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.  

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

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.

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.

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

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.