take responsibility for this impact.

So from 1 July 2019 – our 20th birthday – Luminary will be carbon neutral. Our carbon footprint will be offset through the planting of trees. 

How technology is impacting the environment

Technology has improved our lives and ultimately changed the way we interact and the way we do business. But with our increasing reliance on technology, our electricity usage continues to grow – and the generation of electricity is responsible for around 25% of the carbon polluted into the atmosphere each year. 

The burning of coal, natural gas, and oil for electricity and heat is the largest single source of global greenhouse gas emissions. These emissions gather in our atmosphere impacting air quality and trapping heat that would normally have been released back into space. 

The impact this is having on our planet has, of course, been well documented. 

Greenhouse gas emissions

Sources of greenhouse gas emissions by major economic sector. It’s important to note that this data is for the world as a whole, and each country has a different emission profile. Data from the US EPA.

Why did we decide to plant trees?

About 11 percent of our greenhouse gas emissions stem from carbon dioxide released from land use, especially deforestation. 

According to the Department of Sustainability, over its lifetime, the average tree captures 268kg of carbon. Depending on their type and location, on average they capture between 15kg and 22kg per year. The more trees we plant, the more carbon dioxide is trapped in the trees, rather than in the atmosphere. 

There are a range of things we can do as a society to reduce our carbon footprint. We believe that trees are the most effective way to have people experience a physical representation of offsetting their carbon footprint. 

So on 21 July, we will be working with Fifteen Trees to plant 500 trees in Melbourne – Luminary’s city of origin. On an ongoing basis, we will also invest in carbon offsets through the planting of trees in the Reforestation Yarra Yarra Biodiversity Project in Western Australia, through Carbon Neutral. 

What else are we doing to reduce our impact?

As well as our carbon offset program, we are committed to minimising the impact of our day-to-day activities on the environment. Some of the key elements of our environmental strategy include our comprehensive recycling program (including recycling our coffee grounds through an organisation called Reground, which collects and redistributes coffee grounds to community gardens to be used for compost), sourcing and engaging ethical suppliers, minimising unnecessary travel through the use of teleconferencing, and encouraging our team members to walk, run or ride to work.

We have provided our team members with reusable water bottles and reusable coffee cups, and we’ve stopped purchasing plastic bottles in our offices and installed filtered water taps instead. Many of our old computers are also donated to an orphanage in Bali. 

And there is more for us to do. 

Reusable coffee cups

We believe the future is bright. We have an opportunity to positively impact the course that our environment is on by banding together as individuals and companies and taking action. 

The world is changing

While climate change continues to be hotly debated around the world, there is a growing movement for change. Some companies and governments around the world (e.g. England, Norway and California) have set ambitious and hard timelines for going carbon neutral. 

Going completely carbon neutral includes a full review of your company’s total impact on the environment. However, we believe it is worth it. 

Now all we need to do is get our kids to put down their screens and go climb a tree!

Infographic - Australia's Digital Footprint

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