Rich Polluters

Reporter: Graeme Butler

Think of being green and you think of switching off the lights, recycling and turning off taps - but the clothes you wear the food you eat and the money you earn could say more about your impact on the planet than anything else.

Chuck Berger from the australian conservation foundation says research has revealled residents with the biggest global footprints - perth's highest polluting suburbs.. and its' not what you might think. "Well the suburbs with the highest environmental impacts are the centre of perth then the inner city suburbs. subiaco for instance relatively high environmental impacts, fremantle is also coming in as a bit of an environmental impact hotspot"

So why does subiaco fare so poorly in the environmental stakes well the theory goes the more affluent you are the bigger consumer you're likely to be things like electronics furnishing clothes even what you or don't eat see in australia every year we throw out 5.3 billion dollars worth of food.

Chuck says "some foods are very high environmental impacts for instance beef and dairy, those come with high water use and also high greenhouse impact on the environment adn that can be just as important or even more important than your actual electricity use or your petrol use in your own life"

Then there's the houses we live in - take the new development in Subiaco. A toast to urban renewal but while many houses and apartments are large they house only one or two people... but Professor Peter Newman from the institute of sustainability at Murdoch university says the data is flawed. "Well they've got it totally wrong subiaco and fremantle are the tow places that have the lowest footprint becuase people in those areas travel the least they've got lots of local opportunities you can just walk down the street to things and you've got a good train service but you've got city centres real centres"

So if Subiaco fared so poorly - what suburb came up best ... well this might surprise you.. its' not the image you might conjour up when you think of Green but Kwinana which sits in the shadow of industry was the greenist of all - "I was a bit shocked when i was first told on friday that we were the lowest in the state i was like wow we've got something good going for us here" Long time Kwinana residents Christine and Doug Scambler believe the green title has more to do with attitude than income. When it comes to consumerism christine and doug do fit the green bill - they're not swayed by fads and fashions. "Well we've got the same fridge that we had when we were married in 1972 and we've had it fixed a couple of times we've never needed to change it because it still works we had the same tv up until two years ago that we had since when we got married" Christine and Doug recycle what ever they can and even have a worm farm to take care of food scraps.

Other suburbs to rate well include wanneroo, Rockingham and Gosnells but peter newman is still sceptical about the low impact of outer suburbs like kwinana compared to inner city communities like subiaco especially when it comes to transport. Peter Newman says "the evidence is suggesting that the wealthy are moving to areas where they can minimise their impact they can have less energy use, they can eat better, they can ride their bikes more they can use the train and the poor are getting the raw deal and going further and further out live in houses that are leaky and drive cars that are very fuel inefficient"

Regardless of whether you live in an affluent or working class suburb.. whether you recycle or not the take home message in all of this is simple, "it's trying to say please try and look after the earth and the earth's worth saving and i agree with that but they're going to make it worse if they just say doesn't matter where you live the only thing that matters is that you don''t have much money" Chuck says "we're not telling people here necessarily to reduce their quality of life but to look at spending their money in ways that don't have quite as high an impact on the environment"