How Feasible Is Sustainable Living In The Heart Of The City?

Sydney, we're looking at you.

Two tall buildings with large green bushes and trees on their terraces.
Photo by Chris Barbalis on Unsplash

Self-sustaining homes are not new fodder. We all know about the value of renewable energy systems, choosing sustainable building materials and using water tanks to catch rainwater. We know that the ethical and financial benefits of keeping your own chickens for eggs are second to none. But when you picture these things, I guarantee you imagine them in the county; surrounded by open fields and heavy forestry and quite frankly not in a built-up, inner-city suburb that is heavily industrialised.

Well, it turns out that it is possible. Sustainable living can be achieved no matter where you’re located; it just requires you to take it out of the ‘too hard’ basket and place it firmly in the ‘this is extremely important to me’ basket.

Here are somethings to think about if you’re wanting to try your hand at living more sustainably:

Gardens are gold

But you knew that already, didn’t you? If you have a garden in the heart of the city, you’re basically winning the life lottery. And if you make the best use of your space, you absolutely can grow your own produce and sustain your own energy to boot.

This house in one of Sydney’s inner-city suburbs, as profiled on Dwell, has managed to fit in a vertical permaculture garden where the carport existed, strategically placed greenery to encourage light and air circulation and a compost system. And that’s just for starters; before we’ve even touched on the aquaponics system for fish harvesting, a wicking bed to help with drought resistance, a vegetable garden, and chicken coops. Did we mention that all of this exists in a very built-up suburb?

The owner told Dwell that it’s all designed in a very intensive way, in order to encourage the cyclical nature of permaculture. He says “Our garden feeds us, we feed the chickens our scraps, and they give us eggs plus fertiliser for the garden. In a similar way, the fish deposit nitrogen in our pond, which feeds the bacteria on the clay beads in our vertical garden, which feed the plants that filter the water in a continuous cycle.”

Sounds like a self-sustaining paradise, don’tcha think?

Photo: Murray Fredericks via Dwell

Systems will save you

Alongside the gardens of dreams, the home is also remarkably energy efficient. Using an evacuated glass tube solar system for hot water and a 1.5Kw photo-voltaic array for electricity, it produces, on average, more power than it consumes. Can’t say fairer than that, can we ladies?

Once you’ve created the design (with the help of experts, #letsbereal), the entire point of sustainability is for it to not be overwhelmingly labour-intensive. The resident of this inner-city Sydney home told Dwell that “We spend about ten minutes each morning with the chickens and fish and about an hour a week in the garden, mostly harvesting produce.”
So, thanks to the quality systems already in place—living in a sustainable home is refreshingly low-maintenance.

Small things make the biggest difference

Alongside putting solid systems in place, paying attention to the details is crucial for ensuring the longevity of your sustainability venture.

For example, this home in Melbourne uses passive design concepts to create a beautiful space that works in harmony with nature. A passively designed home makes the most of natural heating and cooling methods to keep its occupants comfortable year-round. Orientation, spatial zoning, thermal mass, ventilation, insulation, shading and glazing are the seven core components of passive design. You heard it here first, sistas.

Now, while we’re not all on the brink of being able to build our own homes with sustainability in mind, there are an array of things you can do from the comfort of your inner-city apartment to serve the environment and enhance your contribution to the sustainability movement:

  • Recycle
  • Use LED light bulbs
  • Use a dual flush toilet
  • Start urban gardening to grow your own veggies
  • Use energy efficient appliances
  • Always turn electronic devices fully off—standby mode continues to burn through energy
  • Buy seasonal, locally-sourced ingredients
  • Ditch the car and hop on your bike! A win for your endorphins and the environment

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