Sustainability and Business
There are many pressures on us today, particularly as business owners. As our region rapidly grows there is also pressure on our environment.
I had the pleasure of visiting the Macarthur Centre for Sustainable Living (MCSL) and speaking to the Centre Co-Ordinator, Helen Byfield-Fleming. MCSL is a not for profit, community-driven organisation to inspire and show our community how we can live in a sustainable manner.
Macarthur Centre for Sustainable Living
The centre in Mt Annan is open to visitors during the week, as well as running workshops on Saturdays. According to Helen ‘The whole site is sustainable, we are a showcase’. The site is completely water self-sufficient, using 120,000 litre underground tanks. The centre also runs totally off their own energy, using wind and solar. Helen added ‘All bills are paid for with the energy we produce’.
This is an award winning business winning a NSW Business Award for sustainability in 2014. More recently they also won the 2017 national business award for sustainability. According to Helen ‘We are about showcasing what people can do at home and in their own business’. There is an education centre for the public.
Helen also explained ‘The centre has previously gone into businesses to show them how to be sustainable as part of a MACROC project’.
Worth a visit
The centre is worth a visit, for the education and encouragement you receive and the peaceful setting. It is easy to forget you are just off busy Narellan Road. Have a picnic under a tree and just enjoy some peaceful time out.
The centre hosts between 2,000 and 2,500 visitors every month. Many visitors are from outside the area so they are contributing to bringing tourists into our region. Their website receives around 42,000 hits per month, with 10,000 to 20,000 of those coming from overseas.
Working with Business
Recently the centre partnered with The Arts Centre Café, who have now become almost completely sustainable. Some of the changes include worm farming and composting, as well as providing their coffee grounds to the centre to be used in controlling pests. Possibly the biggest change was reducing the cafes garbage from 7 bins per week down to 1. Helen proudly added ‘It’s about helping businesses become sustainable’.
The centre has also worked with office based businesses previously helping them to effectively deal with things like their shredded paper, cardboard and eliminating food scraps. They have also helped businesses reduce their bills showing them how to save on electricity.
The centre looks for more than just a warm fuzzy feeling effect, they look for a positive cash flow result for businesses. According to Helen ‘That’s what we try to look at, the company getting a positive end-result. That’s more money in your pocket’. Some of the simple changes companies can easily implement:
• Energy efficient light bulbs.
• Energy efficient switch boards.
• Tinting windows.
• Solar tubes.
When I asked Helen if ‘Environmental sustainability in business can help with business sustainability’, she replied ‘Most definitely’!
There is a lot of scope for local businesses to get involved, and it may make financial sense. The centre is funded by Campbelltown, Camden and Wollondilly councils, Campbelltown contributing the most.
Even with few staff and many volunteers there is still an annual funding shortfall of between $80,000 to $100,000.
Camden council has partnered to run the Little Explorers Program where 0 – 5 year old’s are taught about various aspects of sustainability and respect for their environment. The centre has also previously worked with Landcom and various housing developments to help them be a little more sustainable.
I asked Helen about local businesses becoming involved and she eagerly said ‘We are really passionate about trying to get local businesses to help and be a part of us’. Partnering with the centre can be financial or in kind. Some of the benefits businesses receive can include:
• Tick of sustainability
• Mention on the website
• Mention on Facebook
• Ownership of a project
• Great public face.
• The information centre gives out leaflets from businesses who are sustainable around the area.
As we all look forward to our businesses taking advantage of local growth, there are also increasing pressures on the region. Sustainability is increasingly becoming a serious issue for all us. This is an issue not only on a personal level, but also for our businesses.
I am very happy to have such a wonderful facility working for us in the local area, and there is also a very good business case for becoming involved. The centre can be contacted through their website, http://www.mcsl.org.au or by phone on 4647 9828.