Environmental Projects @ Council

Power to Make a Difference

The Power to Make a Difference  project involves energy monitoring devices being offered to all Northern Rivers Schools. The device is called a cent-a-meter and enters real-time information from the meter box to an LCD screen mounted in the classroom. It allows students to safely and accurately measure energy consumption and associated greenhouse gas emissions of lights, computers, fans and other electrical equipment in schools. It is anticipated that the Power to Make a Difference program will help students to gain a better understanding of the link between energy usage, greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.

If you would like to monitor your own energy usage, local libraries now have Power-Mates for loan (see below).

Powermate Library Program

Council is now providing a cost saving tool called the Power-Mate to help residents control their electricity bill. The Power-Mate measures the running cost of an appliance and determines the amount of greenhouse gas emitted when using an appliance or when it's on stand-by.All you need to do is connect the Power-Mate to an appliance such as a television or fridge, and then plug the appliance into a power point to get a reading.

Power-Mate monitors can be borrowed from the Alstonville, Lennox Head and Ballina libraries.

Cool Commuters

This project actively encourages people living and working in Ballina Shire to take up more sustainable options for travel to work and study. This project aimed to increase community awareness about the benefits of walking, cycling, carpooling and catching the bus to reduce our carbon footprint, increase activity and improve road safety.

The project has now ceased but Council has a number of resources and incentives to help other organisations in Ballina Shire promote more sustainable transport options for travelling to work and school. They include Cool Commuter travel guides for the towns and villages of Ballina, Lennox Head and Alstonville/ Wollongbar/ Wardell , sustainable transport posters and stickers. Council has also supported a regional carpooling website site to encourage residents of Ballina Shire to carpool. The Northern Rivers Carpool  is a free, online web service for anyone who wants to save money, meet new people and reduce their carbon footprint while travelling to work or study.

Ballina Baby Welcome Pack

During 2008, all mothers of new babies visited by the Community Health nurses were provided a Baby Welcome Pack. The Pack included alternatives to disposable nappies, information on reducing waste associated with having a baby, and some environmentally friendly alternatives to products used for babies.

Ballina Shire Urban Garden Guide

The Ballina Shire Urban Garden Guide has been produced to assist our residents to plant their gardens. When planning a new garden or maintaining an established one, you are able to make choices that save water, energy, time and money whilst helping to care for the surrounding environment. Ballina Shire Council supports organisations and community groups like Landcare, which increase biodiversity and support conservation on public and private land.

Green Santa

Santa goes Green was a fun project that proved to be a very successful way to introduce energy and water conservation to a targeted audience. For Christmas 2006, a traditional 'Christmas Light-Up' street in each of the local government areas of Byron, Ballina and Lismore was selected to be part of the project in order to target homes who were likely to be high energy users, but also so that the project could leverage off existing publicity for the Christmas Light-Up.

An introductory barbecue was held to bring homeowners together to receive their free Green Santa gift bag filled with greenhouse gas-reducing items such as a subscription to 100% GreenPower for the duration of the project (three months), LED Christmas lights and timers and free energy and water audits

A 'Green Santa' was used as the icon for this project. Homes participating in the project were required to display the Green Santa on their letterboxes to demonstrate their commitment to the Project. Hundreds of people drive or walk past these homes during the pre-Christmas period and the "Santa goes Green" logo displayed prominently at the front of many of the homes in each street provided an extra talking point amongst those viewing the Christmas Light-Up. Practical tips for $aving  provides practical tips for consuming less during the festive season.

Climate Action Home Rebates

Solar and water saving technologies have the potential to deliver substantial energy and water savings and cuts to greenhouse gas emissions across the shire. Council, in collaboration with the Department of Environment and Climate Change together with Clarence Valley, Byron Shire and Lismore city Councils provided community forums on the improving the energy and water efficiency of your home. This information can be now found in a screen cast click here or click here to download the PowerPoint presentation.

Why Switch to Solar Hot Water Now?

  • Conventional water heating is a big drain on home energy use, accounting for up to 40% of your bill.
  • Switching to solar hot water heating could cut your hot water bills by 90% and save you around $300 a year on energy bills!
  • A solar hot water heater can reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of an average family by as much as 4 tonnes of CO2 per year - the equivalent of taking a car off the road!

Hot Water Efficiency Tips:

  • Insulate hot water pipes - especially outside the house
  • Install water-efficient showerheads
  • Fix dripping taps.

Council's passenger vehicle fleet

Council's passenger vehicle fleet has been progressively diversified over the past few years to offer a range of different options, most of which are four cylinder vehicles. This is in contrast to Council's previous practice which utilised uniformly large six cylinder vehicles to all those requiring a vehicle for work purposes. Options include LPG utes and diesel vehicles, both for passenger vehicles and dual cab utes.

Council now has a policy of purchasing vehicles which achieve no less than 3½ stars in the Green Vehicle Guide. Biodiesel is currently in the process of becoming available at Council's depot. It is now available on Government Contract making it simple for Council to purchase. Supplies have not yet reached the Northern Rivers but will be available in the near future.

Easy Being Green

Easy Being Green distributed a further 3,913 packs of compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFL's) during early 2007, mainly through schools. A feature of this distribution was the significant donation Easy Being Green made back to the local schools community by donating a percentage of pack sales to a central fund for use in assisting schools to reduce their energy usage. This project is described in more detail in the Power to Make a Difference description (see above).


Fieldforce Environmental worked with a number of local councils in the Northern Rivers region on energy saving initiatives. Initially, Fieldforce held stalls handing out free packs of six compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFL's) during early 2007. Later, Fieldforce undertook free home energy assessments in homes, replacing all incandescent bulbs with CFL's and replacing older style showerheads with water saving showerheads. 2,309 home assessments were undertaken, replacing 44,106 globes, 740 showerheads and installing 1,061 flow restrictors. This equated to a saving of 6,713 tonnes of greenhouse gases.


In March 2006, Council worked in conjunction with Lismore City Council to bring Neco Hardware Pty Limited to our local area to distribute packs of compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFL's) at very discounted prices. Six CFL's were available for $5 per pack, a saving of $25 per pack.

1,091 packs of CFL's were distributed, saving 3,295 tonnes of carbon dioxide and 1,458 tonnes of coal over the lifetime of the bulbs in comparison with using incandescent bulbs.

Sustainable Purchasing Policy

In 2008, Council instigated an internal policy promoting sustainable purchasing. This policy encourages a considered approach to the purchase of products that are used by Council staff in fulfilling their duties – both indoor and outdoor. The policy is being implemented on a step by step basis (or purchase by purchase basis) to find the best possible option. Where cost or other barriers are an impediment to the best environmental option being used, this decision is logged to provide a history to the purchase of that particular product.

Paper Use

Prior to the development of the Sustainable Purchasing Policy, Council undertook to replace its existing stationery with recycled paper. Our envelopes are 100% recycled as is our letterhead. Our copy paper is 80% recycled and 100% Australian. Our pay slips and staff newsletters are now distributed electronically, saving even more paper. Our regular community update service – Community Connect - is offered electronically also, providing information direct to the homes of interested residents.

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