There’s a clear sense among supporters of Low Carbon Living, Southern Highlands that now is the time to establish a network of businesses committed to sustainability. With the rollout on 22 March of the Low Carbon Living national program, there’s hope that other regions such as the Margaret River- Busselton region, Byron Bay, Central Australia and Kangaroo Island will come on board.

Ecotourism Australia is supporting the national program, together with UNSW Sydney’s Cooperative Research Centre for Low Carbon Living, and the Blue Mountains World Heritage Institute (BMWHI).  “Some of us have been banging on about climate change for years,” admits Miles Lochhead, who runs the Southern Highlands-based environmental and resource management consultancy, zerrro.  “I think every community needs to consider a low carbon lifestyle, both at a personal level and from a business perspective – but I am biased!”

Mr Lochhead says the opportunity to be part of Low Carbon Living, Southern Highlands is too good to miss. “We saw this as an excellent opportunity for local business to get on board, make a difference, and save money.”  The founding chair of Low Carbon Living Southern Highlands, Randall Walker, agrees.  He says consumers want to make positive purchasing decisions and want to spend their money with business operators who are committed to sustainability.

“If a business isn’t able to overtly demonstrate its commitment to sustainability, consumers are less likely to be interested in them,” Mr Walker says.  Mr Walker believes local operators are realistic about the benefits of sustainability.  “Businesses in the NSW Southern Highlands are keen to adopt a sustainable approach for the right reasons.

“They have an altruistic commitment to sustainability. But they also know there are economic benefits associated with low carbon living because it leads to more efficient use of resources and lower operating costs.”

One of the benefits of the Low Carbon Living, Southern Highlands program is that it provides surety for business and for consumers because members are audited and rated on their energy and water use, as well as their waste reduction.  The program also sustains and promotes a network that connects suppliers to operators, and operators to consumers. As Mr Walker discovered, the conversations generated by low carbon living have a domino effect.

“For example, all 18 golf courses in the region are coming together to provide electric golf carts. Once we got talking about having electric carts, we realised the next step is to use solar energy to power them.”

The founding members of Low Carbon Living Southern Highlands include BDCU Alliance Bank, RePower Southern Highlands, the Moss Vale Golf Club, and Climate Action Now Wingecarribee (CANWin).  The economic development team at Wingecarribee Shire Council also support the initiative.

Representatives from Low Carbon Living, Southern Highlands will join their Blue Mountains counterparts on 22 March 2018 to launch the Low Carbon Living national program.  “The Low Carbon Living national program empowers everyone to address climate change by making positive decisions about their use of resources, where they shop and what services they support,” says BMWHI executive director Dr John Merson.

BMWHI piloted the Low Carbon Living program in the Blue Mountains some years ago.  “We now have over 80 businesses involved in Low Carbon Living, Blue Mountains, and we expect the initiative will be equally successful in the Southern Highlands and other regions,” Dr Merson says.

Research undertaken as part of the LCL program shows 82% of visitors and 91% of residents would choose a local business that has made an effort to reduce its carbon footprint.  The research also found 50% of visitors would choose a low carbon destination over one not known for reducing its carbon impact.

BMWHI invites you to join us for the Low Carbon Living national program launch, at 5pm on 22 March at Scenic World in Katoomba. Please register here to attend:

The road to Leura’s Brahma Kumaris Centre for Spiritual Learning is unruly and pot-holed but it rewards travellers with majestic views over the Grose Valley wilderness. The journey provides a fitting start to the meditation retreats the centre offers to people seeking a reprieve from the stress of modern life.

The Brahma Kumaris Centre for Spiritual Learning sits on a 132-acre sanctuary nestled in the bush. Guests are requested to adopt ‘pure living’ principles while they are on retreat. This includes a vegetarian diet, no alcohol, smoking or stimulants and modest clothing.

Brahma Kumaris is an international women’s-led organisation, established in Leura 17 years ago. Jessica Yuille is the environmental co-ordinator for Brahma Kumaris Australia and is very much aware of the environmental sensitivities of the centre’s location. As a member of the Low Carbon Living program, Brahma Kumaris Leura has achieved a silver rating and is informed and inspired by the efforts of other LCL members.   

The centre recently added a new air-sourced heat pump hot water system designed by Jeffery Di and marketed by Stephen Wilson of Lead Tech.

Brahma Kumaris has eight solar hot water systems that service 45 twin-share rooms with ensuites; three 2-bedroom cottages; a dining and kitchen venue; meditation hall and reception area. In January 2018, two new heat pump water units replaced older systems and a further five new units will be installed later this year.

“We researched and chose heat pump technology because it is efficient, inexpensive to run, reliable and cheaper than solar,” says Jessica.

Heat pump technology has been around for at least 20 years and is a green energy alternative to traditional solar hot water systems. Lead Tech’s patented design differs from competitors in that each unit is quiet and compact, the size of a standard refrigerator, and does not require additional booster units (gas or electric) if the external temperature significantly decreases.

The Lead Tech unit has the lowest carbon footprint of any comparable heat pump on the market, the technology is Australian-owned and is adaptable for residential and commercial purposes.

The purity and quality of the water inside the system remains intact due to the design of the coiled piping inside the tank, preventing sediment and bacteria from accumulating at the bottom of the tank.

Ultimately, the water is drinkable and chemical free and water wastage is significantly reduced. Other benefits include tank water that is vented to atmosphere, not pressurized.

Although the upfront cost of a Lead Tech unit is 30 per cent more than conventional heat pumps, the immediate savings with energy bills are a minimum of 50 per cent. Upfront costs will be paid off in the first five years.

Other sustainable and energy-efficient modifications at Bramah Kumaris Leura include air conditioning heaters that have replaced gas heaters in the bedrooms.

Aircon Off smart controllers regulate the temperature and the investment is energy- and cost- efficient. Underfloor hydronic gas heating systems warm office spaces, and wall panel heaters are mounted in other areas.

Cardboard, batteries, light bulbs, plastic bags and clear packaging are recycled, and the compost bin was moved closer to the kitchen door so that it can be used more easily. Joan Houghton and other residents maintain the vegetable garden, growing food to supplement the requirements of large groups on the weekends. Leftover food is frozen and donated to Earth Recovery’s Food Rescue program in Katoomba.

Local Eco-architect Nigel Bell (Conservation Hut) designed an addition to the reception area incorporating straw thatched insulation in the roof and strategically placed windows, maximising natural light and solar heat. Nigel also renovated a wheel-chair accessible toilet in the 90-year old Stone Cottage, located at Govetts Creek at the foot of the property, surrounded by a well-established English garden tended to by the centre’s ‘Meditative Gardeners’. Landcare manages the creek, bushland and nature swamps on the property.

LED lighting is used internally along with path lights and road lamps.  Power is switched off where not needed, particularly at night. Residents now manage with one freezer instead of two and the pilot light for the cooker is used only when cooking. The PA system in the venues is no longer on standby but switched off until needed. A 3-phase rinse tank heater in the kitchen is heated only when in use.

Vegetarianism is an adopted lifestyle at Brahma Kumaris, reflecting a philosophy of non-violence and awareness of the global waste, pollution and other costs associated with a meat-based diet.  A recent study found that excluding red meat from our diet reduces our carbon footprint more than eliminating cars from our roads.

Gallery ONE88 Fine Arts in Katoomba began as a pipedream for Sharon and Victor Peralta. It became a reality ten years later, in November 2015.

The concept was simple: to support and encourage established and emerging artists by providing an accessible exhibition space, providing positive experiences for creators, investors and admirers, and offering low commission rates.

The gallery houses numerous exhibition spaces on three floors. The building’s main advantage is its expansive west-facing double frontage, allowing ample natural light to flood the space and highlight the works on display. Pedestrians can preview the space from the street. The gallery is welcoming and inviting and its vast windows allow flexibility in how works are showcased.

“Because we have such a huge expanse of space, it allows us to hang works differently,” Sharon says. “There are paintings on the ceiling, coffee tables on the wall, hanging nests and canvases displayed in every corner from the basement to the rooftop.”

Sharon and Victor invested in standard LED lighting and are now upgrading to the newest LED lighting systems, specifically designed for gallery exhibitions and further reducing the gallery’s carbon footprint.

Paper waste is recycled or reused as drawing paper for young visitors and general waste is minimised as much as possible. Residual glass has been used by an artist to recreate four glass sculptures currently exhibited in the gallery window. Organic waste is composted at home.

The gallery also provides ‘boomerang bags’ for customers, and offers MTNS Made bags for sale. Bubble wrap use is minimised with art buyers encouraged to return packaging for reuse to avoid adding to landfill.

Gallery functions are catered with non-disposable cups, glassware and cutlery, and the Peraltas source food from local suppliers to prepare onsite (managing a family of nine has enabled the Peraltas to streamline food production without waste).

Because the building is leased, the Peraltas need owner’s approval to install a solar panel system. For Sharon: “It is all about being flexible. Reassessing where you are is important to keeping on top of new technologies and improving the service you provide to the public.” Gallery 188 is a Silver rated Low Carbon Living Program member.

Sharon is aware there is a decisive shift in the way artists are addressing the impacts of climate change. She says artists are becoming more creative with recycled materials and merging traditional techniques with new ones.

Leura Fine Woodwork Gallery has carved itself a niche in the heart of Leura Mall amongst specialised retailers, cafés and restaurants.

Leura’s shopping centre boasts a picturesque setting with four distinct seasons. This encourages visitors and locals to take their time and enjoy the near-extinct pastime known as ‘browsing’.

Judith Langley and Neil Williams bought Fine Woodwork Gallery in 2001. It was an established business showcasing high quality handcrafted, made-to-last wooden pieces that directly challenge our throwaway society.

Over the past 72 years, local family-owned business Scenic World has evolved as a business focused on environmental preservation, partnerships and local investment.

Scenic World is Australia’s most visited privately owned tourist attraction, with over 1 million visitors a year. It runs the world’s steepest incline railway into the lush Jamison Valley, as well as the Skyway, Walkway and Cableway.

The business is accredited by Ecotourism Australia as a Green Travel Leader and regularly monitored by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. Scenic World also has a silver rating as a member of the Blue Mountains World Heritage Institute (BMWHI) Low Carbon Living Blue Mountains program.

Scenic World is serious about improving its energy efficiency and reducing its environmental impact. Electricity generated by the railway during its descent is fed back into the grid, offsetting the electricity used in its ascent. Lanolin instead of petroleum is used to grease the railway tracks and minimise friction. The current Skyway upgrade will increase capacity without additional energy use, while the Cableway will be upgraded next year to minimise peak energy usage.

Anthea Hammon is Scenic World’s joint managing director. She is also an engineer and the third generation of her family to run the business. “Scenic World offers the visitor an opportunity to experience an all-senses tour of this unique environment without damaging, eroding or degrading the surroundings,” she says.

In 2000, Scenic World constructed a walkway above the valley floor, replacing the old walking tracks that caused erosion. The walkway enables visitors to minimise their footprint but still connect with the environment and learn about the flora and fauna.

Through a partnership with BMWHI, Scenic World has lent its support to projects including the Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Program, an archaeological survey of the Bleichert Ropeway a mining village at Ruined Castle, and a World Heritage education program for staff and visitors.

The business has also considered its waste management and food miles. Scenic World uses solar-powered waste compactors to reduce rubbish overflow and collection frequency by up to 80%. Its restaurant and café uses BioPak to save 22 tonnes of CO2 annually. Restaurant and café visitors are offered compostable cutlery and crockery. Fair trade coffee is provided by local outfit The Little Coffee Company and Katoomba’s Whisk & Pin products are also available. Other local produce is sourced from Katoomba, while free-range eggs are supplied by a farm in Windsor.

The use of a Pulpmaster to manage organic waste was inspired by other local businesses such as the Escarpment Group. A cardboard baler is used onsite to compact waste, reducing costs associated with storage and disposal, and Scenic World has contracted a waste management company to redistribute 100 tonnes of organic waste each year.

Summit Gear is one of the longest established family-owned retail and manufacturing businesses in Katoomba, opening in 1981, and the first retailer to invest in a self-sustaining solar panel system. Summit Gear manufactures its own brand of backpacks, bags and other high quality products for outdoor recreation, fire fighting, medical and technical rescue and supplies a wide range of reputable brands for hiking, climbing and trekking. Robert Inshaw bought the business in 2015 because “I wanted to take on an interesting business that excited me. It was an outdoor retailer, manufacturer and independent brand name, and I felt that was something I could work with”.

Robert purchased and renovated a more spacious premises in November 2016, upgraded to a new cloud based computer system and launched an interactive website. Summit Gear has also partnered with Running Wild to sponsor competitive Blue Mountains trail run events. With developing a sustainable business as an imperative, a 52 panel, 15kW solar system was installed in July this year to provide enough power for daily operational needs. “When you think about it, our energy usage is primarily in the day when the sun is out so it makes good environmental and economic sense”, says Robert of his investment. Power consumption last winter was $3500 a quarter, and  Robert forecasts a significant decrease in his energy bill next year.

Other sustainable initiatives include LED lighting throughout the premises, the recycling of cardboard and plastics, the reduction of packaging and elimination of ‘junk’ products not up to standard. In the longer term, Robert would like to see his business become carbon neutral, continue to reinvest locally and discourage a disposable economy in favour of a sustainable one. “I love the fact that Summit Gear supports local families with employment opportunities, we are committed to our loyal customer base in retail and with the Emergency Services hope to harness this local support to better compete with other companies who manufacture offshore”.

Blue Mountains YHA Katoomba caters for 200 guests and is housed in the meticulously restored Art Deco National Trust building at the lower end of Katoomba Street. Bronwen Johnston has managed the local hostel for the last 5 years and is implementing YHA’s sustainability policies, committing to reducing its impact on the environment and promoting low-impact travel.

When Leura restaurant owner James Howarth established Leura Garage in 2011, he revitalised a mechanic’s workshop that had previously been inconspicuous to Leura Mall pedestrians. James introduced a unique ‘fun dining’ experience inspired by his international travels with his family. His vision to create “an immersive space, inviting for all” was quickly realised. The menu highlights the best seasonal organic produce and wines the region has to offer, the interior design reflects modernity whilst paying homage to the past, and the business provides opportunities for others, investing locally whenever possible. Sustainability is its foundation.

James chose local multi-award winning building contractors Blue Eco Homes to re-develop the property, maximising its northern aspect and re-inventing the building’s core structure. 22,000 litres of rainwater is stored under the garage, providing the restaurant with enough water to be self-sufficient. Harvested water is also diverted into 300 metres of piping under the cement floor, heated with an evacuated tube solar gas boosted system. It produces a gentle, warm heat that is evenly distributed throughout the space.

Heating can be a major cost deficit for businesses in the upper Blue Mountains in winter. Joe Mercieca’s Blue Eco Homes team incorporated measures into the design of Leura Garage that were not only cost-efficient in the longer term, but proficient in energy production, self-reliance and environmental sustainability. Taking advantage of the north-facing aspect of the building, large windows were incorporated, with bi-fold doors and a skylight allowing solar light and heat to permeate and radiate. A 10kw solar panel system, covering nearly 100sq metres of roof space, generates sufficient power fed back into the grid, lowering the electricity bill by $6,500 annually. Heating initiatives save James $7,000 in gas costs.

Other sustainable initiatives include energy efficient LED and fluorescent lighting, 3- and 4-star rating bathroom fixtures, a light monitor sensor in the bathrooms, low-emitting VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) paint throughout and natural ventilation with assisted industrial fans. Leura Garage boasts two Master Builder Awards, a 2015 NSW Tourism Award and a gold rating from the BM Low Carbon Living program.

Another renowned local business taking sustainability seriously is Leura’s Bygone Beautys Treasured Teapot Museum & Tearooms. They have been reaping the benefits of Blue Eco Homes’ environmentally conscious renovations since 2013, resulting in a Low Carbon Living gold rating. Refurbishments to the 100 year-old building (circa 1917) took 19 months and were recognised by the NSW Master Builders Association, winning multiple awards. “After an extensive research, we could not have chosen better environmental builders,” says Maurice Cooper OAM, co-owner of this iconic business since 1992.

Hydronic underfloor heating using rainwater from storage tanks maintains a constant heat in winter. Insulation in the roof ensures the internal temperature remains above 13.5˚C. Double-glazed windows throughout the property retain the heat in winter and deflect direct sunlight in the summer. Fly screens allow windows to be opened and air flow to cool the interior.

The LCL carbon audit suggested novel sustainability options, and Maurice implemented what was possible, finding solutions to problems as they arose. Four watt LED globes in the chandeliers, display cabinets, utility rooms and kitchen areas guarantee 30,000 hours of lighting. A commercial curtain reduces fluctuation in the freezer’s temperature. Accumulated waste is separated into recyclable, landfill and organic bins, with organic waste composted and used in Bygone’s flowerbeds and offsite. Employees are aware of environmental practices and turn off lights in areas not being utilised. Limited table linen reduces laundry costs and tea towels are recycled. Bathrooms supply interleaf towels, reducing waste and toilets use grey water from the detention water tanks.

Katoomba’s Mountain Heritage Hotel & Spa Retreat, on the cusp of the Jamison Valley, is serious about its environmental impact and is making progressive change. The rewards are encouraging and have ensured successful business outcomes - cost reduction (higher profit), improved business efficiency and market awareness, invariable ethical business practices and client satisfaction. Due recognition has reverberated in the community with a double win at the 2016 Blue Mountains Business Awards and a silver rating from the Low Carbon Living Program. “Running an organisation actively reducing its carbon footprint has been an exceptionally positive experience”, says General Manager Eric Sward.

Eric began the journey of reducing the hotel’s carbon footprint by finding a mentor – an energy management consultant, Eco Profit Management, to help pave the way. Audits were conducted, waste, water and energy usage reviewed and the accumulated carbon footprint calculated.  A sustainability policy was drawn up and a Sustainable Supply Chain Management plan (SSCM) was put into effect.

Implementation began immediately - the evaluation of solar power and a hydronic hot water system, the re-negotiation of contracts with energy supplier ERM for favourable competitive rates, investment in Aircon Off Smart Remote controlled energy-efficient air-conditioning and sourcing an ethical, organic linen supplier and local laundry service provider. 

The decision to choose an eco-friendly linen supplier was an easy one. Lithgow’s Access Industries, a not-for-profit that supplies and launders the hotel’s linen and provides employment opportunities to people with disabilities, recommended EcoLinen Australia.  Founded by textile importer and supplier Tim Ower Mohavi and his wife 15 years ago, EcoLinen is the first certified organic bed linen supplier in Australasia. It offers ethically made 100% cotton and bamboo bed linen certified by the Global Organics Textiles Standards (GOTS) and uses Oeko-Tex® approved European organic dyes. Considering cotton is sprayed with 25% of the world’s pesticides, EcoLinen is hypo-allergenic, carcinogenic- and toxic-free and helps regulate body temperature due to the extra wide, superior yarn for better breathability.  

Having worked for almost 30 years in the textile industry Tim could see where improvements could be made. “A broader range of sustainable products, increased fair trade opportunities and a greater use of organic materials. People want to make ethical choices and we wanted to provide an alterative”. EcoLinen also supplies Mountain Heritage with cotton/polyester towels that last 30% longer than regular towels, and take 30% less time to launder.

Recently joined LCL-BM members Palais Royal Palais Royale also use Access Industries Lithgow laundering services, and are keen to introduce additional carbon saving initiatives over time.

Mountain Heritage’s other sustainable initiatives include LED lights throughout, soap recycling, reverse-cycle air-conditioners, timers and sensors for lighting systems, general recycling and food waste collected and composted by Leura’s Whispering Pines owners.

Katoomba’s family-owned business Blue Mountains Explorer Bus and Fantastic Aussie Tours is Australia’s first carbon neutral transport company, credited by the National Carbon Offset Standard Carbon Neural Program (NCOS). The 43 year-old business is reducing its carbon footprint by offsetting unavoidable carbon dioxide emissions from its mostly diesel-fuelled buses by investing in efforts to remove 100% of the carbon dioxide produced. Linda Brillante, the company’s strategist, explains that the decision was made to gain recognition from the NCOS program because of its extensive guidelines and procedures, its rigid and structured process, its comprehensive audit and exact emissions calculation from across the supply chain, encompassing every aspect of the business. “It is with great pride that we can state that we are the first transport company in Australia to be recognised as carbon neutral”.

And the accolades continue, with the Blue Mountains Low Carbon Living Program awarding BM Explorer Bus with a gold rating, acknowledging the high efficiency of the bus fleet and completing the rigorous NCOS process permitting carbon offsets for energy used by vehicles of transport companies. Program Director, Dr John Merson, revised the LCL rating system and approved a change of policy to allow for the assessment of transport companies who are making every effort to lower carbon emissions. A transport business category is now included that better reflects the emissions profile of transport-orientated businesses.

BM Explorer Bus currently has 4 red Volvo Olympian Alexander Royale double decker buses imported from Scotland, with a fifth recently purchased, 8 coaches, 20 drivers and 10 staff members. The investment in reliable Volvo engines and Scottish engineering has guaranteed high efficiency and low maintenance. Darryl Booth, chief mechanic and a partner of the business, ensures the fleet is maintained to the highest standard ahead of schedule, reducing the replacement of parts and the possibility of breakdowns. Every component is recycled, the oil is carbon neutral and metal is reused. Bus drivers are required to have regular, updated training on how to operate the vehicles efficiently, considering variations in seasonal weather and passenger load.

In 2007 Katoomba was the first Australian community declared a Cittaslow International town, for its commitment to improving residents quality of life. Goolwa (S.A) and Yea (Vic), have also joined 233 Cittaslow cities globally to slow life down, highlight and protect local unique natural environments, promote local history, culture and creativity, and share locally sourced food,. Local sourcing of food and processing of waste are essential aspects to reducing the carbon load associated with transporting and processing food and waste around the country and globally.

As an evolving part of the Slow Food philosophy, Cittaslow is embracing a slower more meaningful lifestyle that brings people together around common goals to create quality of life for the whole  community.

Sue Bell (BMCC Principal Urban Designer), Anne Elliott (Slow Food convenor) and Janet Cahill (Katoomba Chamber of Commerce & Community) collated Katoomba’s membership application.  Eco architect Nigel Bell is the Cittaslow convenor. “Katoomba has an established genuine community”, says Nigel, so meeting Cittaslow critera wasn’t difficult. “This community embraces the Cittaslow philosophy. One of the biggest challenges is bringing everyone together to achieve common goals,” says Anne Elliott.

Trading local energy was the topic of discussion at Katoomba’s March 2017 Big Ideas Futures Forum: a Blue Mountains Living Lab initiative co-hosted by the Blue Mountains Youth Summit. The idea is that if you have solar panels and storage batteries you can  trade your solar energy on a virtual a platform that connects you with community members who want to buy it. If you are concerned about rising energy prices, the platform offers the opportunity to purchase locally farmed clean energy at a competitive rate.

Nexergy founded by Darius Salgo and Grant Young, is creating a fairer energy system, where individual investment in renewable energy is rewarded and more sustainable living can be made available to all.  Similarly to 'Airbnb', Nexergy’s local energy trading platform is "a win-win: those with solar and batteries get better returns, and buyers reduce their energy costs”.

The concept is not new for other parts of the world, but Nexergy is introducing the benefits to communities around Australia and developing a following that will hopefully create more inspiring success stories. Grant Young points out that Australian rooftop solar energy now exceeds Snowy Hydro Scheme production. Bloomberg New Energy Finance forecasts that by 2040 a third of Australia’s energy supply will be produced "behind the metre": from privately-owned PV solar systems.

The Escarpment Groups ‘Hydro Majestic Hotel’ at Medlow Bath has entered a new phase of sustainability with five direct injection compost units, or ‘Macerators’ to be installed at the Hydro Majestic, Lilianfels Resort & Spa and Echoes Boutique Hotel this month to manage the vast amount of organic waste produced.

The macerator grinds up all kitchen food waste and pumps it into a tank that is electronically monitored.  When approaching full capacity, notification is received by the service company and a truck takes the reduced contents to an organic ‘pulp’ to an EPA approved broad acre farm to be ‘directly’ injected onto a paddock

The Hydro Majestic produces 1.5 tonnes of food waste weekly. A national hospitality sector food waste study estimates 40% of restaurant and hotel food ends up in landfill annually. Escarpment Group’s Chief Engineer, Peter Redman, has spent 7 years researching sustainability options to lower the Group’s large amount of food waste, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The decision was prompted by a $127,000 NSW government’s Bin Trim Business Grant, to invest in direct injection units for their commercial kitchens at a total cost of $300,000.  “Considering we spend $311 per tonne sending food waste to landfill, and produce two to three tonnes of food waste across Lilianfels, Echoes and the Hydro Majestic Hotels, the gross savings amount to $75,000 a year.  The investment will be recuperated in two years, the venture is commercially and environmentally viable and sets a precedent’. says Peter.

Also moving towards low carbon operations, Blue Mountains City Council’s Carbon Abatement Action will identify “carbon hotspots” within Council operations, and develop and fund projects to reduce carbon emissions in those areas. Council’s introduced green bin service and ongoing education and capacity building programs have reduced domestic organic waste going to landfill.

Business organic waste to landfill remains an issue. Council is supporting and promoting the NSW EPAs highly successful Bin Trim program for businesses interested in reducing carbon emissions due to waste going to landfill go to:

One Escarpment Group long-term goal is to develop their Parklands’ 3000sqm kitchen garden to fully supply all four local properties. Another goal is to invest in solar energy. General Manager, Ralf Bruegger, explains that design, durability and investment return are all factors being considered.  Hydro Majestic’s current energy provider is Origin Energy. “The hotels’ energy consumption is predominantly during off-peak times (night and weekends) so gas and electricity bills are not exorbitant”,

Ralf argues that “it is important to meet our guests’ expectations of a luxurious experience, but also be conscientious of our carbon footprint”. Ralf is confident guests are aware of what can be achieved without lowering standards or compromising on comfort.

Katoomba’s Shelton-Lea Bed & Breakfast’s owners, Jenny and Paul McLaughlin, manage four self-contained private suites at their classic Blue Mountains bungalow. They are Gold rated LCL members  with solar panels, a water tank, LED light bulbs, waste recycling, energy-efficient fridges and appliances, separately zoned central heating, environmentally-friendly toiletries in the bathrooms, free-range meat, eggs and local produce-sourced breakfasts, worm farming and composting.  They have a TripAdvisor ‘Green Leaders’ Platinum level distinction.

Jenny and Paul began worm farming four years ago with two worm farms shaded at the rear of the property. Worm farms can consume large quantities of food waste and  produce copious amounts of ‘worm tea’ and castings, an ideal nutrient-rich garden fertiliser. “The worms came with the starter kits and we have thousands of worms now”, says Jenny. They are fed food scraps from the B&B with the exception of meat, citrus and eggshells.

Katoomba North Public School (KNPS) is the first school to join the Blue Mountains - Low Carbon Living program, committing to reducing its carbon footprint. Whilst constrains of the public school system make localised change challenging, the KNPS community are determined to make a change.  KNPS’s Principal, Cathy Clark, has embarked on a sustainability plan involving the whole school community. Encouraging environmental awareness, providing ongoing educational opportunities, and encouraging community contributions towards developing a wholehearted sustainable living mindset and practices, are key.

Local owner of the award winning Rooster Restaurant and Jamison Guesthouse, Ross Delaney has made significant renovations to the heritage-listed building to ensure energy efficiency without compromising the 1890s Edwardian architecture or structure. Double-glazing, time regulated central heating, waste management, LED lighting and energy efficient globes he been installed since joining the LCL Program 2 years ago.  

Katoomba’s Bendigo Bank is the first Upper Blue Mountains bank to invest in solar panels. The bank is making a conscious effort to reduce its carbon footprint, commit to helping the environment and set an example for other businesses.

“Renewable energy isn’t just an environmental statement, it’s economically smart,” proclaims a billboard mounted on the pavement outside its branch.

Lillianfels impressive efforts to reduce energy use include lighting upgrades, changes to cooling and heating controls, and the implementation of a sophisticated energy recovery system. These measures have contributed to a 25% decline in electricity use per customer since 2010. The carbon savings from this drop in energy use equate to over 500 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year – a 20% saving compared to what emissions would otherwise have been.

Wild Valley Art Park features an impressive range of sustainability features. All electricity is obtained from solar panels, and all water is sourced from rainwater tanks or the on-site dam. Due to this self-sufficiency, Wild Valley’s carbon footprint is estimated to be less than one tenth of what it would be if energy and water were sourced from the NSW electricity grid and water supply.

Silvermere Guest House have reduced their potable water usage by around 40% by implementing a number of innovative water saving initiatives.  These include recycling roof and bath water, filtering stormwater through ponds, and minimising garden watering using mulch and grass cuttings.  The reduction in water usage has in turn resulted in a significant decline in Silvermere’s carbon dioxide emissions.