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The Brickworks Centre, Gold Coast

9 businesses at the forefront of sustainability

Jane Saunders

World Environment Day is just around the corner so there’s no better time to raise awareness about local businesses that are embracing sustainability.

It’s the buzzword that knows no bounds, popping up in all areas of life from finances to the environment, fashion, food, urban development and business; everywhere you turn, it seems sustainability is the goal. But what exactly does it mean?

Sustainability is most often used synonymously with preserving the natural environment – but this is in fact just one dimension of what sustainability is all about. The core principals of sustainability give equal importance to social, economic and environmental concerns.

A widely accepted definition of sustainability is “being able to meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (1987 Brundtland Commission Report).

So how does such a lofty goal translate into everyday life?

Here are eight Gold Coast businesses that have fully embraced sustainability and are carving the path for us all to live more environmentally-friendly lives.

Beehives at the Brickworks

With one third of the world’s food supply pollinated by bees, a healthy bee population is crucial to ensuring the diversity and sustainability of the world’s plants and crops.

Yet for over a decade, beekeepers across the globe have been raising the alarm about the rapid decline of honeybee populations.

An increase in urban beekeeping and rooftop beehives is one innovative response to the bee crisis.

In cities around the world, rooftop beehives are now on trend with major pubic buildings including London’s National Portrait Gallery and Paris’ French National hosting apiaries.

On the Gold Coast, the Brickworks Centre led the trend in September 2015 when it launched the city’s first rooftop hive system.

Home to 300,000 bees, the initiative was designed to fight the declining bee population at the same time as delivering significant benefits to the local area.

“As each bee pollinates about 50,000 flowers in its lifetime, the bees could potentially seed over 15 billion flowers within a five to seven kilometre radius of the Brickworks rooftop, resulting in the complete regeneration of gardens around Southport and Surfers Paradise” says hive manager Jack Stone of Bee One Third.

The project is also achieving a social cohesion goal through the employment of refugees and at risk youth to help take care of the beehives, which annually produce around 480 kilograms of pure Gold Coast honey. The honey is sold under the signature Brickworks brand.

Coffee Roasters Australia: BioCap

Australians consume more than one billion coffee pods a year, which means one billion spent coffee pod capsules head straight to landfill every year – where they can remain for up to 500 years.

Arundel based business Coffee Roasters Australia, is one of the biggest suppliers of coffee roasting machines in Australia.

Its long held concern about the serious environmental dilemma created by its in-demand product led business owners Mark and Alana Beattie to investigate alternatives to the plastic pods.

After several years of international research and development, they have now launched BioCap, Australia’s first biodegradable capsule made from a composite material derived from cereal plants.

In developing an alternative to the petrochemical based plastic pods used in the coffee machines it was essential any new eco friendly product had to maintain a high quality extraction from the pod. Mark and Alana believe Biocaps have the same, if not better, performance than the petrochemical based plastic capsules.

BioCap capsules will compost within 180 days while plastic and aluminium capsules could take anywhere between 150 to 500 years to break down.

Natura Pacific

Gold Coast based social enterprise Natura Pacific offers environmental consultation and education services to more than 26,000 people each year.

In 2016 its commitment to global sustainability was recognised when the company was awarded the United Nations Environment Business Award.

Founder Kieran Richardt says the business was born from passion in 2005.

Natura Pacific provides consulting services including environmental impact assessments and flora and fauna studies. Its scientists also work on maintaining and restoring endangered Australian native plant species through plant regeneration, research and educational programs.

“We use the profit from our consulting work to subsidise our environmental education programs; it’s living and breathing that type of ideology, conservation and sustainability,” says Richardt.

The completely self-funded educational programs teach children the big picture of being a part of the cycle by identifying plants, pressing samples, collect native seeds, reducing waste, recycling, composting, and worm farming.

Natura Pacific is also committed to social cohesion. Its flora and fauna studies contribute to the vital horticultural education opportunities offered to inmates of the Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre in Brisbane.

“We collect seeds of native plants and send them off to the inmates who are doing horticultural courses as part of their professional development,” says Richardt.

Climate Wave

Climate Wave is committed to reducing the carbon footprint of events held across the Gold Coast.

Behind the scenes of events can be hectic, as event managers juggle client demands in the time critical countdown to launch.

Adding a green or sustainable element to an event can seem like an unnecessary extra burden to an already busy planning schedule and besides where do you even begin? That’s where Climate Wave steps in.

Established in 2008, this Gold Coast company takes the stress out of event sustainability by providing a full sustainable package that can be tailored to events of any size.

The business supplies alternative energy, low impact transport options, water refill stations, bike racks, sustainable legacy plans such as tree plantings, education stations, and waste minimisation strategies including composting utensils.

It can also implement the separation of organic and recyclable waste, and partners with local gardens to accept organic waste for compost and event specific Eco Challenges. Climate Wave has got it all covered.

Recent event partnerships have included the Woodford Folk Festival, the Swell Sculpture Festival and the Surfrider Foundation Eco Challenge which incorporated a personal eco-challenge for festival attendees and a weeding and planting session to regenerate a section of the Tugan sand dunes as a legacy of the event.

Boomerang Bags

This inspiring community initiative is tackling plastic pollution from the grassroots up.

Boomerang Bags kicked off in 2013 when co-founders, Tania Potts and Jordyn de Boer met up with the dream of reducing plastic bags within their community of Burleigh Heads.

Just three years later, the project has made over 45,000 reusable bags, and in the process diverted more than nine tonnes of plastic waste from landfill.

All bags are made using entirely donated materials and are provided to the community for a free, on-loan basis as an alternative to plastic shopping bags.

The project has proven so popular it has spread to 49 communities around Australia, with more signing up each month.

As well as its impressive waste reduction efforts, the project is also actively boosting social cohesion through its volunteer networks that attract businesses, schools, community groups and individuals of all ages and walks of life. More than 200 volunteers had joined the project in its first year.

“Having the community behind the project is key to its success,” says de Boer.

“Through Boomerang Bags we start conversations, make friends, up-cycle materials and work towards shifting society’s throw away mentality to a more sustainable revolution of re-use – one community, needle and thread at a time.”

The Ecovillage

Formally a diary farm, the 270 Acre Ecovillage nestled in the Currumbin hinterland, is now an international award winning sustainable community.

The Ecovillage was first conceived in the late 1990s by a passionate group of friends committed to demonstrating the commercial viability of sustainable development.

Designed on environmental and social sustainability principles, all developments in the village have to meet set sustainability criteria such as passive solar design, degrees of self-sufficiency, use of alternative energy, energy and water efficiency, waste minimisation and vegetable gardens.

The first home was completed in 2006, and the village now boasts 144 homes and an extensive wildlife population as 50 per cent of the site was retained as an environmental reserve.

In the interests of social cohesion, a community hall is located in the centre of the Ecovillage and the active community enjoy many events together.

One of the initial goals of the developer was to establish a diverse and integrated community for residents of different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds.

To achieve this, the development includes different sized lots and houses offering a greater variety of price points than would normally be found in a conventional commercial development.

Houses available in the development range from small studio apartments to large lots featuring creeks, trails or private forests.

Its many accolades include World’s Best Environmental Development Award (2008).

GECKO: The Gold Coast and Hinterland Environment Council

The Gold Coast and Hinterland Environment Council is a great partner to have on your sustainability journey whether you are just starting out or an old hand at sustainable living.

Established in 1989 when six local conservation groups came together seeking to create a stronger voice for environmental advocacy, Gecko is now the peak regional environment group, working to promote, protect, and restore the Gold Coast’s natural environment and improve the sustainability of the built environment.

Located in Currumbin, Gecko’s services include Regen Australia, offering environmental consultancy, natural area regeneration, and re-vegetation as well as GeckoEd offering environmental information and education. It also manages the Gecko House resource centre, library and community hall.

Some of the annual events Gecko manages include:

  • Eat Your Backyard community day: teaching local residents the benefits and how to of home gardening
  • Gold Coast Green Week celebrating World Environment Day
  • Permaculture workshops
  • Bush care groups
  • Eco explorers programs

Currumbin RSL

Since commencing its sustainability journey in 2009, Currumbin RSL has not looked back and is now recognised as the greenest club in Queensland.

The clubs’ impressive sustainable report card includes:

  • 20 per cent energy reduction
  • 4 per cent greenhouse gas reduction
  • 55 per cent potable water use reduction
  • 30 per cent reduction in waste to landfill
  • 0 organic waste
  • Social cohesion initiatives to encourage community engagement
  • Semi self-sufficient vegetable and herb gardens

These outcomes were made possible by:

  • Efficient LED lighting replacing 500 halogen lights.
  • Energy saving devices fitted to all air conditioning units
  • Restaurant ingredients sourced locally
  • Halving the number of rubbish bins and rubbish collections
  • Use of rainwater tanks
  • A passive solar renovation to allow more light in
  • Programs to invite senior citizens to get involved in the club gardens.

The club produces no organic waste thanks to the introduction of an onsite skip-sized Biobin to compost all kitchen scraps. As well as creating fertiliser for the club’s gardens, the Biobin eliminates the transport and energy costs needed in the past to transport waste off site. And not to be forgotten are the six beds of worms chomping their way through paper and food waste.

The club’s Forever Young Seniors group invites older gardeners who may no longer have their own garden to engage with the club gardens so they can keep using their skills and knowledge of plants in the vegetable and herb gardens

The Source Bulk Foods Gold Coast

The Source Bulk Foods, in two Gold Coast locations, offers a unique back to basics shopping experience, which is plastic free.

This doesn’t just mean no plastic bags, it means no products in store are packaged or in plastic.

Customers are encouraged to bring along their own containers to fill or use paper bags provided, glass jars and bottles can also be purchased in store.

There’s a huge selection of bulk wholefoods, health foods and a range of paleo, gluten free, organic and vegan products.

For more about innovative local businesses and the key industry sectors driving the city’s economy, see Business Gold Coast.

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