Canberra’s Sustainability Efforts Awarded!

By Wendy Johnson

It goes unsaid that we all need to do our bit for the environment, to enable Canberra to become an attractive, sustainable city. Some local businesses popped the cork for their green efforts at last week’s Actsmart Business Sustainability Awards. And they deserve to be as proud as punch for their achievements. Even those that didn’t take out the top gong were applauded. Every business present at the awards had worked with Actsmart to make positive change—including recycling and reducing energy and water use—with many saving significant money along the way.0974_ACTSmart_LOWRES_001[1]

The stories were all inspiring and I couldn’t help but wonder what the capital could achieve if every single business, no matter how large or small, signed up to become accredited through Actsmart.

More than 1000 businesses have already done so, benefiting from direct ACT Government support. Actsmart’s many services are described on its sustainability hub ( and include free tools, guides, tips, training and even rebates of up to $5,000 for certain activities. Support also includes free onsite inspections by experts who then write reports with recommendations on how to improve recycling or energy and water use. Business is a focus but Actsmart also covers what can be done at home, school and in your community.



This year, 12 businesses won top awards across eight categories and five were highly commended by Simon Corbell, Minister for the Environment and Climate Change. So what exactly did some winners do to make it to the ‘top of the class’?

Minimising waste was a big ticket item. By erecting free Actsmart information signage and training staff, Barmco Mana Partnership now only sends a tiny 3 per cent of its waste to landfill—amazing for a building consultancy that handles some pretty big projects for some pretty big clients. I bet I send more waste to landfill than that from my household and I live alone!

Mooseheads, a bar in the city, first implemented full recycling services, including plastics, glass and organics, and then embarked on a journey of staff education. Mooseheads now recycles 32 tonnes of waste each year, diverting 86 per cent of its waste from landfill.

Canberra Balloon Spectacular

Canberra Balloon Spectacular

Festivals and events naturally generate massive amounts of waste, especially one the size of the Canberra Balloon Spectacular which attracted 40,000 visitors in 2016. Organisers and guests recycled their little hearts out, collecting an amazing 714 kilograms of mixed recycling, 153 kilograms of organics, 148 kg of cardboard and 30 litres of cooking oil. Can you imagine?

Canberra Balloon Spectacular - photo by Martin Ollman

Canberra Balloon Spectacular – photo by Martin Ollman

Energy and Water Star awards went to two organisations that had implemented saving initiatives and reduced consumption through efficiency upgrades, staff behaviour change and/or innovative projects. One such business was the Smith Family, which received a $5,000 rebate from Actmart to upgrade its heating and cooling system. The upgrade will lead to an annual energy saving of $6,500 and 20 tonnes of CO2.

Small businesses with less than 20 employees are making big gains, like Cheeky Chicken Early Learning Centre in Hughes, which donates pre-loved clothes to needy babies and children. It hosts tours of its sustainable building to local children, showcasing its water harvesting, recycling and energy production management.

From small to large, the United States Embassy took out a corporate award for its green initiatives. The embassy is the first diplomatic mission to receive Actsmart recycling accreditation (calling all other embassies and high commissions—get on board!). Staff not only go green in the embassy itself, they encourage the expat community to get involved. The embassy has a lamp recycling collection program, a ‘turn it off’ light campaign, includes all staff (even the Ambassador) to complete Actsmart training, issues a bi-weekly newsletter to Embassy staff and families with greening tips, holds brown bag lunch presentations on environmental best practice and much, much more.

More from Canberra Balloon Spectacular by Martin Ollman

More from Canberra Balloon Spectacular by Martin Ollman

Another winner in this category was Brema Group. Even though some of its building sites generate a whopping 6,000 tonnes of rubble, Brema manages to send only 3 per cent to landfill. Office and management staff also ‘walk the talk’ by sending only one shopping bag of waste to landfill each month from their office. Again, I bet I generate more waste to landfill from my own home!

So here’s the big tip of the day. If you own a business, get smart and talk to Actsmart. Chances are you’ll save heaps of money, get a quick return on investment, be a better corporate citizen and help the environment along the way. Who could ask for anything more?

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