The Sustainable Living Festival brings all kinds of green ideas together.
This year’s Sustainable Living Festival is already under way. The program has been extended to two weeks, with activities running at different locations across the city and state in the lead up to the main event at Federation Square in Melbourne next weekend, from February 19 to 21.
Festival director Luke Taylor says the longer program will help focus attention on the good work done by local groups. “We have a whole range of local events promoting various aspects of sustainability, from greening your home and sustainable food through to the bigger issues like climate change,” he says. “It’s an opportunity for us to support the sustainability actions done by local communities.”
The theme for the festival, now in its eleventh year, is climate change. There’ll be over 150 talks and workshops, and more than 100 stalls encompassing all shades of green, with a thicket of practical information on things you can do around the home.
Exhibitors include domestic energy efficiency retailers Going Solar, Energy Matters and Solar Shop Australia. There’ll also be useful sessions on draught proofing, reducing your waste and home chicken husbandry, to name just a few.
Mr Taylor says that change is required in our homes and backyards, and also in our houses of parliament. “Everybody needs to be involved in solving this [climate change] problem. Local action is critical, but we need government leadership as well.”
That’s a theme that will be taken up by the panel discussion, ‘Towards climate safe homes’, to be held next Sunday. Last year, a coalition of environment groups produced a report on the energy efficiency of our housing stock, and the steps required to lift it to a zero-carbon or ‘climate safe’ standard.
Panel member Victoria McKenzie-McHarg, from Environment Victoria, says there are two elements to climate safe homes. They not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but also build the kind of dwellings that will help people adapt to harsher and drier conditions. “We know that with climate change we’re not going to have the water resources that we have had in the past. We need to improve our housing stock so we’re prepared for climate impacts, and also so our homes become part of the solution,” she says.
“We’re seeing families and householders across Australia taking action themselves,” Ms McKenzie-McHarg says. “There are a number of government rebates that assist them, but to make a really big difference we need a comprehensive plan to green our building stock.”
She says that although houses now contribute one-fifth of Victoria’s greenhouse gas emissions, we could slash that impact by 75 per cent by way of energy efficient design and appliances.
Last year, federal and state governments agreed to lift the residential energy efficiency standard from five to six stars. The states must comply by May 2011. Ms McKenzie-McHarg says it’s a good start, but we’re still well behind many other countries. “Melbourne has a comparable climate region to California, but their equivalent rating for new homes is 7.6 stars. And in the UK they’re aiming for zero net carbon homes by 2016. This is really possible – it’s not pie-in-the-sky stuff.”