Sustainable houses talk @ Surry Hills Festival

So I went to the Surry Hills Festival on the weekend. One of the talks I went to was about building a sustainable community.

Michael Mobbs – author of Sustainable House, lives in a self converted sustainable house in Chippendale. This was converted 16 years ago, and has been off the grid ever since.

Michael Mobbs

Everyone talks about reducing carbon footprint of their house, reducing energy consumption. But the measurement that never gets mentioned is the energy footprint of food.

It takes 10 thousand kilolitres of water to feed 1 person for 10 days. If you have 10 people, that’s 1 million kilio litres or 1 swimming pool worth of water.

There is a plan to make Chippendale sustainable over the next 10 years. The comments on this plan closed on 26 October 2012, but they extended the comments period to the 27th to incorporate those from the Surry Hills Festival.

Luke bacon – a web designer, has been involved in the sustainability plan for the past six months.

The mass media is on the bandwagon of ‘sustainability is too expensive, too hard to achieve’. But the media itself is sustained by big business and advertising – not by the number of papers sold.

What can we do?

Document the sustainability initiatives you see. Tag it – use metadata.

Take photos. Discuss it online. The more information that is online that describes “sustainability” is possible and is happening, the harder it will be for the mainstream media to ignore. Use Flickr, and use the creative commons licence. Upload to the Internet archive – the one based in San Francisco which plans to archive electronic data as a permanent record. Note: 20 years ago, the word “eco” didn’t exist. Now it is everywhere. Let’s do the same thing – with a shorter timeframe to the word sustainability.


Within Chippendale, 9 compost bins have been installed. This has the potential to turn 3 tonne food waste into compost. (I presume on an annual basis).

Luke has completed some analysis of website visits to the plan.

Deepest engagement around the world (longest visits on theplan website)
* Hanoi, Vietnam
* Lindbergh, Belgium
* Grosse point, Detroit USA
* Beirut, Lebanon
* Philadelphia, USA
* Coffs Harbour, Australia
* Phenom penh, Cambodia

Then it was question time.

How to minimise the amount of organic waste generated from your house?

Use the Michael Mobbs lazy method of composting. Get a big storm water pipe and cut slots in it. What about the base? Bury the pipe in the ground, and drop food into it. This has no smell, and the rats can’t get into it. The worms will turn up through the slots. Don’t blend up veg matter, leave it whole. Intermittently Add paper/cardboard/napkins to increase the carbon level. You’ll have trouble filling it up, and your plants will love it.

What one thing can I do which has the biggest reduction of my impact on the planet?

Biggest impact is how you buy your food, and disposing of your organic waste. Buy local – then 40c in the dollar will go towards the producer. If you buy at one of the major supermarkets, perhaps only 10c. Buying local means that the food is fresher and it contains more nutrients.

Second biggest impact you can have is to cut back on red meat. Have one day a week where you don’t eat meat.

Third biggest impact you can have is by walking everywhere.

What are you doing to make your community sustainable? Do you talk to your neighbours?


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