Greening up: Town & Country Gallery Owner Jo Wolswinkel sits outside her shop, LEAF certificate in view. Image: William Kulich.
With the carbon tax set to be introduced in July and increasing consumer interest in sustainable business practices, one group of energy-conserving locals is winning over businesses and customers with a local approach to sustainable shopping.
Over the past year the Baw Baw Sustainability Network has been working to change community attitudes to climate change and sustainable business practices through its Sustainability LEAF program.
Under the program the network conducts energy audits on businesses. The audit investigates lighting, heating, transport, refrigeration and insulation, not only addressing the efficiency of these components but also how they’re used.
The network then gives those businesses that minimise electricity consumption a LEAF certificate for their window display and website for potential customers to see.
And the program is growing in popularity. About 20 Baw Baw businesses have joined and the BBSN hopes the program will become a standard in the area.
“Businesses involved in the leaf program have been enthusiastic,” says President of the Baw Baw Sustainability Network Malcolm McKelvie.
“We hope it makes a difference to shoppers who see the signs in buildings [and increases their] awareness of sustainability issues.”
The business-consumer relationship is an important consideration for the BBSN, which is leveraging the role of local businesses in community discussion to tackle climate change.
“Key agents for change obviously are businesses,” says Secretary of the BBSN Rod Wellard.
“If you’re going to have a better appreciation of sustainability then clearly businesses are right at the forefront because they’re meeting people all the time and they are also significant users of energy one way or another.”
“Attention to lighting in [not] having just vast amounts of lighting doing nothing in particular when in fact you could just be relying on natural light or just having the light angled,” says Mr Wellard.
“For example the art gallery in Yarragon… has done a substantial amount of work to adjust their lighting.”
That gallery, the Town & Country Gallery, was one of the first businesses to achieve LEAF accreditation. Owner Jo Wolswinkel says the program helped guide the business in becoming more sustainable when that process was unclear.
“The LEAF program actually came after I’d already made the decision to introduce sustainable business practices,” says Ms Wolswinkel.
“We found it very hard to find tradespeople and get in touch with people with the right knowledge and equipment for us to address the issues that we wanted to.”
“Changing over the lights was our biggest change and resulted in a 62 per cent drop in our energy consumption, [and] we’ll still go down further.”
The BBSN also plans to introduce a sustainability hub in Yarragon; a one-stop-shop for sustainable fixtures, fittings and advice for households and businesses. Ms Wolswinkel says the new facility will help encourage other businesses to take part.
“I think a hub would be terrific and also the people there would have the knowledge to just answer questions off the cuff,” says Ms Wolswinkel.
“When [we decided to become more sustainable, we were] all fired up, ‘oh we’re going to do this, but who’s going to help us to the next step? Where can we access all this information?’ So I think it’s a lot easier now and the LEAF program has really helped that.”
The planned hub and community-based work of the BBSN has also had encouragement from former Premier of Victoria John Brumby, who told The Warragul Citizen at a Monash University sustainability forum the work of community groups, including the BBSN, in sustainability projects is “crucial”.
“A lot of businesses don’t like someone coming from the government ‘knock knock knock I’m from the government, I’m here to help, I’m here to audit your business,’ but they will like someone from a local group saying ‘gee, I’ve got the paint shop down the road and we took 30 per cent of the costs out of our business and you can do the same,’” Mr Brumby says.
Mr McKelvie says he hopes the hub will open later this year.
“No one knows about the hub yet. [We] hope to make a splash when we open in [about] September.”
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