Swinburne University of Technology has made university-related travel entirely carbon neutral.
As restrictions have eased, university-related travel has gradually resumed, and data shows a return to pre-pandemic levels of staff and student travel would make up almost a quarter of Swinburne’s entire carbon footprint.
However, new agreements with Indigenous-led land management groups will see emissions from all university-related travel entirely offset.
This includes all travel completed in the conduct of University business, including staff flights, student flights and indirect travel (accommodation and group transport), and based on pre-pandemic trends is estimated to contribute an estimated 17,000 tonnes of carbon emissions into the atmosphere per annum. This is equivalent to over 4,800 cars being driven on the road over this period.
It’s the next big move for Swinburne towards reaching its goals of having carbon neutral emissions by 2025, as part of its Net Zero 2025 Pathway commitment. Now operating on 100 per cent renewable energy since 2020, reducing almost 50 per cent of the university’s total emissions (approximately 30,000 tonnes of CO2 each year) it demonstrates Swinburne’s commitment to continuously reducing its carbon footprint.
In line with Swinburne’s commitment towards Indigenous engagement, the university is purchasing carbon offsets through organisations such as Arnhem Land Fire Abatement (ALFA) in 2022, which offsets carbon emissions through their cool fire savanna burning projects.
ALFA is an entirely Aboriginal-owned, not-for-profit carbon farming business created by Aboriginal Traditional Owners in Arnhem Land.
ALFA currently supports Traditional Owners to manage five fire projects across an 80,000km2 area of Arnhem Land. Through this work and the prevention of large-scale bushfires, ALFA protects and preserves invaluable biodiversity that removes carbon from the atmosphere.
ALFA also provides employment and training opportunities for local Indigenous rangers while supporting Aboriginal people in returning to, remaining on and managing their country.
Indigenous communities are supported in the preservation and transfer of knowledge, the maintenance of Aboriginal languages and the wellbeing of traditional land custodians. Preventing bushfires also reduces the risk of wildlife loss and protects the areas surrounding ancient rock art sites.
Chief Operating Officer Nancy Collins said the agreements were entirely in line with Swinburne’s Elevate Reconciliation Action Plan.
“Purchasing carbon offsets from Arnhem Land Fire Abatement for each tonne of carbon dioxide Swinburne created through travel in 2022 is not only extremely rewarding for the university and our goals of reaching net zero emissions by 2025 but also for the university’s support of Indigenous engagement,” said Collins.
“Swinburne is committed to self-determination, Indigenous knowledge and cultural safety. Investing in ALFA aligns strongly with our strategic priorities as a university with an Elevate Reconciliation Action Plan – this plan is to go above and beyond in ensuring reconciliation is in core business practices and decision-making at all levels.”
As part of Swinburne’s ongoing commitment to net zero, the university switched to renewable electricity in 2020, which to date has reduced carbon emissions by an estimated 50,000 tonnes. Swinburne also updated waste management procedures in 2021 and committed to fully upgrade to LED lighting across the Hawthorn campus in 2022, in addition to upgrades already completed at Croydon and Wantirna.
Furthermore, Swinburne is a signatory to the University Commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals and has a responsible investment charter which commits the university to take account of environmental and social impacts in every investment choice made.