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Conference inspires sustainable approach to product purchase

There is more to "buying green" than purchasing recycled paper and committing to sustainability.

The Environment Division’s industry liaison officer, Damien Blackwell, recently attended the third national Buying Green Conference and was inspired by what he heard, saw and read.

Hosted by the Western Australian Local Government Association in Perth, the conference attracted more than 100 delegates, representing all levels of government and an eclectic mix of businesses.

The main conference themes included:

• Buying green strategies, for State and local governments and industry

• Easy and practical ways of becoming a Buying Green organisation

• Life Cycle Management strategies, including product stewardship, life cycle assessment, eco-design strategies and eco-labelling

• Tools to help you buy green, including product/ knowledge databases , green purchasing guidelines and accreditation programs

Key note speaker Professor Ryoichi Yamamoto, President of the International Green Purchasing Network (Japan), delivered a remarkable 145 slide opening address about the green procurement experience in Japan.

Professor Yamamoto also shared with delegates examples of the activities of the very proactive International Green Purchasing Network. His main messages included that:

• Eco-innovation and spreading eco-technology are vitally important to achieve the goals of the Kyoto Protocol and the Asia-Pacific Partnership;
• A legal framework to secure green purchasing is necessary; and
• Businesses and governments are expected to practise green purchasing as well as to supply eco-products and services

Local speakers gave a snapshot of the Australian experience with green procurement, through a range of practical case studies in both business and government.

Major event sponsors Corporate Express, Alinta and the Water Corporation of Western Australia joined other exhibitors to showcase green products and services and provide delegates with real examples of green purchasing successes.

The conference setting provided the perfect opportunity to draw together and disseminate practical green procurement information, resources and experiences.

Delegates were encouraged to consider the real economic, social and environmental costs, over the course of a product’s whole life cycle, when making purchasing decisions.

Tim Grant, Assistant Director at the Centre for Design, outlined the life cycle assessment of a fridge to highlight how most of the greenhouse impacts are due not to the manufacture, operation and disposal of the fridge but the goods contained within the fridge!

Through case studies, Tim demonstrated the need to be aware of all the variables that influence a product’s life cycle assessment, including being aware of the product’s potential effects on other life cycles.

Day two concluded with a visit to Piney Lakes Environmental Education Centre, located within the City of Melville and highlighting renewable energy technologies, sustainable building design and sensitive environmental development.

The Centre is largely self-sufficient, and leads by example in solar passive design, solar and wind generated power and water, materials and waste management.

Conference delegates developed a comprehensive set of actions to take forward to all levels of government and industry urging these institutions to adopt green purchasing practices.

Queensland Government’s Department of Public Works will host the 4th Buying Green Conference during 2008, most likely in Brisbane.

For more information, such as conference proceedings and a list of delegates and exhibitors, please contact Damien Blackwell on 6233 7850 or damien.blackwell@environment.tas.gov.au.