Living and Travelling in Bendigo, 2030: a potential vision

Inspired by the Bendigo ITLUS (open for comment now), this seven part vision is offered for argument, derision, discussion and inspiration ...

"I just moved to Bendigo. I love it. I love seeing the Cathedral lit up from my apartment with the sunset in the background. What a view. After dark I often go for a walk in town. It’s so alive! Ten thousand people live in town now. It feels full of fun and it’s so safe: someone is always around and watching. The bars and cafes and bookshops are open late and they all face the street. I love the laneways and the sound of music drifting out of them. I gave up my car when I moved here. It’s saving me heaps of cash and I can grab one of the electric car share vehicles from the station when I need to go beyond the city. I’m a member of Bendigo Bike Share too. They had to put more bikes in at the station last year as all of the tourists love them. They love the interactive transport map they can download to their phone too. It makes it so easy to get around. I chose to live here because of the lifestyle. And when I want to go to the footy or a band in Melbourne it’s only an hour and a half on the train and the wifi is great." 

- Joe, 29, third floor apartment, Mollison St, Bendigo


“We’ve lived in Huntly for forty years. We’re almost locals now I suppose. We love the open space and the sense of community. We feel like we’ve lived through a pretty special time. With all the influx of new people we’ve seen a lot of new ideas. A lot of new local businesses have opened up which is great as we don’t need to go to town as much any more. A lot of the working folk catch the bus into Bendigo. They leave from here every 12 minutes in peak times. Why would you drive to work? If we need to go into town we walk into Huntly and use one of the electric cars in our car sharing pod. Sometimes on a Sunday we ride into Bendigo and feel like we’re surrounded by nature the whole way along the path. We’re a lot fitter than we used to be and that might have something to do with our car being mostly in the garage these days.” 

- Bev and Earl, 75, Detached House, Huntly


“We moved to Strathfieldsaye because it’s a great place to bring up kids. They can walk safely and quickly to school and the footy ground and they love their backyard. Kate works in town. She says the bus station is the place to be at 8:30am: she thinks the Strathfieldsaye community is run from that bus station. The buses go every six minutes during commuting times, so it doesn’t matter if you miss one. She parks her bike there in the cage. I drive a delivery vehicle out of the Epsom and Kangaroo Flat freight hubs. It’s an amazing hive of activity! The big trucks coming in from the north and south straight off the highway and a lot of Bendigo large industry has moved to these two zones to be nearby. Then there’s the automated storage and delivery systems and the electric vans out the other side. Everything is ordered and delivered online in real time. Some of the big trucks still go through Bendigo late or early in the day, but most of the grunt work is left to the vans. I still cant quite believe how our systems work out the fastest route and the right number of deliveries for a load and the time of day. I do know that our customers love the service though.” 

- Ben and Kate, 36, with Thomas 7, Mollie 5, Detached House, Strathfieldsaye 


“Getting to work is a cinch. The train runs from Square to town twice in the mornings, it’s a minute from my third story flat and it only takes a minute to get there. If I miss the train the bus along High street goes past at six minute intervals in it’s only a block away. My phone tells me where the train and bus are in real time. In the spring and autumn I like to ride into work along the creek. I think only a third of Bendigonians drive to work these days. The showers and storage facilities at work are brilliant. I have family in Geelong, so I own a car for weekend and special shopping trips. The best thing is, I’m part of the five thousand strong peer to peer car sharing network in Bendigo, so I rent my car out during the week and it’s earning enough to pay off my flat. I know it’s in good hands because I only rent it out to people with a great online reputation.  Golden Square is a real population hub now. There are some really funky new apartment blocks near the main shops. Our local economy is thriving and there is always something open and always a place to catch up with friends after work.”

- Erica, 24, second story, Golden Square Station Apartments


“I’m in hospital utilities administration. Moved here fifteen years ago when we opened. We ditched our car fleet soon after the hospital opened. We found that the local car sharing company offered us better rates, a simpler smart phone booking system and a better private car solutions for hospital staff that lived locally. So my work cars during business hours are the same ones I use for personal use at my cost after hours. I enjoy the walk into town after work. It’s about 20 minutes. I especially like it when I make it all the way without crossing paths with a single car. The good thing about the way the city has been developed from a transport point of view is that obesity rates have reduced to the point where we think this hospital will not reach capacity for another thirty years or so. We, on the whole, removed ourselves from car dependency and we’re fitter and more socially connected as a result. I have many more conversations on my wanderings than when I was commuting by car.”

- John, 55, Flat, Ironbark


“I love how everyone in Bendigo is within 500m of a park and shops. That’s clever design. It makes each local place feel like a place to be. The walking paths it has opened up are delightful.  I especially love the evenings in Eaglehawk. Everyone is out and about on the street cafes or heading to the Star. I feel much safer riding into town than when I grew up here. The magical disappearing bike lanes on Eaglehawk Rd were a bit of a hazard back then compared to the detached bike road now. I still drive my car. It gives me a buzz to have my car find and book a carpark in town and then direct me to it. I used to hate doing circle work searching! My furniture business is in Long Gully. I’m such a fan of the freight hubs. We have less trucks on our streets, which I value and we have delivery within the hour.” 

- Sarina, 44, semi detached house, Eaglehawk


“I love my car. I’ve loved them since I was a kid. I’m at Tafe this year, so I drive in four days a week. The awesome thing is, I get half price parking if I take someone with me. I just whack up the time I’m leaving on the app, and if someone else needs a lift into town I get a text with a name and address. I check their history first to make sure I’m not picking up a murderer. Or my uncle. Then we’re off. I’ve met heaps of local people I never even heard of before. Me mum catches the bus into town for work. Says she likes reading the paper on the ipad. The buses have free wifi. Dad runs the Heathcote wine bank. He likes walking to work because he can have a few wines afterwards and not worry. He likes all the chats with the locals on the way home too. His garden is full of cuttings from the neighbours. He says the big numbers of new folks in Heathcote has been great for the town. Says we’ve got our own sense of ‘vibrancy’ now. Whatever that means. I just like how busy the bar is on the weekend. Dad used to have to go in to Bendigo for a crowd.”

- Rory, 19, Detached house, Heathcote

Imagine meeting your Financial Carbon Broker ...

“Hi, welcome to Victory Financial Carbon Brokers, your friendly ‘carbon down’ financial advisors. We’re here to help you rid your life of fossil fuels and in the process, to help you become rich. 

“Before we get into the details, some background. To play our part in the global challenge to keep global warming below the dangerous 2 degree mark, which might be too dangerous a mark anyway, the average Australian has a carbon budget of 400 tonnes left. After that, carbon - our old industrial revolution friend has to be ditched. The rising seas, the new strains of disease, the extreme weather events, the collapse of the ecosystems that allow life to flourish are just a bit too much at that point. Check the science

“So to break it down further, the average Australian currently puts 24 tonnes of the stuff into the atmosphere every year. So the average Aussie has 16 years left to ditch their carbon habit before they hit the 400 tonnes mark. And if you’re sitting here listening to this I’d guess you ain’t average. We here at Victory Financial Carbon Brokers think folks like you can do it in ten years to lead the charge. And don’t forget - we’ll make you rich.

“Are you still with us? Are you quite aware of the challenge? We want to make sure you’re in for the ride. We’re not talking about voting, or Facebook posts of disgust, or turning up to the odd rally, or changing the light bulbs. Hell, I bet you did that ten years ago!  We’re talking about changing who you are. About creating an economic and social revolution. A revolution with big winners and the biggest losers in human history. Those old fossil fuel giants that own government, the merchants of doubt, the coal, oil and gas mobs, they stand to lose 21 trillion dollars if we can keep the climate under two degrees warmer. 80% of known fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground. No industry has ever had $21 trillion in Stranded Assets before, but if we’re going to have a future … that’s what we’ve got to do. They are banking on you not changing who you are. On you buying their product. They have chosen to stick with the old and ridicule the new. 

“So are you in? Ok? Are you sure? Can you sign here then? We don’t take half-hearted clients. You have to be all the way in. The planet doesn’t negotiate. It just knocks us down and leaves the temples in the jungle. Or the desert. Or the crumbling statues.


“Ok. Step one. We’ll need to pull your super out of fossil fuels. Where is your super invested? Do you know? We can show you some great ethical investors that will look after your super and your future. It’s a bit quaint hearing fossil fuelled super funds talking about your future.  In the words of Paul Hawken, ‘they are stealing the future, selling it in the present and calling it profit or GDP’. Here are the forms. We can fill them in right now and we’ll help you make the shift. The funny thing is, you won’t be worse off financially. The ethical funds are doing quite well. The Australia Institute last year found that 1 in 4 Aussies are already thinking about this shift: that’s $247 billion that could be taken away from fossil fuels in Australia alone. 

Step two. Is your home loan with one of the big four banks? They all invest heavily in fossil fuels. Don't listen to their snazzy ‘sustainability’ tak. We can help you shift your loan and your accounts to a bank that invests in the future instead. Here are the forms. I can explain the exit fees, charges and help you get a good rate at your new bank.

“Are you still with me? The first two were pretty big. A shock to the system? You’re ok? Good ...

Step Three. If you own shares you need to get them out of fossil fuels and the banks that invest in fossil fuels. Let’s work out a great new portfolio with you that invests in the future as well as your future. The 2014 Climate Proofing Your Investments Report found that ditching fossil fuels made no difference to your returns anyway. We’re here to help make this as easy for you as possible. Here are our recommendations. Once again, you won’t be worse off, and when the carbon bubble bursts, you won’t lose all of your money either. Remember 80% of the stuff has to stay in the ground. 

“Right. It gets a little easier from here.

Step Four. Power. Are you with an energy company that supports renewable energy? That’s easy to change. The big old mobs are trying to protect their old business model and their super profits and their size. The future is renewable, decentralised, networked, online and efficient. In short: it’s small and innovative. The big old mobs are about to die like Kodak did. It’s like they’re trying to get the government to legislate for film when the world is racing to digital.

Step Five. If you have an unshaded north facing roof, put up solar PV panels. The cost is about $5K, the payback is about 6 years and after they’re up you can wipe your power bill basically for ever.  A million Aussie homes have already done it. It’s a complete no brainer.  It’s a better investment than shares and housing. It adds to the value of your home. When you sell you basically get your money back. We can help you find a good installer, get a quote, manage the power companies and even lease you a system if you don’t have the upfront cash. While we’re at it, if you have electric hot water it’s also a no brainer to switch to solar hot water. We can help.

Step Six. If your power bill is on the Australian average you’re paying $2000 a year and half of that is paying for wasted electricity. We can help you understand your energy use and to put together a plan of attack to reduce your bill by half. Most of the changes are low to no cost. The CSIRO suggests a saving of $1200 a year is possible. $1200 in your pocket every year is nothing to snort at. We’ll look at insulation, LED lights, sealing drafts, efficient appliances, low flow shower heads, hot water temperature, space heating, switching off and more. This UK study found energy efficiency can add 16% to the value of your house

“Overwhelmed yet? Don’t worry. Remember you have ten years to accomplish your carbon down journey. We’ll help you plan financially over the ten years so that you are gaining money each year, not losing it. And remember … this journey will make you rich. But from here on in you might have to alter your idea of success and fix up your ‘stuff’ related ego issues. A lot of folks out the have a severe case of Affluenza, as Clive Hamilton called it.  

Step Seven. Your going to have to ditch your car related ego too. If you drive on-road, get rid of the 4WD. It uses heaps more petrol and kills more people. The Joneses are buying smaller cars now. Just ask Ford and Holden. They kept building the big ones and fighting government fuel standards and they ain’t here any more…  

“Then, you have ten years to stop buying petrol. I know! It sounds crazy. But you signed on at the start. And you’re spending $3000 a year on petrol anyway. So stop it and you can save. For now, buy the most efficient car you can. And use it the least that you can. The average Aussie home spends around $1,000 a year running the car on less than 2.5km trips (47% of trips are under 2.5kms). 

Your car is costing up around $10,000 to run in total, so think about the number of hours you are working each day to pay for your car. And $10,000 is a lot of taxis. 

And then plan to join a car sharing group. Why own a car when you use it one hour a day? You will have a choice of new cars when you want and you’ll probably save $5000 a year. And you’ll drive a third less. As of December 2012, there were an estimated 1.7 million car-sharing members in 27 countrie. If you want income from your car as it sits there in the drive way, add it to a person to person car sharing scheme and earn some cash.

Then buy a bike. A Copenhagen study found that people who commute to work for twenty years by bike save $100,000, cut 94 tonnes of carbon and live seven years longer. A $1000 bike is not a bad financial investment. And get some good shoes; walking is even better. The average Australian spends $1000 on health every year, and another $4000 via taxes. The heart foundation suggests that 30 mins a day of active transport would save our economy $13 billion and stop 16,000 premature deaths every year. 

“For other trips, set up a car pooling group and if you still need a car buy the smallest one you can.  In the end you’re going to have to either move to a walkable area, or own a renewable energy powered electric car, or have some great public transport or car pooling options. We can help you manage the transition. 

“Once petrol is out of the equation, property values on the edge of cities are going to plummet and the value of walkable areas will skyrocket. We would advise that you move into town sooner rather than later to make sure you win from this change. One USA study found that every mile you commute in your car already costs you $795 a year. Put that on your home loan and you’ll save thousands in interest. This study said $15000 a year.

Step eight. As Clive Hamilton said, stop buying stuff you don’t need, with money you don’t have, to impress people you don’t like. The CSIRO thinks a third of your carbon footprint comes from the stuff we buy and the Australia Institute reckons we all spend $1000 a year on things that we rarely use. And we spend a lot more than that every year on stuff that we don’t need. We spend $2288 per year on clothes and shoes for example. How about halving that and buying quality and second hand? A clothes swap with friends? So save your pennies and buy quality, sustainable, fair-trade and for your needs, not your ego. The Jones are starting to think you’re a stuck-up ponce-face with all your useless stuff and your long working hours. Get a life instead! Work less, go hang out with your neighbours and replace ‘stuff’ with good times. 

“Ok. Is your ego surviving at this stage? Some folks are going to take a hit. But don’t worry. All the research points to a more wholesome, fulfilling life if we ditch our spending-money-ego-frenzy.

Step nine.  Change your diet. Michael Pollen has three dieting rules: Eat Food (food being defined as anything your grandmother would recognise as food), Mostly Plants and Not Too Much.  Follow these and you’ll drop your food carbon footprint a mile. Meat has a massive carbon footprint so eat it much less. Your body will thank you too. And the average Aussie home throws away $2000 worth of food a year. So save that money. And plant fruit trees, herbs and a veggie garden. Plant a fruit tree in the nature strip! Support your farmers market, support your local wholefoods store, support your local butcher and support environmentally produced food. This is going to require some deep thought and probably some overturning of common misconceptions. Sometimes food miles are less important than farming methods for carbon output for example.  There’s one more financial food sweetener to throw in for you: carrying a water bottle rather than buying bottled water saves $2800 a year.  

“So far all of these steps have been personal. Individual. That’s great. You’re helping to change the economy, our society and your life. We think the above nine steps will save you at least $10,000 and more probably $20,000 from the average annual Aussie household budget. And your super, shares and house loan will perform well and be saved from the big carbon bubble burst, which is either coming, or our civilisation slowly will slowly fall apart. Neither of which is a good outcome. Individual actions are brilliant and necessary. But they are not enough. We need to share and connect if we want to win this battle.

Step ten. Reconnect. Work less. Live more. Be with your kids. Visit your sister. Play in your street. Join a local environmental action group, join a choir, have four conversations as you walk to work, set up a workplace green team, kick a ball with a mate, have a dinner party with the neighbours. Share your journey with others. 

A Sustainability Street community

“Join the new economy. Set up or join a car sharing business, a community owned renewable energy storage facility, a bike share, a tool swap, a food swap, build a local park, plant a shared community garden for food and join a local group to revegetate your local creek. In short, build community.  

Final Thoughts: If you follow through on this ten year challenge, you will be happier, healthier, stronger, will live longer, you’ll feel better about your life, be supported by the strength of your community and you’ll be building your local economy for the future. Remember when we said that we could make you rich? Well … lets define rich. Yes, you’ll be at least $15K better off every year. That’s nice. But how much richer will your life be? Hugh McKay’s book The Good Life asks the ultimate question: What makes a life worth living? His conclusion, drawn from his research, is provocative and passionately argued. A good life is not measured by security, wealth, status, achievement or levels of happiness. A good life is determined by our capacity for selflessness and our willingness to connect with those around us in a meaningful and useful way.

“So steps one to nine will save you money and bring your carbon down near zero. But add in step ten and we may just help you create the wonderful, meaningful life you’ve always ached for.

“Are you up for it? Great!. Sign here, roll the sleeves up and let’s get going!” 

Sustainability Street iBook Launch

It’s here! 

It took two years! 

I am so excited to have been able to play a major role in bringing the Sustainability Street Approach within the reach of every iPad on the planet!

“But what do you have do with Sustainability Street, Ian?” I hear you ask … 

Well. It changed who I am. And it might just do the same for you. After you download it of course :-)

In 2002 I was an environmental engineer with two years of work in the fields of waste reduction and cleaner production under my belt. I was standing, unemployed, next to a pile of recycled timber in Coburg when Francis Fitzgerald Ryan (Frank) founder of Vox Bandicoot appeared next to me. The very next week I started work at Vox Bandicoot and began five years of following Frank, learning like a sponge. 

The Vox put me face to face with 20,000 people. We delivered the famous theatre program to 10,000 people at schools and festivals.  We delivered workplace culture change training to 6000 people in manufacturing and local government.  I wrote interpretation, developed theatre scripts, state government education curriculum, published picture story books, was MC for state government environmental awards ceremonies, launched a hundred local government programs, worked in three states, managed staff and helped manage the business all the while going through a personal learning journey and transformation like no other. 

And all I had to do was follow Frank around. 

Frank would say goodbye to twenty people at the end of a workshop by name when he’d met them only two hours before. He would connect on a beautiful emotional level with them all. Through Vox Bandicoot he enabled people to reconnect deeply with the earth and all it’s wonders. Frank is a perfectionist and a clown and a poet and educator like no other. He taught me the power of now, the power of relationships, the power of the spoken word and the power of the whoopee cushion - the power of laughter and fun.  And all the while the message was the same: we need to fundamentally change our relationship with the earth.

Just before I started at Vox Bandicoot, Geraldine Doogue from Radio National had bought Robert Putnam the sociologist to Australia with his book ‘Bowling Alone’. In it, he talks about the 21st century need to create new ways of coming together as communities; how we need a new era of civic invention. For Frank, it sparked a synthesis of his 20 years of environmental education with his sociology background and his deep passion for bringing people together. Sustainability Street was born.

My task that first week at Vox Bandicoot was to find some money to add to a $3000 City of Moreland grant.  That grant had been made based on a powerful seven words from Frank: “Sustainability Street - It’s a village out there.” Not a jungle! 

So we potted around and found $24,000 to add to the original grant.  We found two “streets” in Coburg to be the first Sustainability Streets and then worked with them for 18 months. 

By the time I left the Vox in 2006 to set up Live ecoLogical I had worked with 150 Sustainability Street villages across Melbourne and Sydney. I am fortunate to have been a part of one the most successful and profound environmental education programs ever created. I’m not sure that any other program has ever matched Sustainability Street in the university confirmed 30% reductions in water, waste and energy achieved across the board. The incredible leap in social cohesion, capacity and wellbeing that Sustainability Streets also achieve amongst participants would be hard to match too.

But for me, it is the intangibles that were the real highlights. As I sat in lounge rooms, bus shelters, back yards, cafes, parks and community halls I witnessed the first slightly anxious and awkward coming together of strangers meeting people in their local places. They might have met previously if a tree had fallen on the road or seen each other once when a cat was stuck in a drain; or spoken briefly at an auction. Now they were sharing tea, cake, wine and veggies. They were laughing and planning and dreaming and learning together. They were becoming comfortable to let their kids walk down the street without an adult. They were digging together and joining a local carbon choir and presenting on the radio and changing their careers and swapping recipes. They were installing solar, buying bikes, setting up street notice boards and planting the nature strips. They were supporting each other through personal tragedies and watching one another’s homes when holidays came round. They were carpooling, swapping worm farming tips, holding eco film evenings and becoming friends. They were getting frustrated at the trials of incorporating so that their community garden could begin. In some cases blood pressure returned to normal, bad backs disappeared and depression reduced.  They felt wonderful. 

And I felt wonderful. I learnt how to be a ‘Guide Beside’ rather than a ‘Sage on Stage’ as Frank taught. I learnt how to encourage a community to emerge and learnt how and when to butt out and let them to blossom into who they are themselves. I saw the long term power of local people doing it for themselves over the fence.   Sustainability Street is driven by and thrives upon the people involved. I saw people of every political persuasion working together, having fun together, planning together and celebrating together.  I realised that the big political ideologies are just spin and shadows, and I now know that there is a way to move beyond them. I learnt that all of us, at a deeply human level, want to look after each other and want to look after the earth. 

Sustainability Street was created and authored and guided by Frank Ryan. It is now so much a part of me, my work, my community life and my spirit that I have no idea what’s me and what’s Sustainability Street anymore.

A few years ago I pitched the idea of a Sustainability Street iBook to Frank and he was excited. Since then we have been plotting and planning, writing and creating, editing, animating and video recording our way to publishing our first iBook. Frank as the author, and myself as publisher and editor.

It’s now in the iBookstore and anyone with an iPad and a spare $10 can download it, immerse themselves in it and then knock on the friendliest neighbour’s door and begin the journey. At it’s simplest, you will reduce water, waste and energy together. At it’s most complex it will change who you are. At it’s most meaningful is the knowledge that all change begins at the most local level - if enough Sustainability Street Villages form around the world …

I’m a little bit proud of our iBook and I’m very happy for Frank as he deserves to be recognised for his amazing life’s work. I’m so excited to think about communities everywhere learning from the Sustainability Street iBook to set up their own streets or to use it to inform and enhance their existing community sustainability programs. 

I can just see the smiles as they create the future together …

Talking ecoLogical ... three overhead conversations:

Talking ecoLogical is a set of 40 cards that can be used by anyone to open up reflection and conversation about environmental sustainability. In the year since they were first published I have watched the cards used by teachers in Swan Hill, community in Warrnambool, local government in Bendigo, state government in Melbourne, grade six environmental leaders at Quarry Hill Primary school, a hospital green team, sustainability professionals and pharmacy owners in St. Kilda and I am always intrigued by where the conversation goes.

Here’s a mash-up of some of the conversations I have heard running workshops with the cards.  You never know where it might lead…

1. Pick a card and have a conversation in pairs...

"I am offended at this 'Imagining the Future' suit Food card!"


“Because farmers have been doing amazing things to improve soil quality for years!”

“But they’ve been adding too much fertilizer and chemicals and feeding cows pellets and caging chickens and removing vegetation."

“That is a very simplistic and stereotypical judgment to make. Farmers care a great deal about their land and are always thinking about the next generation. ”

“But couldn’t you say the same about businesses in the city? They are wrecking the planet for different reasons even though they have people who care running them. Farmers might care, but they are doing damage.”

“Some are doing damage. Many are doing wonderful things. And the examples you just used are not black and white. There are a lot of grey areas. Define free range for example? And cows are mostly grass fed in Australia. I think businesses in the city and farmers are facing the same issues. In many ways it’s the big systems we’ve set up that are the problem. Fossil fuels, global companies, politics and media slogans make it feel too hard for farmers and businesses run a good business without ignoring the environment. I just get sick of people going off at farmers when they have no idea how hard they are trying.”

“So wouldn’t getting back to local help if the big companies are the problem? I’ve heard about Food Hubs in America that set up to supply their local area first and to keep the profits local. If local people were more connected to local food and local place wouldn’t that in turn help farmers care even more for their land? They would know the people buying their food and visa versa.”

"I guess so. I haven't heard about food hubs …”

“Are you still offended at the food card?”

“Yes. But I guess given our chat it’s done its job …"

2. Each small group decide together which card in the pack is the most important...

“I think the toxins card in the 'Our Challenges' suit has to be the most important. 500 toxins in our bodies! That is extraordinary and everyone needs to know that.”

“Well we all think that the Guide Beside card in the ‘Processes of Change’ suit is the most important. We hadn’t thought about change in that way before. If we’re going to change the world we need to understand how to enable others to think and act differently.”

“But knowing that we are polluting our actual bodies will make people change. It’s so scary.”

“Well, the Guide Beside card is about respectful collaboration, not telling people things. It’s about going on a journey together rather than delivering information.”

“But knowledge is power isn’t it?”

 “It is good to know things. But smokers know they a most likely giving themselves cancer and that doesn’t change their behaviour. The ‘facts’ about climate change haven’t stopped the political far right from denying its existence.”

“So where do the Challenge suit cards fit then? Do we ignore them?”

“Definitely not. They are a major reason why we need to change. But knowing our challenges is not enough for people to change who they are. I think the Guide Beside card is a powerful thought: in the end we only change ourselves don’t we? And that process is helped by our friends and family helping us to think …”

“Ok, I can go with that. I’ll be a guide beside who is inspired by toxins though …”

“Ha! Gold."

3. Meet and Greet: pick a random card and introduce yourself …

“Hi, I’m Rachel.”

“I’m Craig.”

“Nice to meet you. You’re from finance yeah?”

“That’s right … and you?”


“That’s right. And you helped run the ride to work day didn’t you?”

"That was I. Good turn out!”

"Twas. So what card did you get?”

“I picked the Water card in the Imagining the Future suit. ‘Like a forest, we cleanse water as it flows through our society’. Not sure what that means …”

“Well forests clean water. I remember reading about the forests above Melbourne and how they clean our drinking water so we don’t need to treat it as much.”

“Ok.  So it’s asking if we’ll be able to clean water as it flows on our buildings and roads. That would be a big change. The colour of rainwater in the drains isn’t good. And the rubbish in our creeks.”

“Not to mention the sewage system. Some of the things businesses and homes put down the sink and the toilet are not good.”

“No. So this card is asking us to imagine what our city would look like if it did clean water. I’d imagine there’d be a lot more greenery.”

“I think so. I’ve seen some of the grass lined drains in the new developments. The water runs off the roads onto stone beds and grasses. That must be what those are about.”

“And I love green roofs and walls. I don’t know how they build them though. Some of them look a bit funny, but some are beautiful too.”

“Too true. Hey, what are you doing after work? Did you want to grab a drink?”

“That would be nice (*blushes*). We could talk about revegetating our local creek …”



If you’d like to find out more about Talking ecoLogical watch the video here or you can buy a set of the cards here.

Green Team Leadership, or not

What makes a green team succeed? It is money? Time? Power? In this case it was none of the these ...

We were very fired up. We had a big first workshop together where we learned, planned, dreamed and got busy doing. We set out on a journey to reduce our organisation's energy bill by 15% in one year. Based on our assessments the retrofits needed to reach this target were decamping over lit areas, a switch off campaign, thermostat control and urn replacement (did you know that an old urn running 24/7 can cost $3000 a year to run?). We also planned a one year retrofit and behaviour change program that involved secret frog awards, education sessions, progress updates for team meetings, events, a competition between sites for the best outcome, support from the CEO/Executive and posters, stickers and emails. 

We had four sites to cover and appointed Green Team representatives for each site to guide, challenge, enable and inspire their site on the journey. 

After the year was up the power bill results came in. Below are the results. The reasons why provide powerful learning for change makers:

Site One: 11% reduction - this site housed the respected and friendly Green Team Manager and was the site where most Green Team meetings occurred and so had the highest turnout.

Site Two: 12% reduction - this site housed an overly competitive, passionate and boundary pushing Green Team Representative who punched the air when the results came in.

Site Three: 2% reduction - this smaller site swapped Green Team representatives mid year as a staff member left the organisation.

Site Four: 0% change - this site lost their Green Team Representative at the start of the year and took nine months to appoint a new person. It's fair to say that nothing happened.

I recently heard a great description of Leadership: Moral Craft.  The moral part is deep within. It's your character, ethics, morals, authenticity and sense of service. When the chips are down and a snap decision is required this is what you rely on to lead. The other part of the equation is craft. It means doing something. You can't be a leader unless you actually DO something. In the case of this great organisation, we found that you can't run a campaign if you're not at the table. They saved a solid $9,000 from their efforts. If the other two sites were along for the ride they would have doubled the result. 

I often say to groups that the first step on a journey is to get to the station and to decide to get on the train. We can't be half on a train ...