1. Understand the terms

Everyone has a role to play in reducing the impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss. One way to lessen your impact on the environment is by reducing your greenhouse gas emissions. This is often referred to as reducing your carbon footprint.

What are the key terms?

  • Climate change: the long-term change in weather patterns. Climate change is causing long-term effects such as rising sea levels and weather events such as severe storms, drought, bushfires and heatwaves.
  • Biodiversity loss: a decrease in the number and types of plants and animals in an area or community.
  • Greenhouse gas emissions: these are gases that trap heat in the Earth's atmosphere such as, carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases. The more greenhouse gas emissions that are in the air, the more heat gets trapped and raises temperature leading to climate change. Greenhouse gas emissions can also be called carbon emissions.
  • Carbon footprint: the total amount of greenhouse gases generated by your business over a certain period. Your carbon footprint is measured in units of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e).

2. Measure your carbon footprint

The first step to improve your environmental sustainability is to review how much energy, water and waste your business uses.

Measuring your current carbon footprint will help you establish a baseline that you can use to track your progress over time.

Start by measuring the Direct emissions from your business. These are within your control like the gas you use to run your hot-water system or the fuel for driving your bus or boat.

Your carbon footprint also includes your Indirect emissions.

Indirect emissions include:

  • Emissions from the electricity you purchase from the grid.
  • Emissions generated by your guests and supply chain. For example:
    • external laundry providers
    • transportation of produce
    • guest travel to and from your business.

3. Reduce your energy use

There are simple changes you can make that will not only reduce your energy use, but will save you money in the long-term.

You need to measure your energy use and identify what consumes large amounts of energy. You can then find technologies or change processes to help you reduce the energy you use. Simple steps you can take include:

  • Lighting: upgrade lighting to energy-efficient bulbs like LEDs, or lighting systems on timers or sensors. Make use of natural lighting, so you can switch lights off during the day.
  • Use of shade: use blinds, curtains and awnings to control direct sunlight on windows. Plant trees and vegetation to provide shade for buildings and customers.
  • Energy efficient appliances: upgrade your appliances to energy efficient models.
  • Use renewable energy: move to renewable sources either with your provider or by generating your own energy (such as solar panels).
  • Temperature settings and timers: review and change temperature settings on hot water systems and air conditioning/heating systems. Install timers on high energy use equipment.
  • Building Management Systems (BMS): implementing a BMS can help you monitor and control your systems such as heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC), lighting and water.
  • Education: educate your staff and guests on energy efficiency practices, such as:
    • switching off lights
    • turning off air conditioning or heating when not needed
    • not leaving plugs on at the wall.

4. Reduce your water use

Managing water use is a simple and efficient way to reduce your carbon footprint, increase efficiency and reduce operating costs.

Simple steps to reduce your water use can include:

  • Retrofitting: replace existing taps, shower heads and cisterns to more water-efficient options.
  • Water efficient appliances: upgrade your appliances (such as washing machines and dishwashers) to more efficient and water-wise models.
  • Water-saving devices: install flow restrictors, timers and other water-saving devices to reduce use.
  • Leaks: regularly check for leaks with taps, toilets, pipes, watering systems and swimming pools.
  • Landscaping: planting drought-tolerant, native plants to help reduce water needs.
  • Water collection devices: install rainwater tanks or other water collection tools to help water saving and water availability for times of drought.
  • Greywater: implement greywater recycling processes to reuse water for non-consumption purposes.

5. Manage your waste

Tourism businesses often operate in natural environments, and effective waste management is essential to keep these places beautiful.

Simple ways to manage your waste include:

  • Measure your business waste to help understand the volume, types, and sources of waste, and how it is being disposed of.
  • Find ways to reduce, reuse or recycle waste, such as:
    • provide separate bins for landfill, recycling, green waste and composting
    • transition away from single-use plastics and reduce the amount you print by using digital tools
    • review your products and purchasing policies to find ways to eliminate waste
    • try to purchase items that can be composted, repurposed or recycled
    • consider buying second hand items or repairing them
    • sell items that you no longer need rather than sending them to land fill
    • talk to your suppliers about using environmentally friendly products, materials, practices or services.

6. Consider your transport

Transport is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. There are things you can do to be more sustainable with your transport.

You can provide sustainable transport options for visitors, such as:

  • shuttle services with vehicles powered by sustainable fuels
  • bikes for hire
  • information on public transport.

Think about ways to get your guests to leave their car behind after they arrive.

  • Provide electric vehicle charging ports with clear signage or provide information on local charging points.
  • Find out where there are charging stations in your area and on major routes to and from your town to let your customers know.

When buying or renewing vehicles for your business, look at alternative fuel options. Learn more information about the different options and on vehicle financing.

Talk to your staff about how they can minimise vehicle emissions, such as car-pooling or using bikes.

7. Adapt to a changing climate

Understanding the climate risks that could affect your business will help you to have processes in place to reduce the risk, minimise the damage, and get your operations back up.

There are steps that you can take to prepare and manage impacts of these events.

Conduct a risk assessment of your business and supply chain to work out your biggest and most likely risks. Then implement processes for responding to and recovering from them.

For example, if the supplier of the produce in your restaurant has a shortage due to drought or crop failure, investigate other products and suppliers.

Developing an emergency management plan helps you respond to a chaotic situation and keep your business, employees and property safe.

Download our Emergency management plan.

Track current disasters on the National Emergency Management Agency website.

When you’re impacted by a disaster event, or your business needs updates, think about how you can future proof your business.

Check out our Guide on continuing your business for tips.

8. Support biodiversity and regeneration

Here are some simple and cost-effective ways your business can help support biodiversity and regeneration in your community:

  • Replace introduced and invasive plant species with native species. They save water, encourage pollinators, create natural ecosystems, and provide vital food sources for animals.
  • Create habitats for native wildlife. Add native plants and use nesting boxes for birds, ponds for frogs, and hives for native bees.
  • Review the use of chemicals in your operation and supply chain. Cleaning products, gardening supplies, and pest control products can be devastating to ecosystems. Switch to natural, harm free, and biodegradable options.
  • Reduce light pollutants. Minimise outdoor lighting where practical and educate visitors about the importance of dark skies for wildlife.
  • Organise volunteer days such as tree planting or picking up rubbish. It’s a great way to engage staff and support the local community.
  • Educate your staff and guests on the importance of responsible practices such as:
    • disposing of rubbish
    • staying on established paths
    • not taking anything from the natural environment home.

9. Improve air quality

To help improve the air quality of your community, you should:

  • Track and reduce your carbon emissions. Identify your sources of emissions, and then set goals and projects to reduce.
  • Transition from diesel and petrol to electric vehicles as transport emissions are one of the largest contributors to air pollution. You may be eligible for government support to assist your transition.
  • Encourage your staff and customers to choose public transport options over private cars.
  • Plant more native trees and plants to help with biodiversity in your area and support cleaner, fresher air.

10. Interact with wildlife carefully

Allowing guests to view animals in the wild, helps them to learn about their habits, environment and threats. It’s important wildlife interactions, whether planned or not, follow responsible practices.

How to interact with wildlife responsibly:

  • You must understand all rules about wildlife interactions, both on land and water.
  • Partner with reputable operators.
  • Educate visitors on the importance of maintaining a safe distance, not touching, aggravating or baiting animals, and not feeding wildlife.
  • Know who to contact to report irresponsible behaviours, suspicious activity, or to report wildlife sightings or injured wildlife.

11. Offset carbon

As a last option, you can consider offsetting carbon. Offsetting carbon is an activity which compensates for carbon emissions made elsewhere. Carbon offsetting happens through the Australian Carbon Credit Unit Scheme which regulates creation and trading of carbon credits.

The scheme defines eligible offsetting projects which includes things such as:

  • carbon capture and storage
  • certain livestock management practices
  • not clearing areas of native regrowth.

Credits generated from these activities can be traded through approved markets.

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