Guide to becoming carbon neutral

Organisations are becoming carbon neutral to show leadership, meet expectations of their customers, shareholders and staff, to be competitive, reduce their energy and costs, as well as the simple fact of wanting to be a force for good.

Your organisation (big or small) can join them.

Organisations can become certified carbon neutral under the Australian Government’s Climate Active Carbon Neutral Standard. But you don’t have to be certified carbon neutral. The most important thing is to focus on reducing emissions – and that can be achieved whether you’re certified or not.

There are over 80 organisations who are currently certified carbon neutral in Australia through Climate Active. Among them is local kindergarten, Albert Park Kindergarten. City of Port Phillip’s Sustainability team worked with the kindergarten over five years to set a vision, reduce their emissions and gain carbon neutral certification. More about this leading kindergarten and their vision later.

But first, how do you actually become a carbon neutral organisation?

Steps to becoming carbon neutral

1. Set your vision

We always advise organisations before they start the certification process, to first work on their environmental vision. We think this step is so fundamental and necessary that we have established a free program to help organisations do this. 

This vision is followed by an action plan to deliver the environmental vision which drives the path toward carbon neutrality. The process of becoming carbon neutral is one that requires a little bit of help, particularly the first time around. Our sustainability team is here to help so get in touch at enviro@portphillip.vic.gov.au

2. Calculate your emissions and prepare a ‘Carbon account’

The Snapshot tool provides overall direction in terms of major sources of emissions for our municipality. Your emissions are likely to follow a similar breakdown, with electricity use responsible for most of your emissions. 

3. Reduce your emissions

Once you know how many emissions you're generating, you can create a strategic action plan to achieve your objectives.

Any work that you do to reduce your consumption of electricity, gas or transport will reduce your total emissions. We also strongly encourage organisations to look closely at purchasing, waste, divestment to further reduce emissions. These categories are very similar to those shown for Victoria in the Greenhouse Gas Report 2019 which shows the major sources of emissions for our state. 

In line with an environmental vision, we encourage organisations to set simple and achievable goals to get started with a strong focus on policy, strategy and action plan.

Something like the following might be appropriate for your organisation:

CategoryGoalStatusTarget
Procurement

To develop and implement a sustainable procurement strategy.

No policy.

At least 25% of purchases will be sustainable.

Electricity

To benchmark electricity usage and major opportunities for consumption reduction.

423,200 kWh per annum

To reduce usage by 15%

Gas

To benchmark gas usage and major opportunities for consumption reduction.

212,000 Mj per annum

To reduce gas usage by 10%

Water

To benchmark water usage and major opportunities for consumption reduction.

1,572,000 L per annum

To reduce water usage by 10%

Waste

To benchmark waste produced on site and major opportunities for reduction.

723 tonnes of landfill and 42 tonnes of recycling per annum

To reduce landfill waste by 25%

4. Purchase carbon offsets to compensate for the emissions that cannot be reduced or avoided

5. Become certified (optional) carbon neutral and celebrate it!

How can Council help you become carbon neutral?

The City of Port Phillip, through the Sustainable Programs team, is here to help everyone in our municipality to achieve our collective environmental ambitions – to be emission and waste free. The best place to start is to have a chat with one of the team and work out a way forward that is best for you and the environment. Email us today at enviro@portphillip.vic.gov.au.

Join our Sustainable Business Network to meet other businesses who want reduce operating costs and run more sustainable businesses. 

What does it cost to become carbon neutral?

If you don’t go down the certification path, the costs are simply the time spent calculating your emissions and finding ways to reduce them. Offsetting remaining emissions costs roughly $5-$20 per tonne.

The certification process involves a range of costs including registration, offsetting, auditing and carbon accounting. See Carbon Active for more information about fees. https://www.climateactive.org.au/

Can you be carbon neutral without being certified?

Yes! That’s why we start with a vision and an action plan and work out the best way for each organisation to go.

Who else is becoming carbon neutral in Port Phillip?

The City of Port Phillip will become carbon neutral this financial year (2020-21) and we can’t wait to celebrate!

Since becoming Australia’s first certified carbon neutral early childhood service in 2019, Albert Park Kindergarten embarked on a new goal to unite Albert Park’s youngest citizens in action on climate change. In a partnership with Albert Park Primary School and Albert Park College, the three schools are united to form Australia’s first carbon neutral learning community. At the beginning of this year, the Principals of the three educational institutions signed a memorandum of understanding to mutually pursue environmental responsibility through the founding of the Wurru Wurru Sustainable Schools Alliance.

Find out more