I am getting pretty excited about flying to Italy to blog about the World Environment Day celebrations at the Milan World Expo. Time passes so quickly, I can't believe I fly out this Friday already! Although I was thinking today...it is rather ironic that this trip will greatly increase my carbon footprint for the year.
The graph below is an old friend with some new additions. Australia doesn't have government emissions factors for flights, so I borrowed some from the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. As you can see the emissions per kilometre travelled by plane are actually surprisingly similar to travelling by car, or even less!
Where it makes a difference is the enormous distance that people travel by plane. A quick look on google maps shows that Melbourne to Doha is about 12,000 kilometres and Doha to Milan is about another 4,000 kilometres. That's over 30,000 kilometres return!
On average, a registered vehicle in Australia drives 14,000 kilometres in a year (based on ABS data). While this doesn't exactly equate to how far the average person drives because cars may be shared, it gives an indication of just how huge the emissions from my one flight are in comparison. In just one week long trip, I will be responsible for the same amount of emissions as if I had driven a car in an average manner for two years.
So what's a green blogger to do? Purchase some offsets!
The Australian National Carbon Offset Standard (NCOS) defines a carbon offset as...
Carbon offset: Represents reductions or removals of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere by sinks, relative to a business-as-usual baseline. Carbon offsets are tradeable and often used to negate (or offset) all or part of another entity’s emissions.
I could write a whole post about the different types of offsets but I might leave that for another time. If you are interested, the NCOS provides a good overview.
There are various options to purchase voluntary emissions offsets, however many of them are aimed at organisations who want to obtain carbon neutral status. One option to purchase offsets as an individual is through Greenfleet. Offsets can be purchased to cover certain activities, or on a per tonne basis. The Greenfleet offsets come from native Australian reforestation projects that capture carbon from the atmosphere to compensate for the emissions from different activities (like flying to Italy).
Based on my flight distance of 32,000 kilometres, with an emissions factor of 210 gCO2-e per kilometre, these flights alone will contribute over 6.7 tonnes of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Offsetting them at $13.99 per tonne with Greenfleet will cost me $94. I'm not sure how this compares to purchasing the offsets directly though the airline, but in the grand scheme of international travel, it is not a lot of money. It is sort of like the old phrase - if you can't afford travel insurance you can't afford to travel. Replace travel insurance with offsets and I have a recipe for a much greener trip!
If you are interested in reading about my adventures in Italy at the Milan Expo celebrations for World Environment Day - watch this space and follow me on twitter (@karabrussen). I would love to share my experiences with you, and I always love to hear what you have to say in the comments!
The Renewable Energy Target (RET) was in the spotlight this week, as Australia became the first country ever to reduce a renewable energy target (we can add this to the similarly dubious claim of being the only country to repeal a carbon price). Apologies to the rest of the world, Australia isn't being a very good global citizen right now.
I thought it might be nice to have a bit of a chat about the RET as it currently stands (before all my knowledge on the topic becomes redundant), and what this week's changes might mean...
What is the RET?
The RET is a target to increase renewable energy generation in Australia (obviously!). It has actually been around for a while, introduced by the Renewable Energy (Electricity) (REE) Act 2000, with a target of 9,500 GWh of additional renewable electricity generation in 2010. Known as the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET), it began operation in 2001.
That doesn't sounds like the RET I've been hearing about...
That's because it was expanded in 2009 to what is currently legislated. It also was split into the Large-scale Renewable Energy Target (LRET) and the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES) in 2010 to separate incentives for large scale and small scale projects. This was to address the issue of a larger than expected number of certificates from small-scale solar systems depressing REC prices and discouraging investment in large-scale projects.
How does it work? (and what is a REC??)
The target is achieved by legislating that purchasers of wholesale electricity must also purchase a certain number of Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs). These purchasers, also known as liable entities, are generally energy retailers - the ones that send you your energy bills. According to the RET legislation, liable entities must purchase a certain number of RECs in proportion with the amount of electricity they purchase. RECs are a way of accounting for the renewable energy produced and consumed - purchasing a REC essentially gives you bragging rights to say you have purchased certified renewable energy.
For the LRET, these certificates are called Large-scale Generation Certificates (LGCs), and are created for each MWh of renewable energy from eligible renewable sources such as wind, solar, and hydroelectric power stations. The LRET has a legislated target for the amount of renewable energy to be produced annually under the scheme, which is indexed each year to 41,000 GWh of renewable energy in 2020. This target was equivalent to 20% of Australia's predicted energy demand in 2020, but was legislated as a specific amount rather than a proportion in order to provide certainty for investment in infrastructure.
The SRES creates a financial incentive for the installation of small scale renewable energy generation technologies. This includes solar water heaters, heat pumps, solar panel systems, small-scale wind systems, and small-scale hydro systems. These projects create Small-scale Technology Certificates (STCs), equivalent to 1 MWh of electricity generated by a small-scale system, or displaced by the installation of a solar water heater or heat pump. There is no legislated target for the production of renewable energy under the SRES.
These certificates (LCGs and STCs) must be purchased by electricity retailers to cover a certain percentage of electricity that they buy. For 2015, this percentage was set at 11.11% for the LRET and 11.71% for the SRES, and each year these have increased to work towards the 2020 target. These percentages add up to more than the current renewable energy proportion in Australia because some industry purchasers of electricity are exempt from the scheme.
So why reduce the target?
The current legislation specifies that the RET is reviewed every 2 years. In 2014, two reviews were undertaken:
Um, aren't renewable subsidies and reduced prices good things?
I would have thought so.
Electricity demand has been dropping due to energy efficiency initiatives, rooftop solar installations and industry closures. This meant that the legislated 41,000GWh was looking like it would be more like 26-28% of Australia's electricity (depending on the modelling you look at). At the same time, the RET was legislating that more renewable energy had to be produced, resulting in depressed wholesale electricity prices. So while this might be good for consumers and the renewable energy industry, its not so great for the people who make lots of money from their old fossil fuel generation assets.
How is all of this relevant to me?
The RET impacts on the average Australian consumer in a number of ways:
So what now?
Both major political parties agreed on Monday to cut the LRET from 41,000 GWh to 33,000 GWh (cue sad faces from all the greenies). This means that when the government introduces legislation to change the target it will pass. The brighter side is that hopefully this will give the industry some certainty and increase investment in renewables in Australia again.
Just a quick post to share some very exciting news. A few weeks ago I entered one of my first blog posts into the World Environment Day 2015 Blog Competition. I honestly didn't think I had a hope of winning, I just thought a few people might read it. But...
My blog was selected and so I will be travelling to Italy to be the official blogger for World Environment Day 2015 at the Milan World Expo!
You can read more about it on the UNEP website.
Thank you so much to everyone who read and shared my blog post during the competition, and to the lovely people at UNEP and TreeHugger for selecting my blog!
Everyone loves food.
Everyone loves free food.
Everyone loves free, locally sourced, sustainable food.
And that is why urban foraging is awesome!
Living in a city it is very easy to become completely disconnected from production systems that magically land food in the supermarket. With global shipping and cold storage, it is simple to forget that fruit and vegies have a season - and taste so much better then (my boyfriend was rather upset when I said we couldn't have tomatoes in winter).
The intensive agriculture systems that provide much of our food can also result in pretty terrible environmental outcomes. Among others, the production (including fertiliser and pesticide use) and transportation of food result in greenhouse gas emissions. If you are interested in quantifying the emissions impact of your food consumption, the following graph outlines the emissions associated with eating $1 of each of these types of foods (data from the EPA).
So if we don't spend any money on our food, then there can't be any emissions! (not really, that's not how these factors work, but in the case of urban foraging we might be onto something).
But what is urban foraging? Just a fancy way to say finding edible things in the city streets. For example, there is a rosemary bush on the nature strip just down my street. There is no point in buying a couple of sprigs of insipid rosemary for $4 from the supermarket, when it is freshly available - and free!
Similarly, the quince in the picture is from a tree down the street, and the feijoas have been growing outside the window of a friend's apartment. They are so fresh and yummy - and because they were transported to our house by bike - zero emissions! (I was very pleased with my zero emissions quince paste, until someone pointed out that the sugar probably came from Queensland).
I'm not saying we can solve all the food problems by just eating fruit off local trees, but its fun and it might make a small environmental difference. Most of at it makes you pay attention - to the seasons, to the nature that surrounds us even in the city, and of course the free glorious food!
Like everyone, I have moments where I lack motivation. This morning was one of those mornings...I was tired, it was raining, a car nearly ran into me on the way to work.
I thought it might be nice to post some inspiration for those days when I lose track of why I love to live sustainably.
I was reading an article on The Fifth Estate the other day which really resonated with my views on sustainability. The last two paragraphs especially:
Perhaps it’s time to reframe the conversation. Sustainability is not about “cutting pollution”, but improving access to fresh air and clean water. It’s not about “minimising energy consumption” but about having more money to spend on things other than utility bills. And it’s not about “reducing motor-vehicle dependence” but about gaining a healthy, active lifestyle.
Sometimes in the deluge of negative news around the cost of cutting pollution or the challenges of integrating new technologies, I find I can lose sight of the bigger picture. It's bits of inspiration like this that remind me why I love sustainability.
If you are in the mood for some more inspiration, check out this video. When I told my sister I had a blog about sustainability, she said I should write about it. It is a few years old, so apologies if you have already seen it. It is advertising, but at the same time, it makes me very happy.
I'd love to know what some of your sources of sustainability inspiration are. Let me know in the comments!
Welcome to Wonderfully Green...
My name is Kara and I created this blog as a way to document all the lovely aspects of sustainability. You can find out more on my About page.
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