I first encountered the high level of environmental awareness in Australia when I booked my Sydney to Melbourne flight on Qantas Airlines. I’d become used to extra charges for luggage, in-flight snacks and drinks, and would have hardly blinked if they’d made me pay a restroom fee. Instead, the Qantas online booking system asked if I wanted to offset my carbon footprint. The price: only 78 cents. Was this a joke?
Apparently not. Once in Australia, I discovered that Australians are quite environmentally friendly. My first clue: the water fountains with additional mechanisms for refilling water bottles that I found all over Sydney. The sign read “reduce, reuse, and recycle” and people seemed to comply. I even had to wait in line a number of times. I found the same water fountains along the 5 km coastal walk between Bondi and Coogee Beach.
In Melbourne, I visited The National Gallery of Victoria in Federation Square. In the ladies room, I discovered that the water I’d flushed in the toilet was rainwater. I know because there was a big plaque on the wall about it. I’d encountered similar plaques elsewhere, including one announcing that the lawn in front of a sports club was irrigated with recycled water.
The tour operator I used on my trip to the Blue Mountains had also made an effort to offset his footprint. Earlier that year, when he’d purchased the Land Rover we were riding in, he’d paid a company to plant a bunch of trees on his behalf. He intended to do that every year.
Intrigued, I went back to the Qantas website. It turns out passenger contributions go toward specific carbon offset projects in Tasmania, Cambodia and the Peruvian Amazon.
I did more research. Apparently most Australians accept that the climate is changing. Almost 100% of Gen Y-ers, 91% of Gen X-ers, and 85% of Boomers believe in global warming. I shouldn’t be so surprised. It turns out Australia was home to the first Green Party, The United Tasmania Group.
On the Australian Government website, I found a link to Environmentally Friendly Products, including a Green Vehicle Guide.
I don’t know how environmentally friendly Australian policies truly are, but at least on the surface, regular folks and businesses seem to be doing their share in preserving the environment.