Sustainable cities can lead the way in achieving our vision of One Planet Living. Ben Gill writes that while Fremantle in Australia still has a way to go, its exciting achievements and enthusiastic residents are driving it ever closer to that goal
Cities for change: Fremantle shows that sustainable transformation is possible
The impact of humans on our one planet is increasingly becoming clear. Already in 2019, we’ve seen record-breaking extreme heatwaves and flooding. Global insect populations are collapsing which threatens catastrophic collapse of our natural support systems. Scientists are predicting ice-free summers in the arctic by 2035.
This can all seem overwhelming and disheartening – yet there are people and organisations showing us that the changes we need to make are possible. One of these is the City of Fremantle, a city of 30,000 people near Perth in Western Australia.
Fremantle has been using One Planet Living since 2014 and has an ambitious One Planet Action Plan that aims to achieve a ‘One Planet’ lifestyle for its council, residents and business community by 2025.
Small changes, big impact
This year the City of Fremantle moved its offices. While free car parking is still offered, it is now less convenient than before and this has contributed to a doubling in the number of people cycling to work. This is a 30% drop in people driving to work since 2010!
Additionally, its new office, a smaller more efficient building, contributed to a 30% reduction in energy use. While these may seem like unintentional successes, it shows the city is fully exploiting the opportunities it has to improve its sustainability performance – both in terms of infrastructure and influencing behaviour.
Bringing its citizens along on the journey
Fremantle is also committed to engaging the people who live there with and encouraging them to participate as it moves towards One Planet Living.
For example, the City actively promotes green energy and uses the number of houses that install solar PV as an indicator of engagement with renewables. This year the number passed 5,621 – more than 25% of homes in the city.
Fremantle is also a foundation partner for the 1 Million Women app, which helps people track their personal carbon footprint and provides daily carbon reduction tips around everyday lifestyle choices. The app is being promoted to people living in Fremantle and, as a partner, the City will be able to capture data on community climate actions and the actual reduction in carbon emissions as a result of those actions.
There will also be a dedicated group page for local people to help the council communicate with residents about sustainability stories, events and initiatives in the local area.
Making sustainable choices easy
The council has approved the business plan for the solar plant on City land that could meet the needs of about 10% of local homes, making renewables more accessible to a wider range of people. Upgrading of bike infrastructure is also designed to make cycling a more appealing choice.
After a successful food waste collection trial, the service will be rolled out across the City to enable residents to compost their food waste rather than throw in the bin. Food waste in landfill is a potent source of the climate-change causing gas methane.
Fremantle understands the challenge of One Planet Living and is willing to lead the way on making the change we so desperately need.
Pressing for change
The city is also willing to push where necessary and engage its suppliers with its ambitions. In 2017 the city introduced a 10% sustainability performance weighting for all tenders over $150,000 and this year the threshold has been reduced to $50,000. This means about 50% of tenders are now judged partially on their sustainability offer.
No organisation alone can rise to the sustainability challenge we all face, but each organisation can pull all the levers available to it and use its complete sphere of influence to expand its positive impact. The City of Fremantle still has more to do – for example water consumption has been increasing, but it is certainly a stand-out example of an organisation that understands the challenge of One Planet Living and is willing to lead the way on making the change we so desperately need.