The Art Gallery of NSW was a great venue for last week’s Green Globe Awards 2015, with winners providing a dazzling display of some of the best in sustainability that NSW has to offer. But was this ‘just another awards night’ or can these accolades tell us something more?
As Chair of the three groups of expert judges once again, I had the honour of reading, assessing and discussing many of the submissions, and making recommendations about not just the winners but the ‘winners of winners’. And three things struck me:
1) As I noted in my opening remarks, there has been a lack of leadership at federal level in the sustainability space over recent years - although this is starting to change, with the appointment of Jamie Briggs as Australia’s first Minister for Cities and the Built Environment, and Christopher Pyne’s move to the new position of Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, putting buildings and innovation firmly back on the agenda. However at state and local levels we have been seeing the emergence of true environmental leadership, from the guidance of Rob Stokes, now as NSW Minister for Planning, and Mark Speakman, who hosted the Awards, as NSW Minister for the Environment and Minister for Heritage. The NSW Sustainability Advantage program, the Action Matters campaign, and the Saving our Species program are all great example of leadership in action. And at local government level, it was wonderful to see councils from north to south as well as way inland demonstrate their dedication, from Lismore’s ‘A Model of Sustainability’ to the City of Sydney’s ‘Zero Waste Program’.
2) The sheer breadth of the initiatives entered into the Awards this year was amazing – from childcare facilities to university faculties, from food production to transport enterprises, from dust reduction efforts to manufacturing efficiencies, and from heritage buildings to major infrastructure projects. In particular, many of the winners showed how sustainability was part of their DNA, not something that they considered an ‘extra’. The Small Business and the Premier’s Award for Environmental Innovation winner (photo above) showed exactly that:
A family-owned small business based in Byron Bay, Brookfarm produces gourmet macadamia products for local and export markets. Brookfarm has made sustainability the cornerstone of its farm and bakehouse operations, the company's branding, growth and business success. Brookfarm has installed 288 solar panels on its bakehouse, has saved 160 kilolitres of water a year through harvesting and recycling of rainwater and, as part of its rainforest regeneration program, has planted more than 30,000 trees on the farm that have stored over 2,310 tonnes of carbon. The company has now reduced its waste per tonne of product by 25 per cent, increased its waste recycling by 23 per cent, is a pioneer of biological controls in macadamia farming and has eradicated or dramatically reduced chemical, pesticide and synthetic fertiliser use.
Don’t forget: this is a family-owned small business showing real leadership in NSW.
3) When you’ve got your head down, and you’re busy looking at your current strategy or the details of a particular project or both, it’s easy to forget just how many people are powering positive change across the state. Minister Speakman, as he thanked the judges and judging chairs for their efforts, noted that each of the judging chairs had probably taken a week of their time to assess, judge, discuss and recommend the entries - and I wouldn’t have changed a single minute of that time, as it is a unique way of seeing what people consider leadership, of finding out what innovation is approaching, and of seeing how many, many small efforts can amount to one huge difference here in NSW. So try to take a moment to keep your head up, read about some of the initiatives that have won awards, and see what you can learn about how buildings can be run, how businesses can succeed, how the environment can be protected, and how both individuals and international enterprises can improve.
My thanks to the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) for running such a great awards program and an exhilarating awards night, and my congratulations to all of the finalists, highly commended entrants, and the winners. The work of the NSW OEH teams keeps the aim of the awards relevant, the dedication of the judges helps to select the cream of the crop, and continued collaboration with industry-leading and industry-benchmarking organisations such as the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) and Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia (ISCA) helps to support, connect and promote the Green Globe Awards.
Be proud of the leadership role that NSW is taking, and celebrate our sustainability successes!
Robin Mellon is one of Australia’s experts on sustainability in the built environment and is determined to leave the planet in a better shape than it was when he found it. Robin believes in a Better Sydney – better buildings, better communities and a better quality of life.