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The Extraordinary Efforts By Australian Businesses To Be Sustainable

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When the West Coast Eagles dominated Collingwood to take out the AFL Grand Final on September 29, they did so in a stadium that had offset all its emissions for a month – an Australian sporting first.

The month of September is the busiest time at the Melbourne Cricket Ground and now it’s also the month that the MCG went completely carbon neutral.

“It’s morally the right thing to do as an organisation,” said Melbourne Cricket Club facilities general manager Peter Wearne.

“We’ve been doing a lot of work in the sustainability space and the next step was to look at becoming carbon neutral.”

The first ever Aussie grand final in a carbon-neutral stadium Photo: West Coast Eagles/Facebook

Going carbon neutral – even for one month – is no small task for such a large business. On average, during September the MCG precinct (which encompasses the cricket ground as well as the surrounding Yarra Park) consumes 1.65 million kWh of electricity, which is equivalent to about the average energy consumption of 4000 Victorian households.

EnergyAustralia stepped in  to offset emissions for the iconic venue for September, covering carbon emissions generated by the MCG precinct, from transporting the G’s 400,000 visitors to and from the stadium, and from food and beverage production onsite.

The activity in September builds upon the MCG’s long-term commitment to sustainability.

“We’ve put a lot of initiatives in place which have reduced our energy consumption by 20 percent and increased our recycling rate to 83 percent,” said Wearne.

Those initiatives include replacing 12,000 globes in the precinct with energy-efficient LEDs, investing $20 million in a sewerage treatment plant and purchasing a bulk food dehydrator to turn all organic waste – from food to MCG lawn clippings – into a soil additive which is used in Yarra Park. The hope is that the MCG can lead by example and inspire sports fans to cut down on their own carbon footprints.

“The focus on the MCG during the AFL finals period will hopefully mean that more people take notice of what we’re doing to become carbon neutral,” said Wearne.

“They can see that if a complex venue the size of ours can do it, then they can consider doing it at home.”

Green sails in the sunset

On September 24, the sails of the Sydney Opera House were bathed in green light to signify that the venue had achieved carbon neutrality a whopping five years ahead of schedule.

It’s an achievement that’s been a long time in the making. Architect Jørn Utzon famously incorporated sustainable elements such as a seawater-cooling system into his design for the Opera House, and staff at the iconic venue have been building on his legacy since, with efforts to reduce energy consumption ramping up in recent years.

“Over the last 10 years we’ve been working on strategies and projects that reduce our overall emissions footprint,” said the House’s Environmental Sustainability Manager, Emma Bombonato.

Sustainability projects, such as reducing electricity usage by 14 percent through replacing incandescent bulbs in the Concert Hall with custom LED lights, implementing a building management control system to monitor energy and water usage, and installing new chiller units to optimise heating and cooling, have been augmented by a partnership with EnergyAustralia, which has offset remaining emissions.

Custom LED lights in the Concert Hall Photo: Prudence Upton

The House has also increased its recycling rate from 25 to 60 percent by introducing new waste recycling streams. One such stream has focused on capturing food waste from the House’s onsite restaurants and bars and transferring it to Earth Power, a facility that turns organic material into energy.

“One of the most important roles of the house is to inspire the community about sustainability,” said Bombonato.

“We decided to be certified carbon neutral to encourage our community to reduce their own carbon footprints.”

In fact, many of the Opera House’s sustainability initiatives can be easily transferred to homes, from replacing light bulbs with energy-efficient LEDs to reducing waste by recycling and composting.

According to a study by RMIT University, restaurants and cafes contribute 250,000 tonnes of food waste to landfill every year. Australians themselves send 4 million tonnes of food to landfill each year, with up to 40 percent of all household waste consisting of food.

Food for thought

Inside Nomad’s dining room Photo: Nomad/Facebook

For Surry Hills restaurant Nomad, sustainability underpins everything from the lighting to the menu.

“Our aim is to minimise our carbon footprint, reduce the waste generated by the restaurant, and recycle as much waste as possible,” said restaurant co-owner Al Yazbek.

Yazbek works with Head Chef Jacqui Challinor to source produce as close as possible to the restaurant to minimise the distance ingredients travel. The restaurant uses local suppliers including Vic’s Meats, Melanda Park Pork and Game Farm and breaks down whole animals for menu items as well as sauces and stocks to avoid any wastage.

“We support small producers that grow produce organically and engage in sustainable farming practices,” said Yazbek. It’s a priority that extends to the restaurant’s all-Australian wine list, which focuses on vineyards that favour bio-dynamic farming, minimal intervention, and are chemical and sulphur-free.

Other initiatives include a Vestal water system that allows the restaurant to filter, chill and carbonate Sydney drinking water on site, which eliminates the large carbon footprint of importing bottled water. Staff are trained on how to sort recycling to reduce waste going to landfill by 80 percent, and all cooking oil is collected and recycled to make biodiesel. In measures that can be easily emulated at home, all light fittings in the restaurant use LEDs to reduce power usage by percent, and all paper products used in the restaurant are from recycled products.

EnergyAustralia’s Go Neutral program is an easy way to have a positive impact on the environment. Opt-in today for carbon neutral electricity at home, at no extra cost.

Published 04 December, 2018

Brought to you by EnergyAustralia

EnergyAustralia wants to help 1 million homes choose carbon neutral electricity. For an easy way to have a positive impact on the environment, opt-in today for carbon neutral electricity, at no extra cost.