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The Green Machine

07 March 2011

Environmentalists have been talking about sustainability for years, but it's taken a prolonged drought to focus attention on the issue.

From a marketing point of view, many businesses can't avoid the green bandwagon. Savvy customers, from shoppers to investors, are demanding a greater focus on sustainability from their suppliers. Perhaps most enticing of all for business is the bottom-line benefit: help protect the environment and increase your profit margin in one fell swoop.

That cost-benefit link has helped spawn a thriving new business sector - from the consultants that audit water, power and waste to the manufacturers of gadgets designed to promote sustainability, such as devices that restrict water flow.

\"It's hardly rocket science,\" says sustainability consultant Michael Mobbs. \"It's more about good management.\" One client, he says, was wasting 4,000 litres of water every night and had no idea.

Going green

Mobbs began his business 11 years ago, when he was regarded as \"at least eccentric and at worst, deranged\". It began with a kitchen and bathroom renovation in his own home. An environmental lawyer at the time, Mobbs decided to make his home sustainable and disconnected from mains water and the sewerage system. All sewage is recycled for washing clothes, flushing the toilet and watering the garden; rainwater is collected for drinking, cooking and bathing - and he uses solar power.

\"Each year I've stopped more than 100,000 litres of sewage leaving the site, left over a million litres of water in the dams, and stopped four tones of coal being burnt per year. So it just shows how one small house can make a difference,\" he says.

The interest in his project from friends and others (17,000 people have toured his house) convinced him to ditch the law and earn a living from sharing his experience with others. Today a model of his home is displayed in Sydney's Powerhouse Museum, and his book, Sustainable House: Living for our Future (Choice Books), is into its fifth reprint. He now consults to developers and owners of offices and units.

\"There's no doubt that sustainability has become fashionable instead of weird or greenie,\" says Mobbs. \"No matter who they vote for, people are passionate about water and energy.\"