Environmental Sustainability

Overview

In ecological terms, sustainability refers to the carrying capacity of our earth and its natural resources to sustain quality of life for all living species.

We know that a successful future depends on understanding how we can reduce our human impact and help our environment become more resilient to change.

There are solutions which can be created and acted upon at local levels. Industry, business, households and government all have a role to play.

Sustainability in the home

While many Australians are making efforts to reduce energy use at home, the amount of energy use in households is increasing.

Some studies have estimated that by 2020 the number of occupied residential households will increase by 61% on 1990’s levels – representing a 56% increase in residential sector energy consumption. (Figures soured from www.climatechange.gov.au/).

Heating and cooling alone uses around 40% of the average homes energy. The average family uses around half their water in the bathroom, 22 per cent in the laundry, 19 per cent in the garden and eight per cent in the kitchen. Showers use the most water, followed by washing machines.

Calculate your home's environmental footprint

City of Melbourne - Saving water at home

Environmental Protection Authority - Greenhouse Calculator

World Wide Fund for Nature - Footprint Calculator

Energy saving for existing homes

  • Turn off lights when you leave a room
  • Turn appliances off at the power point when not in use
  • Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents or LED globes
  • Avoid using low voltage halogen down lights
  • Buy appliances with a good energy rating. See the Energy Rating website or find items that are eligible for rebates at the Switch On website
  • Leave the car where possible and walk or cycle when travelling short distances
  • Set your home heating and cooling thermostat to no more than 20 degrees in winter and less than 25 in summer
  • Use ceiling fans to circulate warm air in winter and reduce the need for air conditioner in summer
  • Install water efficient appliances and fittings e.g. shower heads, taps, washing machines and toilets. Find out about the Federal Government's Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards (WELS) Scheme
  • Reduce shower times to 4 minutes and save thousands of litres of water per person
  • Install a rainwater tank and connect it to your toilet, laundry and garden hose
  • Install solar hot water systems when your current hot water needs replacing
  • Wash clothes in cold water and dry them on inside clothes horse or outside lines
  • Sign up for GreenPower from your electricity supplier. Visit the GreenPower website
  • Install solar panels on your roof to offset some of your electricity use from the grid.

Sustainability on the farm

Over 60% of Australia’s landscapes are privately owned or leased for agricultural production.

Land managers of these landscapes can contribute to environmental sustainability and further improve the long term security of our food production.

In the southern parts of Murrindindi Shire, small rural properties are replacing traditional farms and over recent years small scale primary industries co-exist or are often combined with tourism.

In the northern part of the shire, the average property size is larger and traditional activities are dominant being: sheep and cattle grazing, livestock breeding, pasture cropping and other dry land activities.

Lifestyle as well as traditional farms can be detrimental to our natural environment if they are not managed properly. Taking on sustainable practices can improve the health and profitability of your farming enterprise.

  • Reduce the risk of soil acidification by taking on regular soil testing and appropriate levels of liming
  • Manage soil loss through wind and water erosion
  • Increase the carbon content of soils through options such as:
    • enhancing perennial vegetation in pastures
    • increasing retention of crop residues
    • increasing use of green manure crops
    • optimising farm inputs to maximise water use efficiency etc.
  • Monitor your grazing regimes and impacts on ground cover to reduce erosion risk, and increase carbon storage
  • Improve pastures through rotational grazing techniques
  • Reduce fertiliser costs through soil testing
  • Identify ways to utilise organic fertilisers (i.e. chook or pig manure)
  • Protect native vegetation on your farm for conservation
  • Revegetate denuded areas of land to improve soil quality and minimise erosion
  • Manage pest plants and animals on your land through targeted works to control rabbits, foxes, feral cats and noxious weeds
  • Be responsible in your use and handling of farm chemicals especially in regard to damage to native flora, fauna, beneficial insects and waterways
  • Consider ways to reduce chemical use and explore alternative systems that are based around low input or organic.

For further information visit the following websites:

Sustainability in the community

Murrindindi Climate Network

The Murrindindi Climate Network (MCN) is a group of local people concerned about the impacts of climate change. The network was set up with the belief that there are many strategies that can be undertaken to reduce the impact of human activity on the environment, but this requires the support and coordination of many stakeholders under the umbrella of a united network.

Visit their website.

GV Community Energy

GV Community Energy (GVVE) Pty Ltd began work in 2008 as a volunteer organisation aiming to establish a bulk purchase agreement for 15 solar photovoltaic (PV) systems for families in the Murchison area. From its volunteer base, GVCE has now grown to an organisation of 5.5 full time staff, plus two casual staff engaged for specific activities, such as project development and training. The aim of the organisation is to reduce carbon and greenhouse gas emissions through improved community awareness and energy efficiency, GVCE has maintained a strong emphasis on community education.

GVCE has secured funding from the Australia Government’s Low Income Energy Efficiency Program. The Program will target 2750 low income and disadvantaged households throughout eight municipalities in Northern Victoria. The aim of the Program is to perform energy efficiency assessments for people on low incomes; advising them on how they can improve the comfort of their home, reduce their home energy usage and cut costs.

Visit their website.

ResourceSmart AussieVic Program

ResourceSmart AussieVic aims to provide practical support to schools and their communities to learn to live and work more sustainably. The Program aims to help Victorian schools minimise waste, save energy and water, promote biodiversity, and cut their greenhouse gas emissions. Its vision is for all Victorian schools to:

  1. become ResourceSmart
  2. make a whole of school commitment to become more sustainable
  3. understand how they can access the ResourceSmart AuSSI Vic support

Visit their website.

Upper Goulburn Landcare Network

The Upper Goulburn Landcare Network (UGLN) is a collective of 16 Landcare/land management groups in the Murrindindi Shire area, North-East Victoria.

Landcare has been operating in the Shire for more than 15 years and has been developed by the community - for the community.

Groups that receive support from the UGLN include:

  • Strath Creek
  • Kinglake
  • King Parrot Environment Group
  • Yea River Catchment (including Murrindindi)
  • Yea Wetlands Committee
  • Molesworth
  • UT Creek (near Alexandra)
  • Merton
  • Home Creek/Spring Creek (Yarck and Fawcett districts)
  • Murrindindi Climate Network
  • Eildon Landcare
  • Yellow Creek/Dairy Creek (near Yea)
  • Friends of Marysville Walks
  • South Cathedral Landcare
  • Kinglake Scouts Junior Landcare
  • Flowerdale Primary School Junior Landcare

For further information and to keep updated with the UGLN, visit their website.

Blackberry Action Groups

In 2012, The Upper Goulburn Landcare Network invited the Department Primary Industries supported Victorian Blackberry Taskforce to present to over 60 concerned landholders at a community meeting held in Yea.  Since then, three new Blackberry Action Groups have formed within the Murrindindi Shire. All of them have received a Victorian Blackberry Task Force Grant.

A description of each group is provided below. 

  • King Parrot Catchment (DW) Blackberry Action Group
    • This group is located within the north, north-west of the Murrindindi Shire including the King Parrot Creek area – which is a site of the endangered Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act and Environment Protection & Biodiversity Conservation Act listed Macquarie Perch.
  • Merton-Cathkin Blackberry Action Group
    • This group is located within the north, north-east of the Murrindindi Shire within the Merton-Cathkin area. Most roadsides within this area fall within an Endangered, Vulnerable or Depleted Ecological Vegetation Classes and a number of the roadsides demonstrate high conservation values.
  • South Cathedral Lane
    • This group is located within the south, south-east of the Murrindindi Shire close to the Cathedral Ranges State Park. This is a new group that has recently formed due to the concern of the spread of blackberries after the 2009 fires. This group has received a Victorian Blackberry Task Force Grant and can be contacted at southcathedrallandcare@gmail.com.au

For further information, please visit and/or contact www.goulburnbroken.landcarevic.net.au/ugln

Goulburn Broken Greenhouse Alliance

Murrindindi Shire Council is a proud member of the Goulburn Broken Greenhouse Alliance. 

The Alliance works in partnership with local government, business, community groups and other agencies in the Goulburn-Broken region and aims to raise the awareness and capacity of the region to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

It does this by accessing funding from the State and Federal Government to deliver projects that achieve the following outcomes:

  • Learning and sharing to increase skills of Councillors, Council Management and Officers as well as individuals or organisations in our community and business arenas.
  • Communicating to inspire people and organisations to take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and think about ways in which they can be more resilient to a changing climate.
  • Partnering with other agencies and Council’s to plan and deliver projects that can be used as case study examples for how people and organisations can make change happen:
  • GBGA Strategic Plan – The Goulburn Broken Greenhouse Alliance Strategic Plan 2016-17 provides guidance to the Alliance in terms of its key areas of focus. Each year an annual business plan is developed based on the strategies set out in this important document. This Plan outlines who the alliance is, its mission, values, and key aims.
  • Watts Working Better - As part of a regional bulk street lighting project, Council has received funds from the Australia Government’s Community Energy Efficiency Program to replace over 500 of its public streetlights with energy efficient lighting technology, saving money and greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Sustainability Training Program - Council officers have benefited from carbon accounting and sustainable decision making training provided through the National Centre for Sustainability with funding support from the Victorian Government’s Victorian Adaptation and Sustainability Partnership.
  • Regional Climate Change Adaptation Planning - The Goulburn Broken Local Government Regional Climate Change Adaptation Plan describes how the Alliance and its member Councils can respond to the challenges of climate change across the region. Its primary focus is around advising members on the implications of climate change for their own strategic and operational planning, and conducting projects that have a regional focus or benefit subject to external funding becoming available.
  • Climate Smart Agriculture - This project will generate specific long-term data, information and strategic plans that enable local government and agribusinesses in the Goulburn-Broken region to adapt to climate change effectively, with a focus on regional development, infrastructure and agricultural industry transformation. Why is it needed? The Goulburn-Broken region’s agribusiness industries (Victoria's food bowl) will be challenged by longer term temperature changes. Surface water availability will decrease and temperatures will increase. Added to recent struggles with drought, the effects of a changing climate may be a bridge-to-far for agribusinesses. To sustain agricultural livelihoods, it is imperative that farm-level adaptation measures are complimented by agricultural transformation. Access to regionally-specific climate change and impact information will be an important tool in this regard. It will help to facilitate strategic planning and regional investment. 

The model of working is based on a member based alliance. Currently members come from local government, Resource GV (Regional Waste Management Body), and the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority.

Other local government members of the Goulburn Broken Greenhouse Alliance are:

  • Greater Shepparton City Council
  • Shire of Campaspe
  • Benalla Rural City Council
  • Mitchell Shire Council
  • Mansfield Shire Council
  • Shire of Strathbogie
  • Moira Shire Council

Watts Working Better Program

Fast Facts

The Goulburn Broken Greenhouse Alliance Watts Working Better project is changing street lights to energy efficient alternatives. This is a partnership between the Councils of Benalla, Campaspe, Mansfield, Mitchell, Moira, Murrindindi, Greater Shepparton, Strathbogie and Wangaratta.

Energy savings:
The switch will reduce energy use by 3.7 million kWh per year. Street lighting replacement is the single largest project Councils can implement to reduce electricity costs.

Cost savings:
The project received funding from the Australian Government of $2.95 million with Councils contributing to the overall capital cost of $5.17 million. Street lighting costs $1.19 million to Councils each year, a cost born by rate payers. Once the street lights are installed, there will be a projected saving of $782,921 per year across the nine Councils.

Emissions savings:
12,600 old street lights will be replaced by T5 lights and LED lights and will save Councils 93,100 tonnes of CO2 over the next 20 years.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is it?

Watts Working Better is an innovative project to improve the efficiency of residential streetlights across nine Victorian regional councils. The project will see over 12,600 street lights replaced with more energy efficient alternatives.

How did it come about?

The project is the brain child of the Goulburn Broken Greenhouse Alliance (GBGA). A not for profit organisation established in 2007, the GBGA is made up of representatives from the GBCMA, Regional Waste Management Group, and eight Councils. MSC is a member of the GBGA. The Alliance supports its members attract funding for projects which enable partnerships to be formed to raise awareness and capacity for the region to respond to climate change.

How is it funded?

In this instance, the Alliance was successful in obtaining $2.9 million in funding from the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency’s Community Energy Efficiency Program. Each Council is contributing an amount commensurate with the number of lights in their municipality, for Murrindindi Shire Council this amounts to $75,000

What is happening in Murrindindi Shire?

In Murrindindi Shire, 491 residential street lights will be changed. The project will happen in two stages. The first stage will be conducted in November 2014, and the second stage will be conducted sometime between July and November 2015.

What are the benefits to Murrindindi Shire Council?

The T5 will save around 60-70% of the energy use. Over the life of the asset the cost savings to Council will be over half a million dollars; and thousands of greenhouse gas emissions will be saved. More energy efficient lights is a responsible use of rate payers money.

Why did we choose the T5?

The T5 light is a long fluorescent tube that uses around 30.5W compared with the 80W used by the old Mercury Vapour lights. At the time of procuring the lights, the lighting system was one of only two available energy efficient lighting options that have been approved by the owner of the infrastructure, the distribution business SP Ausnet. SP Ausnet have only recently approved LEDs as a standard lighting option.

All lights approved by SP Ausnet have been tested to ensure they meet relevant Australian Standards in regards to safety and light levels. The new lights have:

  • Greater uniformity of light across and along the street.
  • Better colour rendering and visibility
  • Less depreciation of the light output over time

Will the works affect my street or business?

The changeover of street lights involves a single elevated work platform with two to three crew members. It takes less than five minutes to replace a streetlight, so any disruptions to traffic flow in your street should not last long. Each stage of works is estimated to take less than three weeks.

What happens to the old mercury vapour lights?

The contractors are required to recycle the lights. During the tender process the waste disposal requirements were specified which includes recycling over 90% of the old lights.

In terms of reuse, glass collected is recycled into products such as glass wool insulation for homes. The mercury is distilled and reused in the dental industry to manufacture amalgam. The aluminium body and other fixed components (for example, steel screws, copper wires) are collected and end up as ‘ingots’ used in industry.

What do I do if I have a customer enquiry or complaint?

If you have an enquiry or a complaint, please contact the Council and lodge a request with our customer service team at msc@murrindindi.vic.gov.au or call 5772 0333. The project also has a website containing more information on the project, please visit www.wattsworkingbetter.com.au/

Sustainability in your garden

There are many opportunities to be resource efficient in your garden. Waterwise gardening can go a long way when it comes to saving water. 

Much of the waste from a typical household is organic waste that can be recycled in a compost bin or worm farm – providing you with a source of high quality fertiliser for your garden!

Some tips to improve your garden sustainability are:

  • Save water in your garden by improving organic matter in your soil like manure, hay, woodchips, compost or peat. Plants will be healthier, and will grow faster. Use mulch everywhere.
  • Choose indigenous or drought tolerant species as they do not require large amounts of nutrients and water. Further information on indigenous plants to our region can be found at the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority website
  • Avoid planting invasive species(PDF, 3MB) in your garden; this will help to prevent the spread of seeds from gardens by birds and animals to other areas such as our bush and waterways.
  • Set up compost systems, bins or worm farms. For tips on composting visit the Clean Up Australia website.
  • Grow your own fruit and vegetables in your own backyard or through community gardens. Some examples are the Alexandra and the Toolangi-Castella Community Gardens.
  • Organic methods for controlling pests and enhancing growth are environmentally responsibly, fertilisers require fossil fuel inputs and are shipped from considerable distances to our gardens, and pesticides can also kill the beneficial insects and other wildlife that feed off them.
  • To reduce water needs, plan your garden with less lawn or slow growing grass like Windsor-green, Santa Anna Bluegrass, Greenlees Park or Wintergreen couch varieties, and use mulch everywhere to keep moisture in the soil.
  • Install a rain garden that is positioned to receive rainwater from hard surfaces such as a downpipe, roof, and paved areas. See Melbourne Water’s Raingardens Program for further information.

Sustainability in your business

There are many benefits for businesses associated with efforts to reduce environmental impacts. These include opportunities to cut costs through operations and supply chains by identifying ways to produce less waste, consume less paper, water and energy and use resources more efficiently. 

Locally, Murrindindi Shire has green auditors and assessors that can assist local businesses with this task.

Local community groups such as the Murrindindi Climate Network have also helped to deliver programs in our community such as “Greening Your Business”, an assessment Program set up to identify ways local businesses can cut down energy use.

Victorian Employers' Chamber of Commerce and Industry

The Victorian Employers' Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VECCI) is the peak body for employers in Victoria, informing and servicing more than 15,000 members, customers and clients around the State.

VECCI has developed a range of programs, products and services that help Victorian businesses understand the key issues and respond to the challenges of climate change including the effects of a price on carbon. VECCI programs and resources are designed specifically to assist small to medium sized businesses reduce emissions and increase efficiency and productivity including:

  • Carbon compass and free sustainability helpline.
  • Sustainability consulting services
  • Grow me the money program.

For further information visit: www.vecci.org.au/business-solutions/sustainability/

Sustainability Victoria

Through its programs, Sustainability Victoria aims to assist businesses to make energy and material savings, and to change inefficient practices. Examples of programs design to help business include:

  • Smarter Resources Smarter Business Program
  • Energy and Materials Program.

 There are also a range of tools, guidelines, fact sheets and case studies available on Sustainability Victoria’s website at www.sustainability.vic.gov.au/Services-and-Advice/Business

Sustainable Business grants and rebates

Energy Efficiency Information Grants Scheme - www.climatechange.gov.au/

  • Energy Savers Incentive Scheme - www.dpi.vic.gov.au/
  • If you invest in solar systems on your home or in your business you may be eligible for federal government rebates on the purchase of your system, see www.climatechange.gov.au .   

Sustainability - What is Council doing?

ResourceSmart Team

Council has established an internal ResourceSmart Team affectionately known as the ‘Green Team’. This group of staff volunteers are committed to helping lead our organisation through sustainable change and are responsible for designing projects and initiatives that improve the resource efficiency of staff and the organisation as a whole.

Activities may include:

  • Awareness campaigns.
  • Competitions.
  • Incentives and support.
  • Process improvement projects.
  • Celebration activities (opportunity to partner with social club on food and fun).
  • Fundraising.

Recent successes include:

  • Establishing a waste resource recovery station in the head office at Alexandra.
  • Installing composting bins in the head office at Alexandra.
  • Setting up a staff kitchen garden.
  • Rolling out a switch-off program to remind staff to turn off computers and lights before leaving the office.
  • Conducting a chemical audit in the head office in Alexandra, facilitating sustainable chemical use training with relevant staff and setting up a project reference group for the development of sustainable chemical use guidelines for the organisation
Murrindindi Environment Advisory Committee

In 2007, Murrindindi Shire Council resolved to appoint an Environment Advisory Committee with working expertise and knowledge in the field of environmental science, natural resource/land management, environmental sustainability and/or a related discipline.

The objective of the Committee is to provide input, feedback and advice on a wide range of environmental matters to assist Council meet its strategic objectives as outlined in the Council Plan.

The Committee’s role is one of providing advice. It is not delegated to make decisions on behalf of the Council. The Committee considers environmental issues relevant to Murrindindi Shire through:

  • sharing of expertise and knowledge
  • providing expert advice on agenda items
  • acting as a conduit to other individuals and/or organisations when required
  • supporting Council officers integrate environment into decision making
  • providing direction to management and/or Council
  • providing a forum for raising and discussing environmental issues

The terms of reference for this committee is available form the following link:

  • Murrindindi Environment Advisory Committee - Terms of Reference 
Resource Consumption Monitoring

As the old saying goes ‘you cannot manage what you don’t measure’. Council has developed a resource consumption and greenhouse gas emissions inventory which will be supported by a system of data collation and measurement.

The system will collate data on electricity, water, bottled gas, fuel and paper in order to measure Council’s corporate performance over time.

Each quarter, data will be collated across Council’s various assets and operational areas and reported on annually.

Energy Management

Council is currently in the process of designing an energy management program to assist in reducing consumption of energy primarily electricity. The program will ensure procedures, systems, process and projects are put in place with the aim of improving the organisation's energy efficiency.

A first step in the process was conducting energy audits on a selection of high energy using buildings. The second step has been the establishment of an internal energy management working group.

Public Streetlighting

Another important project earmarked through Council’s participation in the Goulburn Broken Greenhouse Alliance, is the Energy Efficient Street lighting Program. Council received funding from the Federal Government’s Community Energy Efficiency Program to change its residential streetlights to more energy efficient lighting. Over 530 lights were changed to energy efficient lighting during 2014, saving significant amounts of greenhouse gas emissions and dollars. Further information on the project can be found at the Watts Working Better webpage

Renewable Energy

Council is participating in a regional project which is designed to assist local governments install solar photovoltaics on Council owned buildings. The project will be conducted in two phases; the first phase has involved a feasibility study on over seven Council owned buildings. If feasible, the project moves to its second stage which involves a bulk installation. If delivered, the project will greatly assist Council in reducing its electricity consumption and operating costs of its facilities.

Climate Change Adaptation

Council is participating in a project called ‘Climate Smart Agriculture Development in the Goulburn Broken’. The project is a partnership between a number of local governments, the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority and the Goulburn Broken Greenhouse Alliance. The project aims to generate and communicate specific long term data, information and strategic plans that enable local government and the agricultural sector in the Goulburn Broken Region to adapt to climate change effectively, with a focus on regional development, infrastructure and agricultural industry transformation.

The Goulburn Broken region (Victoria’s food bowl) will be severely impacted by climate change. Surface water availability will decrease and temperature will increase. Added to recent struggles with market forces and drought, the effects of a changing climate may be a bridge-too-far for agribusiness. To sustain agricultural livelihoods, it is imperative that farm level adaptation measures are complemented with agricultural transformation, and regional specific impact information that underpins strategic planning and regional development.

The project aims to build on and synthesis existing climate change research and agricultural data into functional tools that will equip local government to work in the agricultural climate change adaptation space. The knowledge and tools developed through the project will enable councils to support the local agricultural economy and design/modify their own planning processes to build in resilience and adaptation to the impacts of climate change. Sitting alongside these tools, will be a scoping report, and a set of stakeholder engagement and communications process and resource to enable effective deliver of the tool in decision making and practice.

Sustainable Built Environment

Sustainable Built Environment is focused on applying ecological sustainable design (ESD) principles to the built environment. The Council Alliance for a Sustainable Built Environment is an example of a collection of rural and urban councils committed to applying ESD principles through the statutory planning process, and through Council’s own capital works processes.

This Alliance is committed to assisting Council’s incorporate ESD into their own projects.

Further information can be viewed at the Municipal Association of Victoria Website.

Climate Change

There is growing scientific consensus that climate change is being further enhanced by human induced greenhouse gas emissions caused by activities such as industrial processes, fossil fuel combustion and changes in land use such as deforestation. 

The earth’s atmosphere is a delicate layer of gases that like a garden greenhouse, traps heat from the sun and keeps earth at the temperature that sustains human life. Since the onset of the industrial revolution, climate scientists are highly certain that human activity has caused increases in concentration of these gases - leading to an observed trend in warming. The world is now about 0.76 degrees hotter than it was in the late 19th century.

Major impacts associated with climate change include:

  • Sea level rise/storm surge
  • Coastal inundation
  • Intense rainfall and inland flooding
  • Increased intensity and frequency of fire weather conditions 
  • Changes to average and extreme temperatures
  • Changes to average rainfall

Murrindindi Shire is vulnerable to climate impacts such as drought, extreme temperatures and bushfire. It is important that efforts are made across the Shire to adapt to climate change. 

Murrindindi Shire Council is a proud member of the Goulburn Broken Greenhouse Alliance, and uses this Alliance as a partnership approach to tackling climate change in our region. To assist our region adapt to climate change impacts, the Alliance has worked together to develop the Goulburn Broken Local Government Regional Climate Change Adaptation Plan.