Every organisation is different. Sustainability measures that may be trivial for one to change may seem beyond reach for another. Regardless of your size or sector though, a vital first step will be a comprehensive sustainability audit. The aim of an audit should be to take a non-judgemental snapshot of how you impact the environment. It will also provide a benchmark from which to measure progress. After you’ve completed your sustainability audit you should be able to:
- Complete the sentence: “our organisation’s major environmental impacts are: ___, ___ and ___“ .
- You should be able to quantify each area of impact e.g. kilowatt hours, litres of water or fuel, sheets of paper and kilograms of waste.
- Target ‘low hanging fruit’ for low or no cost improvements.
- Identify areas for future improvement, which need further investigation and capital expenditure.
Energy and Water Consumption AuditIn most cases gathering past data will simply be a matter of accessing past utility bills. Aim to gather figures for at least two years. If for any reason you can’t get hold of past bills, most utility companies will provide back copies, either free of charge, or for a small fee. While it can be useful to record historic costs, the key data for the purposes of your audit is the number of units consumed. That means kilowatt-hours (kWh) for electricity and mega joules (MJ), kWh or cubic feet for gas and litres or gallons for water Most utility bills will also provide an average daily consumption figure, and in some cases an estimate for each month. Make a point of recording these. As you develop your program you’ll want to monitor monthly and daily consumption numbers, taking into account season fluctuations
Transport / Fuel Consumption AuditBenchmarking fuel consumption may be beyond the scope of a walkthrough audit. This depends on how you use vehicles and keep records. Ideally you should aim for accurate litre totals of various fuel types consumed over the course of the last 12 months. However, you may need to estimate. The simplest way to do this will be to ask your accountants to prepare a special report. Most annual accounts at least put a dollar cost on fuel consumption, and may record distances travelled for the purposes of vehicle depreciation. Either number can be used for estimation. The most accurate way will be to get an annual number for work related kilometres travelled for each vehicle. You’ll also need the average fuel consumption per 100 km for each vehicle. If the dashboard of the vehicle does not provide this information you can get the average fuel consumption for any vehicle from valuation sites such as redbook.com.au. These two numbers alone will give a reasonably accurate estimate
Waste AuditIn its simplest form a waste audit records the weight and volume of waste produced by your organisation over a fixed period, e.g. 10 days. You can then extrapolate these figures to give monthly, quarterly and annual estimates as well as a typical daily average. It’s important to break your waste output down into whatever waste streams you currently use:
- General Waste / Landfill
- Mixed Recycling
- Paper and Cardboard
- Plastic bottles
- Toner cartridges
- Paper and other office supplies
- Toilet roll and paper towels
- Soap and cleaning fluids
- Disposable cups
- Bin liners
- Light bulbs