Sustainability

John Gertsakis

By December 13, 2018 March 12th, 2019 No Comments
Victoria Alps, AUS
When it comes to sustainable solutions, product stewardship, and environmental policy, John Gertsakis is your man. Living in a small mountain village in the heart of the Australian Alps, John has a passion for the outdoors and is determined to leave the environment in a better condition for future generations. If he isn’t working remotely for his Sydney and Melbourne based clients, you’ll find John exploring his slice of the world with his children and Kelpie cattle dog.
Tell us a bit about who John Gertsakis is?

John Gertsakis is a sustainability and communications consultant specializing in product stewardship and environmental policy. He’s a devoted outdoor activities hack and wannabe mountaineer (one day!!!). He lives in a classic 1970s A-Frame cabin in the heart of the Victoria Alps in a tiny mountain village called Harrietville. If he’s not online managing digital strategy and social media for his clients, he’s outside hiking, ski touring or trout fishing; and always with a camera!

Have you always had a passion for sustainability and product stewardship? How did you discover this passion? 

Nature conservation has always dominated my life – personally and professionally. I love interesting landscapes, especially alpine regions and wild coastlines on Australia’s southern coastline. There’s something very special about being close to the weather and clouds. You know you’re alive and absorbing the elements.

You live in a very beautiful part of Australia, can you tell us a little about that and why you put your roots down there?

I live in Harrietville – a wee mountain village in the heart of Victoria Alps on Australia’s Great Dividing Range. It’s a classic alpine valley with high rainfall, plenty of Winter snow and unmatched hiking, backcountry skiing, fly fishing, and deer hunting. It’s also a major center for mountain bike riding and paragliding. It’s paradise if you love outdoor recreation, nature-based activities and locally made craft beer!

What’s your favorite part about the land in Harrietville?

We’re surrounded by giant Eucalypt forests, sparkling streams and amazing wildlife including echidna, kangaroos, wallabies, platypus and of course all of our famous snakes!! It was also a major area of mining during the 1850s gold rush so the cultural heritage assets are quite unique, from major dredging operations to small two-man mines. Above all, you get to feel the seasons in Harrietville with sub-zero temps in Winter through to 40C plus heat waves in Summer. It’s wild, verdant and tranquil all at once. Pure bliss.

Can you talk us through an average day in the life of John Gertsakis?  

Sunrise till mid-morning … coffee with toast; walk the Kelpie cattle dog down the river and then jump on enviro news stories and bulletins from Australia and aboard; check social media accounts for clients and schedule content for the next 48 hours; collect mail from the local post office and visit the bakery!

Afternoons … writing blogs, strategies, and submissions for clients; team concalls and always a bit of strategic thinking about future projects, e-waste and how we can avoid waste through design rather than focusing on recycling!!! (best done by the side of the mountain stream over the track from home); let’s face it ‘recycling’ is a convenient excuse for many manufacturers to ensure products become obsolete sooner rather than later!!

Evenings … a quick walk around local tracks and trails or a drive up the road to Mount Hotham to photograph some stunning sunsets; a quick visit to the local pub for a craft beer and then home for dinner; the evenings are often dominated by the coolest music from Icelandic composer Olafur Arnalds while sitting out on the deck watching the last light wash over the surrounding hills and mountains.

The UBCO 2X2 is full of super silent vavoom!! This is wonderful when you’re in nature seeking to be low impact but demanding high performance. It handles so well in all conditions and I love its design. Aesthetically and mechanically, the engineering behind this unit demonstrates a design approach that is informed and innovative yet no-nonsense. It’s classic NZ but designed for the world stage and it’s right at home here in the Victoria Alps. Of course, its attention to environmental factors, including design for disassembly and battery management, is to be highly commended. It’s destined to reach electro ‘classic iron’ inside a decade!

What kind of measures do you take in your personal life to reduce your environmental footprint and improve your energy efficiency?

I’ve reduced my carbon footprint dramatically since moving to Harrietville. By working remotely for Melbourne and Sydney based clients I conduct most of my meetings and interactions online which saves numerous face to face meetings that would otherwise require lots of driving. The internet and Australia’s mobile phone network means I can do most of my work anywhere, from the loft at Cabin A in Harrietville to the high country summits with everything in between. I’ve also designed and built an energy efficient house bulging with insulation, double-glazing and a hyper-efficient hot water heat pump system made by Sanden.

What is one product stewardship project that you would love to work on?

Outdoor apparel and equipment, including tents and packs, fill my cabin. It’s stuff I use regularly so I see how it works and get a feel for what makes products durable and repairable. In other words, I’d love to be working on product stewardship for outdoor gear and making sure that it meets functional objectives while also maximizing environment performance, especially durability.

You do a lot of exploring in Victoria, where is your favorite place to visit?

My most favorite place in Victoria is Mt Feathertop and Razorback Ridge. It’s one of the few true alpine peaks in the Victorian Alps and is the State’s second highest mountain at 1,922m. The 360-degree views well above the treeline are breathtaking, exposed and truly magnificent. It’s also one of the few places in Australia where ice-climbing and mountaineering can be enjoyed.

What are the three essentials that you take on every adventure?

My Tilley’s sun hat, my North Face walking boots and my MacPac duvet.

ps. And loads of chocolate!!!!!

What do you believe you were you put on the earth to do?

My late father always used to joke that I’d grow up to be a goat shepherd if I didn’t study hard at school! In retrospect, it would have been an attractive option up in the mountains of northern Greece. Seriously though, my mission has been to stir and tease my children to the point of endless (mutual) laughter. Seriously though, I’d like to leave a positive legacy; to do good, be kind and leave the environment in a better condition for future generations.

What does a sustainable future look like to you?

Less greed, more sharing, reduced consumption, increased kindness, greater environmental awareness, deeper social understanding between cultures, communities and ethnic groups. Basically, a sustainable future is one where we learn to do much more with much less, and thereby protect the planet.

What haven’t you accomplished that you aspire to do in your lifetime?

Despite being a keen bushwalker and cross country skier in Australia, I’ve always wanted to learn the art of glacier travel and basic mountaineering. I’d love to be able to do some alpine climbing or mountaineering in New Zealand or Europe before my bones and muscles give way.

Who are your heroes? Who do you look up to?

There so many wonderful people that I admire for so many different reasons but one that stands out is Yvon Chouinard, the climber and founder/owner of Patagonia equipment. He is an exemplary human. The way he has combined his love of the natural environment and the production of quality outdoor apparel provides a template for many other businesses to follow. 

Can you tell us about your hobbies/passions?

Ha! I love the alpine landscape and all that goes with it, especially walking, ski touring and photography. Spending time outdoors in the Australian Alps with my kids or my close friends is by far the most satisfying part of my life. Utopia is a word that comes to mind.

What is your favorite place in the world?

I truly love Chamonix in the French Alps and all the hiking and climbing to be enjoyed around Mont Blanc. I’m especially fond of a tiny alpine chalet a short steep hike out of Chamonix called Chalet de la Floria. Peaceful with stunning views across the valley and glorious flowering plants in Summer.

Where is the one place in the world where you can’t wait to visit?

I love everything about Chamonix and the French Alps. The culture, the landscape, the people, the food and wine, and of course the mountains, glaciers, and trails.