The Scenic Rim’s first-ever ClimateSmart Business Cluster, formed by 16 B&Bs and tour operators in mid-2010, has slashed its carbon emissions by over 40% over eight months by going local.
The business cluster, formed by a grant from the Qld Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM), is believed to be Australia’s first to address the connection between food miles and carbon emissions.
Cluster facilitator the Ethos Foundation has produced “Menu for a Change 2: Stories from the Scenic Rim ClimateSmart Business cluster” to help other accommodation providers reduce their food miles and CO2.
As a result of this work, the cluster reduced its food miles by almost 380,000km which is equivalent to nine trips around the circumference of the earth.
Carbon dioxide emissions were slashed by 25,000kg, a volume equivalent to 25 3-bedroom houses.
These results are well beyond the cluster’s original reduction target of 30%.
How did they do it?
Between August 2010 and March 2011, the cluster members tracked and calculated the mileage and associated carbon emissions of the food used in their meals and menus.
Once they discovered the shocking distances their food travelled as well as the carbon dioxide emissions created by that travel, they actively sourced and showcased local, regional, seasonal and fresh food in their businesses.
Cluster facilitator Sally MacKinnon said, “Because this work hasn’t been attempted before we had to develop calculation tools that translated the distance food travels from the farm gate to our business premises, into equivalent carbon dioxide emissions.
“Each cluster member also started from scratch to find out where the food in their pantries came from.
“This was incredibly difficult to find out with processed and packaged food imported from overseas.
“We all learned a lot about how the global food industry works and how oil intensive, polluting, expensive and inefficient this industry really is.
“As a result we all became very committed to finding and using local, fresh, seasonal and where possible, organic food grown and produced close to home here in the Scenic Rim, South East Queensland and Northern NSW.
“We created new menus built on fresh, seasonal produce, we talked with our guests and told them stories about local farmers and food, and we even created a regional food directory which Council will continue to develop for tourism and hospitality businesses as well as communities and households,” Ms MacKinnon said.
Three cluster members in particular achieved astonishing food miles and CO2 reductions of over 60%. These were Mt Barney Lodge, interNational Park tours and the Ross Family Trust.
Director of Mt Barney Lodge, Tracey Larkin said the three most important steps were buying local produce, buying unprocessed food and buying Australian grown and produced food.
Ms Larkin said “we overhauled our school camp menus to achieve these great results.
“We now cook more meals from scratch using fresh, seasonal fruit and vegetables and we substitute high mileage imported foods with local, regional and Australian produce.
“While the initial food miles research was time consuming, we were shocked to discover how far our food travelled and the carbon emissions produced.
“We now source as much local food as possible and support our regional farming families.
“Our meals are more nutritious, ethical and eco-friendly.
“Because we use fewer processed products now, we’ve made savings both in our shopping bills and our waste disposal costs, and the increased fresh food scraps are composted to provide a free resource for our own backyard garden and soil,” Ms Larkin said.
Based on its experiences over the past eight months, the cluster recommends that local food distribution outlets be created in communities such as Boonah, Beaudesert and Canungra to make it easy for local farmers and producers to connect their food with local tourism and hospitality businesses as well as households.
“We need to make it easy for businesses and households to buy local food,” said Ms MacKinnon.
“We are already connecting with Scenic Rim Regional Council to help develop a comprehensive regional food directory and support a more efficient and accessible local food distribution network.
“It’s great that our own businesses benefitted so quickly from our ClimateSmart experience and now we’d like to help as many people and businesses as possible to go local,” she said.
The Scenic Rim ClimateSmart Business Cluster was formed with a Qld Government grant from the Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) as well as in-kind support from Scenic Rim Regional Council and Scenic Rim Escapes.
For more details contact:
Sally MacKinnon (Cluster Facilitator)
Ph: (07) 5533 3646
Mob: 0412 682 008