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Victoria’s Energy Mix 2009-2010 report was recently released by Environment Victoria (www.environmentvictoria.org.au) showing that little progress has been made to reduce Victoria’s reliance on polluting coal-fired electricity over the past decade. Our energy mix remains dangerously unbalanced. To make things worse the Victorian government (with the obvious support of the federal government) is now going to export 20 million tonnes of coal to Vietnam from the La Trobe Valley. So not only do we burn coal here to pollute our environment but now our coal will be used to produce greenhouse emissions in another country as well. Well done!

However, the report commissioned by Environment Victoria found that in 2009 coal-fired generation provided 91.5% of the state’s electricity, only slightly lower than the 93.3% coal provided in 2000. The report also found that in absolute terms, Victoria’s reliance on coal has increased over the past decade, with both electricity generation and greenhouse emissions increasing nearly by 10% since 2000! At the same time, energy from clean renewable source remain at just 5% (the same proportion as what it was in 2000), despite the Victorian Government’s Renewable Energy Target.

The state’s experience over the past decade shows that the only way we will be able to make real progress in reducing Victoria’s greenhouse pollution and dependence on brown coal is if we start replacing the large coal-fired power stations with clean energy; beginning with the dirtiest power station in Australia – Hazelwood power station.

As for selling coal to other countries; it just shows how serious our government is about reducing greenhouse emissions. In this sort of climate when the Australian community wants to see us reduce our carbon dioxide emissions and to set a good example to developing countries a decision to export coal is a worrying sign which path we are heading down on.

(Mostly reproduced from Environment Victoria’s Safe Climate Bulletin on 30th March 2010).

This 8 minute video shows how Linfox is going about reducing its carbon emissions. What stands out for me in this video is the broad commitment across the organisation to cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Use it to help inspire a similar commitment in your organisation.

This blog aims to show how improving water and resource efficiency within a business not only improves the environment but also a business’s bottom line.

Australia is the driest inhabited continent in the world yet we have the highest consumption per person in the developed world, we also have extremely poor recycling practices with less than 3% recycling of waste water in Australia. Much of the reason for this excessive usage and indiscriminate wastage is due to the commonly accepted belief that we could never run out of water nor over pollute water bodies. Our water resources have been exploited since European settlement to promote economic and demographic growth and employment generation with no thoughts toward long term sustainability.   

Improving the way we use water in daily business operations has an immediate impact on the environment by reducing the depletion of our rivers and catchments and at the same time reducing the disposal of this water into the marine environment where it causes widespread environmental damage. Environmental improvement is essential for a sustainable future in Australia, but what part should business play in bringing this about?

 Improving the environment goes hand in hand with improving business performance. In fact you can’t have one without the other. Both are about using resources effectively. Businesses use various resources e.g. the workplace, labour, utilities and consumables. Importantly the use of all of these resources has associated costs that directly affect the profitability of business.  So it makes sense to use all of these resources as effectively as possible.

Businesses that improve their business performance by reducing their use of resources not only are better able to compete in the market place but are indirectly reducing the depletion or pollution of our environment. 

To demonstrate this take this example for water- A business pays to purchase water and pays to have the same water disposed into the ocean. There are costs associated at both ends. If you can reuse the wastewater you produce (e.g. for plant watering), you can reduce costs associated with its disposal. If however, you can reduce the amount of water you use in the first place you reduce both the costs for its purchase and disposal. This is the same with all resources, whether it is energy, consumables/waste or water. When you consider that unseen leaks are a major area of water consumption in businesses, you can see that business can unnecessarily be wasting money and resources at the expense of the business itself and the environment. Reducing consumption at the source is the key!        

Reducing resource usage is therefore an excellent opportunity for businesses to be competitive and save the environment. But there is another benefit that can be gained from a business improving its resource use, namely selling these environmental improvements to the customers to increase market share. Customers increasingly want environmental accountability from business and there is no better way than doing it than reducing resource use.

Business operators typically understand the benefits in being “seen to be green”, but often miss the opportunity available by not reaping the financial savings that can be gained with environmental improvement.

Ultimately, it is up to individual businesses to pursue resource efficiency and derive the full benefits from improvements to their resource use. As a whole however businesses will become more resourceful and greener in the future. The reason for this is that businesses that don’t simply won’t be able to survive in a highly competitive and frugal market place.   

Task lights achieve reductions of up to 75% in office lighting energy consumption and CO2 production! They give us control over the lighting in our environment, and allow us to switch them off when away from our desks.

Down at Hobsons Bay city council, the passionate environmental officer Rowena Joske and I are wading our way through the murky swamp that is task lights. I say murky because of the lack of online resources, lack of task lighting examples in Melbourne, and the question of how staff receive the alterations to their day in day out, office environment. To get to the bottom of task lights we have started a trial of around 25 desks.

For our trial we have identified four different styles of task lights which range in cost, light source, illumination level, and functionality. The lights have been swapped between the staff and feedback has been sort.

Astrabeam Stylelux

Superlux LSB

Superlux FLL

Koncept Z-bar

In my view, the success of task lighting comes down to finely balancing a number of elements. Namely:

Standards – Ensuring minimum required illumination levels are met. Continual measuring of work place lux levels helps us understand what is going on and helps educate and confirm to the occupant that the process is measured and considerate.

Contrast – The illuminated surface shouldn’t be more than three times the lux levels of the ambient office light. The ambient light should also be evenly spread so that the office lighting doesn’t feel patchy.

Glare – The task light source should be diffused and not so intense that it causes glare. (You don’t realize how shiny plastic is until you hit it with 600 lux from a point source.) Similar to contrast, glare can be reduced by reducing the difference in lux level between the ambient background lighting and the task illuminated. Glare can also be reduced by the positioning of the task light and by changing the colour and reflectivity of surfaces. (it is hard to get glare from a black matt cloth)

Occupant and workspace – It has been very important to treat every work space and staff member uniquely, as everyone’s requirements and perceptions are different.

So far we are 1 month into the trial and the comments have been 95% positive. Many of the staff prefer the new arrangement and find the lower lighting levels calming. The success of the trial are yet to be determined, from here it looks like there will be no single solution for every work space. It also looks likely that the lighting scheme will be employed through the entire office.