A comprehensive sustainability concept implemented in Australia

The Swiss embassy building set in a garden with a Swiss flagpole and a large tree in the foreground.
The Swiss embassy in Canberra is implementing concrete measures to protect the environment and the climate. © FDFA

In line with its domestic efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda, Switzerland is also making a sustainable impact abroad. The Swiss embassy in Canberra, Australia, is an excellent example. The embassy has adopted numerous climate- and energy-related measures, becoming a role model at home and abroad.

Sustainable living and working 

The Swiss embassy in Australia is pursuing numerous sustainability measures including a high-performance photovoltaic system that largely covers the embassy's electricity requirements. Consequently, when possible, rechargeable batteries are also charged during the day, when the system is at its peak performance. 

Other energy and climate protection measures include the use of solar energy for hot water, active waste, recycling and water management, and the use of energy-efficient appliances. Outdated, inefficient spotlights, which illuminated the site at night, were disposed of. The optimal orientation of the building and selected structural elements contribute to the efficient use of sunlight and shade, thus reducing heating and cooling energy costs as well. Simple but effective measures also include switching on the central air conditioning system late (at 10am instead of 7am) and lowering the thermostat during the heating period. 

The two ambassadors regularly use electric bikes to travel to official events in the capital. In just under two years, they have travelled a total of 3,250km on their e-bikes. Air travel is increasingly being avoided, with employees now taking the bus or train for longer distances too, e.g. to Sydney. In addition, the embassy provides a service bike, which is regularly used by embassy staff. Living sustainably rather than just talking about it!

A woman and a man on e-bikes in front of a building.
In just under two years, the embassy's two e-bikes have travelled a total of 3,250km. © FDFA

Diverse, resource-conserving garden

More trees have been planted in the embassy garden to preserve biodiversity. Native plants are preferred as they are better suited to the dry climate. Outdoor areas that need watering nevertheless are irrigated largely with rainwater. The embassy has an 85,000-litre rainwater tank for this purpose. In addition, irrigation is subject to restrictive concentration and control. This conserves resources, protects the environment and reduces costs. 

Raising awareness of sustainability

The embassy is involved in a number of awareness-raising campaigns. Firstly, the Act Smart initiative encourages employees to think about energy and climate issues. Act Smart is a local initiative launched by the Australian government.

Secondly, the embassy participates in the 'Bringing the 2000 Watt Society to Australia' project. The aim is to promote the concept of a 2000-watt society – developed in Switzerland – in Australia. The 2000-watt society includes both an energy policy goal (2000 watts of primary energy consumption per person) and a climate policy goal (a maximum of one tonne of CO2 emissions per person per year). The introduction of this concept by the Swiss embassy can inspire both private and public actors in Australia to take energy-saving measures of their own. 

Bees make an important contribution to a healthy environment by pollinating flowers. On the roof of the residence, the ambassador's family manages two bee colonies as part of the embassy's commitment to World Bee Day, designated by the UN and observed on 20 May.

The flying passport office

In the past, Swiss citizens in Australia had to travel long distances within the continent in order to obtain a new passport. In Australia, only the Swiss consulate general in Sydney is responsible for issuing passports. In addition to Australia, its consular districts include Kiribati, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. Such journeys are not only cumbersome and expensive, but also pollute the environment as people usually travel by plane.

The mobile Swiss passport office now offers a solution to this problem: consular employees travel around the country with computers, cameras and biometric devices, stopping in the capital cities of the federal states to collect the necessary data for new passports. On average, around 600 Swiss citizens are spared the long journey to the consulate in Sydney and can register with the mobile passport office instead.

The advantages of this new system in Australia are twofold: people no longer face the costs of a long flight to the consulate general, and greenhouse gas emissions are thus also reduced.