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Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

More with Less - Initiatives to promote sustainable consumption

Environmental Economics Research Paper No.3
Prepared by Deni Greene Consulting Services,
Australian Consumers Association and National Key Centre for Design, RMIT for the
Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories

Commonwealth of Australia, 1996
ISBN 0 642 24869 9

Detailed Analysis of Initiatives

Increasing the Efficiency of Water Use

Australians use large quantities of water in their homes and gardens. In most areas, this water is distributed by a water supply system and is treated to drinking water quality. This means that the more water used, the greater the environmental impact of dam construction and energy and chemicals used in water treatment. In addition, water used inside the home generally ends up in a sewage treatment system or stormwater system. The treatment of sewage requires energy, and all disposal results in environmental impacts on the receiving water body. Use of hot water requires further energy for heating, which results in additional environmental impacts.

Increasing the efficiency of water use means achieving the same desired outcomes, such as washing clothes, showering or having an enjoyable garden, while using less water.

The main indicators of change are per capita and total water consumption.  

Initiative Lismore Rebates on Water Efficient Toilets and Showerheads
Location Lismore, NSW
Date 1993
Initiator Lismore City Council
Type of Initiative Financial incentive
Description Council conducted a trial incentives program, in which domestic customers were offered cash rebates up to half the purchase price of a water saving shower head or a 6/3 litre dual flush toilet. Maximum rebates were $30 for shower heads and $60 for toilets.

The trial followed the 1992 introduction of a new charging system for water. The new system includes a fixed or service charge related to the size of the water service and a charge per 1000 litres for all water consumed. The previous system was based on property value and a `free allowance' amounting to 400,000 litres annually for average domestic customers.

Advertising for the rebate program was designed to build on the awareness generated through the Water is Money campaign associated with the new billing system. The rebate trial was widely publicised. The total funds available for the project were $28,000, of which about $12,000 was required for administration, advertising and other costs, leaving about $16,000 available for rebates.

Results of Initiative Allocated funds for rebates were exhausted in exactly one month. Total sales for the trial period were 468 items for a total of 420 customers. It is noteworthy that many customers purchased a shower head and toilet, despite the fact that a rebate was only payable on one item. Others purchased two shower heads. Rebates averaged $35 per item, or $38 per customer. The number of customers obtaining rebates represented 4.6 percent of all domestic water customers, which is fairly exceptional for one month of sales of consumer goods. Even after rebates were no longer available, sales of efficient show-er heads and toilets were substantially higher than before the trial program. Sales of 6/3 toilets in the month following the trial were 209, compared to 154 in the month before the trial, and 300 during the rebate program. Sales of efficient shower heads were 154 in the month after the trial, 95 in the month before the trial, and 326 dur-ing the rebate program.

Water savings from the items purchased during the trial are estimated to be 13.2 million litres per year.Although substantial economies of scale could be gained on administrative costs for a larger rebate program, even this trial produced savings at a cost of 14 cents per 1000 litres for shower heads and 21 cents per 1000 litres for toilets, compared to a long run marginal cost of 80 cents per litre for augmenting supply with a new dam.

Influences on Outcome Extensive local promotion
Applicability Applicable to other locations and to other types of products which produce beneficial environmental impacts.
Reference White, S, Preferred Options, for T. Fiander and Associates (1994) Report on the Lismore Water Efficient Hardware Incentives Trial, Lismore City Council.


Initiative Hunter Water Corporation's User-Pays Pricing
Location Lower Hunter Region, NSW
Date 1982
Initiator Hunter Water Board, now Hunter District Water Corporation
Type of Initiative Economic instrument
Description In 1982 Hunter District Water Board introduced a two-part tariff for its residential customers. The first part of the tariff consists of a fixed charge, independent of consumption, based on the service capacity provided; this is intended to cover the fixed costs of providing service. The second part involves a variable charge based on a charge per kilolitre of water consumed/sewage generated. Sewage generated is not metered but is considered to be half the water used. The initial fixed and variable charges did not reflect the respective cost elements in any precise way.
Results of Initiative During the 1970s, water consumption gradually increased. In 1980, drought restrictions were imposed and consumption was reduced by 20 percent. Restrictions were removed in January 1982, and there was a slight upturn in consumption. After imposition of the user-pays tariff, average consumption declined by 10 percent in the first year, and another 10 percent in the second year. Over the nine years after its introduction, consumption was reduced by 30 percent against the trend that existed prior to the 1980–82 restrictions.

Higher consuming customers reduced use by the largest amount, 60 percent. Middle range consumers reduced by 15 percent, and lower range consumers, except for those below 100 kilolitres per year, held roughly constant. Customers below 100 kilolitres show a significant increase in consumption, but this is considered to be attributable to the use of more accurate water meters. Elasticity of water consumption has therefore been found to be highest at high consumption (-0.70); low at average consumption (-0.20), and very inelastic at low consumption (-0.05). This implies a residential consumption of around 400 kilolitres if water is not charged for, which is about the range discovered by a survey of country towns around Newcastle that did not have a user-pays tariff.

Influences on Outcome Unknown
Applicability Applicable to other locations and to other types of services.

Broad, P.A., Hunter Water Corporation (1992) The `User- P a y s ' Principle: How its Introduction Can Prepare Service Providers for a Competitive Service Environment. A Case Study by the Hunter Water Corporation.

Reducing the Impact of Recreation on Natural Resources

Recreation patterns of Australians and people in other industrialised countries differ markedly from those of people in less developed countries. Recreation in Australia is much more likely to entail travel by car or plane, often to distant locations, and to involve use of equipment, some of which may be motorised. Because of the ease of travel, relatively large numbers of people may vacation in fragile natural areas. Both the mode of recreation and the location in which it occurs may result in environmental impacts. The use of energy for travel and use of motorised boats, snowmobiles or other equipment causes air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Other aspects of travel consume resources, whose production results in a range of environmental impacts. Activities in natural areas may result in damage to water quality and to the flora and fauna of the area.

The aim of initiatives associated with recreation is to provide the same level of enjoyment from recreation with lessened impact on resource consumption and the environment.

Indicators of change are fuel used or distance traveled for vacations, water quality in streams and other water bodies in recreation areas, and other site-specific indicators of reduced impact.


Initiative Minimising Discharge of Sewage from Boats
Location Gippsland Lakes, Victoria
Date 1993
Initiator Environmental Protection Authority, Victoria
Type of Initiative Education; provision of infrastructure proposed
Description Victorian EPA has taken steps to address concerns about pollution from recreational boats in the Gippsland Lakes, particularly in popular overnighting locations. In cooperation with the boating community, it has developed a code of practice. The code provides design criteria for on-board sewage holding tanks and portable toilets. The provisions related to holding tanks will not become applicable until onshore pumpout facilities are available. The code states that compliance with it is voluntary, but if it fails to prevent the discharge of sewage from boats into the Lakes, the introduction of regulations would be considered.

Government undertook to fund installation and operation of the on-shore pump out facilities at four existing fuel jetties ($102,515 installation and $34,600 annual operating costs for four stations). Remote facilities would be served by a service boat that also sold groceries, ice, and newspapers. The EPA is requesting local governments to require, as part of planning approval, the installation of pump out stations by developers of new large scale marina developments.

Results of Initiative Government failed to provide funds in the 1994–95 or 1995–96 bud-get for costs of installing and operating pump out facilities. Until these facilities are installed, the requirements in the code of practice regarding holding tanks are not operative. There has not yet been any change in practices.
Influences on Outcome Lack of Government commitment, i.e., failure to fund facilities.
Applicability Voluntary codes of practice are applicable to other locations and to other types of activities.

It is perhaps worth noting that New South Wales has adopted a different approach to the problem of sewage from boats. Three years ago, NSW adopted legislation prohibiting discharge of sewage from boats into Sydney Harbour and other waterways and required all boats with toilets to be fitted with holding tanks. The Government funded three pump out stations in Sydney Harbour, and spent substantial effort on education and materials and activities. All operators of marinas with greater than nine berths were required to install pump out facilities for their customers, although they could charge for use of these facilities.

As the legislation was adopted without community consultation, there was some initial resistance from boat owners in Sydney. In response to this, the NSWGovernment funded operation of a mobile service boat for two years. This subsidy has ended, and a private operation is being undertaken. The legislation has been welcomed in other parts of the state.

Reference Environmental Protection Authority (Victoria) (1993) Code of Practice. Installation and Operation of On-Board Sewage Holding Facilities for Boats on the Gippsland Lakes.

Meltzer, D. (1995) Sewage Disposal from Boats.

Meltzer, D., Victorian EPA, Gippsland (1995), personal communication.

Brix-Nielson, L., NSW Waterways Authority (1995) personal communication.


Initiative Tasmanian Minimum Impact Bushwalking Campaign
Location Tasmania
Date on-going since summer of 1985–86
Initiator Tasmanian Department of Parks, Wildlife and Heritage
Type of Initiative Education, regulation
Description A Minimal Impact Bushwalking campaign is being conducted to combat the environmental impacts caused by increasing numbers of walkers visiting Tasmanian National Parks. The campaign's messages are burial of human waste and carrying out of rubbish, use of fuel stoves instead of campfires, where and how to walk, `no trace' camping, not feeding wildlife, and avoiding use of detergents or soap in waterways. A variety of written materials was developed, including pamphlets, a video, posters, and a teacher's kit, as well as articles for the media. These were supplemented by information provision by rangers. Materials were assessed using qualitative market research techniques and widely distributed to organisations that provide information to bushwalkers.
Results of Initiative Prior to inception of the campaign, up to half of all walkers on the Overland track in Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park reportedly got sick from gastroenteritis. Since the campaign began, with its message about burying human wastes away from campsites and watercourses, there have been no outbreaks of gastroenteritis.

The impact on building campfires was surveyed over four years. In 1986, 70 percent of campers on the alpine end of the Overland track. After a campaign in which signs were posted saying Fuel Stove-Only Area, and rangers recommended use of stoves, the numbers of campers who said they had campfires on some nights declined to 47 percent in 1986, 27 percent in 1988, and 9 percent in 1989. In areas where less camper education was carried out, only minor or no behaviour shifts were found. The education campaign was supplemented by regulatory measures in 1989; in specified Fuel Stove Only areas, people can be fined up to $5000 for lighting a fire.

Improvements in camper practices occurred with respect to other issues, including carrying out rubbish, staying on tracks in tracked area, avoidance of damage to soil and vegetation at campsites, and elimination of soap and detergent use.

Officers responsible for the campaign have found that interstate and new bushwalkers readily accept the requirements placed on them; long time users of the areas are initially somewhat resistant to changes in longstanding practices.

Influences on Outcome World Heritage Area status reinforces message that the area is worth protection.
Applicability Applicable and being applied in many other natural areas.
Reference O'Loughlin, T. (1993) Walk Softly, In Hall, C. and McArthur, S, editors, Heritage Management in New Zealand and Australia, Visitor management, interpretation, and marketing, Auckland, Oxford University Press.

Rheinberger, B., Parks and Wildlife Service, Tasmania (1995), personal communication.


Investing in Sustainability

Superannuation funds are the fastest growing source of investment capital and will soon be, if they are not already, the largest source. The way in which people invest for their retirement will dramatically affect the economy as a whole. In the United States and the United Kingdom, consumers are recognising they can achieve their aim of retirement security while investing in companies or institutions whose environmental or ethical aims they support. Companies which want to attract such investors are motivated to change aspects of their operations that might discourage investment.

The aim of 'green' or ethical investment is to influence the way industry performs.

The only indicator of ethical investment is the amount of money invested in self-declared ethical funds or through investment advisors specialising in such investments.


Initiative Investment in Green Superannuation Funds
Location Australia-wide
Date on-going
Initiator Non-government organisations, private sector
Type of Initiative Financial products
Description A number of organisations and companies are now offering superannuation funds which specify that their money will be invested in ethical or environmentally responsible ways. Several investment advisers are also offering services based around this form of investment.
Results of Initiative About $45 million is currently invested in ethical or green funds in Australia. This is obviously a tiny percentage of invested funds, but interest in ethical and targeted investment is growing. It is much more widespread in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Influences on Outcome Declarations like the recent announcement of the Uniting Church that it will reconsider its investments in BHP because of that company's action on the OK Tedi mine could have a significant impact on investments in ethical investments. If the Uniting Church actually proceeds to change its investments and publicises its action, this would substantially increase the credibility of ethical investment.
Applicability Many individuals and organisations could be motivated to invest their money in line with their ethical and environmental principles so long as their financial objectives are also achieved. Wi t h increased understanding and credibility, such funds could become much larger and more widespread, as they are overseas.
Reference Carpenter, J. , S&B Investments (1995), personal communication.

Dreyfus, S. (1994) Money and Morals. An ethical investment buying guide, Soft Technology, Number 50.

Money Management/ASSIRT performance tables.

Return to List of Initiatives Analysed in detail

Success of Initiatives

The Study Team has used the information obtained in its analysis of initiatives to make an assess-ment of the level of success of each initiative, along with a judgment about probable reasons for success or failure. These evaluations are shown in Table 3.

Table 3. Evaluation of Selected Initiatives

Initiative Level of Success Reason for Success or Failure

Changing Transport Patterns

Altering the Mode of Travel

Encouraging Public Transport Use in North Sydney high no choice
Perth Northern Suburbs Transit System alternative high quality of service; desirable
$200 Levy on Sydney Car Park Spaces nil avoidable
Adelaide Northeast (O-Bahn) Busway moderate improved amenity (speed of travel)
Bicycle Victoria, Ride to Work Campaign low loss of amenity
Car Pooling Pilot Program, Royal Automobile Club of Victoria (RACV) low little gain for participants
Shellharbour Trial of Computerised Bus Demand Management System low no advertising; high cost; impractical

Changing Fuels and Vehicles

Increased excise tax on leaded petrol high point of sale price information in context of high awareness of benefit
Introduction of Natural Gas Buses in Sydney, Adelaide and other cities moderate consumer has no choice
National Average Fuel Consumption Targets nil voluntary agreement between government and industry — no incentive

Changing Urban Form and Development

Australian Model Code for Residential Development (AMCORD) low insufficient incentives for developers; resistance of neighbours

Improving Energy Efficiency

Leichhardt Council, Development Control Plan 17 high no choice; improved knowledge, moral support; bandwagon effect
South East Queensland Electricity Board Rebates for Energy Efficient Homes nil poor targeting; low cost benefit
Energy Rating Labelling of Electrical Appliances moderate point of sale consumer impact; broad market influence on manufacturers because mandatory
Queensland Grants for Installation of Solar Water Heaters high high cost-benefit; removal of price barrier, removal of hassle

Reducing the Impact of Food Production

Sale of Organic Food low benefit uncertain

Reducing Consumption of Harmful Chemicals

Albury Phosphorus Awareness and Reduction Campaign high good education; high awareness; point of sale impact
Regulations for Ozone-Depleting Substances high no choice for consumers; alternatives cheaper for manufacturers

Reducing Resources Used in Consumer Products

Marketing of Recycled and Unbleached Paper Products moderate media publicity, public education
National Recycling Plan Targets low voluntary for manufacturers; not aimed at consumers; not monitored; not a market initiative
Queensland Tyre Recycling Program moderate mandatory aspect, incentives, but not as good as possible because no consumer involvement/orientation
Recycle Maroochy Program high incentive to act; education at point of activity; incentives to conform
Melbourne Pay-by-Weight Waste Minimisation Trial nil failure of equipment, negative effect
Ban on Recyclables in Rubbish high mandatory, threat, education

Increasing the Efficiency of Water Use

Lismore Rebates on Water Efficient Toilets and Showerheads high incentive to act, education, media
Hunter Water Corporation's User-Pays Pricing high incentive to act, education, media

Reducing the Impact of Recreation on Natural Resources

Minimising Discharge of Sewage from Boats, Gippsland Lakes nil no incentive, problematic to comply
Tasmanian Minimum Impact Bushwalking Campaign high media, education combined with regulatory action

Investing in Sustainability

Investment in Green Superannuation Funds very low investor has mixed motives; no independent information to reassure

Contents for Detailed Analysis

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