We here at Instant Classic feel that we have a duty to reduce our environmental impact upon the world; which is why we're proud to say that every single purchase you now make with us is now both plastic and carbon neutral.
We're now taking concrete steps to reduce our global environmental footprint on a quarterly basis; by offsetting not only the plastic that is used in both manufacturing and packaging the products that we sell, but also the CO2 emissions of those very same products across their entire life cycle. This means that for every single product you purchase, we have effectively measured and offset both the plastic and the CO2 emissions, an initiative unmatched anywhere else in the hi-fi industry. It's time for you to listen to all your favourite music, guilt free.
Taka Taka Solutions, a waste management service in Kenya that employs and empowers waste pickers to tackle plastic waste, in partnership with rePurpose
Towards plastic neutrality
This all started with an email from one of our customers.
"So, my partner and I are trying to do plastic free July and if it's at all possible would request that packaging doesn't have any extra plastic or if you want to keep whatever plastic it comes in for something else?"
Honestly, we didn't have a good answer. While our products use a small amount of plastic compared to some of the more crude and disposable audio products out there, the packaging still contains plastics and foams, and these are largely necessary for protection during freight.
We're always bugging our suppliers about transitioning to more environmentally-friendly materials, but we aren't in control there. So we looked into it, and found that what we can do is buy plastic offsets for every product we sell.
Partnering with rePurpose
That's when we decided to partner with an organisation called rePurpose, one of the global leaders when it comes to credible action in this area. rePurpose operates in many different countries around the world, channeling their finances towards innovative projects that are working to solve the plastic problem. By signing up to their Plastic Neutral certification, our contribution goes towards rePurpose's efforts in removing plastic from the environment, where they ensure that the amount removes is equivalent to what we've sold each quarter.
rePurpose work in partnership with highly respected international organisations such as the UN environment programme, Oceanic Global and Verra, and support a diverse range of projects, such as waste4change, a social enterprise leading the charge of the zero-waste movement in Bekasi, Indonesia, and Taka Taka Solutions, who have already collected and processed over 33,700 kg of single use PP containers in Nairobi, Kenya.
waste4change, a rePurpose partner located in Bekasi, Indonesia
Measuring our plastic consumption
Having learned all of this, we knew immediately that they were an organisation we could get behind, and so once we reached out to them and told them our plans of becoming plastic neutral, their first instruction was that we had to calculate how much plastic was actually being sold with our products. This literally involved weighing all kinds of materials, from the composite plastic housing of the Phono Box E, all the way through to the insulation of the power cables. For just a single turntable, we weighed over one kilogram of plastic, including the polystyrene that protects it during transit, the hard plastic dust cover, and a whole host of soft plastics that are included in the internal packaging.
We then took these 'total plastic' figures for each of our products, added them up for an entire quarter's worth of sales, and bought an equivalent number of plastic credits from rePurpose. Our contribution then goes on to help fund their worldwide initiatives, ensuring that a commensurate amount of plastic is removed from the environment. These global projects undergo rigorous and exhaustive documentation and verification with due diligence to ensure adherence to global environmental & labor standards. And every quarter we continue to send rePurpose our latest calculations of how much plastic we've "sold" to our customers, and as our plastic consumption increases over time, so too does our contribution.
Waste workers in Indonesia recovering low value plastic from the environment, before it is segregated, cleaned and transported to cement kilns for co-processing
Understanding embodied emissions
We're not stopping there though! Mitigating our plastic use was a great start, but we're also taking steps to offset the CO2 emissions associated with all of the products that we sell. In order to do this properly, we had to first investigate the life cycle emissions (what are known as "embodied" emissions) of all our products. Every component and accessory that is purchased generates CO2 emissions throughout its life, which can be broadly broken down into five stages:
The first stage covers the time period from when the raw materials are acquired, up until the moment when these same materials arrive at the factory to be manufactured into the final products. For example, the Pro-Ject turntable factory would need to be supplied with various metals, woods and plastics in order to build their turntables; the process of sourcing and pre-processing these kinds of materials can be carbon intensive, particularly when it comes to the various metals that make up the electronic circuitry of our amplifiers and other components.
The subsequent "processing" stage includes the period of manufacturing, until the finished products leave the factory. Many of the components that we sell involve complex electronics which are put together by a combination of machinery and human engagement. There is also the construction of housing for the various components, which may involve plastic injection moulding and metal casting, as well as the creation of packaging to protect and transport the products.
Our products are made in factories across Europe and Asia, and need to go through several distribution steps before reaching you: from the factory to the ports, via sea freight to Australia, from our local docks to the warehouse, and finally from our warehouse to the customer. It is estimated that the shipping industry alone is responsible for roughly 3% of global CO2 emissions and a major source of pollution (not to mention the additional emissions of road freight), and while efforts are being made to reduce the carbon footprints of the various freight industries, we still take them into account when calculating the embodied emissions of our products.
The "use" stage refers to the consumption of electricity by our products while they are being used by the customer. This is a particularly carbon-intensive stage for hi-fi electronics, particularly amplifiers, which rely on drawing a significant amount of energy when we listen to our music at louder volumes. That being said, carbon emissions from electricity consumption also vary considerably depending on what state we live in, as some states use significantly more renewable energy than others (Tasmania being a frontrunner in this particular domain, drawing approximately 80 per cent of its energy from renewable hydro power).
End of Life
Finally, the "end of life" stage. We are proud that our products are well-designed and will last for many years, possibly handed down and re-used by several owners through their lifetime. Ultimately, however, they'll eventually reach the end of their natural life, and need to be disposed of or recycled; in 2016, it was estimated that electrical and electronic waste amounted to approximately 44.7 million tonnes globally. Processing and recycling of this waste also contributes to the overall carbon footprint of our products, though relatively less than most of the other stages.
It is an energy intensive process to build and operate hi-fi amplifiers, as they are the engine that drives the rest of your system
Measuring our impact
To calculate the contributions of these five stages towards the embodied emissions of our products to a degree of accuracy that we were satisfied with, we used a combination of direct measurements, as well as extrapolating from existing studies on carbon emissions of consumer electronics (such as this report from the Waste & Resources Action Programme).
This was an illuminating process: after measuring the energy output from one of our popular amplifiers, we found that when listening to music at a normal listening volume, it consumes 1kWh for every 47 hours of music played, largely in line with our expectations of how much electricity is required for a typical sound system under average conditions. Interestingly, simply leaving it switched on but not in use also consumed a small amount of energy - 1kWh for every 120 hours that it’s left on.
By contrast, a turntable uses relatively little electricity: 1kWh for every 240 hours of spinning records. We estimated that most people will use their system, on average, around 14 hours per week across five years (including seven hours per week of turntable use), and taking these usage figures along with our estimated emissions from the other four stages, we feel confident that we've captured an accurate snapshot of the embodied emissions of all the products we sell.
A worker prepares the soil for fresh plants in the Yarra Yarra Biodiversity corridor, as part of a local Australian carbon offset scheme
Offsetting our carbon
After an exhaustive search of the many companies who offer carbon offset programs, we chose to work with an organisation called Carbon Neutral, and based on our calculated total embodied emissions from all the products we sell on a quarterly basis, we purchase from them an equivalent amount of carbon offsets.
We chose Carbon Neutral on account of their position as one of the leaders in environmental and climate solutions, having worked for over 20 years with individuals and organisations to reduce their impact on the planet. They have also been awarded the prestigious Gold Standard certification, which recognises the highest levels of environmental integrity and contributions towards sustainable development. Carbon Neutral are also a recognised offset entity under the Federal Government’s Emission Reduction Fund and are a signatory to the Australian Carbon Industry Code of Conduct.
Specifically, we've chosen to contribute towards a carbon offset program in the Yarra Yarra Biodiversity Corridor of Western Australia, where our offsets contribute towards a high impact reforestation project that simultaneously delivers environmental, economic, social and heritage co-benefits. Mixed species indigenous to the region are grown on degraded land in the northern wheatbelt of Southwest Australia, and revegetating the landscape with native trees and shrubs encourages wildlife to return while at the same time removing carbon from the atmosphere, with a goal to create a 200km long green corridor from inland all the way to the coast, reconnecting remnant vegetation with 12 nature reserves across a 10,000km² area.
Revegetation, as far as the eye can see
A net-zero future
Our philosophy when it comes to hi-fi has always been one that is grounded in sustainability. That's one of the reasons we prefer component audio over cheaper, all-in-one systems (although the fact that our systems sound better is also a pretty good reason too), something you can read about further on our Sustainability page.
However, given the ongoing environmental degradation and global climate crisis that we are all facing, it's our responsibility to do much more than simply selecting and promoting brands who build long-lasting products made from (mostly) environmentally friendly products. Otherwise, we'd simply be taking credit for the hard work that they've already done.
Because of these regular, quarterly contributions to rePurpose and Carbon Neutral, we are now in a position where we can stamp every single one of our product sales with both the "Certified Plastic Neutral Product", and "Supporting Carbon Neutral" logos, and be assured that we are contributing towards plastic and carbon neutrality in an accountable, transparent and meaningful fashion.
This means that you can buy that Killer Turntable System you've always wanted, or a brand new Debut Carbon Evo turntable, confident in the fact that we've done the hard yards behind the scenes to ensure that your purchase is making a small but significant contribution towards a plastic-free and net zero emissions future.