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Environmental sustainability

Our environmental footprint

The department supports the Queensland Government's Green ambitions and targets, as outlined in Toward Q2: Tomorrow's Queensland, to protect our lifestyle and environment.

The Earth Smart Environmental Sustainability Strategic Plan 2008-2012 outlines goals and strategies to reduce the department's ecological footprint.

The department aims to minimise its resource consumption through energy efficiency, waste minimisation and water conservation, as well as positively influence community attitudes and behaviour through sustainable infrastructure and education on environmental sustainability.

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Managing our energy usage

During 2008-09, the department supported the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by:

  • commencing the $60 million, three-year Solar and Energy Efficiency Program in State Schools program, which will install energy efficient lighting and solar panels in all Queensland state schools
  • developing online resources and teaching materials in the Learning Place, to encourage the integration of environmental education for sustainability across the curriculum
  • successfully negotiating with the Australian Government to implement the National Solar Schools Program in Queensland in 2009-10.

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Solar and energy efficiency projects

A school building with solar panels.

Under a partnership between the department and the Office of Clean Energy, 180 Queensland schools are taking part in the three-year, $300 000 EnergyWiseschools energy efficiency program. The program was launched in 2008 to encourage students to help their schools reduce energy consumption.

For each year of the program, 60 schools will be selected to participate. The program encourages children to undertake energy audits and develop action plans through networks with 10 of Queensland's Environmentally Sustainable Schools Initiative hubs.

The action plans identify energy-saving opportunities and practices, and teach energy efficient practices to both students and teachers. The program's objective is to improve energy efficiency in these schools by 10 per cent. During 2008, results from the core schools showed an average energy reduction of 10.2 per cent, with some schools averaging more than 20 per cent.

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Greenhouse gas emissions

The department is committed to supporting the Queensland Government's Toward Q2: Tomorrow's Queensland target to cut Queensland's greenhouse gas emissions by one-third by 2020. This commitment includes implementation of the government's climate change and other environmental strategies such as the ClimateQ: toward a greener Queensland strategy.

Six gases have been identified under the Kyoto Protocol as the main greenhouse gas emissions that need to be reduced. The gases are carbon dioxide, hydrofluorocarbons, methane, nitrous oxides, perfluorocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride. As part of standard emission measurement practices, these gases are mainly reported as carbon dioxide equivalent emissions (CO2).

The Queensland Government continues to develop and improve whole-of-government data collection processes and systems to standardise reporting of its greenhouse gas emissions. The basis for this reporting is consistent with acknowledged national and international standards, including the definitions outlined in the AS ISO 14064 standards and the Australian Government's National Greenhouse Accounts Factors Workbook. These standards establish the following different categories of emissions that organisations (such as government agencies) need to consider, taking into account the particular organisation's operational boundaries:

  • Scope 1 - emissions that occur directly from sources which are owned or controlled by an organisation (e.g. emissions from departmental vehicles, on-site diesel generators, gas boilers)
  • Scope 2 - emissions that occur indirectly due solely to an organisation's consumption of electricity or steam or heating/cooling (which has been generated by the burning of fuels such as coal, natural gas, etc at power stations or other facilities not controlled by the organisation)
  • Scope 3 - emissions that occur indirectly due to actions of the organisation, but from sources which are not owned or controlled by the organisation (i.e. outside its operational boundary). Some common examples of these sources include employee business travel (in vehicles or aircraft not owned or controlled by the reporting organisation); employees commuting to and from work; outsourced activities; and transportation of products, materials and waste.

Note: inclusion of these emissions in any reporting needs to be based on the relevance to the operations of the organisation.

For the department, the key greenhouse gas emissions are those that are linked to the following business activities:

  • vehicle usage
  • electricity consumption
  • air travel.

It should be noted that comprehensive reporting of greenhouse gas emissions by agencies is sometimes limited due to the complexity of the operational boundaries of agencies within the public sector, especially in situations where internal government shared service providers are used.

While the best available data has been used, in some instances, estimates have been reported due to the limitation of data collection systems. For example, in those government-owned office buildings where there are multiple government agency tenants and the electricity usage cannot be solely attributed to any one particular agency, the electricity usage by the tenanted agencies is proportioned based on the floor area they occupy.

Note that prior to 2008-09, the department's emissions included the Arts portfolio, which was moved through the machinery-of-government (MOG) changes to the Department of the Premier and Cabinet in early 2009. Additionally, the Southbank Institute of TAFE and Gold Coast Institute of TAFE became statutory authorities, and are no longer within the department's portfolio. These changes explain the large reduction in carbon emissions between 2007-08 and 2008-09.

The following table outlines the emissions relating to the department following the MOG changes in Queensland in early 2009, when a number of departments were abolished and their service areas absorbed into other agencies. The emissions presented for this agency have been calculated by combining emissions created by:

  • the service areas that were wholly transferred (i.e. not abolished) to the agency - for the period 1 July 2008 to 30 June 2009
  • the service areas that were absorbed into the newly formed agency - for the post-MOG period (approximately three months) in 2008-09.

Note: The emissions created by the abolished departments during the period prior to the MOG changes in 2008-09 (approximately nine months) have been provided in a separate report.

Table 18: 2008-09 CO2 emissions by category

Activity Greenhouse gas emissions
(tonnes of CO2)
Explanatory Notes
Scope 1
Vehicle usage
  • QFleet vehicles
  • Agency-owned vehicles
5,326 1
Scope 2
Electricity consumption
  • Purchased directly from an electricity retailer
  • Sourced through a third party
Scope 3
Air travel
  • Domestic air travel on commercial airlines
  • International travel on commercial airlines
Hired vehicles
  • Avis
  • Other



Source: Department of Public Works

click on the graph to enlarge Click on the graph to enlarge

Figure 44: Energy consumption (kWh) per student at Queensland TAFE institutes and state schools

  • Energy consumption (kWh) per student at Queensland TAFE institutes and state schools

Source: Department of Public Works

Note: Refer to explanatory note 2a from Table 18

Figure 45: Carbon emissions (kg CO2) per student at Queensland TAFE institutes and state schools

  • Carbon emissions (kg CO2) per student at Queensland TAFE institutes and state schools

Source: Department of Public Works

Note: Refer to explanatory note 2a from Table 18

Figure 46: Total carbon emissions (kt of CO2) produced by Queensland TAFE institutes and state schools

  • Total carbon emissions (kt of CO2) produced by Queensland TAFE institutes and state schools

Source: Department of Public Works

Note: Refer to explanatory note 2a from Table 18

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Responsible fleet management

The department supports the QFleet Climate Smart Policy to reduce greenhouse emissions for Queensland Government fleet vehicles.

The figure for estimated cumulative emissions from department-leased vehicles during 2008-09 is shown in Table 18 above under Scope 1. It accounts for progressive changes in the size and composition of the fleet during the 12 months, including vehicle replacement.

The figure is derived using:

  • the lease package details (time and kilometres)
  • CO2 emissions data from testing in accordance with Australian design rules for emissions and fuel consumption labelling for each vehicle leased from QFleet.

    This figure should not be confused with the CO2 emissions projection figures provided in QFleet climate smart action plan 2007-2010 quarterly reports. Those figures are snapshots of the fleet profile at a specific point in time (quarterly), and a projection of CO2 emissions for 12 months if the fleet does not change.

    In this way, the fleet's emissions potential can be tracked from one quarter to the next to quantify the extent of improvement.

In 2008-09, the department leased 716 cars from QFleet.

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Waste management

The department's Waste Management Strategic Plan, developed in 2002 for state schools, provides a framework for reducing waste in daily operations, and in designing and constructing facilities.

During 2008-09, the department continued to ensure that effective waste management practices were implemented throughout Queensland schools, TAFE institutes and departmental offices, including the recycling of wastepaper, cardboard, glass and green waste.

During 2007-08*, the department spent $4.44 million on waste disposal at state schools, and $0.996 million at TAFE institutes.

Key priorities for waste management include:

  • minimising waste during construction by specifying waste management controls in contracts, such as amounts of waste taken to landfill, collection arrangements, recycling and the re-use of demolition materials
  • minimising the use and storage of hazardous substances, and implementing waste design solutions such as on-site waste separation, and dedicated recycling and storage facilities to support re-use and recycling
  • ensuring that schools continue to be active in Sustainable School initiatives, such as Green and Healthy Schools, Wipe Out Waste, Waste Wise and the Brisbane City Council School Recycling Program.

* Information on the department's expenditure for waste management for state schools for 2008-09 will not be available until 2010.

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Sustainable building design

Our changing environment is giving all of us a new awareness of the importance of sustainable public infrastructure. The department is responsible for some of the state's largest assets, including Queensland state schools and TAFE institutes.

Continued capital spending is required to provide and upgrade infrastructure, keep pace with community demand and adapt to developments such as new technologies, climate change and economic pressures.

The department has incorporated ecologically sustainable design principles into TAFE institute building design, construction, fit-out and refurbishment. TAFE Queensland has developed and is implementing the Water Smart TAFEs and Energy Smart TAFEs strategies across the TAFE network.

The department will also use the School Ecologically Sustainable Development and Landscape guidelines to appropriately design and construct TAFE institutes.

All seven schools being developed through South East Queensland PPP projects will achieve a four-star Green star rating.

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Environmentally sustainable initiatives

Green Living Expo

The Tropical North Queensland Institute of TAFE hosted more than 1000 locals when it held the region's first environmental expo for households and businesses in May 2008.

The TAFE Green Living Expo was a day-long event that brought together more than 20 environmentally conscious organisations. It offered a series of workshops and practical tips on how Queenslanders in the Far North can reduce their carbon footprint and live 'greener'.

Workshops included green motoring, sustainable design, water-efficient gardening, climate change, worm farming and permaculture.

The expo was well-supported by local radio, and will be introduced as an annual event to help raise the TAFE training profile within the environmental and sustainability sectors.

Bunya to the Bay Eco Adventure

The Bunya to the Bay Eco Adventure was held from 23 August to 7 September 2008, building on the success of the 2006 Bunya to the Bay, which won the Healthy Waterways Best Education Program Award in 2007.

Thirty junior secondary students had the opportunity to hike, bike, boat and canoe from the Bunya Mountains to Fort Lytton, taking on the roles of photographer, scientist and artist as part of the second Bunya to the Bay Eco Adventure.

Held biennially, Bunya to the Bay focuses on the health of the Brisbane River, and aims to raise community awareness about the importance of managing one of our most precious resources - water.

The 16-day hike, bike, canoe and boat journey involved junior secondary students (River Ambassadors) from a range of schools throughout South East Queensland catchments and staff from the Outdoor and Environmental Education Centres.

Students around Queensland followed the River Ambassadors' journey online by viewing the adventure through the stories, images and data they shared. Participating students used creative digital media to demonstrate knowledge of their local waterways and the environment in general.

The online activities offered through the Learning Place gave P-12 students the flexibility to express their concerns and be proactive about the future of their local environment through communication with the 30 River Ambassadors, as well as experts in the field and other students around the state.

Students also explored local environmental issues through an action research model, using similar methodologies to those that the ambassadors used. Blogs were used to connect students undertaking these studies to the field experts who supported the ambassadors on the trip.

The results of this study enabled students to make recommendations about the sustainability of their local area.

Earth Hour

Earth Hour 2009 External Link reached more than one billion people in 1000 cities around the world. The initiative invited communities, business and governments to switch off lights for one hour at 8.30 pm on Saturday 28 March.

Almost 300 state schools, TAFE institutes and environmental education centres across Queensland displayed their environmental commitment by participating in Earth Hour.

Schools throughout the state marked the occasion by participating in a range of activities on 28 March 2009, even though it was a Saturday.

Events such as Earth Hour further demonstrate the everyday commitment by schools, environmental education centres and TAFE institutes to lowering greenhouse gas emissions and reducing their environmental footprint.

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Educating for the environment

Through the Queensland Environmentally Sustainable Schools Initiative (QESSI), the department has established environmentally sustainable schools to link curriculums with environmental action that is based on ecological sustainable development principles.

The unique partnerships and relationships among our schools, their communities and their students are helping to build a shared commitment to reducing the state's ecological footprint. The network of 12 QESSI regional hubs helped 70 schools during 2008 become more environmentally sustainable, especially in reducing their energy consumption.

Queensland's 25 Outdoor and Environmental Education Centres provide exciting outdoor experiences to Queensland school children. They deliver experiences of Queensland's environments including islands, beaches, bushland, mangroves, rainforest, the reef, wetlands, historical and cultural environments, and city streets.

In 2008, approximately 100 000 children visited these centres. Participation in outdoor and environmental education enables students and teachers to gain a greater appreciation of the outdoors, and delve into sustainability issues that relate to the health of individuals, the community and the planet.

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1. The CO2 emissions figure has been aggregated using National Greenhouse Emissions Reporting (NGER) guidelines and represents emissions for four primary fuel types: unleaded petrol, diesel, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and E10. Emissions shown are based on estimated kilometres travelled and available fuel consumption records.

2a. All electricity consumption and carbon emission figures are largely based on available actual building electricity consumption records for the period 1 July 2008 to 30 June 2009. For these records, the emissions reported are limited to those linked to electricity purchased directly from an energy retailer for this agency's own buildings and any space it leases. Incomplete electricity consumption records have been extrapolated where necessary.

All electricity consumption has been converted to carbon emissions using the Scope 2 conversion factor of 0.89 kg CO2 as currently recommended in the Australian Government's National Greenhouse Accounts Factors Workbook.

In previous years, the carbon emissions conversion factor for electricity included Scope 3 emissions in the calculation. Scope 3 emissions have been removed from this year's calculation, as recommended by the Department of Public Works. The figures for all previous years have also been corrected to reflect this change, resulting in an inconsistency between the current figures and the figures presented in previous annual reports. This maintains a consistent methodology for the purposes of comparison.

2b. This figure is largely based on emissions associated with electricity use in leased spaces where electricity is not directly purchased by this agency from an energy retailer, for example, the electricity costs form part of lease charges.

This figure includes estimated consumption (where specific details are not available) and actual electricity records received from government and private sector landlords. Incomplete electricity consumption records have been apportioned or extrapolated where necessary.

For example, in those major government office buildings owned by the Department of Public Works that do not have separate electricity sub-metering for tenants, the emissions associated with electricity consumption have been apportioned 45% to the landlord, and 55% to the tenants - in line with industry practice and historical benchmarking.

3. Air travel includes all flights recorded by the Queensland Government Chief Procurement Office (QGCPO) during the period 1 July 2008 to 30 June 2009, specifically:

  1. international air travel on all airlines
  2. domestic air travel on all airlines.

For all air travel, with the exception noted at (b) below, the following methodology is used:

  1. From data provided, the QGCPO calculates the kilometres flown. The kilometre figure is divided by 100 and multiplied by an industry average number of litres of fuel burnt per passenger, per 100 kms. A factor of 5 has been used for all air travel. The use of this method gives the average litres of fuel burnt for a flight, per passenger. This figure is subsequently converted from litres into kilograms and then from kilograms into tonnes, before being multiplied by 3.157 (which represents the amount of CO2 tonnes produced by burning one tonne of aviation fuel; sourced from the International Civil Aviation Organisation).
  2. For domestic flights with Qantas, QantasLink, Jetstar and Virgin Blue for the period 1 July 2008 to 31 December 2008 the number of passengers per sector was calculated. This information was then passed on to the respective airline for calculation of carbon emissions.

4. The hire car vehicle emissions are calculated by Avis Australia and show only emissions for Avis Australia vehicles booked under the standing offer arrangement managed by the Queensland Government Chief Procurement Office.

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