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CHOICE has gone carbon neutral

NCOS logo for CHOICE organisation

CHOICE is now carbon neutral. This means we remove as much carbon as our organisation puts into the environment.

Why go carbon neutral?

  • Financial: spend less on electricity, gas and water
  • Environmental: pollute less
  • Marketing: earn the NCOS label
  • Staff: improve employee engagement

For many decades, CHOICE has been helping people work out how their appliances will affect their power bill, encouraging them to buy more energy-efficient products and to reduce their power use.

In 2014 we decided that it was time to make some changes to energy efficiency in our building in Marrickville, NSW, so that we can become carbon neutral. Why? Aside from the reasons listed above, it's our subscriber money that we spend on maintaining CHOICE. We want to spend as little as possible on things we can minimise, like energy use.

What's our process for going carbon neutral?

  • We got a small group of people to initiate an in-house energy audit.
  • We then used an external auditing service to help us.
  • The audit identified possibilities to become more efficient.
  • We created a framework for changing the way we use energy.
  • We've since grown our in-house group and made reducing our environmental impact part of our business plan.

Our changes

The heavy hitting changes include the following:

  • LED lights replace all standard lights throughout the building.
  • Air conditioning plant completely replaced.
  • Solar panels installed on the roof – watch the video below.

Additional changes 

In addition to these changes, we've initiated a few smaller but no less significant changes in the building.

  • A recycling program for plastics, paper, metal, batteries and lights.
  • New staff issued with permanent cups for coffee/tea.
  • Identifying and recycling energy-inefficient appliances such as bar fridges.
  • A commuter survey to measure staff emissions from their commute.
  • Buying and maintaining a bicycle fleet for local use.
  • Subsidising bicycle maintenance twice a year for those who commute via bike.
  • Re-using polystyrene packaging where possible for repacking appliances we've bought.
  • Worm farms and composting programs.

Getting involved with the NCOS

In 2017, via our audit program, we researched and decided to participate in the National Carbon Offset Standard (NCOS) program. Sponsored by the Department of Environment and Energy, this program sets the standard for becoming carbon neutral and provides a framework to become aware of not only your building's energy use but a wider scope beyond what's used internally.

We talked to and got advice from many experts. They helped make us much more aware of the different emission types that we produce, for example:

  • energy used to produce paper for our magazine
  • printing ink used in our magazine
  • assembling the magazine at printing press
  • the wrapping process and the plastic that wraps our magazines
  • transport of magazines to the homes of our subscribers.

And that's not even the whole process for producing a magazine.

The CHOICE carbon footprint

We decided to start with our immediate emissions and only a few of our extended emissions. We used our 2015/16 energy usage as our base year from which to start measuring all this data.

We had a lot of data in-house already, including:

  • electricity, water and gas bills
  • fuel use from the one car that CHOICE owns
  • flights
  • taxis
  • refrigerants in air conditioners
  • internal paper use
  • waste to landfill
  • employee commutes
  • postage of our magazine.

Getting certified

  • We assembled all the data in a spreadsheet called the greenhouse inventory, or carbon footprint.
  • We developed a public disclosure summary (PDS) that summarises all this data.
  • This was sent to an independent auditor, who double-checked all the data.
  • Then we applied to NCOS to get certification, and received it.

What are carbon offsets?

These are environmentally beneficial projects around the world that you can invest in to offset your own carbon usage. We can't get our emissions down to zero overnight, so to become carbon neutral we have to offset the emissions we've identified by purchasing carbon offsets.

The future of going carbon neutral

Over the coming years, we'll identify more and more ways to reduce our emissions, as well as identifying the emissions we need to offset.

The more emissions we target, the more likely we are to try and work with third-party operators that are already accredited with NCOS so we don't need to count them in our emissions. That lowers the amount carbon offsets we need to purchase.

Community recognition

CHOICE was the winner of the Energy Smart Award at the 2016 Inner West Business Awards (Sydney) in recognition of these efforts.