We're currently exploring how we might evolve to best contribute toward a future in which we and future generations can live safely, happily and sustainably. Read on for the background...
Over the past two decades Sustainable Living Tasmania has undertaken many valuable activities, including:
- Running scores of community-based programs, including the extraordinary Sustainable Living Festivals.
- Supporting many environmental and social welfare groups with space to meet and hold events, promotion, financial auspicing, insurance coverage, strategic guidance, and moral support.
- Helping almost five thousand Tasmanian households on low incomes to make their homes more comfortable and reduce their energy bills through audits and upgrades.
- Giving free advice on living sustainably to countless more.
- Facilitating the installation of insulation, energy efficient appliances, and solar panel systems on many hundreds of Tasmanian homes through bulk buys and Eco Home Guide.
- Advocating for strong action on climate change and other environmental issues.
We thank you our staff, volunteers, supporters who have helped with many of these actions.
As for many not-for-profit organisations, raising enough income to sustain the physical premises and professional management required to deliver such services is a major challenge. We have depended largely on government funding, which has always been fickle, and has seen our organisation go through many ups and downs over our nearly 50 year history. The past 5 years has been particularly difficult. Federal Labor’s election promises on community renewable energy and solar on schools – two things we have been strongly advocating for in recent years – gave us hope, but of course have not eventuated. And the Liberal-National Government is not funding any such programs that we can play a significant role in delivering.
Having long been acutely aware of these challenges, in recent years we strove to become more financially resilient by developing two income streams that aren’t reliant upon governments:
- Commercial consulting – delivering energy, carbon, and waste audits on a fee-for-service basis for organisations; including schools, aged care facilities, health care facilities, local governments, tourism operators, offices, farms, and more. While we have recently achieved some success here, it is not raising enough to cover our overheads.
- Eco Home Guide – a social enterprise that helps households to live more sustainably and which makes income through commissions on products and services from Tasmanian businesses. This is an approach that has been taken by several of our mainland counterparts to varying degrees of success. While it showed early promise for us, Tasmania’s smaller population and tightening margins for our partner businesses have rendered the enterprise not financially viable. As such, we will be discontinuing Eco Home Guide at the end of July.
Most recently, we tendered to run a large low-income energy efficiency program for the Tasmanian Government. While we pioneered this type of program in Tasmania, we were beaten on price by a larger commercial consultancy.
At one level, these outcomes are signs of success: Where we were once pioneers, is now a competitive sector. While seeking to understand and reduce one's environmental impact was once unusual, it is now mainstream. While energy efficiency and renewable energy were once expensive novelties, there are now mature markets delivering relatively affordable products and services.
Despite these positive developments, humanity continues toward a collision with Earth’s ecological limits. And so, as the organisation has done on several occasions over our history, it is time for Sustainable Living Tasmania to re-invent itself.
In the meantime, we have reached a critical point and have had to make some hard decisions. From the end of August 2019 until our new direction is clear, we will become a volunteer-led organisation with no office. This will keep a nest-egg in the bank that could resource a re-imagined organisation or other opportunities. Todd Houstein will change roles from Executive Officer and, with his great skill and thoroughness, continue the consultancy work mentioned above, helping to build the nest-egg. We will continue to support a number of community groups such as Education for Sustainability Tasmania, Plasticwise Taroona, Creek Road Community Garden, the Food Garden Group, and others.
So, tell us how you think a Tasmanian community-based not-for-profit organisation can best contribute toward a future in which we and future generations can live safely, happily and sustainably. Contact us here.
Shane Bartel (President) and Todd Houstein (Executive Officer)