Sustainability

Overview

Think about the meaning of the word ‘sustain’ - to keep going. The way we currently live is not sustainable, and so if we wish to ‘keep going’ we must make changes. Here’s why:

  1. We need natural resources, such as fresh water and topsoil, to survive. If we don’t use our resources wisely, we run out and we cannot survive. At the moment, we are using too many resources.
  2. We also need to make sure our resources are healthy so that they can function and support us. At the moment, we are polluting and degrading too many of our natural resources, such as our atmosphere, waterways, and farmland.
  3. Resilience is vital. Change is a normal part of life, but our unsustainable use of resources is causing intense changes in our environment and society and we need to be able to weather these changes and adapt to new circumstances.

The key to living sustainably is to understand that we are linked to the world around us. The decisions we make have long-lasting effects on our children and grandchildren, our local and international community, and our natural environment. This isn’t just one-way, either – all of these things affect us too.

For information about sustainable business, click here

For information about waste and recycling, click here

Regeneration – beyond sustainability

Why keep things as they are when you can make them better? This is what regeneration is all about. For example, regenerative agriculture aims to build deep, fertile soil and a thriving ecosystem that is both productive and resilient to change.

Sustainability in the Home

Australian households are responsible for around 12% of our greenhouse gas emissions, and most of these are associated with heating and cooling, lighting and hot water systems. For water, the average family uses around half their water in the bathroom, 20 per cent in the laundry, and 20 per cent in the garden. (Source: www.climatechange.gov.au)

Fortunately, there are many things we can all do to bring these numbers down, and all the resources we don’t use add up to savings on our energy and water bills!

Energy

Sustainability Victoria’s Household Energy Action Guide is a great place to start saving energy. You can download it and use it as a checklist, or just follow these steps below:

  • Turn off lights, heaters and cooling when you leave a room and overnight
  • Turn appliances off at the power point when not in use
  • Close off rooms that you’re not using
  • Turn the thermostat down and dress appropriately for the season. Every degree higher in winter or lower in summer will increase running costs by around 10%
  • Use ceiling fans to circulate warm air in winter and reduce the need for air conditioner in summer
  • Install ceiling insulation
  • Seal up those gaps and cracks where air might be escaping. Think chimneys, door and window frames, and evaporative cooling vents in winter
  • Buy efficient appliances with a good energy rating. See the Energy Rating website
  • Replace inefficient lighting with more efficient lighting such as LEDs
  • Leave the car where possible and walk or cycle when travelling short distances
  • Install solar panels on your roof to offset some of your electricity use from the grid
  • Purchase renewable energy. Check out the Green Electricity Guide for a review of different renewable energy retailers

Water

  • 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 horses or outside lines While many Australians are making efforts to reduce energy use at home, the amount of energy use in households is increasing

Sustainability in the Garden

There are many opportunities to be resource efficient in your garden, such as saving water and recycling household waste through composting or a worm farm. 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. A list of native plants suitable for gardening 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 bushland and waterways
  • Set up compost systems, bins or worm farms. For tips on composting see ABC’s handy fact sheet 
  • Grow your own fruit and vegetables in your own backyard or through community gardens. There are several community gardens in the Shire. See the ‘Get Involved’ tab for more information and links
  • To reduce water needs, plan your garden with less lawn, or with native alternatives
  • 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

Sustainable Agriculture

Over 60% of Australia’s landscapes are used for agriculture. Farm managers play a huge role in environmental sustainability and the long term security of our food production. Taking on sustainable practices can improve the health and profitability of your farming enterprise.

Sustainable farming tips:

  • 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:
    • Planting a variety of perennial species in pastures
    • increasing retention of crop residues
    • increasing use of green manure crops
  • Using water and fertilizer efficiently
  • 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 and targeted application
  • Identify ways to utilise organic fertilisers (i.e. chicken 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

Healthy Hectares

The Healthy Hectares Guide(PDF, 6MB) has been developed for small landholders in Northeast Victoria. You can download it here(PDF, 6MB).

If you’d like more information on sustainability in agriculture, visit the following websites:

Sustainable Business

It is everyone’s responsibility to reduce our environmental impact, and this is no different for businesses. There are many benefits for businesses associated with efforts to reduce environmental impacts. These include cutting costs through operations and supply chains by identifying ways to produce less waste, consume less paper, water and energy and use resources more efficiently.

Through its programs, Sustainability Victoria helps businesses to make energy and material savings. Click here to check out the range of guidelines, fact sheets and case studies available on their website. It’s often worth conducting an energy or water use audit. There are green auditors and assessors that can be engaged to assist businesses with this task.

For information about reducing the amount of waste that goes to landfill and disposing of waste responsibly, take a look at the Garbage and Recycling page on our website.

Funding Energy Efficiency

You don’t have to go it alone, either - use Sustainability Victoria’s Energy Upgrades Tool to explore the many funding opportunities for your small or medium sized business, and check out the Victorian Energy Saver program which provides discounts on energy saving products for business.