Arron Wood

Sustainable Business and Education Leader

Melbourne Renewable Energy Project/Best Day Ever

Last Thursday was the formal launch of the Melbourne Renewable Energy Project (MREP), also known in simpler terms as One of the Best Days Ever.

City of Melbourne has partnered with 13 other local governments, businesses, cultural and educational institutions, to collectively purchase large scale renewable energy through a group purchasing model.

Led by us, the purchasing group includes Australia Post, NAB, the University of Melbourne, RMIT, Federation Square, NEXTDC, Zoos Victoria, the City of Port Phillip, Moreland City Council, the City of Yarra, Citywide, Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre and Bank Australia.

The company chosen to deliver this project, Pacific Hydro, will build a wind farm near Ararat. This partnership will purchase more than 88GWh of energy, which is the equivalent to powering more than 17,000 households in Melbourne for a year. It will also save 96,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions from entering the atmosphere per year. That’s as much as 22,000 cars off the road.

The great thing about MREP is that rather than getting bogged down with toxic or overly philosophical debates about climate change and renewable energy, we have gotten on with it. It’s sad but true to consider that had we waited for more decisive action from the Federal government, we’d still be waiting. The political landscape hasn’t shifted much compared to three years ago. In the same time that our politicians have persisted with their version of a robust debate, we created a project that is positive, tangible and practical. There is going to be a wind farm built by us! We are going to be able to drive past that with our families, point to it, and say ‘we helped make that happen.’

MREP bypassed the political debate on climate change because it was more important to do less talking and take action on something that ticks all the boxes. What we now have is a project that is economically sound while lowering carbon emissions and driving renewable energy into the grid. We really have achieved the whole trifecta.

An important goal for me was to demonstrate that environmentally intelligent decisions can make the most business sense too. It doesn’t always have to be an either/or situation. This point matters: rather than having arguments about who has the best intentions or debating how to balance different motivating factors, MREP covers all bases. You can interrogate this project from an environmental or financial lens and still come out with the same result: this will successfully cut costs AND carbon emissions. Everybody really does win.

Today we are looking at MREP as innovative and ground breaking but as I have always said, the real power of this project will be in its replication. This is a great example of how businesses and government can partner together to change the energy mix. I look forward to the day when this partnership procurement for renewables becomes even more commonplace than we could have ever imagined.

Are you inspired to create a partnership to increase renewables? City of Melbourne also published a guide, sharing our story and the process to make it easier for future projects which is available on our website.


Partnerships: Leading the way to a greener Melbourne

Part of our human nature is to put ideas into neat categories. Cups go in the top cupboard, cutlery in the first drawer and the sifter goes in the corner cupboard where nothing fits nicely. We particularly enjoy binaries because they seemingly make life easier to understand. Yes/No. Good/Bad. Right/Wrong. Left/Right. Conservative/Progressive. Masculine/Feminine. Passive/Active. Socialist/Capitalist.

Dissent against this way of thinking has been around for a while, but more recently we have seen waves of social politics and popular culture leading the charge on this issue. It makes talking about some topics more difficult (what do you mean there is never going to be a ‘right’ answer?), but that is ultimately the point: life is complicated and dichotomies are more often a hindrance rather than helpful when it comes to the stuff that really matters.

Why am I getting philosophical about categories? One binary that I think we really need to reconsider is the separation of Public/Private. We have heard it all before. The public sector is ideological and inefficient. The private sector is focused only on the bottom line. The public sector leads the way with sustainability. The private sector only does the bare minimum. The public and private sector must remain separate to avoid conflicts of interest and that other popular ‘c’ word: corruption. False, false and false.*

The City of Melbourne has a number of strategies to increase green infrastructure and reduce carbon emissions however we only own 1.3 per cent of the buildings in the municipality. To date, that’s 279 out of 22152. It is impossible for council to deliver our ambitious sustainability initiatives on our own. We need the private sector to be as engaged on sustainability issues as we are to successfully deliver on our targets. For this very reason, City of Melbourne actively partners with the private sector to achieve these shared goals.

First is the Urban Forest Fund. Launched this year and open to property owners, managers and developers, the purpose of this fund was to provide dollar-for-dollar funding to accelerate greening projects that otherwise would not be funded. This includes projects like green spaces, tree planting, vertical greening, stormwater capture and green roofs.

The beauty behind this model is that the private sector autonomously proposes projects that are suited to their needs, while collaboratively calling on the expertise of our team to ensure a practical and successful outcome. It also gives companies and businesses that have sustainable values, but not necessarily the budget, an opportunity to begin investing in these kinds of projects.

Similarly, when it comes to new developments, the City of Melbourne is focused on working with the developers to achieve optimal results. Take the Mirvac Forge Apartments and the Wharf Club down at the Docklands, which officially opened earlier this year. Having worked closely to achieve an architectural urban design that also makes a positive contribution for the public, this site features a 2000 square metre public park, Wharf’s Landing Park. Visitors are also invited to walk up the hill-like rooftop to enjoy views of the Yarra River.

We have shared similar success with the Cbus ‘Pantscraper’ development which will also include 2000 square metres of public space on Market Street. It’s worth noting they are also targeting 5 Star NABERS Energy rating, 5 Star Green Star Office Design Rating and WELL certification.

The notion that the private sector are only ever in it for the profit is not true for all, and it’s important we don’t paint all developers with the same brush. Instead, we should be praising those who are genuinely making a difference.

A great example of this is the Lendlease refurbishment of 485 La Trobe Street, which features the largest Junglefy ‘breathing wall’ in Australia. I had the pleasure of opening this last month and it is honestly an impressive creation. As well as being aesthetically pleasing and demanding an instantly calming presence, it has the capacity for 80 per cent reduction in carbon dioxide per hour. You would otherwise need 160 large pot plants to achieve this.

The benefits of green spaces are manifold, including lifting property values and improving productivity for the tenants in the building. I hope that the more we see the private sector investing in green spaces, the more it’ll become expected, even established practice.

Finally, a game-changing example of the private and public sector working together to deliver a major project is of course, the Melbourne Renewable Energy Project (MREP). Together with 14 partners that comprises of the private and public sector, MREP will build a new renewable energy source. To give you a sense of scale on how big a deal this is, the ‘share’ of energy that our group will purchase will save more than 96,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent to taking around 22,000 cars off the road and power more than 17,000 homes in Melbourne.

This is the first partnership model of its kind in Australia and possibly around the world. Its true value will be in its replicability and the City of Melbourne is already preparing a handbook so that other interested parties can gain a better understanding of how they’d execute a similar project.

It’s really important to emphasise that we would not have accomplished this on our own, and this is the case for our 13 partners. The cost alone would be outside most budgets. Instead, we have partnered together to achieve a shared goal, which is to increase investment in renewable energy and continue to shift away from our dependence on fossil fuels.

What these projects demonstrate is that we shouldn’t feel restricted to taking sides when it comes to working collaboratively; innovative and exciting new funding models are possible regardless if you happen to be from the private or public sector.

Sometimes when things get difficult we don’t realise that reverting to binaries is often taking the easy way out. When you stop and look at an issue from several angles, this is when you will find the unique opportunities that really make a difference.

*Yes conflicts of interest and corruption can occur, but this is not unique to public/private partnerships. That’s a whole other issue that I don’t have time to cover here.

The world through hope-tinted glasses

Is it just me, or has does the arrival of September feel like it came out of nowhere? One minute I am turning the clock back an hour for daylight savings, and now, two seasons later I see people tentatively stepping outside without their jackets. Time flies and a lot has happened these past six months that’s worth reflecting on.

Of particular note was the World Ecocity Summit in July, which saw environmental experts from all over the world converge in Melbourne to share their insights, concerns and case studies on how they are responding to climate change.

Al Gore was the keynote speaker and an obvious highlight, especially when he gave me a little shout. I still share this story whenever there’s a convenient segue. You can join me in reliving this glorious moment here:

What I found particularly inspiring about his talk was that even though we consistently face a lot of challenges responding to climate change, there are numerous reasons to be hopeful and optimistic. All over the world the private and public sector are working together to deliver major projects that are already making a difference. Al Gore’s talk ended with a resounding sense of hope as he rallied us with a message from Martin Luther King Jr’s speech, ‘How Long, Not Long.’ I can’t do either of these great men justice, but when you live a life guided by truth, it is never too long until change ‘because no lie can live forever… the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.’

I have worked in this industry for almost 20 years and have experienced a lot of scepticism, cynicism and negativity. It doesn’t take much for nay-sayers to pounce on anything you say to try disprove you or conclude that environmentalists basically just want to decry the end of the world. Even being concerned about melting ice sheets is met with accusations we think people should stop using electricity. I haven’t worked out how to not get irritated, but focusing on what we are achieving helps.

Globally, there are governments and corporations that are best described as disappointing. If we were waiting for our Federal Government to be leaders on climate change, we’d still be waiting. Although this criticism is warranted and there is a lot to say about it, we can’t let this be the centre of conversation when it comes to climate change. What’s most important is what we are actually doing. What’s important is how much we are achieving, and how much progress there is to look forward to. There are reasons for hope and optimism, and we should never forget or underestimate the power of this.

The Summit wasn’t just about Al Gore though. With over 300 speakers from over 30 different countries, this was a unique and diverse opportunity to network, collaborate and gain insight into the many hundreds of projects all over the world. There aren’t many events where you can learn about growing urban forests, climate museums and how to organise grassroots campaigns all in the one place.

All in all, the World Ecocity Summit captured our imaginations while also providing insight into the potential, innovation and inventions occurring in this space. It was a great event, and for those of you who also attended, I hope you found it equally rewarding.

There’s still more to tell you about what I’ve been up to, but you’re just going to have to wait until my next entry. How long until my next post? Not long!


I’m still here!

As some of you may have noticed, I haven’t posted a blog for a while. For those of you who have missed my green musings, I’m sorry for my absence, but I’m thrilled to tell you that I’m back!

I’m looking forward to regularly keeping you up to date with environmental news, tidbits and fun facts throughout the year, especially since now that I’m Deputy Lord Mayor I have stepped down from my role as Chair of the Environment Portfolio. Over the past four years I have thoroughly enjoyed working with Council to implement strategies and policies that effectively reduce carbon emissions, increase canopy cover and improve resilience for generations into the future.

And because I've been working in the environmental sector for 17 years I can't completely let go, despite the new role at City of Melbourne. 

It’s been a bit busier than usual since being elected as Deputy Lord Mayor. While an exciting learning curve - including the occasional stints as Acting Lord Mayor (really should have taken improv classes in a former life) – this has been an unexpected start to the year. The Bourke Street Mall tragedy is one of the worst things I have ever witnessed and it will not be forgotten for a long time. However, the way we came together as a city to support and help each other has also been overwhelming. The emotional Thank You video published from Ambulance Victoria is an important reminder that more often than not, we are united for the better.

On an unrelated note, let’s talk about toothpaste. Everybody’s morning ritual is different but there is one unavoidable fact: our non-biodegradable toothpaste tubes. The average person is expected to use 389 tubes of toothpaste in their lifetime. And each of these tubes is going to sit in landfill without ever breaking down. With a population of 22 million and growing, let’s just take a moment to think about what that looks like for Australia alone. In short, imagine that your lifetime supply of toothpaste is the whole aisle at the local supermarket, and it’s sitting in landfill. To add to that, imagine the millions of people before you who have already made their lifetime contribution of toothpaste tubes and they’re all sitting in landfill, waiting to be discovered by an archaeologist in the future.

It’s a scary thought, isn’t it? I’m not going to lie; stopping and thinking about just how much non-biodegradable rubbish there is in landfill is daunting. It is a worry to consider just what kind of world we are leaving behind.

Now, some people are going to tell you to ditch your toothpaste and start making your own. That’s not everyone’s cup of tea, and to be honest it’s not mine either. Life is busy enough without adding this to your list of things to do.

Luckily, this is not a head in the sand situation. Instead, you can start recycling those toothpaste tubes and breathe a sigh of relief that it’s at least 300 less toothpaste tubes in landfill.

Terracycle is a recycling company that recycles our waste that we normally think can’t be recycled. This includes all those binders in your office that you got rid of after you went paperless, those pesky coffee pods you have a love/hate relationship with, and or course, toothpaste tubes. They even take your old dental floss boxes and toothbrushes. It is all a bit too convenient, isn’t it?

If you can believe it, Terracycle gets even better because they also offer schools and not-for-profits an opportunity to get cash payments for every contribution made. Talk about a total win-win: you can feel good diverting a whole school’s worth of toothpaste tubes from landfill while also earning points for money!

There was a time when it was difficult to pick up my toothpaste without feeling a little twinge of guilt. It is a huge challenge to lead an entirely waste-free life, but we can all start somewhere. If we all pitch in we can make a big difference cutting down on rubbish, one item at a time.

For more details about Terracycle, and how to recycle your toothpaste tubes check out their website here:

 *This is not an advertorial. I was not approached by Terracycle to write this, nor do I have any affiliation with their company. But I do use toothpaste and I do want to make sure it doesn’t all end up in landfill.

Worms – a great garden recycler!

Previous research by The Australia Institute showed that Australians throw away about $5.2 billion worth of food every year. This includes $1.1 billion of fruit and vegetables.  The sad news is that things haven’t gotten better, they’ve got worse.  The best thing to do is not waste food in the first place and I’d strongly encourage you to head here for awesome information

Here’s some amazing stats courtesy of the Love Food, Hate Waste website:

• The average Victorian household throws out $2,200 worth of food each year – that's $42 per week!

• One fifth or 20% of the yearly grocery budget is wasted on average. That's like throwing out 1 in every 5 bags of food you buy!

• Victorians collectively throw out $4 billion worth of food each year – that’s enough to feed 367,000 families for a year, based on a weekly spend of $207.

• Victorians throw away $700 million worth of leftovers per year – that’s enough to buy laptops for 580,000 school children

For those unavoidable food scraps instead of sending them to landfill why not keep a worm farm and let them do the work. Feeding fruit and vegetable scraps to earthworms is a cheap and simple way of recycling food and garden waste.  Worm castings make a really good fertiliser for gardens and worm farms are great for people in homes with small backyards and can even be kept on the balcony of a flat.  You might also like to think of keeping a worm farm at the office for lunch scraps.  The Adelaide Convention Centre even has an industrial scale worm farm to deal with food scraps from major events.

Worms will eat almost any type of vegetable and fruit scraps, coffee grindings, paper, leaves and even damp cardboard. Do not add too much acidic food like oranges and mandarins and don’t add any onions – worms don’t like these!  You should also be careful not to add anything toxic such as wood shavings from treated pine because this will poison your worms.

Compost worms are particular species of worm and popular compost worms include Tiger Worms, Red Wrigglers and Indian Blues and they can eat about half of their body weight in one day as they are generally more active than normal earthworms.  The population in a well maintained worm farm doubles every two to three months.

You can also add compost worms to standard compost bins or heaps, as long as you do not let the contents of the bin get too hot.  Adding them to the right type of compost bin can ensure you avoid rats or mice that may be attracted to an open compost heap.  Even in a standard open worm farm you should cover the food scraps with some soil to avoid attracting vinegar flies or other animals. 

You can either buy commercially available worm farms or you can have a go at building your own.  This can be a fun activity for you and the kids.  Kids really love interacting with and understanding their worm farm.

To build a worm farm you should choose a shady spot outdoors, preferably with good drainage. To avoid invasion by grass or tree roots that might be close by, place the worm farm on a plastic sheet.  Once you have your spot you should line your container with a few sheets of dampened newspaper.  Your container can be something more substantial like a wood sleeper planter box or something more modest like plastic containers or polystyrene boxes, but it must have a solid base and then different levels for the worms to migrate through.  Again you can simply purchase a commercially available farm at most garden and hardware stores.

Half fill the container with bedding mix that is moist and you can use old compost or shredded paper for this purpose. You want to make sure your bedding mix is less attractive or fresh than the food scraps that you add so the worms keep eating your scraps.  Even grass clippings can be a good bedding material.

Depending on the sort of container you are using you need to make sure there is adequate drainage.  Worm wee is a fantastic fertilizer and many of the schools I work with actually collect this from their school worm farms and sell it at local markets.  Once you’ve got this all set up and arranged adequate drainage you’re ready for the fun par, adding the worms! You can purchase your initial population of worms from many different outlets, but just make sure they are actually compost worms. 

Once you’ve added the worms you can cover them with a layer of compost, soil or hessian and add some water to make it moist, but not soggy.  If you worm farm dries out completely your worms will die, but it is important not to over water them because there is good moisture in the food scraps you add each week.

You worm farm is just about complete except for the glorious food scraps that used to be waste.  You are now ready to start adding fruit and vegetable scraps. You can do these weekly by keeping a small compost bin in the house or on an as needs basis.  You should start off with small amounts of food and the way to check if you are overfeeding them is keeping an eye out for any uneaten food from week to week. 

Interestingly your worm population will grow in relation to how much food you feed them and the size of your worm farm.  Remember a worm farm can be really small for a small household or huge for industrial operations.  After time you may need to add more levels to your worm farm or start another farm altogether as the population grows or you start generating more food scraps.

For more information on how to make a worm farm you can go to or   

A Better Retail Solar Industry

So how do we drive even better standards for the retail solar industry?  It's good that consumers are informed (see previous blog), but we also need an informed and reputable industry.  Just like any sector it's helpful to have accreditation.  It means the majority of providers who are doing the right thing aren't disadvantaged by the 1 or 2 cowboys that are more interested in the quick dollar.

That's why it's fantastic to see the Clean Energy Council (CEC) Solar Retailer Code of Conduct, which is referred to in the aforementioned consumer guide.  The CEC has put considerable resources into bringing the Code to the attention of solar retailers themselves and to all levels of government and other procurement bodies, many of whom now offer tender opportunities exclusively to Code signatories.  The focus of the CEC is now turning to raising consumer awareness - you and me! They have a goal for consumers to ask the solar company they’re dealing with, whether it is a CEC Approved Solar Retailer. So note that question in your head and make your first question: "Are you a CEC Approved Solar Retailer?"

The CEC initiated this program at the request of their solar members and to support their own efforts to raise standards in the solar industry. An industry with high standards is good for everyone! The Solar Retailer Code of Conduct is a voluntary code of conduct for PV retailers of all sizes.  It’s the only solar industry code of conduct authorised by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.  Last year the ACCC authorised new provisions that add consumer finance protections to the Code, which make it relevant to innovative pricing models for solar.

The Clean Energy Council administers the Code.  An independent Code Review Panel oversees the administration, provides direction for development of the Code and hears appeals of decisions made the Code Administrator.

The CEC currently lists 36 approved Solar Retailers This is a great list to look at if you're considering a solar purchase in future.

The Code makes the process of buying solar simpler and safer for consumers by enabling them to choose from a list of solar retailers who have been through a rigorous screening process by the CEC. The Code aims to ensure that retailers are fully accountable for the actions of sub-contracted parties, so every aspect of the solar purchasing experience is guaranteed. Approved Solar Retailers:

·         provide a five-year whole-of-system warranty is provided on all solar PV systems

·         use only CEC-accredited designers and installers

·         provide honest and accurate information about the best system for your home or business, based on site-specific system design and performance estimate

·         properly advise their customers on grid connection procedures

·         ensure their customers receive essential information when they buy their PV system using a finance arrangement.

Useful links: Code of Conduct document which details solar retailers’ obligations, breaches, how breaches are investigated and sanctioned, and the administration processes of the Code.

Application Form Details fees, indicates how CEC assesses applicants, including background checks on financial status, personnel history, documented complaints procedure, warranties and advertising material. CEC reviews contract terms and conditions of each applicant and approves only those that comply with Australian Consumer Law and this code of conduct.

So it's nice and simple - to any solar business, get accredited and to any potential customer, ask the question!!! Are you a CEC Approved Solar Retailer?

THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY - Sustainable Fishing for sport and recreation

There are now so many pressures on our oceans including over fishing, pollution, climate change and coral bleaching, degradation of coastal vegetation, loss of fish breeding grounds such as mangrove forests and yet marine parks cover less than 4% of our ocean area.

Australia's marine plants and animals are extremely diverse and there are many more species of animals in the ocean than our land species. We have more than 5000 species of fish, 48 species of mammals, 6 species of turtles, 110 species of sea bird and 500 corals. Between 80 and 90 percent of many groups are not found anywhere else in the world.

Over fishing and by catch (where nets catch the wrong and endangered species) are harming the sustainability of our marine life – 70% of world’s population rely on fish as their main source of protein, but 70% of the worlds fisheries can’t sustain an increase in fishing (they are at their sustainable limit).

So it really is time to think about how we can fish more sustainably.

We can use steel hooks instead of aluminum and Enviro-sinkers (not lead) which break down over time.  For sporting competitions you can now use circle hooks so it is much easier to release fish once measured and photographed.

Another great way to minimize injury to fish you don’t intend to eat is to use ‘Brag Mats’. Fish are put on the mat, photo taken and then released.

You should get as much information as possible on the national code of practice for recreational and sportfishing and information on how to release fish for best chance of survival.  You can visit State-specific sites such as

Instead of standard fishing line you can use bioline which breaks down in water over time using the same technology as dissolvable stitches to leave only water and CO2 as by product. Bioline degrades within 5 years whereas normal line has a life of over 600 years. Virtually every yard of modern fishing line that has ever been lost is still out there; buried in sediment, hung up on snags or circling the ocean. You can visit for more information.

Why not get your sports fishing tournament rated?  Anyone who is interested in sustainable fishing should look up for more information on the environmental standard. Fishing tournaments can be rated on a 1 to 5 star basis based on their environmental, social and economic performance.  High rating tournaments receive benefits from sponsors and insurance agencies as well as recognition from government as to their environmental credentials as we strive to encourage sustainable fishing practices in recreational fishing tournaments.

Above all it is vital that we respect bag limits, fish size limits and respect marine parks.  For all the information you need on sportfishing visit the Australian National Sportfishing Association website  or again you can visit State-specific information such as

If you love to get out there and catch a fish lets make sure our kids can do the same in years to come by learning to fish sustainably.

How do I go solar for my home?


With electricity prices constantly on the rise getting your power from the sun is becoming a more attractive option for many Australians.  Deciding to go solar can be an exciting, but confusing time for many people.  There are so many brands, feed-in-tariffs, rebates and it can all seem just a bit overwhelming.

 So like any major purchase here are some points to keep in mind when choosing your solar company.

 ·       Accredited Installers. In order to qualify for Solar Credits rebates your solar power system has to be installed by a Clean Energy Council accredited installer

·       Get a few quotes This is a big purchase and you wouldn’t buy a car without shopping around so make sure you get quotes from a few different companies and compare what they are offering.  There is also nothing wrong with negotiating on price.

·       Find a trusted brand. The solar power industry is relatively young in Australia, and is growing rapidly. This is a good thing, because it encourages competition amongst suppliers, and provides a lot of options for consumers. It also means there are a lot of young businesses popping up that may not have the expertise and experience you’re looking for. Try to find a reputable and established company you can trust. Make sure they are a quality endorsed company with a proven installation history, and have a proven track record.

·       Make sure that a system is customized to YOUR needs and considers your available roof space, your current electricity requirements, and your budget. A good sales representative can give you a range of options that meet YOUR needs. You may want to simply reduce your own power bills, or you may want to feed as much power back into the grid as possible and make a profit from the extra power you generate.

·       Always compare like products. System components, such as your panels, inverter, and mounting systems can vary in quality from manufacturer to manufacturer. Make sure you’re getting quality products from trusted brands. Make sure the components and are certified to meet Australian standards. This is important when applying for government incentives, which could save you thousands of dollars.

·       Ensure that you are getting genuine product warranties and customer guarantees. Normally a quality panel will carry a 25 year manufacturers warranty, a quality inverter should carry a 10 year warranty. Look for a company who uses top quality products and backs them. Some companies will even offer extended warranties and performance guarantees for extra peace of mind.

·       Make sure they help you find ways of making your system work better for you. A good sales consultant will chat to you about how you use your power at home, and suggest ways of maximizing the power your system produces. It’s not just about selling you a system, it’s about helping our environment, and a good sales representative will show you have you can make simple behavioural changes that can make a difference to the environment, and to your bills! 

·       Government rebates are available. Make sure you choose a provider who can help you make the most of government rebates and incentive programs. (A) The Solar Credits initiative could save you literally thousands of dollars on the upfront cost of your system. The value of the discount is dependant on the value of Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) at the time that you buy. Each system is entitled to a certain number of RECs determined by the size of the system you choose and how much sunlight falls on your roof in your suburb. The price does fluctuate, so it can vary quite a bit. (B) “Feed in tariffs” are a premium rate paid to you by your electricity provider for the extra power your systems generates and feeds back into the grid. Currently electricity can cost over 20c per kW hour in peak times for you to buy. In Victoria, electricity providers are only required to pay about 8c per kW hour for the solar power you sell back. Pretty lousy really and there’s a strong case for a feed in tariff more like 12-15c to better reward those going solar who missed out on the heady days of 60c feed in tariff’s.

The Clean Energy Council has released a consumer guide to buying solar panels. It is available on their website and I have a 4.3Kw system and I couldn’t’ be happier.  In an average year the panels have generated twice as much electricity as I have used in that same period.  The future has never looked brighter!

Can you be green even when you die?

About 2% of people are choosing green burials.  When you hear the words eco-casket, recycled timber coffin or biodegradable cardboard does it pique your interest or just give you the heebeegeebees?

The Australian Cemeteries and Crematoria Association - defines natural burials as “the act of returning the body as naturally as possible to the earth”.

Most importantly in terms of environmental impact this is achieved without the use of cremation, which can generate up to 160kg of greenhouse gasses per corpse, and without the use of embalming liquids that often contain the carcinogenic chemical formaldehyde, that can leak into the soil once a body is buried.

There are so many ways the business of dying can reduce its impact on the environment and many leading cemeteries are taking action accordingly.  They’re installing renewable energy for cremation, reducing emissions from Mercury fillings, undertaking burial in biodegradable biopods instead of caskets and some providers are even offering upright burial in a shroud.

A few years back South Australia legislated to allow Natural burial which can involve use of a biodegradable coffin or wrapping remains in a shroud and bodies are not usually treated with any chemicals.

Plantings are often made at a burial site instead of a traditional headstone being used to complete to eco credentials of the burial and personally, I think the whole idea of returning to the earth has a lovely, spiritual feel to it and then a plant growing from your released energy is very mother earth!

Another option to reduce impact is Aquamation. It uses the chemical process of alkaline hydrolysis – natural way in which a body decomposes if buried without a coffin in the soil, or placed in flowing water.

A combination of flowing water, high temp & alkalinity to accelerate the natural course of tissue hydrolysis and chemical breakdown.  The process takes place in a stainless steel vessel. At the end of this short process, the body has been broken down into chemical form and dissolved into the water. The only solid remains are the bones. Aquamation uses just 10% of the energy needed in a cremation and there are no air emissions. 

Burial is availability is decreasingly due to land shortages. Aquamation can be a greener solution.

Companies like these are starting to offer green burials:

10 reasons why acting on climate change is still good for us even if it turns out that it doesn’t exist

 1. Forcing businesses to operate more efficiently and reduce waste means our industry can compete better with leading countries such as Germany which despite having less sunlight than Australia currently has over 3 times as much solar.

2. Reducing pollution to our atmosphere has health benefits especially for our kids where asthma rates have increased in recent years and studies have shown kids living near busy roads have higher rates of asthma.

3. Alternative energy is big business.  Globally it is shaping up to be a trillion dollar industry as noted by the international energy agency. Surely we want Australia to be a leader in the new economy? And one thing we have more of than coal is sunshine.  What an amazing export opportunity as research continues into turning sunlight into liquid fuel that could be transported around the world in retrofitted LNG tankers.

4. Reducing our reliance on cars, especially in the CBD, and switching to public transport has the potential to reduce pedestrian and cycling deaths.  Not to mention less deaths from car accidents. Reducing overall congestion is simply great for amenity in our cities.

5. Riding a bike or walking can help reduce obesity and improve overall fitness.  Australia is the fattest nation in the world.

6. Reducing our reliance on oil is good for national security especially where Australia is at the whim of oil countries and the designated supply at any one time.

7. Any form of a price on carbon (either tax or emissions trading) has to include funding for low income earners to adjust.  The previously proposed emissions trading scheme would’ve meant big compensation to low and middle income earners ($10 billion) for rising electricity costs – costs will rise regardless of a price on carbon as cheap extraction of coal dries up. Close to 90% of people would’ve been better off after the compensation package.

8. Switching to home grown vegetables or farmers markets not only reduces transport emissions it is usually much better for us nutritionally, supports local producers and if you grow it yourself can be lots of fun and great education for your children.

9. Putting a cap on emissions supports the growth of new businesses such as solar energy which has the potential to offset jobs lost in the fossil fuel industry.  The creation of green jobs is real. According to CSIRO economic modelling, 2.7 million new jobs will be created in Australia by 2025 if we set course to become carbon neutral by 2050.

10. Cooling our cities through roof top gardens, public transport, green spaces and sustainable building design is also good for business.  Studies have shown green buildings reduce absenteeism by up to 15%.  Many of us have heard of sick building syndrome and green design principles avoid many of these pitfalls.

AND there are so many more reasons to act even if you don't 'believe' in climate change.  Would love to hear your ideas!!