ECO-Buy’s latest report on local government green purchasing shows that in 2007/2008 its council members more than doubled the amount spent on more sustainable building and construction products

by Lynne Blundell

The global financial crisis has driven councils to be more sustainable in their focus, with Victorian councils significantly increasing spending on sustainable building and construction materials as well as energy efficient and water saving products, according to green purchasing organisation, ECO-Buy.

ECO-Buy’s latest report on local government green purchasing shows that in 2007/2008 its council members more than doubled the amount spent on more sustainable building and construction products, increasing from a total of $817,834 in 2006/2007 to $1,941,046 in 2007/08.

These included products and materials defined as greenhouse friendly, recycled or that had less impact on the environment and human health than other available products.

The amount spent on low energy lighting such as compact fluorescent light bulbs, efficient street lighting and solar and LED lights for outdoor use also doubled from $652,452 in 20007/07 to $1,255,425 in 2007/2008.

Spending on water saving devices and practices more than tripled over the year to $10,968,869, while spending on energy efficient vehicles increased from $13,699,321 in 2006/07 to $16,159,617 in 2007/08.

Eighty percent of ECO-Buy’s 59 local government members contributed to the annual report on green purchasing. In total the councils spent around $71.5 million on green products during the year.

This compares to just $5 million when the program began in 2000.

The report said the increase in water saving products is a good reflection of the efforts local governments are making to reduce their water use, particularly as many areas had suffered prolonged periods of drought.

Water saving products include drought resistant plants, retrofitted dual flush toilets, waterless urinals, composting toilets, water harvesting equipment such as water tanks and grey water systems, and flow regulators, low flow shower heads, and 4 Star and above dishwashers and washing machines.

Chair of ECO-Buy, Mike Hill, said that while the global financial crisis was putting a great strain on local government budgets this was driving more sustainable buying practices.

“Green purchasing principles of avoiding unnecessary purchasing not only help the bottom line, but avoid needless waste and resource use, and present a major opportunity during an Economic downturn.  It may well be that over the next several years the Economic cost effectiveness of buying more efficient products – products that reduce costs over the full lifecycle by using less electricity, fuel, water or consumables – is one of the central drivers for green purchasing,” said Hill.

ECO-Buy began in 2000 as the Local Government Buy Recycled Alliance (LGBRA). The LGBRA worked with Victorian local governments to increase the level of recycled content products purchased. In 2002, additional funding enabled the program to expand and encompass a full range of green products. The LGBRA then became the more comprehensive ECO-Buy program, which was funded by Sustainability Victoria, the

Municipal Association of Victoria and through the Victorian Greenhouse Strategy. 

ECO-Buy became an independent not for profit organization in 2007, funded by the Sustainability Fund, Sustainability Victoria and the Department of Sustainability and Environment. As well as its central program with Victorian local governments, ECO-Buy also works with large businesses, Victorian State Government departments and agencies, and Associate members in Victoria, Australia and internationally, to improve green purchasing. 

lblundell@thefifthestate.com.au