TGL News: for sustainability experts this could be “our time”

TGL news

Edith Paarhammer, Paarhammer Windows and Doors

Hello Green List friends

Could it be that finally, after years and years of hard work by the most dedicated committed people you’re likely to find in this country – among them our fabulous Greenlisters – this could be “our time”.

Every time you open the paper – whether it’s the daily rag, the business pages or the real estate sections, and even when you flick on the tele –  you see more stories on the kind of great business ideas and services we focus on in The Green List.

It’s like the mainstream media is finally starting to “get” that sustainability and green buildings are where the real action is. Where you get the most exciting improvements to life and liveability. Not to mention a better planet.

What’s even better is the growing awareness that this all makes good business sense and that it’s a solid, growing part of the economy. Who doesn’t want the best value, the cheapest renewable energy, the cleanest most recyclable products? Especially when times are tough.

The Cape
Among the most high profile Greenlisters making a splash in mainstream media is Brendan Condon, whose The Cape sustainable housing estate at Cape Paterson two hours south east of Melbourne is attracting growing interest. He’s in the papers all the time! But not just for The Cape, his other businesses also might have something to do with his growing following: Australian Ecosystems, Biofilta, Cirrus Fine Coffee, Melbourne Skyfarm and Integrated Sustainability Consulting. Phew.

What attracted attention to The Cape most recently was the nasty summer heat we’ve just lived through. It turns out that an RMIT University and RENEW study found that the carbon neutral homes at The Cape were resilient during hot weather and had very low running costs. With an average NatHERS energy-efficiency rating well above the Victorian average, they achieved an 88 per cent reduction in grid energy use and residents’ energy bills averaged less than $500 a year.

Paarhammer windows and doors 
Another fun find was to see that another Greenlister, Paarhammer windows and doors, will be featured soon in an SBS program Small Business Secrets, based mainly on migrant success stories. A quick chat with Edith Paarhammer on Wednesday to check a few facts turned into a full blown interview because once we got talking to Edith, well, we couldn’t stop until we got a big chunk of her story and now plan to write it up separately for The Fifth Estate (very soon).

One of the things that got our attention was the company’s flame-resistant windows that Edith and her husband Tony developed a few years ago after the Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria. 

These windows, it turns out, need to withstand direct flame at 850 degrees centigrade for 30 minutes to prove they are safe to use. Not only that, they need to repel the heat so it doesn’t penetrate the house and incinerate the furniture from the outside. Amazing. Of course this all takes on a huge new level of relevance after the horror fires so many people in Australia have just gone through. 

Consumer appetite is huge

It’s no surprise the mainstream media is belatedly catching up with our patch though. They can sense consumers are driving demand all the way to the top (superannuation companies and big institutional investors are now thinking the previously unthinkable, to extract themselves from coal and other fossil fuels).

Research out of the US proves this is a serious trend – consumers want to know more about sustainability, especially when it comes to the food they buy. 

The International Food Information Council Foundation’s most recent food and health survey found that 63 per cent of consumers surveyed said they found it hard to know whether the food choices they made were environmentally sustainable. 

Among that group, nearly two-thirds said environmental sustainability would have a greater influence on their choices if it were easier to know. (Is this a job for some new intending Greenlister?) 

Back home, though, maybe beer could be the barometer we need to check our sustainability progress.

In Sydney’s inner west, boutique brewery Young Henrys is, literally, going green after it installed a bioreactor, teeming with microscopic algae, among its tanks. 

The hipster brewers (yep, they’re Greenlisters) are working with scientists at UTS Sydney’s Climate Change Cluster to make brewing a more carbon neutral process. 

So far, the research has proved that using algae could make a huge difference to climate change by consuming CO2 (a byproduct of the brewing process) and releasing oxygen. So drink beer (this beer at least), and help save the planet! Don’t you love the synergy between good for the planet/good for business/good for fun (responsible fun, of course). 

On the waste front, Adelaide has a plan to manufacture a super set of plastic “sponges” made from waste materials to help combat pollution. The technology could soon be available to global markets following the signing of a landmark partnership with Flinders University.

The collaboration, between new generation environmental technology company Clean Earth Technologies and the Chalker Research Lab at Flinders, will support ongoing development of an absorbent polysulfide “clean-up” agent invented by award-winning Flinders scientist Associate Professor Justin Chalker.

Go local, not global

The rapid spread around the world of the virus COVID-19 is showing up all kinds of weaknesses in the global economy, including how reliant most of the world is on China for manufacturing parts and packaging. And when China can’t deliver – for whatever reason – things start to break down.

Author and filmmaker Helena Norberg-Hodge proposes a radical antidote to globalisation: shifting our economic systems from a global to a local focus.

Originally from Sweden but now based in Byron Bay, Norberg-Hodge is a pioneer of the local economy movement. Her organisation, Local Futures, has been raising awareness for four decades about the need to shift direction away from dependence on global monopolies, and towards decentralised, regional economies.

CEO of Greenlister Old Ways, New Angie Abdilla is another person approaching sustainability from a different perspective. Her Indigenous consultancy draws on Indigenous knowledge to inform placemaking, service design and new technologies. 

Abdilla is giving a keynote address at the Planning Industry Australia’s national congress on the 13 May, about how Country-Centred Design can be successfully applied to built and natural environment projects.