Stuart and Heike - Sustainable Apartment Living

There is a perception amongst many in our community, that living in an apartment is a barrier that prevents them from leading a sustainable lifestyle.

Stuart and Heike are living evidence that that doesn’t have to be the case. They returned from a spell living in Berlin inspired to continue the sustainable approach to apartment living that was common place in Germany.

It started when their apartment block common area was overflowing with bikes. As a group, they invested in some bike racks and ensured every apartment had one. As a result more people started to cycle. They discovered a number of other tenants had a shared passion for living lightly, so they formed a committee to see what else they could achieve.  

They set up a compost bin at the entrance to the building, soon the bin was full, so they set up another. The compost can be used by all the tenants. They’ve since built more bins from reclaimed timber.

Stuart and Heike heat and cool their apartment passively, keeping blinds closed on hot afternoons and opening doors and windows on hot nights. They seal draughts with stick on brush seals at the bottom of doors or draft stoppers in the winter.

Wherever possible they purchase second hand, upcycle and have made some great hard rubbish finds; from their lounge suite to the timber they use for various projects. They use water saving tap fittings and LED lights. They turn lights and appliances off when they’re not in use. They have a veggie patch, shop locally and choose to cycle rather than use their almost redundant car.

As Stuart pointed out, “very simple measures can make a big difference, we can all play our part. Living in an apartment doesn't have to limit that. One of the most pleasing aspects of living the way we do is the shared sense of community it's created, that's been priceless”. 


The Little Suburban Power Station

He describes his home as a little suburban power station. The roof of Ashley’s Middle Park home is adorned with 34 solar panels. After successfully applying for a heritage overlay planning permit, he now generates enough renewable electricity to power not only his own home but in theory a number of his neighbours’ homes too. He is well and truly energy positive and happy to share his extra green power around.

Ashley wanted to go one step further in his pursuit of clean energy and has his gas supply disconnected. As far as he knows he is the first to do so in Port Phillip, but expects to see others following suit. “It’s the future, why wouldn’t you?” He said goodbye to his gas hot water system, heating system and cooker and replaced them with solar powered electric alternatives.

In 3-4 years Ashley will have recouped the initial investment he made in installing the panels. He is passionate about the use of renewable energy and feels strongly that all new renovations should be set up to be powered in the same way his home is. As I left his home and looked up at the glistening panels and the searing sun, I’d tend to agree with him, why wouldn’t you?

The Source Bulk Foods


On 2012 Paul and Emma Medeiros left the corporate world behind them in search of a sea change in Byron Bay. In 2012 Source Bulk Foods was born out of a desire to create a waste free shopping experience. Stocking an array of bulk wholefoods and health foods, the concept has been a big success and stores are now spread across Australia. 

In March 2017 City of Port Phillip scored its first Source Bulk Foods store in Balaclava. As well as popping in for some tasty lunch time treats, we thought we’d go and meet store manager Georgia Corbett to talk The Source and sustainability. I asked Georgia to come up with 10 sustainability measures they employ, she went two better and provided 12. 

  1. Customers being able to buy as much or as little as required reduces the amount of produce wasted.
  2. Suppliers are asked to change over the containers when new deliveries are made in a bid to minimise waste.
  3. Ordering in bulk minimises product packaging and waste.
  4. There are no plastic bags, customers are encouraged to reuse their own jars, bottles and containers.
  5. Selling products that aim to reduce waste – stainless steel straws, keep cups, tote bags, beeswax wrapping, stainless steel water bottles, bamboo toothbrushes, jute bags and much more.  
  6. Reusing large hessian sacks that products arrive in, as bin liners or other storage solutions.
  7. Excess containers and packaging is offered to customers for reuse.
  8. Offering zero waste masterclasses to educate consumers to make the right choices 
  9. Giving $2 from every water bottle purchased to either Water Aid, who work hard towards providing clean drinking water for all, or to Sea Shepherd, who work hard to stop illegal fishing and whaling.
  10. Acting mindfully around energy use - ensuring lights, heating and cooling are only used when necessary.
  11. Spreading the message around zero waste shopping, far and wide through our social media channels, it’s a big focus for us.
  12. Where possible we source local, biodynamic, insecticide free, organic products.

We love being in the City of Port Phillip and how passionate people are about sustainability and reducing plastic. We're always up for a chat with those who are passionate like us. We have an unwavering vision that together we can make a difference and reduce packaging waste in Australia.

Get along to The Source Bulk Foods at 171 Carlisle Street in Balaclava and enjoy a more sustainable, waste free, shopping experience.

Sonia and Bart's Green Roof


Sonia and Bart live in a 1950's apartment. After a day at work, filming on a green roof, Bart suggested that they must get one. The roof was one big unusable, unsociable and in truth unattractive, blank canvas. After a lot of research, the prospect of transforming it into a beautiful, usable space that benefited the environment and the residents, was too good to resist. 

A Green Roof Committee consisting of engaged residents was formed and between them there was a broad skill set and a lot of enthusiasm. The Committee began searching for funding opportunities and found one offered by the State Government of Victoria calling for submissions from community groups to improve the water cycle.

The application was a huge task, they attended workshops, read papers and pieced together the application. The application was successful and this dream project had a sense of reality to it. 

Not many Green Roofs are retrofitted onto an existing building, most are designed and built into new buildings. There is huge potential for older style apartments with flat rooftops to retrofit. As our population increases and the density of inner city living increases, we lose green spaces. There is nowhere for water to be absorbed into the land, no place for biodiversity or communal gathering. Green Roofs are a means to help rectify this problem.

Today the Green Roof is a beautiful, thriving garden, full of native plants and wildlife. It has also brought together a community of residents that otherwise had no obvious place to connect and socialise.

"We could not imagine a life without our Green Roof. There was a lot of work and research to make it happen but it was all worth it. We did it and you could too!" - Sonia and Bart.  

Find out more about this wonderful environmental success story here

Besides being a great place to hang out, a green roof has many environmental benefits, they also;

• reduce storm water run-off
• increase the quality of water run-off
• reduce flash flooding
• reduce the heat generated from reflected surfaces
• provide insulation properties to reduce energy bills
• help to lower global CO2 omissions
• absorb sound which in turn lowers noise in the community
• trap the distribution of dust and other matter
• improve air quality
• increase plant life encouraging biodiversity.

St Kilda Repair Cafe

The St Kilda Repair Cafe held its first event in December 2017. It offers free repair cafe sessions at the EcoCentre on the second Sunday of each month. 

Volunteer fixers offer their time and skills to repair broken items free of charge. Everything from toasters, lamps, hair dryers, clothes, bikes, toys, crockery; in fact, any broken household item is welcome.

Instead of throwing away broken items they are lovingly brought back to life. This reduces the volume of raw materials and energy needed to make new products, reducing CO2 emissions.

The Repair Cafe highlights how fun repairing things can be, and how easy it often is. The sharing of knowledge and skills also helps to create a sense of community.

Co-ordinator John Hillel explained his motivation for founding the initiative, "I wanted to challenge the assumption that when something needs repair it can just be discarded and replaced with a new one, thus reducing the number of items going to landfill. We must learn to live more sustainably if we are going to have any chance of avoiding environmental and social catastrophe. It's up to us as individuals to take action".

The St Kilda Repair Cafe is a joint initiative between Port Phillip Eco Centre and the Jewish Ecological Coalition. It's one of 1,400 Repair Cafe's worldwide.

If you have a broken item or want to volunteer, make sure you head down to their next event. Find out more about this fantastic initiative here