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Cool Communities — cool solutions to global warming

John Denlay

Cool Communities Facilitator, Conservation Council of South Australia


Cool Communities is an exciting new project designed to reduce the creation of greenhouse pollution by the community. It is an Australian Greenhouse Office (AGO) project delivered in collaboration with environment community groups from each state and territory.

By working with communities, industry and government the Cool Communities project is finding ways to cut household greenhouse pollution, save money and improve householder’s lifestyle at the same time.

The Cool Communities project will provide information, support and financial assistance to help communities undertake easy practical actions to achieve a reduction of household greenhouse pollution.

The state and territory environment community groups involved in Cool Communities each hosts a Cool Communities Facilitator (in the NT, there are two facilitators, one for Darwin and another for Alice Springs). The Facilitators coordinated the community recruitment process in their state or territory and will work with the selected communities in implementing local Community Action Plans. The Facilitators also offer some support and advice to those communities who were not selected during the community recruitment process.

Selected communities

In the second half of 2001, communities across Australia with an interest in household greenhouse gas reduction were invited to express interest in becoming Cool Communities. Strong interest to this call was received in all states and territories — 141 expressions of interest nationally — demonstrating keenness from community groups across the country to be involved in household greenhouse gas reduction.

Table 1 shows the 24 communities across Australia selected to become Cool Communities. There are at least two communities in each state and territory. Local government is emerging as a key partner in the program, with seven of the communities being either an individual council or groups of councils, or having councils as partners. It is likely that many of the other selected communities will invite local government involvement in their activities. The diversity of community groups and interests amongst the selected communities is noteworthy. They include local government — both individually and in consortia, a financial institution, a football club, a resident association, a hospital and a bicycle group to name just a few.

Table 1 also identifies the community environment organisations through which Cool Communities is delivered in each state and territory (shown shaded).

Those communities that were not selected are being assisted via Cool Communities in a number of ways, including:

  • referral to other relevant service providers and projects,
  • participation in relevant initiatives,
  • access to resources developed for Cool Communities.

Table 1 The twenty-four communities selected to become Cool Communities


Community Profile


ACT — Conservation Council of South East Region and Canberra

CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems (CSE)

Scientific research group. Community consists of CSIRO staff members in Canberra.

Broadly target all staff, 250 h/holds

Australian National University Food Cooperative

Food Co-op of Australian National University supplying organic, biodynamic and locally grown food.

Broadly target all members, 400 h/holds

Sullivan’s Creek Catchment Group

Community group already implementing an integrated Catchment Management Program in North Canberra.

Broadly target all members, 100 h/holds. Potential to draw from a larger pool in suburban Canberra in the future

NT — Environment Centre NT (Darwin), Arid Lands Env. Centre (Alice Springs)

Parap Residents Group / Ludmilla Creek Landcare Group

Existing landcare group in a suburban area of Darwin.

Broadly target the entire population of 4 Darwin suburbs, 2900 h/holds. Also work intensively with a smaller sup group.

Desert Knowledge Project

Professional network of government, industry and commercial people living within the town limits of Alice Springs.

Initially target members only, 300 h/holds. Potential to draw from the wider Alice Springs population in future.

Haasts Bluff Ikungtji Community

Remote, rural indigenous community in central Australia.

Engage the whole community of 26 h/holds for integrated, well supported program.

NSW — Nature Conservation Council of NSW

UNSW Ecoliving Centre

Community education centre focused on permaculture and sustainable living. Links with the University of NSW and a range of other community groups. Support from the South Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (11 councils)

Initially target staff and members, 475 h/holds. Future potential to draw from the wider UNSW and SSROC populations.

Broken Hill Community Inc.

Well established grass roots community group in arid NSW.

Target members, 200 h/holds

Leichhardt Council

Proactive metropolitan local council in central Sydney, proposal to work intensively with specific interest groups.

Engage 8 teams of 8 h/holds, drawn from special interest groups

QLD — Queensland Conservation Council

Maleny Credit Union

Financial cooperative supporting sustainable business and regional development based in South East QLD.

Broadly target members, 2000 h/holds

Catholic Justice and Peace Commission Archdiocese of Brisbane

Catholic Parishes, agencies and schools from Maryborough to the Gold Coast and west to Kingaroy.

Broadly target practicing members, approx 1000 h/holds

SA — Conservation Council of South Australia

Adelaide City on behalf of SA CCP Councils — Adelaide, Burnside, Marion, Mitcham, Holdfast Bay, Onkaparinga, Unley and West Torrens

Eight councils in Adelaide with strong track records in Cities for Climate Protection (CCP) based greenhouse gas reduction activities.

Councils working collaboratively to engage 100 h/holds per council, drawn from the general population.

Campbelltown City Council

Adelaide metropolitan council.

Plan to engage a small number of h/holds, possibly drawn from special interest groups.

Bookmark Biosphere Trust / Berri Barmera District Council

The residents of the Bookmark Biosphere region — 1 million hectares of agricultural land and rural towns in the Riverland region on the Murray River.

Broadly target the entire region, 6000 h/holds. Work intensively with a smaller sub-group.

TAS — Tasmanian Environment Centre

Home Ideas Centre, Launceston Environment Centre, Australian Association for Environmental Education and Slipstream Circus

Consortium of groups in northern Tasmania with a household energy efficiency focus, including industry, non-government, environmental educational organisations and a circus group!

Broadly target customers and members, approximately 2000

Royal Hobart Hospital

Virtual community made up of the staff of Royal Hobart Hospital

Broadly target all staff, 1000 h/holds

Tasmanian Bicycle Council, Taroona High and Primary Schools

Two groups working together made up of teachers, parents and students from two schools in suburban Hobart.

Broadly target staff and students, 700 h/holds

Passenger Transport Reference Group, Fern Tree Community Association and Hobart City Council

Coalition of community groups, Council and State government coordinated under the broad title of Passenger Transport Reference group.

Broadly target members, 250 h/holds

Tasmanian University Union and Australian Maritime College Student Association

Student/staff populations at the Tasmanian University in Hobart and the Australian Maritime College in Launceston — working collaboratively on transport issues.

Broadly target staff and students, 550 h/holds

VIC — Environment Victoria

Western Bulldogs (AFL football club) Education and Training Centre, supported by ATA, Moreland Energy Foundation & CERES.

Education centre linked to an AFL football Club in the western suburbs of Melbourne.

Plan to engage a small number of participating h/holds drawn from the membership base. Future potential to broadly target full club membership of 18,000.

City of Port Phillip

Urban Melbourne Council. Strong track record on Greenhouse.

Plan to engage 100 h/holds in integrated, intense program. Drawn from existing database.

WA — Conservation Council of WA

Warren Districts Renewable Energy Group

A community group in the shire of Manjimup, an agricultural area of south western WA.

Broadly target the shire population of 5000

Greenskills and Denmark Environment Centre

Two environment centres working collaboratively in the adjoining towns of Albany and Denmark in south west WA.

Broadly target the towns’ population of 5000

Eastern Metropolitan Regional Council

6 CCP councils in the Perth eastern metropolitan area.

Broadly target the region’s entire population of 103,000 h/holds

Community action planning

During the first quarter of 2002, the selected communities will be developing Community Action Plans. These will define what the communities wish to achieve, including targets for greenhouse gas abatement.

The Action Plan will:

  • result from a collaborative process with community input,
  • ensure a community’s proposed activities are adequately planned and resourced,
  • provide a basis for evaluating the effectiveness of a community’s activities,
  • establish a framework for ongoing learning and improvement.

Key issues that need to be consider during the Action Planning stage include:

  • consultation — how will communities involve households, other relevant community members and prospective partners in the planning process?
  • project outcomes — overall greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, number of households actively and passively involved, and outcomes that add value;
  • communication and promotion — how they will engage and communicate with households, and how they will promote their projects;
  • budgets.

To prepare their Action Plans, it is likely that communities will need to compile a range of background data on a range of matters including current community knowledge, attitudes and behaviours relating to household greenhouse gas reduction. To assist in this process, specialist consultants engaged by the Australian Greenhouse Office have undertaken a national telephone survey and focus groups in each state and territory.

It is anticipated that Action Planning will be completed by the end of April 2002.

Engaging communities, abatement actions and measurements

To support selected communities and state/territory facilitators during Community Action Planning stage, AGO consultants EnergyConsult have produced a report titled: ‘Cool Communities: An Introduction to the Program, Abatement Actions and Measurement’. This report provides information on:

  • ways to engage with communities — with an emphasis on a community development approach of ownership and involvement at the community level;
  • ways to cut greenhouse gas emissions at the household level — focusing on energy use, transport and waste management. Options are presented to reduce greenhouse polluting activities, changing the way activities are undertaken and changing technologies and fuels used;
  • ways to measure a community’s progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions — includes ways of establishing baseline emission levels and measuring progress.

The report also provides advice on a range of methods to engage households in greenhouse gas reduction. These include:

  • promoting the ‘norm’ of new behaviours — showing people engaged in greenhouse gas reducing activities;
  • giving vivid personalised communication — using messages relevant to the person and making the intangible tangible;
  • building motivation over time — praising successes to encourage further action;
  • giving feedback — feeding back to householders their achievements and also their current behaviours and its effects;
  • obtaining a commitment — interested people are more likely to follow through on an activity once they have made a commitment;
  • using prompts — cues that remind people to carry out an action they might otherwise forget to;
  • using incentives and disincentives — with a focus on encouragement;
  • using word of mouth — actively encouraging people to promote positive actions to those they come in contact with;
  • using home visits — opportunity to understand a householders needs more fully;
  • using mass media — to draw people to a program, as a reminder, stimulate discussion, show participation and results, and promote direct effort;
  • using opinion leaders — to create a willingness in other to be involved;
  • using peer support groups — gatherings of friends, neighbours, colleagues, etc who can support one another in developing new habits;
  • work programs that influence the home — useful to target behaviours that occur both at work and at home, or between home and work;
  • school based programs that influence the home — activities introduced at school that students do at home and specifically involve other members of the family.

Local community development and partnerships

In addition to delivering household greenhouse gas abatements, Cool Communities will model innovative means of engaging households through the use of local community groups and networks. In this way it will be of much interest to councils involved in environmental programs such as Local Agenda 21 and Cities for Climate Protection.

In South Australia, links are also being made with the Water Conservation Partnership Program — a State-Local Government partnership focusing on reducing the Adelaide and other South Australian communities’ dependency on the River Murray as water supply (

Two of the selected communities in South Australia — the SA CCP councils and Campbelltown Councils — have also received funding under the Water Conservation Partnership Program to undertake incentive and education/incentive programs for water efficiency products and activities. A number of these water efficiency methods, such as low-flow shower roses, also can deliver greenhouse gas reduction benefits.

Cool Communities will work closely with the Water Conservation Partnership Program to achieve a more integrated approach to household sustainability.


Cool Communities is poised to make a significant contribution to greenhouse gas reduction in Australia. Commencing in May 2002, the 24 selected communities will be undertaking a wide range of household greenhouse gas reduction activities, with a common feature being focus on community development.

Acknowledgment and disclaimer

This work has been undertaken under the auspices of the Cool Communities Program ( Cool Communities is an Australian Greenhouse Office (AGO) project delivered in collaboration with the Conservation Council of South Australia ( The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the AGO or any Cool Communities participating partners.

About the author

For the last 12 years, John Denlay has worked on some of the less-glamorous aspects of urban life — garbage, sewage and pollution. His current position as Cool Communities Facilitator with the Conservation Council of SA allows him to combine his interest in community education with his engineering training.

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