Business seeing the (LED) light

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By: Kyle Sherer


Local businesses are often open to the idea of environmentally friendly practices, but the daunting task of implementing them can turn even the most eco-conscious traders a bit green.

“I think most business owners are aware that they should participate in sustainability, but making it commercially attractive and viable is critical,” said Chris Hickey, the recently appointed president of the St Kilda Village Traders Association and the owner/operator of Grill’d St Kilda.

“To date it’s been unmanageable from a business perspective due to the time and energy involved. It often gets put in the too-hard basket.”

State and Federal governments acknowledge that small-to-medium enterprises are the hardest segment to get on board, and while councils can send out pamphlets about going green, their main contribution is often just adding to the recycling bin.

To bridge the gap between aim and action, the Port Phillip EcoCentre – a not-for-profit, community-managed, environmental group, has rolled out the Green Business Environmental Leadership Pilot Program. This is supported by the Port Phillip Council – to assist local businesses in shrinking their carbon footprint while lowering their costs. Bede Doherty, general manager of the EcoCentre, described the project as the “No to-do-list approach,” which involves EcoCentre representatives speaking with owners personally, assessing the changes and savings that could be made, and linking them directly with qualified, government-accredited tradesmen with approved products at a competitive price. Phase one of the project was a survey of 54 business (predominantly cafes and restaurants) in the St Kilda village area, which charted their waste management, recycling, lighting, refrigeration, and electricity. The results revealed low-cost, straightforward measures that could yield environmental benefits and slash costs for traders.

The initiative has now entered phase two, where the savings and efficiency opportunities identified in each business are being addressed. The first area is waste management — the St Kilda Village precinct alone creates 50 tons of waste a week and many empty bottles are sent directly to land-fill.

“Most people don’t have the correct number of bins for their waste,” said Doherty. “There can be a disconnect between landlords and tenants.” In addition to the lack of communication, many traders were simply unaware of council disposal processes. The EcoCentre advises the traders of their entitlements and arranges with Council for more bins to be delivered, if required. “I was only just made aware by the EcoCentre that the council collects cardboard from storefronts,” said Hickey.

A second area that can easily be addressed is lighting. The vast majority of surveyed businesses use halogen or fluorescent lights, rather than the more cost-effective LED lights. Even with smaller cafes using dozens of lights, the prospect of replacing them en-masse can be intimidating.

Hickey stated how: “as one light goes out we replace it with an LED, but it’s a lengthy process,” but by sending its representatives directly to the business, the Eco Centre can link businesses up with government-accredited, qualified electricians who can provide traders with multiple LED options. These are supported by a government subsidy if they choose to make the switch.

“People don’t have the time, the product knowledge, or an idea of the pricing. We’re taking that work and risk out,” said Doherty; adding that the savings on electricity using LED lights is about 80%.

The third prong of this program is the installation of automatic timers for drink fridges. These timers would shut off the fridge at the close of business, and re-start it before the doors open again. This will ensure that patrons can still enjoy a frosty one while saving businesses an upwards of eight hours of power. Sanjay Premkumar, owner of local café Kotch Lane, is trialing a fridge timer through the program. While he stated that his business was already keen on environmental sustainability, the tactics proposed by the Eco Centre project came as a welcome surprise. “We had never really considered timers before,” he said. “But it prompted us to think about it. The Eco Centre had already broken it all down, done their homework, and had approved suppliers. And the bigger you go with these things, the more potential savings.”

The EcoCentre can also connect businesses with a broker who offers a deal negotiated specifically for the village to switch to 100%  Green Power, at a lower cost than most businesses are currently paying for their electricity.

Traders still wishing to become involved in the project can contact the Eco Centre at or call 9534 0670.

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