Going our own way

CHOICE has gone carbon neutral – here’s how we did it.

A few years ago we adopted the goal of making CHOICE carbon neutral by 2018. As an organisation that values science, it was impossible to ignore the evidence about human-induced climate change. And with more businesses and organisations taking action to reduce their carbon footprint, it seemed negligent not to think about what we could do.

We weren’t quite sure where to begin but being CHOICE, we started with data. We measured our carbon emissions – as best we could – to identify the major sources. Not surprisingly, this pointed to our electricity consumption.

The easiest problem to attack was the amount of electricity used in lighting, so we set about replacing fluorescents with LEDs throughout the building. This one small, relatively inexpensive change reduced our electricity use by about 15%.

We then tackled a more challenging and costly problem – replacing our ageing air conditioning units with modern technology.

And now, a new array of solar panels on the roof of our building are supplying a large chunk of our daily energy needs.

We’re now carbon neutral.

We’re proud to say that all of this has helped us to achieve formal certification as a carbon-neutral organisation. We now understand a lot more about our electricity use and carbon emissions, and what else we can do to reduce these. We’ve also learned some interesting things along the way.

Firstly, the payback from these initiatives comes in many forms. Besides the obvious cost savings, we’re enjoying a nicer working environment thanks to the new LED lights and modern air con. We’re also better able to attract and retain staff because a lot of people want to work for an organisation that cares about its social and environmental impact.

Secondly, even on a purely economic level our cost-benefit analysis tended to understate the benefits. Our calculations were all based on our electricity costs at the time, but as costs have continued to rise, the payback periods from each of these investments have become shorter and shorter.

But finally, what really struck me is that this whole process was much harder than it should have been. No government or energy retailer suggested we do this, or offered to help. We did it because we identified it was the right thing to do, and we were lucky to have experts in-house who understood what to do.

With all the debate about energy reliability and rising costs for households and industry, we seem to be missing something. Resolving this debate isn’t just about working out how to produce more energy, or about how it is generated. We can make much faster progress by helping everybody to use less, but on that front our governments seem to have dropped the ball.


Well done Alan and Choice!

Our current govt, being so anti-renewables, is unlikely to be of much help in reducing CO2 emissions for businesses. The same applies to the majority of energy companies, who burn fossil fuels and have a business model dependent on that, and gaming the electricity market.

Have you installed any battery storage, or plan to do so in the future?


Well done,… but, the information above indicates it is Choice’s head office building only. Maybe to prevent ‘greenwashing’, this could be clearly indicated in any media releases. Otherwise many might think that the printing and other related activities associated with the publication (e.g. travel) also fall into the same ‘carbon neutral’ category.


We’re certainly interested in batteries once we get a sense of how the solar performs. The case for batteries may not be as strong as for some households as we will be using power for most of the time that the solar is producing it - but there are still some daylight hours where our power use is relatively low, so it will be worth checking out, especially as battery prices come down.


Good point. It‘s actually the organisation that is carbon neutral and we do offset activities like travel to maintain that status. At this stage, however, our magazines are not separately certified as carbon neutral. We’ll be careful about the wording in future!


That’s good news!

That there is little or no help in this process is not surprising, and I’m sure nobody was surprised, just disappointed. Advice on energy and resource efficiency is something one would expect - unless of course you have a short term vested interest in selling energy and other resources or getting the tax component - as our pollies and energy suppliers do.

It also surprises me how small an amount consumers receive in other places for energy back to the grid. In the case of Choice I imagine the generation hours are within the consumption hours, so the benefit is not using grid power at full cost (a good thing) but for home consumers it is often terrible - they generate when not at home and get paid peanuts for it. I’m glad we get nearly 27c per kWh here :slight_smile:


After installing solar panels we found it very rewarding and then we realised that our electric hot water service came on at night eating up lots of energy. We have now isolated the hot water unit and have a separate power switch in the kitchen than we put on in sunny days to use the solar power, usually every second day as our hot water use will last at least two days. If no sunshine unfortunately we have to use mains power. All in all we have found this a big saving?


I remember the lightbulb moment when I turned off the breaker to my hot water service. That was maybe the first quarter of this year? I switched it on once for about 12 hours a month or two back … for the rest of the time the sun heats it. Many systems in this town have a press-button to turn the booster element on with a timer in the rare case that we experience those atmospheric phenomena known as ‘clouds’, but mine is just on a thermostat so the solution was to throw the breaker. Now its off pretty much all the time I’ve noticed the water is not scaldingly hot, but still far too hot to put my hand under a running tap or run the shower without plenty of cold tap.

Maybe since Choice has gone carbon neutral and identified the shortcomings of government and corporate assistance, the information learned and yet to be learned could be collated in some area of the Choice site or here, along with tips like running power hungry devices during solar hours, and the above.


Good idea @draughtrider, I’ll be sure to share it with my colleagues in content.


We do the same for our solar hot water and since Aug 2010, we have used 310kW to heat hot water using the booster element. Thus equates to about 43kW/yr or $6.50/yr. Prior to solar hot water, we used about 1100kW/yr to heat a 130L storage tank. We have effectively reduced our electricity consumption for hot water by about $96%.

We find that the hotwatet is sufficiently hot enough after 2-3 days of full cloud cover (overcast) in winter and 3-4 days in summer. We have a 310L storage tank.

In winter we turned off the hotwater mixing (tempering) device (mixes hot water and cold water to reduce temperatures coming out of a tap)…as in winter mixer cools the water too much as the reticulated supply is also cold with the hotwater not so hot as in summer.


Sound very much like what we did with out home, except we replaced a huge number of halogen down lights, and installed reverse cycle to augment ceiling fans, and replace winter heating.

I hope your solar PV panels fare better than ours. We installed REC245PE-BLK (Hosiden) solar PV panels five years ago, and having plotted the rebated production output of our solar panels from the electricity accounts, I am disappointed at the significant and continuing decline in output. (The panels are cleaned at least once a year, and there is no shadowing.)

The Federal Government should be putting out guidelines on these simple and not too expensive energy/cost savings ideas.


After reading all of the above, I decided to check our HW switch. We have had solar HW for at least 30 years.It was off, but I am not sure when I did that. Very reassuring.

We’ve also had 18 solar panels, ever since the Qld state government introduced its solar rebate. We are less impressed with that decision. They cost us $22,000 (yes!) the government rebate does not even come anywhere near covering our power bill. The technology has improved massively since we got ours, and I sometimes wonder if it would be worth our while paying the full cost to supplement (or even replace) our panels with modern ones. Obviously, the government is not about to give us another rebate.


Asking @gordon for his opinion and advice would be a great place to start in regards to your questions about supplementing/replacing your panels. Gordon is very knowledgeable in regards to Solar Power and I trust his expertise in this area without hesitation.


I Applaud and Congratulate Choice on a great achievement and having the determination to carry it out even though there is a political vacuum when it comes to doing and researching these changes.


I applaud everyone’s intentions to help our planet. However, carbon trading is the invention of global money institutions to created pretend currency to further add to their speculation stashes. The earth certainly needs nurturing and we need to reduce our footprint, be mindful of our consumption, eliminate the chemicals that are decimating our nutrition and our natural pollinators, and all the other good things we can do to save ourselves and our environment. I’ve seen many recent ‘outside mainstream’ evidence that shows that the globe is not warming and the icelands are not depleting… Everyone should do a little deep research into this subject, and stop subscribing to the global control march.

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The reality is there is evidence it changes corporate behaviour.


I recommend you focus on sources such as NASA, NOAA, the Bureau of Meteorology, ECMWF, DKRZ, NWS, EC, NCAR, and the many similar credible research organisations that do not cherry pick data. Your ‘outside mainstream’ is outside for a reason. It has to do with scientific rigour or the lack thereof.


Irrespective of whether one believes in global warming or not, the world can’t continue to deplete its finite resources. Once fossil fuels are burnt, they are gone for good potentially depriving future generations of the energy wealth we have today. As good global citizens, we all should be using our energy wisely and as efficiently as we can, especially if it is generated from the finite fossil fuels.

I am an optimist and believe that one day we will be using energy sources which are principally infinite, but until we have the technologies required for this to occur, we will continue to rely on fossil fuels. Likewise other countries who need energy to improve the quality of life of their citizens, just like the quality of life Australians enjoy.

Adoption by businesses to use energy more efficiently should be congratulated and makes good business sense. It may require initial capital investment, but the returns on investment will keep coming for many years to come…making business more cost efficient and profitable.

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CHOICE has been granted carbon neutrality for the third year running: