Resources and engagement – environment
Staff resources - environment
Priority: To provide staff resources to support University environmental improvements, sustainable behaviour, public commitments and compliance requirements.
In addition to the many activities dedicated to sustainability taking place throughout the University, there were two distinct groups dedicated to environmental sustainability: the Buildings and Property Division, and the Monash Sustainable Development Institute.
Buildings and Property division
The Buildings and Property Division is responsible for improving the environmental performance of the University’s campus operations.
The division undertook a range of programs and initiatives to improve the environmental sustainability of the infrastructure and operations of the University, and also to enhance the sustainable behaviour of the thousands of staff and students studying, working and living on the campuses. The Buildings and Property Division draws on the sustainability expertise of 14 staff integrated into the division.
Further information on the work of the Buildings and Property Division can be found here.
Monash Sustainable Development Institute
Monash Sustainable Development Institute (MSDI) is one of the world’s leading research and education institutes in sustainable development. It’s harnessing Monash’s strength in interdisciplinary research, education and translation programs to advance the wellbeing of people and planet; and help achieve the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This includes hosting the Australia, New Zealand and Pacific chapter of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), which brings together universities, research institutions, foundations and civil society organisations in the region to develop and promote solutions, policies and public education for sustainable development.
Work and initiatives advanced by MSDI in 2021 included:
MSDI’s ClimateWorks was founded by Monash University and the Myer Foundation to bridge the gap between climate change research and action. In 2021, ClimateWorks continued to convene all state and territory governments around climate action and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, which included State and Territory Climate Action analysis showing that state and territory emissions targets could reduce Australia’s emissions by 37-42 per cent by 2030.
The Net Zero Momentum Tracker project leveraged two years of research and analysis to establish ‘best practice’ for corporate net zero commitments. The Australian Industry Energy Transitions Initiative which ClimateWorks co-convenes grew, attracting partners representing ~28 per cent of ASX100 market capitalisation and over 20 per cent of Australia’s industry emissions. ClimateWorks gained funding to investigate an alliance for net zero infrastructure, while continuing work with built environment groups for energy efficiency improvements in the National Construction Code.
ClimateWorks expanded its program of work in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, opening a Jakarta office and working with SDSN and the Jeffrey Sachs Center on Sustainable Development at Sunway University to build the economic and technical case for decarbonisation in Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia and Thailand, working with teams from half of all ASEAN nations. A ClimateWorks assessment was used by the Ministerial Forum of the ASEAN Centre for Energy (ACE) through the ASEAN Climate Change and Energy Project (ACCEPT).
ClimateWorks supported the Government of Tonga to deliver a low-emissions development strategy, facilitating the collaboration between government, civil society, state-owned enterprises and the private sector for a successful launch at COP26. Ongoing engagement with PT-SMI (a government-owned infrastructure investor in Indonesia) led to the launch of a Monash Indonesia MoU with SMI, which will allow ClimateWorks to provide technical support in aid of the SDGs in Indonesia.
MSDI’s BehaviourWorks Australia (BWA) brings together interdisciplinary researchers from Monash University and practitioners in government, industry and the community who share an interest in applied behaviour change research for environmental and social good. In 2021, BWA embarked on two ambitious ‘missions’, focused on responsible consumption and climate adaptation. Each Mission involved multiple state and federal governments, and industry partners working with BWA to co-design and implement behaviour change trials to reduce waste and build community resilience to climate change.
Other waste projects have involved working with OzHarvest to encourage Australians to reduce their food waste, and developing a common framework and approach for measuring waste prevention for the Federal Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment. BWA also expanded its portfolio of projects in the primary industry sector, working with government agencies such as the NSW Department of Primary Industries, Agriculture Victoria and the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) to reduce biosecurity risks and promote biodiversity protection.
In 2021, the Revitalising Informal Settlements and their Environments (RISE) program’s hubs in Suva, Fiji and Makassar, Indonesia experienced severe COVID waves that heavily impacted our teams and partner communities. Despite these challenges, the Fiji, Indonesia and global teams persevered and adjusted to alternative ways to keep the program going: progressing research by conducting health and wellbeing surveys by phone, using new TaqMan genotyping machines at both Fiji and Indonesia labs, performing limited safe field sampling, and launching a report series on water-sensitive informal settlement upgrading with the Asian Development Bank.
RISE developed robust COVID safety protocols to keep teams and communities safe, and supported the 24 participating communities through difficult times by delivering aid, essential resources and COVID safety messages. Through immense work in 2021, detailed engineering drawings were completed, land consent workshops with residents were run, and communities heard what to expect over the next 18 months during COVID-safe construction of the water and sanitation infrastructure in the first settlements in Fiji and Indonesia. The year finished with successful certification to the ISO-9001 standard, acknowledging that RISE research platforms and operations in Fiji and Indonesia meet the highest quality standards demanded of a randomised controlled trial.
Monash signed a Letter of Intent with the Provincial Government of West Java to co-develop detailed proposals for river transformation as part of research exploring ways to prevent waste and wastewater leakage into the Citarum River in Indonesia.
Throughout the year relationships were built with local and provincial government agencies, through river transformation webinars and workshops to enhance capacity to implement transboundary river revitalisation policies. Social research, in collaboration with Monash Arts and Universitas Indonesia, was supported by the Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research.
With a project site selected, Monash Art, Design and Architecture and MSDI secured $180,000 from the Victorian Government to establish a ‘living laboratory’ for international research and impact with partners Universitas Indonesia, Universitas Padjadjaran, CSIRO, and the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (EAWAG). Feasibility studies were conducted in two riverine villages to understand current waste practices and behaviours and the potential for community-scale technologies to be demonstrated and tested in living lab small-scale experiments.
The Monash-hosted Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) regional network for Australia, New Zealand & Pacific (SDSN AusNZPac) was a key partner in the global SDSN’s 2020 guide, ‘Accelerating Education for the SDGs in Universities’. The guide has since become one of the global SDSN’s most accessed resources, and has been translated into five languages.
SDSN AusNZPac helped lead several follow up activities in 2021 including a global call for inspiring case studies showcasing how universities around the world are implementing education for the SDGs. Three Monash initiatives were among the 75 examples selected by independent reviewers, out of over 200 submissions. In addition, SDSN AusNZPac joined with the Australasian Campuses Towards Sustainability (ACTS) and the Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME) AusNZ Chapter in February to organise a workshop with over 200 participants on accelerating education for the SDGs across our higher education institutions in our region.
MSDI’s education team builds leadership and capacity to accelerate action for more equitable and sustainable futures. In 2021, MSDI delivered the ‘Transforming cities for sustainability’ unit for the first time, drawing on Monash’s leading research and practice to introduce students to key principles of the net zero emissions and water sensitive cities paradigms. Work commenced on the development of a micro-credential in Sustainable Healthcare Care in collaboration with the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Science. This micro-credential is intended for a broad range of health professionals, health educators and graduate students in the Master of Public Health to provide knowledge and skills to influence the rapid transition of the health sector to more sustainable practice.
MSDI’s co-curricular programs provide transformative opportunities for Monash students. Green Steps, an award-winning program that develops student leaders and change agents for sustainable development, partnered with Monash Buildings and Property Division (BPD) and new partner Enel Green Power Australia (EGPA) to offer students an opportunity to work on real life projects. Six teams, comprising 26 students, undertook a consultancy with BPD or EGPA tackling projects such as removing single use plastic from campus retail, exploring options to create pollinator friendly environments for native species of insects and exploring potential options for co-use of land at large-scale solar plants.
MSDI’s Leave No One Behind program inspires students who want to do good in the world. Over 10 weeks, students designed a social business idea to address an issue of equity or disadvantage in the local community. Students learnt important innovation and entrepreneurship skills such as critical and creative thinking, and problem solving. At the end of the program teams presented a three minute pitch demonstrating their solutions to a social question that inspires them. The winning teams included Making Waves, a social business empowering women to take up space through surfing and Food for Life, who are tackling childhood obesity by offering children’s birthday parties where children cook and share a healthy meal together. The parties subsidise cooking courses for low income families.
MSDI is helping cities and urban areas build pathways to net zero emissions. In 2021, MSDI’s Water’s Net Zero Water Cycle Project found ways for Melbourne to reduce wastewater flows and reduce Green House Gas emissions by 619,000 tonnes/year through research with University of Queensland, DELWP, and the Melbourne retail water sector. MSDI’s Net Zero Precincts project is part of Monash’s Net Zero Initiative, a $135m program that is transforming Monash University’s four Australian campuses to become net zero by 2030. In 2021, to prepare for fieldwork, the project built collaborative teams and relationships across industry, students, staff, academia and local residents including renewable energy company ENGIE, the City of Monash, ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, and CSIRO. The project also recruited five PhD students to conduct the research.
Several MSDI staff were recognised for their contribution to environmental sustainability in 2021. Chair of MSDI, Professor John Thwaites, was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for significant service to the environment in the Australia Day honours. Gitanjali Bedi, David Robertson and Associate Professor Annette Bos received a Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning, as part of the Australian Award for University Teaching (AAUT) program.
- The Climate Change and Australia’s Healthcare Systems report was commissioned by the Royal Australiasian College of Physicians and prepared by MSDI’s Evidence Review team. The report, endorsed by some of the country’s top medical colleges, warns that the effects of climate change will place immense pressure on Australia’s healthcare system in the next 10 years, predicting that climate-fuelled bushfires could contribute to the deaths of more than 1,000 people over that period and cost the healthcare system some $69 million.
- The 2021, Medical Journal of Australia-Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change in Australia was released in October, with MSDI Director Tony Capon a lead author on the report. The report found that Australia has no national plan to address the health impacts of climate change, despite ongoing calls for a national-health strategy. The report found that Australians are increasingly exposed and vulnerable to rising temperatures from climate change, affecting health and worker productivity.
- MSDI contributed to the development of the Developing the Future Energy Workforce report, released by the Reliable Affordable Clean Energy Cooperative Research Centre (RACE for 2030) - a 10-year, $350 million collaboration of Australian industry and researchers. The report proposed establishing an Australian Energy & Employment Report, which surveys employment in traditional energy industry, new and renewable energy industries and energy efficiency. The Monash team looked at the area of new skills development required.
- MSDI collaborated with the Australian Fashion Council (AFC), with funding from DELWP, to develop the Transitioning to a Circular Economy for Textiles in Australia report. The team interviewed large manufacturers, retail organisations and SME organisations to investigate the appetite to adopt circular economy principles, and identify what may be needed to support a transition.
Staff and student engagement - environment
Priority: To engage staff and students to embed sustainability within their work, study and on-campus activities.
Staff continued to embed sustainability into their local areas through participation in the Monash Green Impact program. In its fourth year at Monash, the Green Impact program attracted more than 260 staff and students in 49 teams who implemented more than 2,320 actions across multiple campuses and sites. Teams worked to drive positive environmental change within their local areas through a range of activities focused on climate action, zero waste, transport, health and wellbeing, engagement and change, and urban ecosystems. As with previous years, the program continued to expand to new areas, and saw the successful introduction of two new toolkits specifically for Monash Residential Services and the Monash Student Associate’s Clubs and Societies, which allowed students to create teams and participate in taking action on campus for sustainability.
Students contributed to additional on-campus sustainability projects through participation programs such as Green Steps, and through projects enabled by coursework in the Bachelor of Science Advanced - Global Challenges (Honours), and Master of Environment and Sustainability courses as well as offering Work Integrated Learning internships to students from the faculties of Arts, Science and Engineering.
In August, a number of projects were undertaken with Monash Green Steps students to cover a range of campus sustainability projects that investigated opportunities to create pollinator gardens on campus, remove single-use plastic items from campus retailers, and prepare a carbon footprint for the Monash Children’s Centre.
A student team from the Bachelor of Science Advanced - Global Challenges course, over the duration of a semester, investigated options for reducing laboratory single use plastic items, specifically pipette tips. The project offered insight into laboratory waste management and provided potential solutions to reducing waste generation while maintaining high safety and hygiene standards.
Enrolments in the Master of Environment and Sustainability - an interdisciplinary, international and industry-linked program spanning Faculties of Science, Business, Law, Arts and the Monash Sustainable Development Institute - continued to grow, with students integrating the knowledge needed to mitigate and adapt to global change with sustainability principles. Student projects for Net Zero included collecting and synthesising spatial data sets and historical building fabric audits into a form that can be used for energy efficiency modelling of the proposed District Heating and Cooling systems at the Clayton and Caulfield campuses; and interns assisted in the curation of content for a short course offering called ‘Developing a Net Zero Strategy for the Built Environment’.
Monash Residential Services (MRS) continued its commitment to sustainability by expanding the organic waste program to residential halls, installing a used oil collection station and setting up the Niche Recycling Initiative for hard-to-recycle waste. Waste minimisation and education continued to be a priority with ongoing initiatives such as the MRS Buy Swap Sell group, and RETURNR reusable food containers in the Halls Café. Despite COVID-19 restrictions residents were able to engage in sustainability activities in the community garden program, Earth Hour picnics, Enviro Trivia night, virtual indigenous garden tour and numerous video and movie screening events.