Resources for sustainable energy - renewable energy
Resources for sustainable energy - energy efficiency
You can access financial support from the Commonwealth Government for small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The Federal Government’s Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme is available to SMEs to help fund the cost of installing renewable energy assets.
See the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme page for more information about this program and your eligibility to use it to offset your renewable energy investment.
There are also a number of local solar energy providers who offer great deals on renewable energy solutions for your business. If you own your building, you have a way to instantly reduce your energy costs, and many companies offer excellent payback deals to spread out your up-front costs.
However, if you lease your business premises this might be difficult. If the owner of your premises is unwilling to invest in renewable energy for your site – there are still a range of energy efficiency options that you can apply. This includes lighting upgrades, energy monitoring systems and energy switching devices.
The Energy Cut website opens in a new window includes great tips, advice and resources to help you save on energy costs and energy efficiency upgrades to your facilities.
The CitySwitch program is a great resource for offices and industry. It can provide support to businesses who want to address sustainability issues, particularly in the energy area
You can find information about energy efficient appliances and equipment from the Equipment Energy Efficiency program opens in a new window. It aims to improve product energy efficiency through consistent labelling and energy performance regulations. It is currently mandatory for many household electrical products offered for sale in Australia to be labelled with an approved energy label.
The following products must carry an approved energy label to be offered for sale in Australia:
- Refrigerators and freezers
- Clothes washers
- Clothes dryers
- Air conditioners (single phase mandatory, three phase voluntary).
Sustainable water means reducing water wastage through:
- Retrofit of fittings
- Low flow options
- Greywater reuse
- Rainwater capture.
Resources for sustainable water - water quality
Resources for sustainable water - water efficiency
Sustainable water is not only about how much water you use in your business, it is also about the water that flows away from your business (waste water), and the health of the water systems around you.
The City of Cockburn has a significant relationship with natural water systems. We are lucky enough to have a RAMSAR listed wetland area, unique lake systems, over 1,000 hectares of bushland reserves and a beautiful marine environment to protect. How you treat water in your business impacts of the health of the water systems in our City.
If you are careful about how you manage your wastewater, you will be a step closer to supporting healthy waterways in the City of Cockburn.
Nutrients in water
Phosphorus and nitrogen are essential plant and animal nutrients naturally present in our waterways and soils in very low concentrations. They are readily dissolved in water and easily pass through the food chain. Whilst low levels sustain life, excessive amounts of nutrients cause serious water quality problems.
Nutrients accumulate in the environment as a result of human activity. Nutrients entering our rivers and wetlands originate from a range of sources including:
- Grass clippings
- Leaves (especially deciduous)
- Dog faeces
- Leakages from septic tanks
- Bread fed to water birds
- Agriculture and industrial sources.
Garden fertilisers are the largest threat to waterways in Cockburn as nutrients added to our sandy soils are easily leached. We all live and work in a catchment and contribute nutrients to our water systems. Nutrients are carried by water over land through erosion and run-off, through soil by leaching to groundwater, through smaller creeks and streams and through street/stormwater drains.
Resources for sustainable water - water capture and reuse
Looking for water savings in a business environment can seem difficult – but there are a range of choices you can make with respect to fixtures and fittings, or appliance purchases that can help you to manage your water use.
WELS water ratings
The WELS water-rating label opens in a new window
provides water efficiency information for water-using household products. The scheme requires products to be labelled according to their water efficiency, allowing consumers to compare and purchase water efficient products to reduce their water consumption, saving money on bills. As well as a star rating, the labels also show a water consumption or water flow figure.
The Water Corporation provides a range of Waterwise programs opens in a new window
and products for business and industry, so you can find as many water saving opportunities as possible – keeping in mind that you’ll not only be working towards sustainability, you’ll also be reducing your costs with each drop you save!
Waterwise Council program
The City of Cockburn is a Waterwise council and has targets for reducing water use and improving water quality. The program means the City is committed to improving water efficiency and quality.
There are a range of water saving strategies you can employ in your business to not only ensure it is conserving water in its activities, but also to capture and reuse rain and waste water. This can reduce the need to use potable (drinking) water on gardens and even in toilets.
Let’s talk tanks
If you have a little space and a roof with gutters, you can capture the rainwater runoff from your roof and conserve this to use on gardens. Please check the City's guidelines for rainwater tanks
Rainwater tanks come in all shapes and sizes, from small systems for space constrained properties, to huge underground tanks that can be located under buildings and car parks with the relevant structural considerations in place.
If you are willing to take that next step, and recycle the water that you use in your business from showers, basin taps and laundry (providing you’re not using any heavy chemicals in these facilities), you could even consider installing a greywater system to treat and reuse your waste water.
Resource recovery means reducing waste to landfill through:
- Worm farming
- Recycling programs
- Low packaging options.
Resources for resource recovery
In some instances ‘commercial’ waste management can be slightly more complex than residential, as most local governments don’t provide commercial waste services. These services are usually provided by private contractors, and paid for by businesses. There are still many ways for businesses to improve their waste systems and avoid sending waste to landfill. You can reduce business waste to landfill if you:
- Learn how to manage your waste through good purchasing decisions / resource use, recycling, composting and innovative waste solutions
- Identify whether your business produces hazardous waste and minimise this where possible
- Recycle used electronics
- Provide recycling options for your customers
- Display litter prevention materials in your business to bring attention to local litter issues (such as the Clean Ocean Clean Catch program).
Sustainable transport means promoting alternative travel through:
- Promoting public transport through subsidies and other concessions
- Providing end-of-trip facilities such as safe bike storage and showers
- Rewarding TravelSmart behaviour.
Resources for sustainable transport
One of the easiest ways to go green and save cash is to adjust your daily commute and encourage your employees to do the same. The easiest way to go green during your commute is to avoid driving whenever possible.
Cockburn has good access to public transport systems and has increased its walking and cycle ways in recent years in an effort to reduce carbon emissions and encourage healthy commuting. You will save fuel and money while greatly reducing the size of your carbon footprint. If you don't currently have an alternative to driving, consider carpooling with a co-worker or two. The City produces TravelSmart guides, which show walking, cycling and public transport options throughout Cockburn.
Greener spaces means creating more green areas through:
- Verge beautification
- Wildlife habitat enhancement
- Community and staff gardens
- Indoor plants for air quality.
Culture and community means promoting health and happiness in the workplace and community through:
- Participatory programs
Sustainable procurement means ethical purchasing through local, environmentally responsible and ethical suppliers.
Every business has different needs and different inputs and outputs. However, following a basic four step process can help you on your way towards business sustainability:
- Assess and audit
- Make a commitment
- Implement actions
- Measure and evaluate.
Assess and audit
Make a commitment
Before you embark on your sustainability journey, you will need to assess how your business is currently performing and identify areas for improvement. You can’t manage what you can’t measure.
You may wish to ‘DIY’ your business sustainability assessment and make your own internal recommendations for improvement. We have provided a simple audit framework to help you do this easily. You can use this framework to self-assess your business against a set of sustainability criteria and outline some goals to move towards sustainable business practices. You can download the framework under Documents below.
Alternatively, there are a range of contractors who can provide your business with a sustainability assessment for a fee. Some may be attached to specific sustainability frameworks (i.e. One Planet Living, The Natural Step, Green Star etc.), and some may operate independently of any particular scheme. If you’d like more information on these please contact the City’s Sustainability Officer on 08 9411 3444 or at email@example.com
The most powerful part of your business sustainability journey is simply to make a commitment. Once you have a set of recommended actions for your business, you can start collaborating with your team and staff to encourage their engagement in working towards improved sustainability by articulating your goals, strategy and targets and sharing and celebrating your achievements. You can:
- Choose a few key initiatives to get involved in, and share these with your staff (it is often of value to get your team to undertake this process with you as having input into the decisions made can increase levels of ‘buy-in’ into the outcomes)
- Make a ‘public’ commitment by marketing your sustainability initiatives to your customers, which in turn increases your community influence in the sustainability space (it is often of value to get your customers involved in this process, either through promotions / surveys / prizes and giveaways via your social media presence or in store displays)
- Join a network and share the journey, like the City of Cockburn’s Better Business Community – where you can work collectively with other businesses and local industry to reach your sustainability targets.
While not every business can completely offset their environmental impact – it’s likely that most will find areas for improvement that can be achieved simply and quickly. Look for the ‘low hanging fruit’ with the money saving magic!Measure and evaluate
Water, waste and energy are three major areas in which business can make improvements that can also make a significant difference to your ‘bottom line’.
Water, waste and energy tend to be the areas which show the most demonstrable economic savings. It’s often good to look at your practices in these areas first, and consider whether you have any identified issues that you can address simply and economically by changing behaviours or technologies. Sometimes it really is as easy as changing a lightbulb!
You will be able to ask your business auditor to identify those actions which you can take immediately, and are low budget, but that will have high value rewards in terms of environmental benefit, and cost savings.
After you’ve identified and ‘picked’ your low hanging fruit, you can then implement the next set of goals from your action plan, using the savings from your first portion of actions to invest into the next, and so on.
Measuring your progress and evaluating your success is a great way to know where you’ve come from, where you’re going, and to ensure that the individual actions that you are taking are contributing to your overall sustainability.
Some businesses choose to take a very structured approach, and apply a reporting system to help them track their improvements over time. There are several Environmental Management Systems or reporting schemes that can support this.
Applying major reporting and assessment tools is often not feasible for small businesses due to lack of human and financial resourcing. In completing an environmental ‘scan’ or gap analysis of your business and setting some achievable goals across the seven pillars of sustainability, you can make changes that will have significant impacts without suffering onerous or costly processes.
If you undertake an audit, and report your progress annually, you can also benchmark your progress and network with other businesses to share ideas, resources and successes.
Being a lean, green, sustainable business can be great for your marketing profile. It can provide you with a competitive edge over less environmentally conscious businesses, and give you that ‘social licence to operate’ that a modern marketplace requires. However, making false claims about your products or services can be damaging, so it’s worth being wise around the way you tell your sustainability story.
It is good to let your customers know that you undertake a range of voluntary initiatives in your business that help you reduce waste, conserve water, reduce energy use and carbon emissions. This is a great way to position your business as a responsible part of your community and a good corporate citizen. As long as you can back up any claims you make, you can use this as a legitimate part of your marketing strategy and are unlikely to fall foul of Australian Consumer Law (i.e. if you’re going to advertise that you are not using plastic bags – make sure you don’t have them in your shop, or if you claim to provide a discount to customers for bringing in a reusable cup – make sure you do!).
If you are going to make direct claims about your products or services that pertain to their environmental or health impacts, you must be sure that these claims are legitimate, and that you can substantiate them.
If you have a Corporate Social Responsibility policy, and position or advertise yourself as a ‘green’ or sustainable business, then your actions must reflect your policy at all times, in order to ensure that no citizen has cause to make an accusation against your policy. While Australia does not have specific legislation dealing with misleading environmental claims, it can regulate misleading or deceptive conduct through section 18 of the Australian Consumer Law, and its many derivatives in other statutes.
Useful links about greenwashing
The City can support you in reducing your environmental impact, reducing your costs and promoting your green credentials. As well as business sustainability audits, the City also provides a range of grants and subsidies to local businesses and community groups who are working to improve their sustainability and positive environmental impact.
Please contact the sustainability officer for more information on Building Better Business in Cockburn on 08 9411 3444 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
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