Actsmart Business Sustainability Awards 2016

Wendy Johnson

It was the perfect setting, even though the morning was foggy and windy. The venue was the National Arboretum.

The event was the Actsmart Business Sustainability Awards 2016.

In its eighth year, the awards celebrate Canberra businesses that have ramped up waste management and recycling, and improved their energy and water use.

So what motivates these local businesses? Simple. Saving money, keeping our cool capital sustainable and, as an added bonus, helping the world tackle climate change.

The 50-odd businesses judged for this year’s awards are all with Actsmart sustainability programs. The range of programs are all run for free to help businesses figure out the many ways they can recycle and decrease energy and water use.

The Smith Family with the Minister

The Smith Family with the Minister Simon Corbell

Here’s the big-picture on how it all works.

A business simply contacts Actsmart to set up a time for experts to assess operations onsite. The experts whip up a tailored report, itemising steps businesses can take—ranging from improvements that don’t cost anything, to measures requiring an investment but producing impressive results. The Actsmart team even provides staff training and works with businesses on accreditation. All for free.

Saving money is a big-ticket motivation for many businesses, and fair enough. Why throw hard-earned profits out the window when you can put them in the bank? You’d be nuts as a business owner to do this. Others are just as motivated to help protect our environment and be a decent corporate citizen.

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What is amazing about the businesses at the awards is their diversity, proving that any business in the ACT can get smart with sustainability.

The 2016 lists includes child care centres, a bar, bakery, hair salon, community organisation, law firm, building services company, construction company, hospital, embassy, organisers of events and more. The businesses also vary remarkably in size, from only a few staff to hundreds.

Individually these businesses have achieved a lot, and collectively even more. To think what could be accomplished for the ACT on the environmental front if all businesses got into gear to go green.

There are too many winners this year to list in one article—12 across eight categories with five businesses highly commended. We toast them all and share the results from a few winners, to show that this isn’t all pie in the sky.

A joint winner of the Energy and Water Star Awards is the Spence Family Bakery. Its 25-year-old oven was eating up profits and adding to the $1,500 per month energy bill. The bakery used their $5,000 Actsmart rebate to buy a new oven.

Seeing the benefits, it also took the initiative to upgrade 20 fluro lights with LED lights and replace an old chest freezer. The new oven alone is saving this small business about $3,000 a year and more than nine tonnes of CO2 a year.

Spence Family Bakery with the Minister

Spence Family Bakery with the Minister Simon Corbell

The other winner of this award, the Smith Family in Woden, received a $5,000 rebate which they put towards an upgrade of the heating and cooling system, saving $6,500 a year on energy bills and more than 20 tonnes of CO2 a year. Not bad going, huh?

Celebrating recycling is big at the Actsmart awards. Canberra loves a good festival. These events attract thousands but can cause havoc with waste without proper recycling in place. So hat’s off to two events that won awards for recycling.

The Canberra Balloon Spectacular attracted 40,000 visitors and hosted a big breakfast. The recycling figures over the event’s nine days are staggering—714 kilograms of mixed recycling, 153 kilograms of organics, 148 kilograms of cardboard and 30 litres of cooking oil. The CBR Hottest 100 Beach Party, held on Australia Day, is also a winner in this category, attracting 300 visitors and recycling 511 kilograms of organic and mixed recycling that would have ended up in landfill.


Photo by Martin Ollman

Small businesses are to be applauded too, like Eden Hair and Beauty in Dickson, highly commended for leadership by Minister Simon Corbell, Minister for the Environment and Climate Change, ACT Government. Reducing waste by recycling is one thing the salon is dedicated too, but they stretch further with clever thinking, like sweeping up hair and using it to make ‘hair blooms’ for use in cleaning up oil spills.

More than 1000 businesses have signed up to Actsmart programs, kicking big goals for the environment and the bottom line. There are thousands more businesses operating in the capital that need to get involved. Why not? It’s a win-win.

Find out more at

Feature image by Martin Ollman

Wendy Johnson

Wendy Johnson graduated with a Master’s Degree in Journalism from Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada, a few decades ago. She’s been living in Australia since 1995, having fallen in love with eucalypt trees and kangaroos. Wendy is passionate about Canberra and all the nation’s capital has to offer. She loves to write (about everything and anything) and owns her own pr and advertising business. More about the Author