Council's sustainable operations

Solar arrays installed at Murwillumbah pool

Council is committed to reducing the environmental footprint of its operations. Council's Environmental Sustainability Performance Report provides an annual snapshot of how we're tracking.

Council is pleased to see a 19% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to last year thanks to a drier year, less electricity use particularly in water and wastewater pumps and treatment and a return to pre-flood patterns of vehicle use.

Other environmental outcomes from Tweed Shire Council's operations include:

  • Since setting a target in 2016/2017 for 50% less emissions from electricity by 2025, Council has achieved a 30% decrease.
  • Council returned to pre-flood patterns of vehicle use. As a result, transport fuel use and associated emissions reduced by 48%, after peaking during the February/March 2022 flood response.
  • LPG emissions increased slightly as cremations increased by 19%.
  • At Murwillumbah Civic Centre, 55% or 18,450kg of materials were diverted from landfill.
  • Printed paper use increased 8% in line with the number of staff returning to work sites, post-COVID.
  • Water use in public parks increased by nearly 80% due to less than half the rainfall recorded compared to the previous year.

Check out the 2022 - 2023 report(PDF, 91KB) to find out more.

2021 - 2022 outcomes

The main outcomes for the 12 months to July 2022:

  • Council’s carbon footprint increased by 7%: Greenhouse gas emissions from transport fuel nearly doubled compared to last year due to extensive vehicle and equipment fuel use in flood recovery.
  • Emissions from electricity use in streetlights halved compared to last year due to the replacement of 6,400 streetlights with LED lightbulbs.
  • Council purchased renewable energy credits equivalent to approximately 1,500 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions to meet it’s ‘25% reduction in emissions from electricity’ goal.
  • Office printing reduced by nearly 30% compared to last year.
  • Water used to maintain public parks decreased by 24% due to high rainfall. Water use in Council facilities remained steady.
  • Hybrids make up 40% of Council’s passenger vehicle fleet.
  • Less roads, construction and recycled asphalt materials were collected due to the focus on flood recovery and reduced infrastructure works however, recycling rates in construction and road material were maintained.

Check out the 2021 - 2022 report(PDF, 125KB) to find out more.

2020 - 2021 outcomes

The main outcomes for the 12 months to July 2021:

  • Council’s carbon footprint is 6% smaller: 1,200 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions were avoided; that’s the equivalent of 68 average households going carbon neutral.
  • 17% reduction in electricity-related carbon emissions: Council is on track to meet its 25% target by 2022.
  • Streetlights in the Tweed now use LEDs: switching to energy efficient streetlights has reduced electricity emissions by 14%.
  • Council’s passenger vehicle use increased due to COVID-19: carbon emissions from Council’s petrol vehicles nearly doubled. Council uses 38 hybrids in its 104 passenger vehicle fleet.
  • Less paper use: photocopy prints continued to decrease with more office staff working from home due to COVID-19.
  • Less water use: better rainfall nearly halved Council’s water use in maintaining Tweed’s public parks.
  • Recycling rates in construction and road material were maintained.

Check out the 2020 – 2021 report(PDF, 88KB) to find out more.

2019 - 2020 outcomes

The main outcomes for the 12 months to July 2020:

  • Council’s carbon footprint is 4% smaller: 791 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions were avoided - that’s the equivalent of 44 average households going carbon neutral.
  • A 9% reduction in electricity-related carbon emissions: Council is targeting 25% less emissions from electricity from 2016/2017 by 2022.
  • Making renewable energy while the sun shines: 555kW of new solar has been added to Council facilities. Renewable energy generation increased by nearly 90%.
  • Less paper use: photocopy prints decreased with office staff working from home due to COVID-19.
  • Less fleet vehicle travel: passenger vehicle travel was down by nearly 10%.
  • Council recycles 90% of the construction and road material it uses.

Check out the 2019-2020 report(PDF, 115KB) to find out more.

Renewable Energy Action Plan for Council facilities

Council has set a target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from its electricity use by 25% by 2022 and 50% by 2025 compared to a 2016/2017 baseline. Since setting a target in 2016/2017 for 50% less emissions from electricity by 2025, Council has achieved a 30% decrease to date.

We have more than 1,300 kW of solar arrays installed at more than 20 Council facilities saving 3,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually – the equivalent emissions of 150 average households.

Council has another 4 solar projects planned which will add another 400 kW of solar to Council facilities, saving a further 500 tonnes of carbon emissions and reducing electricity costs by more than $50,000 per year.

Video of Tweed Regional Aquatic Centre's solar array launch

Cities Power Partnership

Tweed Shire Council has taken the pledge to tackle climate change in our own backyard as part of the Cities Power Partnership. This is Australia’s largest local government climate network, with over 100 councils representing almost 11 million Australians working together to find local climate solutions.

Find out more about the program.

Visit the Australian Greenhouse Calculator to work out your household’s carbon footprint, and explore how your lifestyle contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. Check out Council’s Energy, Waste and Transport pages for ideas to help reduce your emissions.

Environmental Sustainability Prioritisation Strategy

Council has adopted an Environmental Sustainability Prioritisation Strategy to improve the way we protect the natural environment and reduce Council's environmental footprint.

The Strategy focuses on getting Council's own 'house in order' by describing:

  • a series of environmental sustainability principles that we use to guide our actions and decision making;
  • a set of project prioritisation criteria to evaluate and rank projects based on the extent to which they support ecological sustainable development principles; and
  • the lead actions that Council will pursue to build on its existing and ongoing environmental sustainability activities.

Download the strategy(PDF, 12MB) for further details.

Procurement

Sustainable procurement refers to the purchase of goods or services that have a lesser or reduced affect on human health and the environment when compared with competing products or services that serve the same purpose. Such products or services may include, but are not limited to, those which contain recycled content, minimise waste, conserve energy or water, and reduce the amount of toxins disposed or consumed.

Council is progressively implementing a range of initiatives to reduce the environmental impact of its purchasing decisions. Examples of sustainable procurement initiatives include the use of recycled plastic products for park and street furniture, recycled office paper, low toxicity office stationery products, green cleaners and water/energy efficiency standards for white-goods and tap-ware.

Council’s Environmental Performance Schedule(PDF, 57KB) includes the criteria for purchases greater than $50,000. The Sustainable Products List(PDF, 31KB) includes the minimum standards for a range of energy and/or water consuming products. 

Public facilities

Council’s public facilities, such as swimming pools, art gallery and museums, are responsible for approximately 15% of the organisation's greenhouse gas emissions. Efforts to reduce impacts include the following.

New buildings

Council's Environmental Design Guidelines for new facilities include requirements for energy and water efficiency, waste minimisation, the use of local natives for landscaping and design that reduces reliance on the motor vehicle for facility access.

For further information please see Sustainable Design Guidelines for Council Buildings Protocol(PDF, 830KB).

Existing buildings

Council's existing facilities are being progressively improved to reduce their environmental footprint, with a specific focus on energy and water efficiency, waste management and walking and cycling access.

Recent improvements include skylights and 20 kW of rooftop solar incorporated in the Tweed Heads library upgrade, LED lights and motion sensors in Murwillumbah Civic Centre, and energy efficient high bay lighting at the Murwillumbah depot. 

Pools

In 2019 Council won the Aquatic Recreation Institute's Environmental Sustainability Award for embedding environmental improvements and innovations across our pools including:

  • Energy efficiency:
    • natural ventilation: by folding doors and louvres and external walls make the most of natural ventilation from breezes in summer.
    • variable speed drives on circulation pumps improve the efficiency of motors.
    • metal halide lamps have been replaced with LEDs.
  • Renewable energy: a 165 kW rooftop solar installation will create 24% of the Tweed Regional Aquatic Centre’s electricity needs and avoid 200 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, saving $42,500 of energy cost savings per year.
  • Water efficiency: timed showers and pool blankets prevent water loss.
  • Waste reduction: an audit has identified actions to reduce up to 80% of pools' waste to landfill through better recycling. A ‘Boomerang cups’ initiative helps patrons avoid single use takeaway coffee cups.
  • Sustainable purchasing: a review of cafe suppliers has reduced single use plastics and food waste.

Revolving Energy Fund 

In 2000, Council installed energy efficient lighting in its main office in Murwillumbah. This initiative cut the annual lighting bill by more than 50%. At the completion of the project Council decided that savings made from energy efficiency initiatives such as this should be set aside to fund additional energy efficiency initiatives and the Revolving Energy Fund (REF) was established as a result.

The REF is now an integral part of Council’s energy efficiency and greenhouse gas reduction program for existing infrastructure.

Initiatives implemented under the REF (e.g. solar heating for swimming pools, energy efficient lighting retrofits, power factor correction systems) have reduced local greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 600 tonnes of C02 each year. 

Vehicles

Council’s vehicle fleet is responsible for approximately 14% of the organisation's greenhouse gas emissions. Efforts to reduce impacts include the following.

Bicycle fleet

In 2008 Council introduced a bicycle fleet into its operations to reduce local greenhouse gas emissions, provide leadership to the community, demonstrate the benefits of bikes for corporate travel and increase staff opportunities for healthy active transport.

Staff can access bicycles from the main office, depot and wastewater treatment plants. 

Passenger vehicle fleet

In 2006 Council amended its lease-back agreement for passenger vehicles to encourage vehicle downsizing (i.e. smaller, more fuel efficient cars). Small and mid-sized vehicle options were improved and cheaper lease fees were established for these cars when compared to the traditional ‘company car’. Diesel passenger vehicles were also listed as an option for lease-back vehicles.

This initiative has proven to be very successful with more than 90% of staff with lease-back vehicles choosing to downsize their vehicle and has been complimented by the decision of Council’s executive staff to downsize their own vehicles.

Hybrid vehicles

In 2005 Council purchased a mid-sized hybrid fuel sedan for use within Council’s passenger vehicle fleet. The initiative sought to provide community leadership on reducing transport related greenhouse gas emissions while ‘testing the water’ on the suitability of hybrid vehicles in a non-metropolitan setting (e.g. servicing down time). 

The performance of the vehicle exceeded expectations and proved very popular with staff. A second hybrid vehicle was purchased in 2007, followed by a third in 2008. In 2009, hybrid vehicles were added to the lease-back vehicles list.

At the end of June 2022, Council's passenger vehicle fleet of 101 vehicles included 40 hybrid vehicles, exceeding the NSW Government 10% target for electric or hybrid vehicles in Government agencies’ passenger car fleets.

Water and sewer services

Energy consumption associated with the treatment and transport of town water and wastewater is responsible for approximately 50% of Council’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Efforts to reduce these impacts are focused on the delivery of initiatives in Council’s Renewable Energy Action Plan.

They include the following.

In August 2023, Council official opened the Tweed’s biggest solar array at the Banora Point Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Covering the size of a football field, 1,208 high-efficiency solar panels with a capacity of 604 kilowatts is helping power the plant, which is one of Council’s most power-hungry facilities.

In June 2023, Council replaced the plant’s aging blowers and Return Activated Sludge pumps with new high efficiency units - their replacement has reduced their power consumption by up to 7%.

Together, these energy efficiency projects are set to cut Council’s greenhouse gas emissions by 747 tonnes a year, saving at least $140,000 on electricity costs annually.

Other actions include reducing peak load consumption by pumping in off-peak times and designing networks to maximise the use of gravity for water and wastewater delivery.

Video - Tweed’s biggest solar array, housed at the Banora Point Wastewater Treatment Plant (0:45)