Mr Fixer

Michael Zeeng is a fixer, if he can fix it he will. Fate has led him to fix toys in Port Phillip. He comes from a generation that valued items until they were fixable no more (and even then he’d have a good go).

One day as he strolled past a childcare centre a young boy dropped a toy that rolled through the fence and landed at his feet. He noticed the boy was signing to his carer and so he joined the conversation, offering to fix the faulty toy without opening his mouth.

Ever since that day Michael visits the centre each week and leaves with a bounty of broken toys. He is also the toy fixer for the City of Port Phillip’s four toy libraries, teaches disengaged school children woodwork skills, a committed scout leader and proud member of Port Phillip Men’s Shed. .

All voluntary. All working with kids. Why? “I enjoy their company. I love their energy and curiosity”. He is like a children magnet, they are drawn to him, they can sense there’s a big kid in there too.

His work is exhibited at Port Phillip schools, childcare centres and toy libraries; a mended shelf here, a fixed train set there. It’s also evident in the growth of the children he works with; whether it’s the kids that feel school isn’t for them but woodwork is or the young scouts eager to impress in the hunt for a new badge.

Michael is also a gatherer; procuring abandoned pieces of timber, old pallets and unwanted furniture and giving them a new life. Why dispose of something that can be reimagined or fixed? Over the years this approach has diverted many kilograms of unwanted, unloved items from finding their way to landfill.    

And so, on behalf of all the children whose lives you have impacted, Michael Zeeng we salute you. Every community needs a fixer, people who are willing to give up their time and skills to improve the lives of others.  

Cirrus Fine Coffee

There's a coffee roaster in Port Melbourne that are doing more than just serve up delicious cups of caffeine goodness. Cirrus Fine Coffee want to serve up delicious cups of caffeine goodness whilst operating at the forefront of sustainable business practices.

It’s evident in their passion for compostable packaging, their commitment to upcycled coffee machines, their willingness to grow and use their own, their dedication to use and distribute coffee grounds to fertilise farms, community gardens and their own veggie patch.

In November 2018 they converted a car space into a pop up farm. They set themselves a target of growing 300 kg of vegetables in a year, which according to World Health Organisation is enough to feed two adults for a year. Using wicking beds and coffee grounds to turbo charge the soil, they achieved that in half the time.

They are passionate about using the organic waste and excess space that exist in urban spaces to grow organic vegetables. Keep on sowing those sustainable seeds.

Angelo Xerri - Apartment Building Manager

Late last year we were contacted by Angelo Xerri, the Building Manager of The Boulevard Apartments on St Kilda Road. He was keen to explore ways to make his building more efficient and to reduce operating costs but didn’t know where to start.

The very next day our energy expert, Brett Hedger, met with Angelo at the building to start the ball rolling. The two men share a passion for getting things done and together they swept through the building, auditing and developing an understanding of the building’s efficiency and how it could be improved.

Consisting of two buildings, two towers, 30 storeys and over 150 apartments, the scale and size of The Boulevard, meant there was an opportunity for big change;

It turns out that there were many ways to improve the efficiency of the building and within 6 months they decreased the annual utility bills by over $40,000. Through the Victorian Energy Efficiency Target Scheme 300 lights and fittings were upgraded to an LED energy efficient option. The water and gas supply was restructured to operate more efficiently

Most pleasing is that Angelo has now been empowered to understand his building from an energy perspective and to own it. This understanding, coupled with his get things done attitude, means that he is now seeing opportunities himself to operate more sustainably. And that is a powerful shift in thinking.

This just the start of the sustainability journey for Angelo and the Boulevard, solar energy and light sensors are now being explored, with further savings, of emissions and money, on the way.

And so Angelo and Brett have struck up a formidable team, two people that find a way to make change happen. “All of this has happened because of the quick analysis and advice provided by Brett and the City of Port Phillip.” Angelo modestly offered. The truth is that it also needed Angelo to reach out, be willing to learn and take action.

If you want our help to improve the operating efficiency of your building, contact the Sustainable Programs Team at enviro@portphillip.vic.gov.au

Dugald; Tree Boat Builder Extraordinaire

I went along to pick my son up from primary school last month and stumbled across the unveiling of a tree boat. This was my first run in with a tree boat and I was impressed. It’s a charming little vessel built with lashings of love by tree boat builder extraordinaire, Dugald Jellie.

The boat offers any children that are feeling lost, uncertain or unsure a safe place to journey to wherever their imaginations will take them. A dependable, inclusive and durable ship for all to sail.

The thing I loved most about this ship was its origins. All her joists and bearers are hardwood, all salvaged. Every one of her deck boards is recycled rainforest timbers, each rescued from landfill.  

Dugald is no usual tree boat builder, he’s an environmentalist tree boat builder with a big heart. He builds all manner of visionary solutions for local schools and kindergartens outdoor spaces; reuse, creativity and care are always central to his vision. 

Whatever is requested; whether it’s treehouses, play areas, wicking beds, toilet doors, paving, planting, awnings or shelters, Dugald comes up with a solution bursting with imagination and recycled materials he’s plucked from skips, hard rubbish or donations.

Giving them a new life, a much better life, and hoping that the message of reuse and reducing consumption will trickle down to the children and the local community.

Fox Hay Timber and Hardware

“For most businesses the primary factor for most big decisions is to keep operating costs down. Sustainability is a nice bonus”.

This is what Director of Fox Hay Timber and Hardware in Port Melbourne, Bruce Fox, had to say about his motivation for installing a 12 kw solar system and upgrading to LED lights. These two decisions alone have halved their energy costs.

Three and a half years ago Bruce was approached by a solar provider and offered a 5 year plan to pay off a 12kw solar system. After checking that the numbers made sense he went ahead with the instal and is still smiling about it now. They have another year and a half until they have paid it off, they will then own the system and the savings will increase.

Two years ago Bruce was told by his mechanic about a free upgrade to energy efficient LED lighting available through the Victorian Energy Upgrades Program. “What’s the catch?” Bruce was delighted to find out that there wasn’t one and went ahead with the installation. “We’ve had no issues in terms of their maintenance and the bulbs actually give off a brighter light which suits our business needs”.

The financial impact of these two sustainability choices has resulted in an annual saving of approximately $3,500; throw in the reduction in emissions, lower maintenance costs, greater energy independence, and you understand why he asks, “why on earth are more businesses not making these choices?”

Although the motives for our sustainability choices are often different the impact is the same; lower operating costs and improved environmental outcomes.

James and the Giant Reuse

James is a 6 year old on a mission. He wants to make a difference, in the hope that he might inspire others and all those little differences might add up to a big difference to our planet.  

When James noticed that his Primary School were inundated with stationery items they no longer needed, he decided to do something about it. He asked if he could take them home so that they weren’t wasted.

He took so much stationery home that his family wouldn’t be able to use it all and so he needed to find another use for it. This was no surprise to his parents, he has always had a healthy fascination with recycling . They contacted the local Kindergarten, Albert Park Kindergarten, to see if they would be able to use it.

He sharpened each and every pencil and put the sharpenings into compost. The Kinder was so impressed that they asked if James was able to come in and share his motivation with the younger children.

Of course the younger children were mesmerised and the message sunk in; why buy when you can reuse? James has promised to return to the Kinder and share his next sustainable venture with his captive audience.

When James isn’t inspiring Kinder kids he can be found at Port Melbourne most weekends collecting rubbish, tending to the family worm farm and sorting through the waste to ensure nothing goes to landfill that can be recycled.

Well done James, we salute you.

Jeff and Michaela's Solar Apartment

Jeff and Michaela live in a 12 unit apartment block in St Kilda East. They are both passionate about community and sustainability and today was a day they’d been looking forward to for a long time. Thirteen gleaming solar panels now have pride of place on their roof, they were now tapping into the sun’s infinite energy sources for the first time. This was a project driven by two determined individuals, it was not without its barriers, which makes today all the sweeter.

After discussing the option of installing a solar system with the other tenants and establishing that nobody else was in a position to join them, they were able to divide the roof into 13 sections, with the help of Positive Charge, a Council initiative run by Moreland Energy Foundation - 12 for the tenants and one for the Owner’s Corporation. Watching Jeff marvel at the panels it was evident that this was a very proud moment and one that didn’t happen overnight.

They had initially pitched the idea of installing a 30kw system with embedded network to the Owner’s Corporation, this would have powered the common areas and all 12 units during the day. There was not enough buy in and it was back to the drawing board. They then suggested a smaller system just to power the common areas and whilst the Owner’s Corporation were receptive to the project, funds were prioritised to an alternative project..

It was third time lucky with a 3.72kw system to power their own apartment at their own cost whilst utilising the current Solar Victoria rebate. Their cause was helped by the high number of owner occupiers in the building, their relationship with them, and proactive strata manager and their willingness to allay any fears and communicate with knowledge and passion.

It was important to Michaela and Jeff that the project didn’t impact the sense of community they had helped to foster with their neighbours. They had also installed a communal veggie patch in the nature strip after securing a Small Poppies grant from City of Port Phillip and invited everyone to share in the joys of planting and harvesting, they had organised super-sized garage sales and invited everyone to get involved, they even organised an impromptu Halloween celebration last year that went down a treat (excuse the pun). Community is important to them.

The installation caused minimal disturbance within the building or to the roof itself and there’s been a lot of intrigue and excitement about the project. At a recent Owners Corporation meeting, a new ruling was passed which will make it less problematic for the other apartment owners to install solar. Jeff and Michaela are hoping they can be the catalysts for change in their neighbourhood.

Jeff will be sharing their journey at our Solar Partnership for Apartment Buildings Information Session on the 12 March 2019, come along if you’d like to hear more about his story or ask him a question. Find out more about the Solar Partnership Program.

If you’re interested in installing solar, our article Go Solar, will help to guide your decision.

Baenziger Coles Architects

Architecture and sustainability have always been intertwined, but the trend has shifted as developers put more and more emphasis on profits. The industry, and indeed that planet, needs firms that buck that trend and Baenziger Coles does just that. An architect firm based in South Melbourne they have a focus on sustainable design that has seen them scoop the CitySwitch* Green Office Awards in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 & 2018 – quite the hot streak.

“Architects have a responsibility to embed sustainability into their designs”. This is the view of Baenziger Coles Director, Sue Coles. In doing so they are influencing the work of their building contractors, clients and indeed their own staff of ten; whether they’re encouraging builders to reuse surplus materials from a previous build, designing light fittings that are sealed so the heat doesn’t escape into the roof or having a sustainability suggestion jar in their office where employees can make a case for a new internal practice.

What they’ve found is that there is an appetite for sustainability, it just needs to be offered and if necessary, explained. They don’t just encourage others to operate sustainably, they lead by example. Their office has achieved a 5.5 star NABERS** rating and are chasing the maximum 6 star rating. Employees are encouraged to put an extra layer of clothing on if they’re cold, rather than use the heating. Delivery boxes are flat packed, stored and reused when the moment arises.

Sue is passionate about the education of student architects and the lack of emphasis that is put on designing with sustainability in mind. If you’d like to understand more about design and sustainability Sue has very generously offered to share her perspective.

*Baenziger Coles have been part of CitySwitch since 2010. CitySwitch is a free program helping commercial office tenants around Australia to:

  • Enhance energy efficiency and reduce costs

  • Manage energy price increases and mitigate business risks

  • Work towards a carbon positive future

  • Reduce waste

  • Improve the health and productivity of employees.

Find out how CitySwitch can help your business to save money and operate more sustainably.

**A NABERS rating (National Australian Built Environment Rating System) can be used to measure a building’s energy efficiency, carbon emissions, as well as the water consumed, the waste produced and compare it to similar buildings. A NABERS rating help you to understand your impact and begin the journey to reducing it and contributing to a healthier environment.

If you’re a business in Port Phillip and you want to share your sustainability journey or start one, contact us at enviro@portphillip.vic.gov.au

Globe International

Sometimes the smallest things can have the biggest impacts. Wanting to address their organic waste Globe International, a Port Phillip based skateboard brand, installed a worm farm and veggie patch on a disused plot at their head office and made it available to staff. They planted a seed and it grew.

Environmental and Social Responsibility Manager, Jason Boulter, has been pleasantly surprised by staff response to the two new additions, “We ended up with more volunteers to care for the worms than we could cope with. We have a worm waitlist”. They now have a fully functioning worm farm that is coping with all their organic waste, a thriving veggie patch that staff are using to freshen up their salads.

Perhaps more surprising is the impact it’s had on staff. It’s brought people together from different departments. It’s inspired some to start worm farming at home and others to get back into composting. People are found chatting around the veggie patch and taking little breaks that put a smile on their faces and break up their working day.

Local cafes have heard about the worm farm and veggie patch and enquired about bringing their coffee grounds to be used as compost. Globe are now considering adding more farms and patches to accommodate the local community. They also provide staff with access to e-waste and soft plastic recycling, Jason has noticed that people are now bringing their waste from home and using this service.

So there you have it, a humble worm farm and veggie patch has made a real difference, not only to environmental outcomes but to the wellbeing of a team and community. They are now looking at their improving their energy efficiency and their long term goal is to move towards operating as a zero waste organisation, incorporating packaging and products.

Globe International are one of 13 businesses taking part in City of Port Phillip’s Smart Solutions for Businesses Program. The Program supports local businesses to operate smarter, greener and more sustainably. The worm farm and veggie patch were installed by Worm Lovers with a comprehensive handover to ensure both are happy and healthy.

If you’re a business in Port Phillip and you want to share your sustainability journey or start one, contact us at enviro@portphillip.vic.gov.au

5 Reasons To Love Port Phillip Men's Shed

I must confess I had never heard of a Men’s Shed. I am not from these shores and was blissfully ignorant until this week. I received an email from Port Phillip Men’s Shed making me aware of their outstanding sustainability efforts and I am now a big fan.

A Men’s Shed is an updated version of the shed in the backyard. It provides a safe and busy environment to find an atmosphere of old-fashioned mateship. In doing so it supports men’s health.

And if that wasn’t enough they’re doing great things in sustainability. Port Phillip is fortunate enough to have their own thriving Men’s Shed based in South Melbourne.

There’s too many reasons to list why you should love your local Men’s Shed but here’s just 5;

1. Recycling

Many projects utilise recycled timbers sourced from skips, donations by local business and members. Several projects we have made on behalf of community groups incorporate such materials. Some of these projects are:

  • Musical instruments for both the Albert Park and Middle Park primary schools

  • Bird nesting boxes

  • The ‘Mary and Basil’ sign for the community garden at the Mary Kehoe Centre

  • Compost bins for the St Kilda Primary School.

  • Paints and varnishes. We use paints and varnishes in projects that have been donated to us from industry or community donations that would otherwise end up in landfill.

  • Fittings and hardware. We use items such as screws, nails, bolts, brackets and various hardware items that have been donated to us, often from deceased estates. We are aware that some of these materials would have ended up as garbage if we did not accept them.

  • Tools. A variety of tools that have been donated to us are either added to our workshops or have been handed on to the needy in our community.

  • Members are invited to leave disused batteries at our Men’s Shed. These are collected and disposed of sustainably.

2. Repairs

They carries out numerous repairs to furniture items that would otherwise be discarded and ending up in landfill. They repair broken toys from the local toy libraries.

3. Vegetable Garden

Vegetables grown in our vegetable garden are regularly used in weekly lunches. Any surplus vegetables can be taken by PPMSA members or given to the needy.

All compostable vegetable matter we generate is composted. Members and the community can also add to our compost system.

4. Little free Libraries

There are now 14 book exchange units (Little Free Libraries) they have made that are located throughout our municipality. These book exchanges are proving popular as people can either leave unwanted books or borrow books from them.

5. Christmas trees

Wooden Christmas trees are made and sold at the South Melbourne Market each December. These trees are made from scrap timber and laminated form contrasting patterns. Get in quick they’re very popular!

The O Initiative

The premise is simple; people are more likely to use water fountains if they have been involved in their creation and they are aesthetically beautiful as well as functional. This is the belief of O Initiative founder, Gretha Oost.

“People don’t want to drink from stainless steel water fountains, they are practical but they are not designed with the user in mind. O Fountain’s create curiousity, interest and happiness”.

A few years ago Gretha was reading Anita Roddick’s autobiography. She remembers seeing an image of young children in The Phillipines playing on a mountain of disposable water bottles. This was the moment she decided she wanted to do something to combat plastic pollution.

Every single day, nearly one million plastic water bottles end up in Australian landfill. It’s an overwhelming problem, Gretha wanted to create something that allows lots of individuals to take one small step to make a big difference; to use water fountains instead of buying disposable water bottles.

O Fountains combine the functionality of a drinking fountains with the beauty of public art. The first O Fountain was created at Alma Park in St Kilda East in March 2017. It used a model Gretha calls The 3 P’s. Public sector supplying the land, Private sector supplying the funding and People supplying the ideas and the art. “By creating something together, people are more likely to use it and to look after it”.

A concept that was born in City of Port Phillip is now taking wings as Gretha attempts to launch it globally, starting in her native Holland. In the region she comes from there is a word called mienskip, it has no exact English translation, but it’s the feeling you have within a close community. Gretha is intent on creating a global mienskip of O Fountain users and we wish her luck.

Boomerang Bags Port Phillip

The last time I sewed I was in primary school and I had to get the big plastic needle through the big gaping hole. I think my teacher and I were both in agreement that I should stick to colouring in. Last weekend that all changed, at the ripe age of thirty something, I made a bag, not just any bag, a Boomerang Bag.

Twice a month Boomerang Bags Port Phillip hold a sewing bee and having heard so much about this great initiative I thought it was probably time that I found my thimble and my inner seamster. Boomerang Bags works to reduce the use of plastic bags by engaging local communities in the making of reusable bags – community made, using recycled materials. Boomerang Bags provide a free, fun, sustainable alternative to plastic bags.

I was warmly greeted by Mandy Burns and Megan Gourlay, the driving forces behind Boomerang Bags Port Phillip and lovely people to boot. Pleasantries completed I was whisked off to a table full of unwanted and unlikely materials that were to be transformed into something beautiful and sustainable; from hospital bedding packaging to rice sacks, items that otherwise would have found their way to landfill.

In keeping with the bee theme, the room was buzzing with activity. Fabric was being cut, pockets were being pinned, badges were being sewn and I was staring blankly at templates. Feeling a little out of my comfort zone I was delighted when a lovely volunteer called Joan asked if I wanted to have a go on the sewing machine. I took a seat, pressed the pedal, created a perfect line of cross stitch, and suddenly sewing made sense.

Joan, a regular volunteer at Boomerang Bags sewing bees, was a former sew sceptic too. But an environmental conscience and a community mind brought her along to a Boomerang Bags sewing bee and she hasn’t looked back. “I love meeting the different people who come along, knowing that I’m helping to create something that benefits the environment and our local community.”

I chatted with a young family who found out about the sewing bee through the Port Phillip Volunteer Portal. Whilst mum and dad were keen to meet some new people, their 7-year-old son was happy to learn a new skill during the school holidays and spend time as a family.

This is what initiatives like Boomerang Bags do, they bring people together who otherwise would never have met. It was hard to say goodbye to the bag I made, it was a thing of rare beauty. Knowing that it would be used time and time again by South Melbourne market shoppers, since it’s gone plastic bag free, softened the blow.

Whether you want to learn something new, meet new people, give back to your community or do your bit for the environment, I encourage you to give up a little of your Saturday to do something fantastic. You never know, you might even enjoy sewing as much as I did. 

Find out about the next sewing bee here

Albert Park Kindergarden

I never used to like dropping my son off at childcare. I would say goodbye with a reassuring hug and a big smile but I never felt comfortable with it. It’s a big deal to trust somebody else with your child. Today I visited Albert Park Kinder (APK), a Seedlings centre, and met the Director, Jenny Whelan. We spoke all things education, sustainability and life. She gave me a tour of the centre and I got to meet some of the children. After meeting Jenny, the other educators and the kids, I left feeling reassured that I would have fet very comfortable about dropping my son off at APK.

Jenny grew up in The Otways, surrounded by pristine forest, rolling hills and bird song. She calls it the most beautiful place in the world. She’s carried that love of nature with her ever since. It’s that love, that with the help of her team, has helped to fuel the transformation of Albert Park Kinder from an also ran to a sustainability leader. 

I saw photos that showed how the outside space has been transformed over the past five years to the now vibrant, colourful home to plants, flowers and worm farms, that mesmerises the kids. Verity McLucas, the Seedlings Program Manager, shows me an impressive graph highlighting Albert Park’s ever decreasing use of gas, electric and water.  

I’m delighted to find out that it isn’t the educators that read the meters, it’s the children themselves invested in trying to get ever smaller numbers. In one year they reduced their water consumption by 64 per cent, electricity by 24 per cent and their gas by 76 per cent. On 7 June 2018 they took another step towards realising their dream of carbon neutrality when they turned off their gas. They now use a combination of solar energy, battery storage and green power.

The Kindergarten’s commitment was further demonstrated when they employed their own Sustainability Officer. Camille worked in close partnership with our own Brett Hedger to lead embedding sustainability throughout the curriculum, whilst chipping away to reduce their energy use, water consumption and waste.  When Camille moved on to a new role earlier this year, the service recognised there wasn’t a need to employ a new Sustainability Officer because under Camille’s guidance and leadership, the baton was picked up by all the other staff, the vision had trickled down not only to the kids but to all staff too.

Sustainability at Albert Park Kinder is not there simply to dazzle prospective new parents or to pad out their curriculum. It’s about inspiring the next generation to take care of their planet. The staff recognise that children already have a curiosity for the natural world, all they have to do is not get in the way of it. From purchasing non-toxic paints and working with Indigenous experts to design a Bush Tucker garden to installing solar panels and disconnecting their gas, sustainability and a love for our planet is evident throughout.

When I ask Jenny for an example of something she has seen or heard from the children, to highlight the importance of what they are doing, she recalls the time a four-year-old girl told her she was going to paint love. She drew a beautiful big red heart and out of the top was growing a plant. I immediately understood why this was the moment that sticks in Jenny’s memory, we share the view that love and sustainability are inseparable.

St Kilda Mums

As a St Kilda dad, I often hear other parents discussing the excellence of St Kilda Mums. It took a while to realise I wasn’t being discriminated and that St Kilda Mums is in fact a pioneering local charity. St Kilda Mums gifts bundles of baby and child essentials to families that really need them. They might be a refugee child, someone born to a mother with a disability, or a little girl or boy who's escaped domestic violence.

I wanted to go along and see for myself what goes on behind the doors of their large warehouse on Vale Street, St Kilda. Founder and CEO Jessica Macpherson, bursts through the doors with a warm smile and an impressive energy given that it is a cold, Monday morning in May.  I note that Jessica is clutching an All Blacks lunch box, a hint towards her New Zealand upbringing.

I get a sense that time is a precious commodity at St Kilda Mums and they use every last drop wisely. There is an impressive hum of activity as volunteers get to work; sorting and packing immaculate bundles ready for collection from social workers and maternal child and health nurses across Victoria. Every bit of floorspace is used, piles and piles of carefully packaged and labelled bundles full of everything a young child may need, from toys and prams to clothes and cots. It’s a Santa’s Grotto right here in St Kilda.

It all started in 2009 when a group of five mums were attending the St Kilda Maternal and Child Health Centre on Chapel Street. They noticed baby goods stacked high in the photocopying room that had been donated by local parents. Jessica, a lady who I suspect was born to ‘do’, volunteered to sort, launder and package the goods ready for families to enjoy. As they’ve grown they’ve gone from operating from their own verandas, to a donated double garage, to the more spacious warehouse they now call home.

There is a dignity in the way they go about their work. They don’t gift anything they wouldn’t be comfortable giving to their own children. Clothing is diligently sniffed and stain checked. Car restraints are safety checked and cleaned. Cots are checked to ensure all parts are present. Toys are sifted through to sort safe from the unsafe. They want to delight the new owners with items that are high quality, safe, clean and functioning.  

There is an emphasis on reuse of donated items, everything that can be reused is. Whilst they accept all donated goods, they are unable to reuse some, because they simply do not meet safety standards. In that instance, they will recycle. Whilst they don’t want the unsuitable goods, they will not refuse to take them, to do so might mean unsafe items will simply be used elsewhere or they will be dumped on a kerb near you. Southern Cross Recycling Group dispose of their recyclables, a service that is currently cost neutral, if that was to change and they incurred a cost, it would be a big problem.

Last year 40,000 items were diverted from landfill in the most wonderful way imaginable, to improve the lives of approximately 17,000 children in need. Volunteer inductions emphasise the need to reuse and recycle, educating new starters on what can and cannot be given a new life. The volunteers share Jessica’s passion, there’s approximately 1500 of them, an army of kind souls.

St Kilda Mums receive no government funding and instead rely on the generosity of the community to donate goods and assist with fundraising. As the goods come in, get checked and go back out, there is no question they are achieving their vision - to waste less, share more and care for every baby and child. A vision that saw them win the Community Award and the Premier’s Recognition Award in the 2015 Premier's Sustainability Awards.

I leave the warehouse already planning my next visit, to drop off a bundle of my son’s clothes and toys, the ones that have been retired to the back of the wardrobe or the bottom of the toy box. Learn how you can donate, volunteer or fundraise and support St Kilda MumsEureka Mums in Ballarat or Geelong Mums.

Save Albert Park

You've probably driven past it without a second thought. St Kilda Junction is used as a gateway to ferry busy commuters to and from work. But it also houses one of Melbourne's oldest living things. 

Tucked away in the very south-east corner of Albert Park is the ‘Ngargee’ Tree, a 20 metre, 700 year old, river red gum tree of huge Indigenous significance. It is believed  to be a meeting place for boys who for hundreds of years, would embark on initiation journeys. Women would also meet there before heading to special places on the coast to learn birthing secrets. In recent years, the tree has stood firm despite proposed construction works and vehicle impact. 

For approximately 10 years the elongated pond leading up to the tree sat empty and unloved. That was until late 2017, when Save Albert Park’s group of volunteers took it upon themselves to breathe new life into the pond. They successfully applied for a Small Poppy Neighbourhood Grant from City of Port Phillip Council and set about lining the pond and replanting the area with native vegetation. 

During the lining of the pond other park visitors inquired about the project and insisted on rolling up their sleeves and lending a hand. Parks Victoria endorsed the project and contributed $500 for water plants and native vegetation around the pond. 

On the day I visited, the Corroboree Tree is perfectly reflected in the pond, native birds drink from the pond and swoop down to bathe and a couple sit on the bench overlooking the pond and admire the view. 

"The pond is now full to overflowing and the first aquatic plants have  been set in place. it's being enjoying by park goers and wildlife. We hope we have provided a pond that will reflect the cultural significance Ngargee Tree", said Peter, park volunteer. 

My own reflection as I sat and soaked up the beauty was that, when people come together with a shared vision, great things can happen. 

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?

If you’re interested in ‘going solar’ check out our fact sheet or contact enviro@portphillip.vic.gov.au

The Source Bulk Foods

THE SOURCE BULK FOODS 171 CARLISLE STREET, BALACLAVA

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'S GREEN ROOF, 38 WESTBURY STREET, ST KILDA EAST

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