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Peregian Beach, increasingly choked by petrol cars.

Amid news of a worsening climate crisis, it’s reassuring to hear that the everyday person can take immediate, practical steps that help. That was the takeaway message from our recent innovative ‘paper-bag’ lunchtime event in Peregian Beach.

Well-known sustainability advocate Joe Shlegeris featured in a spirited Q&A session co-hosted by the Peregian Beach Community Association and Zero Emissions Noosa.

The session focused on the topic ‘Zero emissions: pipe dream or possibility’. A flow of questions from the enthusiastic audience produced both sobering and promising responses from Joe.

In answer to one question, he recommended three important steps that everyday citizens can take to reduce their share of emissions.

First, choose to buy 100% green energy from your retail provider.

Second, decide to never again buy a petrol-fuelled car, even if it means hanging on to your ageing vehicle until you can afford an EV.

Third, use a bicycle or e-bike to replace everyday short and medium distance car trips, and to even replace the second family car itself.

These steps, Joe explained, help reduce emissions, but also influence the big-picture policies and strategies being adopted by local councils, industry, businesses and institutions.

In Noosa, the big-picture future will necessitate large-scale renewable energy production and storage, perhaps a solar farm or big battery project. These might be in partnership with neighbouring local government areas. Noosa will certainly need innovative approaches to public transport, including small, electric buses.

Joe pointed out that, while unit owners and residents and their bodies corporate are keen to adopt solar, they need specific assistance and incentives. He added that safe cycling infrastructure is cheap and delivers big immediate progress. Councillor Brian Stockwell, in the audience, offered some valuable comments on these possibilities.

While Joe admitted the size of the challenge to reduce emissions, he agreed that Noosa Council’s goal of net zero emissions from its operations by 2026 was within reach. But he saw ZEN’s target of net zero emissions in the Noosa community by 2026 as more ambitious.

In response, ZEN president Anne Kennedy outlined some of ZEN’s community-based and cooperative strategies for meeting the emissions target. These include investigation of a large-scale community battery and a solar for strata project. The solar for strata project would assist body corporate managers and owners to install solar on strata title premises for business, residential and holiday accommodation.

Whether referring to motor cars, bottled water or everything in between, Joe said that everyone needs to realise that ‘What you buy is far more powerful than what you say, think, or like’. Put simply, consumers’ choices get noticed. They ultimately force companies to change their products and services. And they force governments to change how they encourage and regulate those products and services.

PBCA and ZEN were delighted by the success of the paper-bag lunchtime event. As the event drew to a close, participants agreed that these innovative gatherings should continue, with other vital issues being suggested as the focus for a spirited Q&A.

By Dr Brian Hoepper, PBCA spokesperson on climate change.

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