Focusing on the Right Stuff
Kiwis love our big outdoors. We also love to travel the world. That love of travel is leading to some big carbon emissions.
Over the past year I've been running sustainability workshops where participants calculate their carbon footprints. The aim is to empower people to identify where their carbon emissions lie and to then work out what they can do to make the most difference. Most people seem genuinely concerned about the state of our environment and climate change. They are often not clear about where they personally can make the biggest difference. This is why I suggest that all New Zealanders (businesses, organisations, families and individuals), calculate their carbon footprint. Once you've measured it, it is a lot easier to identify where you can make the biggest impact.
Food, Home & Travel
Everyone is a little different but in these workshops there are three predictable outcomes. One person will have a massive food footprint, one will have a really energy inefficient home, and the other will have clocked up big air miles on holidays or business trips.
Buying more local, seasonal food and eating less meat and dairy seems pretty achievable to most people - the health benefits alone are often enough to drive these changes. Those living in cold drafty kiwi homes are usually planning for insulation and energy efficient home heating improvements. These are achievable changes for most people. The most resistant to reducing their footprint are usually those who love to travel. For many people it is the one big thing they are really looking forward to, or it is considered a necessity with aging parents, children or business interests overseas.
The average carbon footprint for New Zealanders
is 7.645 tonnes pa.
7.645 tonnes might seem pretty respectable compared to other countries. But this is well in excess of the 1 tonne per person that Bioregional is suggesting as a maximum to stay below 2 degrees of warming. Auckland Council is targeting a 40% reduction in carbon emissions by 2040, under its Low Carbon Action Plan, and has a slightly less challenging carbon emissions target of 3 tonnes per person pa. This means that most kiwis need to make changes which will reduce their carbon emissions substantially. With the cost of air travel being low there is little financial incentive to reduce this.
Calculate Your Carbon Emissions
If you are concerned about climate change and planning to travel you should check out the impacts first. Calculate your flight distance using the calculator above then punch the resulting kms traveled into Enviro-Mark's Travel and Tourism Carbon Calculator.
A return flight to London from Auckland can emit up to 7 tonnes of CO2, and a Wellington to Auckland return trip 0.276 tonnes.
As a result a low carbon future, with reduced per capita carbon emissions, is going to require that we travel much less frequently and that when we do travel we choose the most sustainable options available.
Stay at Home or Think Big When Offsetting
If the amount of carbon emitted from your planned air travel doesn't shock you into staying at home, or skyping that next meeting in Wellington, you can choose to offset your travel (Enviro-Mark, many airlines and Million Metres of Stream all offer options). An offset is definitely not the perfect solution. The impact of your carbon emissions from flying will be immediate whereas your investment in a carbon credit - which invests into a carbon sink like native forest revegetation or renewable energy like windfarms - will have much slower benefits. It will make a difference though. And for this reason, if you are unable to avoid air travel, I recommend that you do offset, and ideally retire the units so that they cannot be on-sold.
You should also THINK BIG when buying your offsets, which are currently set at about $25 a tonne. $100 per tonne is considered a much fairer level of offset investment, so consider quadrupling your payment to pay a fairer share of the full cost of carbon emissions resulting from your air travel.
Click the links above to measure or offset your air travel footprint now.
So you want to make a difference in business? Click this link to view a full list of New Zealand Sustainable Business qualifications from Certificate to Masters level.
I'd love to hear your feedback on these qualifications. Have you completed one of these courses? Was it just ok or amazing? Did it lead to your dream job or business opportunity?
Please let me know if you know of any other New Zealand qualifications that I should add to the list.
This list was compiled on 15 May 2017 – please refer to providers website for current fees and more detailed information.
This is hands down my favourite sustainability book for 2016 - Patagonia's: Tools for Grassroots Activists.
Based on more than 20 years of annual conferences on this topic this is a great guide for best practice for those in the environmental movement. If you run an environmental NGO, are thinking of starting your own campaign or work in the sustainability sector then this is the book for you. Packed full with practical examples from those who have proven success through the hard yards in countless campaigns.
Experts in different areas provide step by step formulas for success and explain the importance of retaining your humanity when you are dealing with those you don't necessarily agree with to forge a path forward.
So whether you're an organiser, a campaigner, a communications or social media wizz, a student with a great idea, or big business wanting to work better with an NGO - get your hands on a copy now!
Probably the best example of amazing campaigns in New Zealand are those run by Generation Zero who are entirely run by volunteers and provide a voice for youth primarily around climate change and transport issues in Auckland. They also produce great information during the local body elections so look out for this again soon. They cut through the politics and the rhetoric to get to the heart of the matter putting together beautifully designed summaries of what each candidate really stands for. Generation Zero really are a great kiwi example of how to apply the tools written about in this book so check out their website for some great ideas:
Today over 3,000 New Zealanders have already signed the petition to ask Minister for the Environment Nick Smith to ban microbead plastics in cosmetic products in New Zealand. This follows on from a ban in the US in December last year. Exciting to think we could be second in the world to take this great initiative!
Take action to make a difference:
Sign the New Zealand Petition
Pledge to go Microbead free
July is Plastic Free month. Following hot on the heels of Oceans Day the amount of plastic waste in our environment is really troubling. You see plastic litter everywhere and know it is just one heavy rainfall away from entering our stormwater systems, waterways and oceans.
The ocean gyres where our massive ocean currents meet and circulate have become massive pools of swirling tiny particles of plastic as a result. Plastic that is being consumed and increasingly killing wildlife. There are approximately 8 million tonnes of plastic entering the worlds oceans each year and it's estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. It entangles wildlife and can be ingested by creatures from plankton to whales and everything in between.
The project that has filled me with much hope is the oceans cleanup initiative created by then 18-year-old Boyan Slat who combined environmentalism, entrepreneurial thinking and technology to tackle this global issue. After diving in Greece, and coming across more plastic bags than fish, he wondered; "why can't we clean this up?". Using those old maxims of not using the same thinking that created the problem to solve it - he has turned the problems into positives. Swirling currents became a mechanism for collecting the plastic, plastic attracting pollutants became a way of cleaning the oceans, collection nets which were killing sea life were replaced with booms that collected the plastic above while letting sea life escape below and the cost of setup became less of an issue as the plastic collected became a resource for sale. Fast forward a couple of years and Boyan is now has a team of people with $1.5million in government funding and has just launched the first prototype test.
With fingers crossed for the success of this project there is still more plastic blowing and being washed into our oceans every day. So here are some 10 options for a plastic free July:
Oceans Ted Talk
Becoming a sustainable business is not an overnight thing. It requires learning, research, great information and lots of collaboration. Most of all it requires commitment, leadership and a plan of action. But where do you start and what do you focus on?
On March 17th 2016 Unitec launches its new One Planet Living Strategy committing to a 50% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 and a whole raft of other environmental targets. At Unitec we are the first organisation in New Zealand to adopt One Planet Living Principles.
We know that our students are looking for an education which incorporates sustainability. An estimated 80% of Generation Y are looking for green collar jobs - jobs where they can make a difference, and Unitec's own student surveys show that where our students are completing programmes with sustainability content they are more likely to recommend us to others.
What is One Planet Living?
One Planet Living is a sustainability framework developed by Bioregional in the UK. The aim is to make truly sustainable living a reality. One Planet Living uses ecological footprinting and carbon footprinting as its headline indicators. It is based on the ten guiding principles of sustainability including zero carbon and zero waste (See the full list of principles below).
Unitec chose the One Planet Living approach to sustainability because it breaks sustainability down into more bite sized, digestible and achievable chunks. Operating sustainably for most organisations means a focus on incremental changes towards more sustainable practices. But without a clear plan and an engaged team sustainability strategies can often remain no more than just a good idea or a piece of paper.
At Unitec we have created targets and committed to a series of actions to work towards each principle, with responsibilities and actions shared across the organisation. Unitec's progress will be reported live on a new One Planet Dashboard. As part of the launch of the strategy Unitec is calling for staff, students and the community to make their own One Planet Pledges. I encourage you to take a look and make one as well.
Unitec is aiming to get over 500 One Planet pledges this month. See what your friends, colleagues,and neighbours have committed to do to reduce their carbon footprint. Whether it’s meat-free Mondays or a car-free day a week, we hope you might feel inspired to set your own personal pledge. After all, every individual action matters and together we can make a big difference.
Unitec's strategy is not just to adopt these principles in relation to operation of its three campuses - it has committed to reducing its own footprint significantly. But also to ensure that the tertiary programmes delivered enable our students to act as sustainable practitioners and environmental guardians (kaitiaki) whatever profession they enter.
You can find out more about Unitec's One Planet Strategy at: www.oneplanet.unitec.ac.nz
Make a pledge at: www.oneplanet.unitec.ac.nz/MakeAPledge
The Principles of One Planet Living
I have been working as Unitec's Environmental Sustainability Manager for the past four years, to find out more about One Planet Living, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Cheapest is Best
If your business consistently buys the cheapest appliances you may end up paying a lot more than you've saved in extra energy bills over the life of the appliance. Three fridges were purchased by a local business recently, when they arrived they only had two energy stars. The facilities manager pointed out that he wouldn't have a two star appliance in his home. So make sure you don't have them in your business. Choosing the right appliance can seem complicated and confusing. Cut to the chase and just specify that all appliances must be energy star rated - look for the blue label. You'll get what you ask for - appliances with the blue energy star label rate in the top 20% of energy efficient appliances within their category www.energywise.govt.nz/energy-star
2. Turning Lights Off and On Wastes Energy
No actually it doesn't. Why the myth? Fluorescent lights take a small surge of energy when turned on, but much less than they will save by being turned off. If you are leaving a room, home or office for more than a minute or two turn it off!
3. Electric Cars Are Too Expensive
There are now 743 electric vehicles on New Zealand roads and with 142 public charge points now available, and the number steadily increasing, the fear of being trapped within a small radius of home or work is gradually diminishing. Globally there are now more than 740,000 EV's on the road. Most popular is the Nissan Leaf. With many second hand models already coming in from Japan you can now buy a 2011 Nissan Leaf from $17,000 and a 2014 model from $29,990 in New Zealand. Much like energy efficient appliances an electric vehicle may cost you a little more than a petrol one but it sure will save you a lot on running costs. Plus you'll now be driving a zero emission vehicle. And that's good news for those of us who suffer from fossil fuel laden climate change guilt every time we jump into our cars. A recent Ford survey found that 9 out of 10 EV owners would not go back to a combustion engine vehicle.
If you have a great idea for a recycling project but just don’t have the money to get it started there is a great opportunity to get up to $50,000 worth of funding from Auckland Council’s Waste Minimisation and Innovation Fund. The fund opens for applications on September 1st 2015. If you live outside Auckland check out your local Council website or the Ministry for the Environment website - there are lots of these funds available - locally, nationally and globally. These are typically funded by the $10 waste levy we impose on every tonne of waste going to landfill in New Zealand under our 2008 Waste Minimisation Act.
The purpose of these funds is supporting new ideas and projects that reduce waste going to landfill. Running since 2013 the Auckland Council's Waste Minimisation fund has already supported a wide variety of great projects, and invites businesses, community groups, iwi/Māori groups and educational organisations to enter applications for this funding round.
To prepare a successful waste minimisation application try to give yourself 1-2 days at least a week ahead of the closing date. This will give you the time you need to:
Don’t be scared to call the Council before you start work to get some feedback and suggestions on your ideas. They are searching for great business and community recycling and composting initiatives and really want to help you succeed. To be sure of this the Council needs to see a really well thought through project in your application with the people power to make it happen.
The Auckland Council Waste Minimisation and Innovation Fund (WMIF) will now only accept online applications. You'll be able to access the online application portal SmartyGrants from the Auckland Council website once the WMIF opens for applications on 1 September.
The Council is holding a series of workshops this month to give you tips on how to prepare your application:
To RSVP email the Council at email@example.com.
The funding round opens on Tuesday 1 September and closes 5pm, Wednesday 30 September 2015. For more background information visit: www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/wmif
Here are 10 simple steps to reduce and hopefully one day eliminate waste in your office:
Drive around most New Zealand neighbourhoods and you'll find skips loaded with construction waste destined for the dump. But there are signs of change. The New Zealand Green Building Council, Auckland Council, Beacon Pathways and Unitec Institute of Technology are all leading initiatives to drive waste minimisation, reuse, recovery and recycling in the construction sector.
Unitec is holding a ‘Zero Waste House: Construction Challenge’ for students completing a Certificate in Applied Building Technology Carpentry this year. As part of their programme teams of sixteen students build a three-bedroom house on campus. Currently all waste from building these houses goes to landfill but during this challenge students will compete to reduce, sort, recover and recycle as much of this waste as possible.
Waste minimisation, recycling and resource recovery is being integrated into the course content and new facilities for timber, plasterboard, plastic packaging, metal, and cardboard recovery and recycling are being introduced. Waste generated by each team will be weighed daily over the 32 weeks of the course. At the end of the challenge, the team with the least waste going to landfill will be announced the winners and prizes awarded.
Over 70% of all material used in the building industry is recyclable or reusable, so to help prevent such a significant amount of waste ending up in landfill, this initiative encourages students to recycle and think laterally about reducing waste. The goal being to inspire a generation of builders to minimize, recover and recycle waste and replicate this project in the industry.
The Council is targeting a 30% reduction in waste to landfill by 2027 and zero waste by 2040 with a specific focus on construction waste which makes up 50% of all waste generated. Unitec has adopted these targets, creating this challenge and also hosting the Building Today – Saving Tomorrow Conference being held from 15 to 17 July 2015, at the Heritage Hotel in Auckland City as part of our contribution towards supporting the NZ construction industry’s efforts to reduce waste. The conference will allow construction practitioners, academics, government leaders, students and apprentices to share their experiences and build the body of knowledge around construction waste minimisation in New Zealand.
Auckland Council is generously supporting both of these projects with Waste Minimisation Innovation Funding.
Register now for the Building Today – Saving Tomorrow Conference to find out more about this project.
My name is Carolyn Cox, I'm the founder of Green Businesss HQ.
I help businesses develop sustainability strategies, action plans and provide sustainability advice for businesses, industry sectors, education providers, and communities.