Up Bendigo way, an independent sustainability group has been helping the community access everything they need to live more sustainable lives for over a decade.
What do you do when you don’t think your local government is taking sustainability seriously? Simple: you set up your own sustainability group. At least, that’s what an enterprising group of sustainably-minded Bendigo locals did back in 2007.
Since then, the independent Bendigo Sustainability Group has initiated a huge range of sustainability schemes for the wider Bendigo community, and helped scores of locals with individual requests, queries and sustainability projects. In fact, across the Bendigo Local Government Area, there have been 9,764 install of solar in approximately 19% of all households. While the Bendigo Sustainability Group won’t take credit for all of those installations, ex-president of the organisation, Chris Weir, estimates that they had a hand in around 20-25% of them.
When it comes to sustainable action in Bendigo, these guys are the first stop. “It’s important, moving forward, for people to have a sustainable life,” says Chris. “We recorded some of the hottest temperatures on record this January, and if we don’t move fast enough towards using renewable energy and minimising our carbon footprint, future generations are going to pay a price.”
In 2016, the Bendigo Sustainability Group received support from Bank Australia for their renewable energy initiatives, which involved a $10,000 grant as well as a low-interest $10,000 loan. That money went directly towards the installation of a community-owned solar system on the Bendigo Archives Centre, a building that’s home to invaluable historical documents from the local area and beyond.
The solar system generates around 25% of the Archive Centre’s power and, because the solar system is owned by the community, BSG then bills the council for the 25% of power it used. That money then goes back into BSG, and helps fund other community projects. “A lot of people struggle to get past the first community-owned project,” says Chris. “But we’ve had six to date.” And there are more on the horizon. Most recently, BSG raised $60,000 from crowdfunding in just two months – the money will go towards community-owned solar for a community housing precinct and a table tennis centre.
Bank Australia have also provided sponsorship for a range of other initiatives over the years, such as the Bendigo Sustainable House Day. “I’m a big believer in the idea of small acorns growing into big oak trees,” says Chris. “So the help from Bank Australia, that financial package, has really kicked us up a couple of levels, and enabled us to look at more commercial-type projects with confidence. It’s been great – we’re really grateful to the bank for that.”
The organisation’s work spans the full gamut of the sustainability conversation, and does everything it can to include as much of the community as possible. Whether they’re providing information sessions about energy efficiency and installing energy displays to help disadvantaged households get on top of their usage, hosting sustainable Q&A sessions and guest speakers at the pub, or taking on huge solar installation projects for hundreds of homes and businesses at a time – its work is far-reaching.
“We’re one of the strongest sustainable community groups in Australia,” says Chris. “And different people will tap into us and our resources depending on their needs. You might have young couples buying a new house, or older couples and families looking to renovate, and we can help them find out how to cut down their expenses or their energy bills, how to grow things in their backyard, reducing their water usage, getting involved with solar and much more. We’re sort of the go-to guides in terms of a trusted source for sustainability.”
As a customer owned bank, we believe it’s important to use our customers’ money in responsible ways, like lending to community renewable energy projects. By choosing to bank with Bank Australia you can be confident your money is working to create a positive impact for people and the planet. Find out more.