Humans of Handprint: Meet Dr. Phil Ireland, CEO of Carbon Neutral – Restoring Forests

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It’s often the individual threads that make the most compelling stories. Welcome to “Humans of Handprint,” a special segment dedicated to shining a spotlight on the incredible individuals who are the driving force behind Handprint’s impactful journey. As we delve into the lives, passions, and experiences of these remarkable people, we discover the heart and soul of our impact partners that thrive on the dedication and inspiration of its diverse team. 

Join us on this journey as we get to know the faces and voices that breathe life into Handprint’s mission, and witness firsthand the profound impact they have on the world.

In this chapter of HoH we sat with Dr Phil Ireland, CEO at Carbon Neutral, while he shared with us his journey and experiences. 

The Origins

Carbon Neutral was created by Denis Watson, the former CEO. He had the vision of purchasing degraded farmland and restoring it back to a forest. When European settlers first came to Australia 200 years ago, lots of land was cleared for successful farming. Over time, the land has degraded, due to the salinity and climate. Denis wanted to rehabilitate the land to pre-european settlers. 

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Now, Carbon Neutral operates in one of the 36 biodiversity hotspots around the world. A biodiversity hotspot is a region which has high species density, contains endemic species and a significant amount of endangered species. Only 30% of the original flora and fauna still exist in the area. By bringing back habitats in a hotspot, they hope to help the population of endangered species grow. 

Recently, Carbon Neutral has had great success in finding a species that was thought to be extinct in the area. A rare marsupial, which had never been spotted in the Wheatbelt, was discovered in their forest. This has been a discovery that proves their dream of creating a forest for endangered species is working. 

Carbon Neutral

The Process

Carbon Neutral achieves its goals through a number of arms. The first is helping companies measure their carbon footprint and using the data to help them make a difference. They don’t just work with companies but also individuals who want to make a difference on their own. After the data is collected, they help organisations offset their emissions. They work with carbon offsets, who are reputable, based on the organisations motivations. 

Additionally, Carbon Neutral also runs a project themselves. The Yarra-Yarra is their flagship project, where they have a piece of land they are restoring themselves. Working with farms, they plant 67 species of plants and shrubs so the wildlife can regain its habitat. It has the added benefit of sucking carbon out of the air. 

Restoring a forest is a complicated piece of work, because the land takes time to adapt and for species diversity and density to grow. In order for a forest to last a long time, there has to be a high level of biodiversity. They encourage this by planting many species of trees. 

With Handprint, they run a ‘plant a tree’ program, focusing more on biodiversity than carbon sequestration. The people who utilise this program run from individuals who don’t want to track their carbon emissions and just want to do the right thing to big organisations, like the ones Handprint works with. 

Phil Ireland 2023 LgeA New Role

Dr. Phil Ireland has recently risen up to his new role as CEO. Before Carbon Neutral, Phil spent years working on policies addressing climate change. He focused on carbon storage, which is an ability trees hold. By planting more trees, carbon is stored in their roots underground. 

His focus for the year ahead is to expand the work across Australia and then globally. There are many biodiversity hotspots that would benefit from projects like the Yarra Yarra Corridor. He mentions being excited and honored to lead the company forward. 

Phil has always been a person who prioritises a work-life balance. Even though the work Carbon Neutral does is very satisfying in its result, he knows the importance of taking time to himself. He hopes that under his leadership, people find more of a balance. 

Awards

The founder and former CEO, Denis Watson has been nominated for the Australian Government Climate Innovation Award. He laid the groundwork for the Yarra Yarra Biodiversity Corridor and one of Australia’s most enduring carbon sequestration companies. 

The new CEO, Dr Phil Ireland has been nominated for the CEO of the Year award. Under Phil’s stewardship, Carbon Neutral has emerged as a frontrunner in carbon dioxide drawdown, reforestation and the offset market.

Please support both of them in any way possible so that those who make an impact gain recognition. 

If you would like to know more about Carbon Neutral and their projects, visit Carbon Neutral. Also, if you would like to know more about Handprints reforestation partners, read our ‘Humans of Handprint’ article on Tropical Research and Conservation Centre.