Monday, May 9, 2011

Sustainable Australia!

Last year I have been to Australia for my vacation! While planning for vacation, I was dreaming of the Harbor Bridge, Opera House, beaches, trams, Victorian buildings, Kangaroos & Koalas. But as we touched the land 'down under', the sign boards, energy conservation measures on Sydney airport started telling us "Welcome to sustainable country! You are going to see environmentally aware society!"

The Sydney airport is making their existing building sustainable. The recyclers are kept everywhere instead of just garbage bins. Washrooms use recycled water, and it is well informed everywhere to all users with help of signboards. There is waste water treatment plant of Sydney airport, which treats waste water & use this recycled water for toilet flushing & cooling towers for air conditioning system. Sydney Airport saved 350 kiloliters fresh drinking water each day in 2009, by using this recycled water.

When we entered the city of Sydney, we were happy to see not just natural greenery in city but hoardings of Sustainable Sydney 2030 as well. In CBD (Central business district) of city is one of the good examples of sustainable transport. First & foremost you get maps of city in details with lot of guidance so you can decide very easily if you want to walk. There are enough walk ways & pedestrian crossings. Else you have numerous transportation options like bus, metro, monorail, light rail, cabs. Commuting by ferries via sea route from farther suburbs is also popular in Sydney. The maps are so well organized that it mentions the stops for all transport services & getting information about timing is easy as well. There are dedicated bus lanes & cycle lanes to avoid traffic congestion. We also observed that many cabs were hybrid cars & people owned lot of hybrid or electric cars & bikes. Most importantly people were using public transport as primary commuting mean. Or else working people walking or riding bicycle in their business suits to & from their offices was also very common scene here. Of course they are blessed with good weather, but they all were well prepared for sudden rain as well. We were stunned to see people walking & cycling to-from their offices in CBD to nearby suburbs by using Harbor bridge everyday.

Their dedication to sustainability is seen everywhere, so much that every evening Opera House & Harbor Bridge do lit up after dark but not upto the level of creating light pollution around it.
As the city is growing further into 'bushes', govt. has planned proper public transports to these new areas like trains & buses. Car share is also promoted. The impressive trick is govt. give away special funds to people for building their houses in these new areas.

These communities around the city are made environmental friendly & sustainable. People of the communities are asked to segregate their waste. Waste collection & recycling is done by authority. In some suburbs people are allowed to plant only local plants in their yard. Recycled water, storm water is used for flushing & gardening on compulsory basis.

On manly beach we found a board 'Living with Penguins'. This is the only place in Sydney where small penguins visit regularly, the beaches are equipped with information boards for beach visitors guiding how they should take care for protecting these unique penguin habitat.

We were surprised to see use of solar powered equipments like parking meter, lights etc every where, especially because at least at that time it was clouded & generally rain is common there.

The sustainable buildings or Green buildings are picking up in Australia; we could see some green buildings in Sydney CBD, which were proudly displaying their sustainable status. Australia has developed their own Green Building rating system or standard, 'Green Star'. The buildings are certified by Green star on voluntary basis & given star rating as per their sustainability levels. Also a part of sustainability & conserving their culture & heritage, we get to see many old Victorian buildings in Australia which are preserved with some internal modification and are still used as shopping center, govt. buildings or tourist centers. The year of their construction is displayed on the top of nearly each heritage building. Preserving these building & using them for public use definitely meet Australia's heritage to modern world in CBDs of cities.

We also saw some banners of a political party named Green Party! Though I couldn't find out more about them, but hope they actually care for environment or sustainability.
Amongst all this, one appreciable point was' people living in Sydney were mostly aware about sustainability & knew what is intention behind this Sydney 2030 plan. So not just people or not just govt. or organizations, but making a city sustainable is a cumulative effect & needs participation from all.

We all know Sydney as a global initiator for starting Earth Hour, the sustainable movement in 2007. And this visit to the city made me believes that they truly care for sustainability & will be a good model for sustainable city.

During our visit to Melbourne, similar sustainability enthusiasm was seen with more culture & education added to it.
When we went to tourist information center, we were pleasantly surprised. We noticed a broacher for Sustainable buildings in Melbourne including list of Green buildings in Melbourne along with their location map for tourist! Pixel Building in Melbourne is Australia's Greenest Building.

Here in Melbourne, nostalgic trams add an amazing flavor to public transport. The tram are cleaner public transport as compared to fuel emitting vehicles, also choosing not to waste already existed infrastructure of tram network made complete sense to me in sustainability point of view. Same like Sydney the transportation in Melbourne is sustainable with lot of people using public transport, walking & cycling. Use of Recycling of water, Storm water Management & green-sustainable materials were widely present in Melbourne. People looked more aware about sustainability so names of business like Eco-plumbing etc were quiet common here.There is one UNESCO World Heritage listed site, which includes Royal exhibition building & Carlton Gardens dated 1980s. Some of the trees planted in Carlton garden in 1980 are still standing tall & looked after well by authorities.

We also visited one suburb, which is famous as sustainable suburb as the houses in that suburb made of environment-friendly materials & they use rainwater harvesting

These cities are full of greenery & parks. And govt. invested appropriate funds to maintain these parks, and also attract people to enjoy parks. This gives a good large open space to increase activity levels of residents.

We hear a lot about Australia's role in carbon credit & carbon offset. Climate control & sustainability is very much discussed on governmental & policy maker level in Australia. Frankly I don't know how much it is affecting on actual energy conservation or sustainability. I won't even talk about political part behind it. But it's effect on common people is environmental & sustainability awareness on great extent. Also many businesses & developers take interest in sustainability voluntarily. This is definitely a good effect.

Overall Australia looked very much open for all sustainability ideas & in near future it will definitely be a good model for sustainability.

Generally sustainable developments are asked to create facility for educating visitors about sustainability from certification bodies. But I found, walking on streets of Sydney & Melbourne will serve the purpose of sustainability education!