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Business for Good: One Sitback Employee’s Journey to Sustainability

Sitback may only be at the start of its BCORP journey, but for one employee, being green has long been a way of life.

Stephen Gouldsbury, one of Sitback’s Software Developers, has already completed a number of notable environmental achievements, including installing a 6.2kw solar panel array on the roof of his home. Along with a Tesla battery system installed in his garage, this setup meant that Stephen drew just 10% of his energy from the grid over last winter, including lengthy stretches during which he drew no energy from the grid at all. 

Stephen also employs solutions such as energy-efficient light bulbs, full recycling including organic waste, and car carbon offsetting through GoNeutral

Since Stephen has long been a source of sustainability knowledge for Sitback team members, he’s graciously agreed to compile some of his top tips for transitioning into a green lifestyle, which are listed below in his words. To emphasise, these are one person’s opinions, and although we hope you find them useful, they do not necessarily reflect Sitback’s perspective as an organisation. 

 - Carl Brown, Interactive Experience Director at Sitback

Priority #1: Who You Vote for and How You Vote

Whenever possible, vote for parties that have strong, costed, and realistic climate plans. Also, take the time to understand the preferential voting system in Australia and how it works. A 1st preference vote for a smaller party such as the Greens or the Reason Party – or even an environmentally-minded independent – is ultimately one of the biggest differences you can make with regards to climate, sustainability, and the environment. 

Even if you’re in a seat that is guaranteed to go to one of the big two, voting patterns and preferences are noticed. This puts pressure on governments to change their policies if they’re losing votes to these parties. Voting Green and independent Senators into the Senate also helps hold governments to account, regardless of whether or not you believe these parties would be good in the lower house. 

Realistically, it may be true that the smaller parties are never going to hold majority government in this country. But if they gain a larger minority share, they can have a real, tangible effect on policy. Putting smaller party or independent MPs into the lower house can tip the balance of voting through pro-environment legislation (as they already are doing, but more is needed). 

Ultimately, the climate crisis will not be solved by individual action alone. The push by governments and big corporations of the responsibility for solving environmental challenges onto everyday citizens is a whitewashing effort intended to hide the fact that industry, agriculture, and large businesses are by far the largest source of environmental pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions.

For more on the marketing campaigns created by the fossil fuel industry to shift the responsibility from themselves to all of us, give this article a read: https://mashable.com/feature/carbon-footprint-pr-campaign-sham

From the article: “Even a homeless person living in a fossil fuel-powered society has an unsustainably high carbon footprint,” said Stanford’s Franta. “As long as fossil fuels are the basis for the energy system, you could never have a sustainable carbon footprint. You simply can’t do it.”

Moving on from that depressing thought, here are a few things you can do to at least try to do your bit:

The Federal Solar System Purchase Cost Reduction Initiative

This cost reduction initiative by the federal government subsidises the purchase of solar systems, as part of the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme. The program is based on zones, so the sunnier it is for you, the greater the incentive you’ll receive (and the cheaper your energy will be).

Southern VIC and TAS are in zone 4, while Northern VIC, coastal NSW, QLD, Adelaide, and Perth are zone 3.

solar-energy-scheme-zones-01

Image Source: https://www.solarquotes.com.au/panels/rebate/ 

On average, participating in the program is worth about $525 per Kw/hr installed. The cost reduction reduces on the 1st of January every year, and it’s planned to be removed entirely by 2031.

Whether or not you opt to participate in the program, it’s still a good idea to shop around for the best feed-in tariff (FiT) subsidy, change providers before installation, or contact providers to see if they have deals on switching and organising installation.

Additional Reading:

State-by-State Rebate Schemes

It’s also worth determining whether you qualify for any state-specific rebate schemes.

You can find a good overview of state-by-state information here:

https://www.lghomebattery.com.au/post/2021-australian-government-home-battery-rebate-and-interest-scheme

Or, check out the specific programs described below, depending on your state:

VIC

Victoria offers a $1400 rebate on installation, as well as interest-free loans equivalent to the rebate cost to assist in having a solar power system installed. If the system costs less than $2800, then there are no upfront costs. However, there are eligibility criteria you’ll need to meet to be eligible, such as a maximum household income of $180,000.

Rebates are also available for battery installation which work in the same way as solar panel rebates. Unfortunately, you can only apply for one rebate from Solar Victoria, not both. If you have to make this decision, battery rebates are a good choice for people with existing panels who want to add a battery (but be sure to calculate potential savings based on your specific situation).

Options also exist for solar hot water installations, while Solar VIC are also looking into battery aggregation (virtual power plants). A pilot scheme is currently underway.

Additional Reading:

NSW

Unfortunately, no state rebate is available, but federal POS cost reductions still apply. Interest-free loans are available for panel and battery installs, as well as for battery-only installs to existing systems.

A 3Kw/hr system free installation offer for low-income households is currently in the pilot stage and is expected to be expanded across NSW soon. The same feed-in tariff structure exists for NSW, so be sure to shop around for the best price.

Additional Reading:

QLD

Unfortunately, there are no state rebates for panels or batteries in Queensland currently, though federal POS discounts still apply.

ACT

ACT are actively trying to get batteries installed in as many homes as possible with a goal of having 36 Mw of home battery storage installed across the territory. Households are eligible for up to $4000 of funding, though you’ll need existing solar panels and an inverter to qualify. 

Additional Reading:

The State of Recycling in Australia

plastics-usage-australia-01

Source: https://www.awe.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/national-plastics-plan-2021.pdf

After overseas countries began to refuse the import of Australia’s recycling waste in 2017-2018, Australia set about finally getting a process in place to deal with its own recyclable waste, drawing up plans to create a circular recycling economy, instead of importing virgin plastic into the country. 

Initially, this was a difficult change for many local councils, as they suddenly had nowhere to send their recycling. As a result, there was a period of a year or so where many councils suspended their recycling programs or just diverted all recycling collections to landfill. 

Fortunately, the government is now shifting to phase out problematic and unnecessary plastics –  such as expanded polystyrene – and is encouraging industry to shift towards more easily recyclable plastics and away from single-use plastics in consumer goods, as part of a goal to increase national recycling capacity by 25%.

On a personal level, you can work with solutions like redcycle – a company that takes back consumer single-use plastic and creates items such as park benches, road surfacing material, and fencing. This service is accessible to everybody through their local Coles or Woollies supermarkets (look for the big bin right at the entrance). 

Redcycle provides a great list of what can and can’t be recycled. I’ve found that it’s easy to store my week of plastic waste, put it in my reusable shopping bag, and drop it off when I start my weekly shop.

My council offers a green waste collection bin – not all do, but I know many councils here in VIC are bringing one in. If this isn’t an option for you, then a home compost setup or worm farm is possible too. If you don’t use the compost, then a neighbour surely will – just leave it outside your door. 

Many composting units of varying sizes are available from Bunnings, though there are also private companies that supply a green waste service, such as Waster

Carbon Offsetting

Options exist for carbon offsetting your car’s emissions on a yearly basis – I do so through GoNeutral. Offsetting the carbon emissions on any flights you take is usually also an option through the airline on booking.

Additional Steps

For other ways to reduce your environmental impact, consider these additional steps:

Go Vegetarian

Go veggie, where possible. You don’t need to completely remove meat but aim for at least one meat-free day a week. You can also try some of the new meat substitute products – a lot of them are quite delicious.

Choose an Ethical Super Fund

Choose a super fund that does not invest in fossil fuel, mining industries, and/or military industrial areas. A good choice for this is Ethical Super, or take a look at your current company, as most now include a choice to divest from certain industries.

Explore Project Drawdown & Project Regeneration

Project Drawdown offers comprehensive information on things that can be done on a larger scale than the individual and quantifies the impact these actions could have.

Project Regeneration is another awesome resource that lists a massive amount of ideas and solutions to global and personal problems and provides steps on how different cohorts (including individual actions, group actions, and company actions) can mitigate or reverse climate damage through action.

Thanks to Stephen for sharing your insights on this important topic. We hope you’ve found his information useful in identifying opportunities to reduce your own environmental footprint.