Sustainable Berry Articles

Sustainable Futures

Welcome to the new year. 2014 saw a surge of activity in Berry around the principle of sustainability, with the funding of reusable cups and bags by the Berry Alliance, and a push by the community group, Only One Earth, towards making Berry plastic bag free. Unfortunately, a surge of holiday makers temporarily pushed plastic bag use in the wrong direction, but it has been encouraging to see residents taking up the offer of reusable items, and putting them to use.

Our thanks to the local retailers who assisted with distribution after the Christmas Parade give away. If you still have not exchanged your Town Crier voucher for a Keepcup or bamboo bag, we have a few left over. Alliance committee members can let you know how to redeem your voucher. Thanks also to the dedicated few at OOE, who have worked hard to raise community awareness about reducing our reliance on plastic bags.

Over recent months several interesting news stories have highlighted initiatives by individuals and communities who are actively taking control of their futures. Links to all these stories are below. Lauren Singer, a young New Yorker, has made no rubbish for the past two years. She is proof that you don’t need to live a totally alternative, hippy lifestyle to be low impact. Boyan Slat, an even younger Dutch man, is dedicating his energy to a larger issue; the huge volume of plastics polluting our oceans.

The Byron Bay community are pushing for the first Australian community-owned solar power electricity generator, this comes after German citizens in Hamburg voted in 2013 to buy back the electricity grid in a bid to take control back from the private sector. Berlin residents are looking to follow suit. While it is hard to find definitive figures, various sources estimate transmission and distribution losses account for up to 10% of electricity generation, with 10% of the energy content of coal being lost in combustion. These losses are covered in the cost of electricity to the consumer, making local renewable generation of power financially viable.

While many people link the issue of sustainability only with the environment, it is also an important factor for financial investment. If you hold shares or have funds in superannuation, you may wish to investigate this issue further.

Companies now have to consider future clean sourcing of water and ingredients, and these decisions impact directly on their shareholders. A newly opened Sydney bakery is the first business in Australia to have a closed loop environmental system; all organic waste in processed on site into compost that is then made available to customers and suppliers; all grey water is used in the newly planted native garden; hives of bees on the rooftop produce honey for their cafes; and large storage onsite means less flour packaging and fewer truck deliveries. These measures lead to cost cutting in rubbish and recycling removal.

The Rockerfeller Brothers Fund withdrew from fossil fuel investments in September 2014 in favour of renewable energy sources. The Rockerfeller family are the heirs of a dynasty that made their money in oil. You can bet this decision was not made from a purely altruistic stand point; financial advisors would have seen divesting in fossil fuels as a sound financial decision, as well as an ethical and a symbolic gesture regarding the future vision for the Fund.

Responsible and ethical investors have pushed retailers and manufacturers to improve the treatment of Bangladesh garment workers after the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in 2013. Global investors have also been working to support the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, which in turn protects the forests of Malaysia and Indonesia.

Investment in businesses that are committed to sustainability is a sound financial decision; the annual study by the Responsible Investment Association Australasia reveals a consistent margin of return above mainstream investments since 2002. The 2014 RIAA Benchmark Report for Australia and New Zealand states that, “Core responsible investment Australian equities funds have outperformed the ASX 300 index and the large cap Australian equities fund average over 1, 3, 5 and 10 years.”

Food for thought as we head into 2015.