We recently spoke with Casey Whitelaw, ex-Google employee who decided to make a stand for sustainability with his young start up that aims to make climate action easy for everyone.
Go Neutral is a for-profit company that makes it easy to offset your car by crunching the numbers for you. So all you need to do is purchase your offset and collect your sticker that shows the world you’re doing your bit.
Read on to find out more about what made Casey quit his Google career, what it’s like working on your own startup and what his favourite sustainability podcast is.
Let’s start off easy – can you explain to us what Go Neutral is as both a brand and a product?
Go Neutral is all about making climate action accessible to as many people as possible. The first thing we’ve done is make it easy to make your car carbon neutral, through 100% Australian carbon removal projects.
We encourage customers to simply ‘retire’ carbon credits in order to offset their car for a year. Not only does that come with huge satisfaction that you’re doing your bit for the planet, it also comes with proof. We send out your Go Neutral sticker to put on your car too.
We know one of your main goals when starting the company was that being planet friendly should be accessible to everyone. So who did you create Go Neutral for?
If I said it was for everyone, would that be cheating? Really, I created Go Neutral to help people that wanted to take action on climate change, but didn’t know how to make a difference. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and end up doing nothing, and that’s what we want to change. Go Neutral is a great place to start (or even add to) your sustainability journey.
We often hear the phrase ‘carbon neutral’ or ‘carbon offset’, but what does this actually mean? Is there a difference?
Being carbon neutral means that whatever emissions you produce, whether it be driving your car, what food you eat or what clothes you wear are balanced by the same amount of emissions reduction or removal. It means that, in terms of the greenhouse gases that are causing global heating, your activity isn’t making things worse.
When you pay to balance your emissions with some removal, that’s called “carbon offsetting”.
Virtually, being carbon neutral and carbon offset are the same thing. You’re making sure that any carbon contributions you’re making are being taken out of the atmosphere in some way.
And what about carbon credits? How do these work?
Let’s say that I grow trees to remove carbon from the atmosphere, and I’d like to be paid for doing that work. A carbon credit is a way to represent the emissions removal work that has been done. Once they are issued, carbon credits can be sold, and so become a way to earn money. There are “carbon markets” where carbon credits are bought, sold, and used up as offsets.
The way in which Go Neutral works is that we purchase these carbon credits, and ‘retire’ them you choose to offset your car with us.
What makes Go Neutral different from other carbon offsetting organisations?
Offsets aren’t new, but we like to think we’re taking a new approach. We want millions of people to take action – and that means making products that millions of people will actually buy. We’re aiming to make climate action something that is effective, desirable, and makes you feel great.
That’s why we make Go Neutral stickers for your car. This way, you’re not just buying an invisible carbon offset, you’re buying something that you can see and touch, and that you can put on your car. Every time you see it, you know you’ve taken responsibility for your emissions – that’s a great feeling! Not everyone can – or wants to – take an activist’s stance on the environment, but even something small like this can help.
Plus, our Go Neutral offset with sticker makes the best Christmas or birthday present for friends and family!
What offsets and projects does Go Neutral support? And why are these particular projects so important to you?
We choose Australian projects, especially those that regenerate native Australian bushland. Australia is a great place to run projects like these, and they are so good for Australia!
Bushland regeneration doesn’t just remove carbon dioxide from the air; it also creates better quality land, and helps build a stronger regional economy. There’s a lot of talk about Australia being a renewable energy superpower. In the same way, we believe we can be a carbon capturing superpower!
We know you previously worked at Google prior to starting Go Neutral. Can you tell us why you made the switch?
Climate change is the biggest challenge to the future of humanity. I’m an optimist, and so I kept thinking that Australia and the world would rise to the challenge. Eventually, I felt like I needed to stop watching and waiting, and see how I could contribute.
I feel like I’ve done just that. And really, I’m just getting started.
What has been your favourite thing about creating your own start-up? Do you have any tips?
It’s great working at so many levels. Zooming out and looking at the big picture, and then focusing in tighter and tighter on specific problems. There’s no excuse not to be true to your values, and use them to find the biggest opportunities.
Have you got a favourite sustainability podcast or documentary?
I’m a fan of Dan Ilic’s podcast, A Rational Fear. A lot of the challenge these days is about communication, and it’s very effective.
We know carbon offsetting your car is such an accessible and easy way to help the planet, but what other easy switches would you recommend?
Get on an energy plan that uses renewable energy! Make sure your superannuation and bank aren’t funding fossil fuels, and help contribute towards the future that you want to be part of by offsetting your car, flights and other travel.
Finally, what’s next for Go Neutral?
We’ve only just started helping people take climate action, so there’s a long way to go!
Expect to see more carbon offset products that match your lifestyle, and especially more partnerships that will help many more people get involved.