A few years ago we adopted the goal of making CHOICE carbon neutral by 2018. As an organisation that values science, it was impossible to ignore the evidence about human-induced climate change. And with more businesses and organisations taking action to reduce their carbon footprint, it seemed negligent not to think about what we could do.
We weren't quite sure where to begin but being CHOICE, we started with data. We measured our carbon emissions – as best we could – to identify the major sources. Not surprisingly, this pointed to our electricity consumption.
The easiest problem to attack was the amount of electricity used in lighting, so we set about replacing fluorescents with LEDs throughout the building. This one small, relatively inexpensive change reduced our electricity use by about 15%.
We then tackled a more challenging and costly problem – replacing our ageing air conditioning units with modern technology.
And now, a new array of solar panels on the roof of our building are supplying a large chunk of our daily energy needs (see them in the video above).
We're now carbon neutral
We're proud to say that all of this has helped us to achieve formal certification as a carbon-neutral organisation. We now understand a lot more about our electricity use and carbon emissions, and what else we can do to reduce these. We've also learned some interesting things along the way.
Firstly, the payback from these initiatives comes in many forms. Besides the obvious cost savings, we're enjoying a nicer working environment thanks to the new LED lights and modern air con. We're also better able to attract and retain staff because a lot of people want to work for an organisation that cares about its social and environmental impact.
Secondly, even on a purely economic level our cost-benefit analysis tended to understate the benefits. Our calculations were all based on our electricity costs at the time, but as costs have continued to rise, the payback periods from each of these investments have become shorter and shorter.
But finally, what really struck me is that this whole process was much harder than it should have been. No government or energy retailer suggested we do this, or offered to help. We did it because we identified it was the right thing to do, and we were lucky to have experts in-house who understood what to do.
With all the debate about energy reliability and rising costs for households and industry, we seem to be missing something. Resolving this debate isn't just about working out how to produce more energy, or about how it is generated. We can make much faster progress by helping everybody to use less, but on that front our governments seem to have dropped the ball.
Alan Kirkland, CHOICE CEO