Small Changes To Sustainability

A new book on sustainability encourages small steps to transform the way we live to become more sustainable.

Motivating Change: Sustainable Design and Behaviour in the Built Environment encourages designers, architects and planners to get people motivated to change their behaviour through their design of urban areas.

Edited by University of South Australia’s Professor Steffen Lehmann and Dr Robert Crocker, the publication is the second edited by Prof Lehmann in the Earthscan Series on sustainable design.

The book is a collection of essays by academics from around the world who they hope will inspire those involved in urban design to play their part in the issues of climate change.

Prof Lehmann said people only needed to make basic changes to change the way people live.

“We live in a disposable culture where we build and buy for the short-term,” Prof Lehmann said.

“We see it in all aspects of life: we are building houses that are only made to last 30 years at the same time as we are tearing down 100-year-old buildings without reusing the materials with which they were constructed, and our mobile telephones are redundant after just a couple of years’ use.

Prof Lehmann said the most important issues needed behaviour changes at many levels – the city to the individual – and it needed to be long-lasting.






Greening Government Buildings

The Australian Federal Election is on all our minds and governments always want to make cuts to save money, so how can governments save money from their own buildings?

The Green Building Council of Australia has called on political parties to introduce greener initiatives to government buildings to save taxpayers millions of dollars each year.

GBCA chief operating officer Robin Mellon said governments could reduce overheads and cut carbon emissions by improving the efficiency of existing buildings.

He said retrofitting was the most sustainable way to save money and green up the government’s buildings.

“A modest 10 per cent improvement in energy efficiency would save more than $35 million per year in electricity costs and be equivalent to the electricity required to power 23,000 homes,” he said.

“A 10 per cent improvement would also reduce carbon emissions by 167,000 tonnes – the same as taking 46,000 cars off the road.”

Mr Mellon said the recent Climate Institute’s ‘Boosting Australia’s Energy Productivity’ research highlighted that Australia’s poor investment in energy efficiency cost the country tens of billions of dollars in economic growth.

He said a symbolic gesture would be to gain a Green Star performance rating for Parliament House, being the most significant federally-owned building in Australia.

Cycle Cities Growing Greener

Cycle share schemes are taking off, running in 49 countries, turning cities into the cycle cities of the future.

ArchDaily’s Simon Henley writes that the rise in cycling could encourage the design of cities to change and could result in new urban forms.

Mr Henley wrote that disused railway lines were now being used as leisure trails, also used by commuters.

In cities, such as Amsterdam, there are also multi-storey cycle parking areas.

Those who live around these parks and cycle tracks or active transportation links (including running or walking tracks), is that they don’t have to contend with traffic noise or pollution and they change cities for the better, with rising land values and make the urban environment more active.

In Australia, Melbourne wants to become a cycle city and has recently taken a vehicle lane on the Princes Bridge as a trial to make more room for cyclists.

The city’s four year plan wants to increase the number of cyclists by 50 per cent, with $8 million invested in the past two years for cycle paths and a bike hire scheme.

Adelaide, along with many other cities around Australia, has also launched a bike hire scheme with Adelaide City Bikes being a free bike hire scheme available to everyone as part of the Adelaide City Council’s strategy to achieve a cleaner and greener city.

Veges Grow Up Green Walls

Vegetable and herb gardens are a great way to reduce your carbon footprint and become more self-sufficient as well as sustainable.

They’re also no longer the domain of those with large properties, backyards or even courtyards- they can be grown up, not just outwards.

Green walls can be decorative as well as useful and edible and they can be grown in small or difficult-to-use spaces.

Edible walls are popular in Singapore, New York and the UK, where they can grow enough produce to feed hundreds of people.

These green, vertical walls are also becoming popular on television reality shows including My House Rules and The Block, which have demonstrated their usefulness.

University of Technology, Sydney post-graduate researcher at their Institute for Sustainable Futures Judith Friedlander said these walls meant there were no longer any excuses not to garden.

UTS researchers have found that these green walls make cities more habitable and more human by being able to grow your own produce.

They’re also good for greening our cities, becoming more sustainable and reducing carbon footprint by becoming less reliant on store-bought produce.

As they become more popular, they’re also quickly becoming design statements, and increase the  environmental friendliness of any building.

Carbon Farming for Biodiversity

Carbon farming could boost Australia’s biodiversity, but experts have warned cautious optimism.

University of Adelaide’s Environment Institute director of ecological modelling Professor Corey Bradshaw has authored a new paper in the journal Biological Conservation, reviewing the consequences of Australia’s carbon economy on biodiversity, with contributions from 30 scientists.

He said they could help each other, but land management had to be done with biodiversity in mind from the start.

Professor Bradshaw said tree plantings would be the best way to encourage biodiversity, but warned that the fastest-growing, simplest and foreign species just to farm carbon.

“Carbon plantings will only have real biodiversity value if they comprise appropriate native tree species and provide suitable habitats and resources for valued fauna,” he said

“Such plantings could however risk severely altering local hydrology and reducing water availability.”

The environmental expert said regrowth in areas that have been cleared also needed to be managed carefully to benefit carbon initiatives and biodiversity and changes to agriculture around carbon farming would benefit biodiversity.

Professor Brawshaw recommended modifications including reductions in tillage frequency, livestock densities and fertiliser use, and retention and regeneration of native shrubs.

He said carbon pricing projects could help conserve biodiversity, but only if properly managed from the outset, with long term planning, not short sightedness.

Greening Urban Areas With Native, Designer Eucalypts

Designer eucalypts are being developed by University of Adelaide researchers that are more suitable for home gardens and urban landscaping.

Dr Kate Delorte is leading the project at the Waite campus, with researchers and nurseries developing cheaper and more efficient ways of propagating eucalypts with certain flower colours, sizes and forms.

“Only through producing improved cultivars, propagated using methods like grafting and tissue culture, can we guarantee that the buyer knows what they are getting in terms of flower colour and tree size and shape,” she said.

Dr Delaporte said there was great potential for these plants to be used more in gardens and urban areas as they provide habitat for native birds, insects and animals, but there were only a small number of improved eucalypts currently available.

The new method of propagation comes from germinating seeds in culture and propagating from the initial seedlings, rather than propagating from tissue culture taken from Maureen eucalypts, which has unreliable.

“There’s so much opportunity to bring new eucalypts into the garden, all with bright flower colours, attractive foliage, bark and nuts, that are a good small size,” Dr Delaporte said.

The trees being designed for urban environments must be tested for issues including dropping limbs before they will be released commercially.

Sustainable Changes for Steelmakers

As well as making buildings perform better in terms of waste and energy, the materials they are constructed from could be made from recycled materials.

According to Australian innovator Professor Veena Sahajwalla, steelmakers have a largely untapped opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to solving the world’s growing waste problem while cutting their own production costs.

Working with Arrium Ltd (formerly OneSteel), Professor Sahajwalla, the plants in Sydney and Melbourne have transformed 1.6 million waste tyres into new steel.

As well as waste tyres, steel makers could potentially absorb large-scale agricultural residue and various plastics, according to new research conducted by the University of New South Wales.

“I am not suggesting we burn waste for energy,” Professor Sahajwalla said.

“What I am proposing is that we leverage high temperatures to literally re-form waste materials into resources… steelmakers can play a leading role in globally significant, large scale recycling, without making fundamental changes to the way we manufacture steel.”

She said the impetus for steel makers to innovate had never been greater because of raw materials getting more expensive, competitive pricing pressures across the world and environmental considerations with waste continually increasing. .

Professor Sahajwalla said construction of steel needed to change and this was a perfect opportunity.


Citizens Get Their Green Thumbs Dirty For Research

The University of South Australia is trying to connect communities with their natural environments.

The Creating Biophilic Cities through Citizen Science is a five-year long and $1.5 million program which will see a new research unit at UniSA’s Barbara Hardy Institute conducting research, education and community engagement projects to create public awareness of environmental assets and issues and promote environmental stewardship.

Project leader, Philip Roetman, said public participation in research activities would increase community understanding of, and interaction with, local species and natural environments.

“Whether it is examining the changing populations of local or introduced plants or animals, or what the water quality is like in a local stream, this initiative is about stimulating community engagement, enabling people to connect to their natural environment in purposeful ways,” Mr Roetman said.

“Everyone can play a part: from outlining what concerns they have about their local environment, to collecting ecological data and sharing their own observations. New media and developing web and mobile-based technologies will further encourage community involvement. Projects will be designed to inform government planning and policy and results will be delivered back to the community for further education.”

Mr Roetman said partnerships were vital to the initiative and they were working with the Adelaide and Mt Lofty Ranges Natural Resources Management Board, Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, ABC local radio, the CSIRO and local councils.

The Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges Natural Resources Management Board regional manager Kym Good said they were always keen to work with the community and this was a successful way to let the community be heard.

The program will also involve a partnership with Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand to underpin research into the way people engage with nature.


The Bug Key to Food Sustainability

Sustainability is a holistic way of life not limited to architecture, town planning or green star-rated structures, it also includes what and how we eat.

Insects might not be the choice of food for most Australia,s but The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation says they’re the food of the future because they’re sustainable.

The UN’s FOAO states that food is becoming scarcer and it is not feasible or sustainable to increase the land available for farming, so diverse food sources are needed.

The UN believes that insects are the answer to a more sustainable food source, a way of diversifying diets and more than two billion people already eat them.

The major reasons the UN sees insects as one of the solutions to sustainable food production is that they can provide protein and nutritional needs that disadvantaged members of society could lack, they are easy to raise and harvest and can be farmed or harvested in the wild, they could offer a cheap and efficient opportunity to counter nutritional insecurity by providing emergency food and insects could also improve the livelihoods and quality of traditional diets among vulnerable people.

Sydney celebrity chef Kylie Kwong already serves up crickets in a variety of dishes at her restaurant in the harbour city.

She recently told the ABC that she’d been serving insects since February and she’d had a positive response from diners and that insects were delicious.


Farming Carbon helps indigenous communities and the environment

Indigenous Australians are encouraged to start carbon farming projects, with funding available.

Under the Australian Government’s Indigenous Carbon Farming Fund Capacity Building and Business Support stream the government will assist indigenous Australians to access carbon farming specialists, business development expertise and legal advice for their carbon farming projects.

These projects are a win-win, providing further employment opportunities in indigenous communities and helping the environment.

The fund will provide $22.3m over five years to assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to participate in the Carbon Farming Initiative.

The Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI) allows farmers, indigenous landholders and land managers to earn carbon credits by storing carbon or reducing greenhouse gas emissions on the land. These credits can then be sold to people and businesses wishing to offset their emissions.

It is a carbon offsets scheme that is part of Australia’s carbon market and helps the environment by encouraging sustainable farming and providing a source of funding for landscape restoration projects.

Farmers, indigenous landholders and land managers can choose whether they wish  to participate in the CFI and types of indigenous carbon farming projects include early season savannah burning and environmental plantings.