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Accounting for Carbon

What’s a carbon audit anyway? 

Once you’ve committed to reducing your carbon emissions, it’s important to know where you’re starting from. But what do you include in the count? It’s easy to get data for all energy purchases – information is included on electricity and gas bills – but how do you account for paper use, staff commutes, waste to landfill, and other sources of carbon emissions?  And as The Blue Room is a theatre, of course we encourage people to attend shows, so should we include their travel?

Taking the last one first, well, the short answer is no, not yet.  We’ve talked about this quite a lot, and ultimately we would like to influence people to make “green” travel choices, but there are difficulties associated with gathering data about audience travel. Sometimes the object of travel is split (for example, someone stays after work for a show, or has a meal in Northbridge before or  afterwards) in apportioning our share of emissions – this is the area over which we have least control: other people’s choices and the factors that influence them.  We haven’t rolled over and died on this issue; let’s just say we want to get our own house in order first!

So, back to us – or Arts House, really, as it’s the whole building including our fellow tenants Propel. There are various audit tools available online to help you quantify your carbon emissions.  But none of them seemed to be appropriate for a theatre, and as we were concerned about comparability within our industry (especially if carbon emissions reduction became a condition of funding), we investigated the possibility of getting a professional audit done.  As I said in a previous post, we applied for and got a grant from the City of Perth, and engaged Sam and Vanessa of Simply Carbon.

The beauty of using Simply Carbon was that they report “in accordance with international GHG accounting standards and the National Carbon Offset Standard (NCOS)”. This means that the methodologies used are sound and comparable. Here’s what they measured:

  • Refrigerant leakage
  • Purchased natural gas for water heating
  • Purchased electricity
  • Commute – Car and public transport
  • Mixed waste to landfill
  • Transmission and Distribution (T&D) losses from purchased electricity
  • Office paper
  • Waste

One thing they didn’t measure was air travel – because we forgot to tell them about it!  But interestingly, when we did remember and had a conversation about it, Sam and Vanessa told us that purchasing a carbon offset when you buy your ticket really does make it okay.  The carbon offset program is strictly audited; so our firm policy for business travel now is to add on the offset.

Sam and Vanessa gathered data from our energy and waste disposal invoices, from staff commute surveys, and from a comprehensive tour of the building.  Then they crunched the numbers to come up with a report of The Blue Room’s carbon footprint.

Next time: the findings…

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