Our environmental contribution

As an organisation, we are conscious of our own carbon footprint. We continue to work to reduce our organisation’s greenhouse gas emissions and to manage our 2,700 hectares of forestry, which provide a significant carbon sink (natural systems that suck up and store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere).  

Taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Reduce greenhouse gas emissions We will soon be measuring our greenhouse gas emissions, to report the progress that has been made since an independent report (PDF file, 511 KB) analysed the organisation's emissions for the 2017 calendar year. That report showed the tangible ways in which the organisation had reduced its level of emissions and highlighted where we could make ongoing improvements. 

Among other things, the report highlighted:

  • a 26% reduction per staff member in greenhouse gas emissions since 30 June 2010, putting us on track to contributing to the internationally recognised Paris Agreement national target of a 30% reduction by 2030;
  • the removal of 5,755.5 tonnes more greenhouse gases than is emitted, due to forestry sequestration (NB the offset figure relates to only the very small part of total forestry assets that are eligible for units under the Emissions Trading Scheme – the actual carbon being sequestered is far higher); and
  • an increase in the amount of waste sent to landfill (by 10%), based on kilograms per staff member.

The full story is available here: Positive emissions report sets tone for behaviour change.

Other actions

Examples of other actions we are taking as an organisation to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions include the following:

Tuam Street office
Environment Canterbury Tuam Street office in Christchurch

In November 2018 we installed a solar system on the roof, which was extended in December 2019. The 184 panels have the potential to generate over 55,000 kWh of electricity per year.

We continue to review and improve all aspects of the Tuam Street building's environmental performance, which includes the ongoing tuning of the HVAC system to ensure it is operating as efficiently as possible. In February 2020, our Tuam Street building received a 5-star NABERSNZ whole building energy performance rating, which is deemed "market-leading" performance, up from 4.5 stars the year before. The NABERSNZ scale, from 0 to 6, shows energy performance compared to other buildings.

Waste audits are helping us understand the amount and types of wastes the organisation produces, as this is an area we can improve in by sending less to landfill. The audits have found that waste sorting practices are good, with minimal contamination of paper and organic waste stream, but sorting of recyclables could be better. In addition to environmental benefits, waste reduction might save money through lower disposal costs. A specific benchmark for waste does not yet exist, however we are positioned to have the first NABERSNZ waste rating in New Zealand when this is available.

In time we will also apply for a Green Star Performance Rating for Tuam Street from the New Zealand Green Building Council.

Low-emission transport

Cyclist removes bus from bike rackWe encourage the use of alternative, low-emission transport options by our staff and the community, such as cycling and public transport. We have added electric bikes and electric scooters as another way for our staff to get to meetings in other parts of the city. Our bike shed houses over 100 personal bikes from staff who cycle to work year round.

We were a foundation member of Yoogo, now Zilch, and all staff have access to their shared electric vehicle (EV) fleet at The Crossing. We also have some of their vehicles in our fleet.  In 2019 we replaced our small SUV vehicle class with hybrid-RAV 4. By 2022, 50% of our passenger vehicles will be hybrid or long-range electric. Our vehicle procurement has meant that between 2017 and 2019 we reduced our GHG emissions by 5.61%, with 2020 procurement expected to reduce this by a further 8.67%. This would be a total reduction of 135 tonnes of carbon emissions per year.  

Staff are encouraged to hold meetings by video link where possible, otherwise to carpool where practical. Staff can travel throughout Canterbury using Intercity buses. We try to travel by air only when necessary, and invest into our own programmes, such as biodiversity, rather than using commercial offset schemes that would incur costs on ratepayers.

In addition, the Public Transport contracts have recently been renegotiated, which has accelerated the move to new, low-emission buses. This will reduce the CO₂ emissions by 14% within their first year with the introduction of 25 new electric buses and 39 new low-emission Euro 6 buses.

Single-use plastic bag ban

Plastic waste in the oceanOur Council Chair signed a letter, sent to the Associate Minister for the Environment in July 2017, calling for a levy on single-use plastic bags, alongside over 60 other Mayors and Chairs of local government organisations across New Zealand.

Since then, a total ban has been announced by the government, with all single-use bags to be phased out before the end of 2019.

Read more from the Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) website.

Printing efficiency


We are conscious of being efficient and having minimal waste when it comes to printing. In 2018 we refreshed our printer fleet, selecting ink jet printers to replace ageing toner cartridge ones. Ink jet printers are far superior from an environmental impact and sustainability perspective.

In 18 months, the new fleet dropped print volume by approximately 20% and dropped the operating costs to the organisation by a similar percentage. There has been an ongoing drive to drop print volume (and more importantly, the more expensive colour printing) by providing appropriate digital tools such as laptops and tablets.