WinterFest: Monash puts on their first carbon neutral event

Winterfest’s Secret Cinema, hidden in a mystery location. Photo: Monash University/ Facebook

By SELBY STEWART

Students from the Monash Student Sustainability Association (MSSA) will track, monitor and offset all carbon emissions from this year’s WinterFest, in what has been the first carbon neutral event at Monash University.

One hundred per cent of the emissions generated from the winter festivities – which includes events such as glow-in-the-dark-yoga and a silent disco – will be offset by activities that reduce emissions, such as tree planting.

How will carbon use be measured and recorded?

MSSA co-founder and project manager Yuval Shavit said tracking energy use would allow the group to offset the carbon emitted.

“We have electricians recording the electricity used up and then we are doing energy audits,” he said.

“[The measurements] come from the output supply and we are getting different messages at different times and we can extrapolate from that.”

The results will be verified by an independent carbon accounting specialist in accordance with the National Carbon Offset Standard, and then the necessary number of carbon credits will be bought.

WinterFest’s Silent Disco. Students wear wireless headphones and dance. Photo: Selby Stewart

What do students think?

Some students attending the many free events held during the winter carnival said they were unaware the festival was carbon-neutral, but liked that it was.

“It’s pretty interesting and significant in terms of the environment,” said Sayak, a Monash post-graduate student.

Sayak said in his studies at Monash he had learned the importance of using renewable energy or “going green”.

The world passed its regeneration threshold last week, meaning that for the rest of the year,  we’re using more resources than the Earth can replenish this year. This is the earliest point in the year the world has gone into overdraft.

Environmental students Emma, Linda and Julia, who checked out the Silent Disco, said they felt motivated by the initiative.

“In general, I think a lot of schools use a lot of resources like plastic cups and plastic everything for these kinds of social events so I definitely think it is good that [the students] try to incorporate that into their arrangements,” Julia said.

“It’s motivating. If Monash can host this huge event in a carbon neutral manner, why can’t people in their own backyard party do the same?”

Students enjoying the WinterFest Arcade. Photo: Monash University/Facebook

How will the emissions be offset?

After calculating the quantity of emissions produced, the MSSA will buy enough carbon credits to make the event carbon neutral.

 

The MSSA said the number of carbon credits bought would be used as a template for future events.

“Because this is the first event we have ever done, we are not really focusing on [reducing emissions] yet. That is something we would like to do in the future.

“Right now, it is about measuring emissions and understanding how the systems work. We are still offsetting and it will still be carbon neutral but then in the future we will look at making it more efficient.”

The MSSA, which started this year, works alongside Monash’s Environmental Sustainability team (ES) consisting of Monash staff who specialise in environmental planning, engineering, compliance and behaviour change.

The group says it bases its initiatives on the 17 sustainable development goals released by the United Nations in 2016.

“We are filling in the need that people have to contribute to environmental conservation,” he said. “The MSSA gives students the opportunity to work on projects and help out with things around campus for the environment.”

Monash University’s sustainability co-ordinator Ruth Oliver said the event gave students a chance to gain valuable experience in tracking carbon emissions.

“I think we have to work together to become a more sustainable campus,” she said.

“Students want the experience. If we can coordinate students to help with big projects like this, I think it is a great outcome for everyone.”

Winterfest continues until Sunday, with events continuing at the Clayton campus.