Technology is killing our planet
A bit intense? Sorry about that, but we think it’s time we had an honest conversation about our relationship with technology and the impact it’s having on the planet.
The Honest Reality
The technology industry is responsible for around 3.7% of greenhouse gases (The Shift Project, 2019) – that’s around the same amount as global aviation.
Because we rarely think about the infrastructure powering a device it can be easy to underestimate its impact.
As more money is invested into tech its carbon footprint is only set to grow. This means more energy and more raw materials. By 2040 communication technology will account for 14% of the global environmental footprint (Journal of Cleaner Production, 2018).
But no-one’s talking about it.
We don’t think that’s very honest.
- We're the UK's only carbon negative mobile network - we remove all the carbon our network emits twice over through afforestation, Biochar and Direct Air Capture
- We're a member of 1% for the Planet and donate 1% of our revenue to initiatives fighting the climate crisis. We're working with TreeSisters to plant One Million Trees
- We're a certified B Corporation which means we're legally committed to consider people and the planet in every decision we make as a business
Our Carbon Footprint
We’re Carbon Negative – it’s a positive thing, we promise
We’re the UK’s only carbon negative mobile network. That means that we offset double the CO2 emissions created by our members’ phones. So that means we offset double the emissions for every email sent, phone call made and selfie taken- and all the emissions associated with their manufacture and charging. We also do this for everything we do at Honest HQ. So we’re carbon negative across our whole business.
We calculate all those emissions then look to reduce and remove that carbon from the air. If you want to read more about what it means to be a carbon negative company read our blog here.
How do we offset our carbon footprint?
We do this primarily by planting trees – working with On a Mission to plant trees all over the world, including Madagascar, Brazil and Colombia. Trees are a great way to capture carbon because they’re not as expensive as some other methods. They also provide lots of social benefits like employment, encourage biodiversity and help prevent soil erosion – but they take a pretty long time to grow and don’t capture carbon permanently.
As a tech company we want to lead the way in how businesses remove carbon from the air. The most common way of doing this is through planting trees, but there’s more to do beyond that. Don’t get us wrong – we love trees! They’re great. But there’s only so much land to plant them – so we need to look at other ways to capture carbon. That’s why we work with Klimate to capture all our Honest HQ and members’ emissions – 95% through trees and the other 5% through Direct Air Capture (DAC) and Biochar.
Honest Mobile CO2 Offsetting Portfolio
Going beyond reforestation
What is Biochar?
4% of Honest’s offset CO2 emissions are captured using a process called ‘pyrolysis’ to create Biochar. Sorry, we know that’s quite a complicated sentence so let us explain…
Pyrolysis is basically breaking down organic materials using lots of heat. It’s a very technical process in which biomass or green waste (waste products from plants) is exposed to high temperatures in an oxygen-free environment. Biochar – a charcoal-like substance – is produced by this process (which releases only a negligible amount of CO₂ into the air). Besides being a waste product, biomass contains large quantities of carbon so where it would normally decompose and release carbon instead we’re left with a kind of porous charcoal, which is durable and made up of 65-80% carbon – it’s awesome because it locks up carbon permanently.
We work with Carbonfuture to do this – who have a bunch of projects creating Biochar and using it in farming processes across Europe and the US. This can be as direct application to soil, adding it to compost, animal feed, stable bedding or slurry. This technique also produces byproducts – pyrolysis oils or process gases – that can be used to generate energy and heating. But people have also started using it to create paints, building materials, insulation materials, textiles and other high-tech materials. Which is great news because this could replace scarce resources like sand.
Biochar is still pretty costly and the Biochar industry isn’t the only one with an eye on plant waste (biomass) from agriculture or forests. The dawn of new technologies, such as Bio-energy or BECCS, could increase the competition for biomass.
What is Direct Air Capture?
Direct Air Capture (DAC) is the most expensive technology we use to capture carbon from the air. Even though it’s pretty early in its development, companies like Honest Mobile are leading the way in its early adoption. As a tech company we think it’s important to invest in new tech that will help stop the climate emergency. Combined with a safe and permanent storage solution, DAC is an incredible form of CO2 removal.
We work with the Swiss company Climeworks whose DAC technology captures CO2 from the air. The CO2 is then mixed with water and pumped deep underground. Through a process of rapid underground mineralization provided by Climeworks’ partner Carbfix, the captured CO2 is turned into stone and removed from the air safely and permanently for thousands of years. We use Climeworks’ service to remove 1% of our emissions. DAC is well worth the cost because it’s very permanent and it’s easy to trace – and as more people invest in it the cost will go down.
Permanence of carbon capture technologies
Over time we plan to shift our portfolio towards more permanent carbon capture projects
Is offsetting enough?
No, offsetting emissions is not enough. It’s a great starting point – and we encourage all businesses to do it – but the most important thing we can do is reduce emissions in the first place.
The Honest Forest
So where does the Honest Forest come into all this? As a member of 1% for the Planet we donate 1% of our revenue to organisations fighting the climate crisis.
The Honest Forest is made up of trees we plant beyond our carbon offsetting goals. We work with TreeSisters to celebrate all the awesome things that trees do above and beyond absorbing carbon from the atmosphere. Like providing work, promoting biodiversity and preventing soil erosion. TreeSisters put community and women’s empowerment at the heart of their tree planting projects. Together we’re on a mission to plant One Million Trees and we’d love your help! Read more about our work with TreeSisters here.
When you log into the Honest app you can see how many trees you’ve planted in the Honest Forest and choose to pay £1 to plant two extra trees a month – which also enters you into a raffle to win a free month of Honest Mobile.
A very proud B Corp
What is a B Corp?
A B Corp is a new kind of business – one that balances purpose and profit. To be a certified B Corporation you have to legally change the objectives of your company to consider the environment, suppliers, team and customers 🏆
What does being a B Corp mean to Honest?
We think business should be a force for good. For us, being a B Corp means doing the right thing for people and the planet in every decision we make. It means that we have a ‘triple bottom line’ – our goal is not only to make a profit but also look after people and the planet.
We’re excited to be the first UK mobile network to be a certified B Corporation 🎉
Honest’s carbon offsetting data is calculated using the work of Mike Berners-Lee author of How Bad are Bananas – the Carbon Footprint of Everything.
So far we’ve offset 42,369.63kg CO2 and planted 2,965 trees with 1% for the Planet and TreeSisters.
More to do…
There are few small but important differences between being carbon negative and net-zero. As a net-zero company we’d need to consider all greenhouse gases (not just CO2) and also ensure that we’ve reduced our emissions in every way possible, before offsetting the remaining emissions. We’re working on this at the moment so keep your eyes peeled for more news on this 👀
Piggybacking on other mobile networks is great – because it means we aren’t contributing direct emissions by building more infrastructure – but we also take seriously our responsbility to encourage our suppliers to switch to renewable energy sources. We’re working on this at the moment.
SIMS and e-SIMs
We hate using plastic SIM cards which is why we’re excited to launch e-SIMs later this year. Not only will it be easier for you to sign up to Honest, it will also be better for the planet.