Archive for July, 2012

Revenge of the Electric Car: Film screening

Posted in Events by sashashtargot on July 31st, 2012

10 August , 2012
7:00 pmto8:30 pm

They’re on the road, seeking battery-powered vengeance: Revenge of the Electric Car is a new documentary narrated by Tim Robbins about electric vehicles to be shown in Melbourne on August 10.

The screening is hosted by the Alternative Technology Association’s  Melbourne & Geelong Electric Vehicle branches together with Beyond Zero Emissions.

If you’re curious about EVs or a big fan, come along and watch this 90 minute documentary!

When: Friday 10th August, 2012

Time: Arrive from 6:15pm onwards for a 7pm start

Where: The Banking Chamber Theatrette, Ground Floor, KPMG, 147 Collins St, Melbourne. (Disabled access via 161 Collins St)

Cost: $10. Pre-purchase tickets online at

Social Procurement: Buying a Better World

Posted in Events by ECO-Buy on July 30th, 2012

16 August , 2012
8:00 amto10:00 am
How organisations spend their money, who they purchase from, and what they purchase can have profound social impacts. Yet often the social aspect of the triple bottom line is not adequately addressed, partially because organisations don’t understand what is required. Social procurement is a key business strategy both to avoid negative press from poor labour conditions and unethical practices and also to show leadership in developing communities and assisting the disadvantaged.
ECO-Buy is running a Breakfast Forum to help you understand the issues and approaches to addressing social considerations in procurement. We will hear from speakers that are actively working in this space, including:
  • Sarah Law from National Australia Bank
  • Amanda Minniti from Department of Planning and Community Development
  • Mark Daniels from Social Traders
Following these three presentations, we will have a panel discussion to answer your questions. Two additional experts will join the panel and share their perspectives:
  • Jacquelin Saultry from Places Victoria
  • Chris Newman from PMMS
The forum will be held on 16 August 2012 from 8-10am at 60 Leicester St, Carlton VIC, and includes a continental breakfast. Cost to attend is $200 for non-members. One free place is offered for a student; contact for details.
For more information and to register, please visit the event webpage.

Plug-in Hybrid Retrofit Kits for Any Car: Research project

Posted in Research by Kate Archdeacon on July 27th, 2012

Source: The Age

Photos by Andy Heidt for MTSU

From “Do-it-yourself hybrid” by Barry Park:

A cheap bolt-on kit will one day be able to turn most ordinary cars into fuel-sipping plug-in hybrids, US researchers say.

Engineering technology students at the Middle Tennessee State University have fitted a 20-year-old Honda Accord wagon with a retrofit plug-in hybrid system that powers the front wheels using the conventional petrol engine, and a pair of electric hub motors hidden inside the rear wheels.

Users are then able to plug the hybrid car into an ordinary power point to charge up a set of lithium-ion batteries mounted in the wagon’s load space.

The batteries in turn feed electricity into the hub motors to provide low-speed power that is able to help the conventional petrol engine accelerate – the most fuel-hungry part of driving.

The bolt-on kit was developed in recognition of the fact that many drivers in the US only travelled about 70 kilometres a day at speeds below about 70km/h.


Read the full article by Barry Park on the Age or read more about the project on Middle Tennessee State University’s website.

Cogeneration Heat & Power System going ahead in Fawkner

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on July 26th, 2012

Source: Moreland Energy Foundation (MEFL)

Image via Cummins Power Blog

From MEFL’s July e-bulletin:

Cogeneration comes to Fawkner

Following extensive feasibility studies and a tender process, installation of a cogeneration system at the Fawkner Leisure Centre precinct is about to commence. The project builds on the landmark Carbon Management Strategy developed in partnership between MEFL and Moreland City Council as part of the Moreland Solar City project.  MEFL has been involved in the Fawkner cogen project right from the start. We contributed research and advice to support the project and will provide investment funding of $500,000.

Moreland City Council has awarded Total Energy Solutions the contract to build and commission a 75-kilowatt natural gas-powered cogeneration (combined heat and power) system. It will supply low-carbon electricity to several buildings, including the Fawkner Leisure Centre, Fawkner Library and Senior Citizens Centre, Fawkner Neighbourhood House, and the soon-to-be-constructed CB Smith pavilion. Waste heat produced by the cogeneration system will provide heating for the leisure centre’s pool.

Construction has commenced and the system is expected to be operational by early 2013. It is estimated the plant will produce $37,000 in energy savings and reduce greenhouse gas emission by 540 tonnes annually.

Investing in a fair food supply: Insight from Britain

Posted in Opinion by Kate Archdeacon on July 25th, 2012


Photo by Sue Peacock via flickr cc

From Food prices are at the mercy of global pressures that we struggle to control by Jay Rayner:

“But if it doesn’t happen, if Britain doesn’t do more to feed itself, if it doesn’t do more to support struggling sectors such as the dairy industry, we will be left at the mercy of the international markets. The food price rises we would see then would be excruciating.”

The British like cows. We like to see them in fields and regard the dairy industry as much more than merely a part of our food system. Rolling green fields filled with the familiar dots of black-and-white Friesian hide are a key part of our cultural identity. Which explains why, late last week, Twitter came alive with demands from far beyond the farming community for us all to get behind the nation’s dairy farmers in their fight for a fair deal. The announcement by the major processors of a 2p per litre cut in the amount they would pay for milk has pushed the farm gate price well below the average of around 30p per litre cost of production. Dairy farmers, who have been suffering for years, are being pushed to the edge of bankruptcy.

The irony is that too many of the problems in the British dairy industry have been caused both by patterns of consumption by those very same consumers who are leading the charge and by the way they have connived, albeit passively, with the supermarkets to keep prices low. But that is only a part of the story. For the problems experienced by British dairymen are actually representative of something much, much bigger: it’s about the way our national food supply has been left at the mercy of huge international pressures from increasingly volatile food markets.

If the dairy industry were simply a vertical business model involving the retailers paying the cost of production to farmers plus a little bit more, these issues would not exist. Unfortunately it isn’t. The price of milk is dependent on the European market price for its cream component and it’s the value of that which has collapsed. In June of 2011, it was £1,800 a tonne. Now it’s just over £1,000 a tonne. A sudden surge in demand for dairy in the past few years as a result of an emerging, milk-loving, middle class in China resulted, almost inevitably, in global over-supply. Few of us drink whole milk these days and the skimmed-off cream – sold to the cheese, butter and yoghurt markets – has become a vital part of the business model for the processors, which needed it to offset the brutal deals offered by the likes of Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons. It is the collapse in the value of cream that those processors are now passing on to the farmers.

Of course, in an ideal world, dairy farmers would break their contracts with those processors and find a different model, but they can’t. They have nowhere to go.

The savage, grossly irresponsible way the supermarkets have forced dairy farmers down on price has also put independent processors out of business. And consumers, apparently delighted to pay £1.18 for a four-pint bottle of milk, haven’t helped. Indeed, for all their talk, consumers show huge reluctance to pay more. For 15 years, Booths, the small, family-owned supermarket chain in the north west, has offered Bowland Fresh, a brand of milk sold at a premium – 52p a pint as against 49p – all of which goes back to the farmers. It accounts for just 10% of sales and has never gone beyond that.

The way a little-known international market in cream is impacting upon dairy farmers here is not a one-off. Our food supply system is now entirely global and exactly the same shocks are being felt elsewhere. In May, as the G8 met at Camp David to talk about plans to tackle chronic malnourishment in the developing world, concerns were expressed that commodity prices were heading towards historic highs not seen since the food price spikes of 2008, which resulted in murderous riots and export bans across the world.

Late last week, those historic highs were breached. In 2008, corn spiked at $287 a ton; last week, spurred on by drought conditions in the American Midwest, the futures price went to $340 a ton. In 2008, soyabeans hit $554 a ton; last week, a ton was costing just shy of $660. For the moment, the prices of the primary food security crops – wheat and rice – remain down on historic highs, but there are fears that if the corn harvest suffers further, then prices in wheat and rice will follow.

These are not abstract issues for money men and markets. They affect people at the bottom of the economic heap. Right now, for example, there is an acute food deficit problem in Yemen. People are starving in their millions. Children are dying. The problem is not a lack of food. There is food in the country. It is that the economy has collapsed to such a degree and food prices have risen so high that people cannot afford to feed themselves. Aid groups such as Oxfam say they are as likely to be handing out hard cash in Yemen right now as they are food aid.

In Britain, we will also feel these shocks. For example, corn and soyabeans are primary livestock feed and with the Chinese and Indians ramping up their meat consumption the cost is bound to shoot up.

The real issue is that, just as with the dairy industry situation, we have no protection from this price instability because of the behaviour – once again – of the British supermarkets. In the early 90s, the UK was more than 70% self-sufficient in food. Today, many experts believe we are down to just 50% self-sufficiency. The reason: the major supermarkets have been so vicious on prices paid to farmers that huge numbers have left the industry.

Pressed on the issue, the British Retail Consortium, speaking for the multiples, points to a recent report listing the grants they have made to fund studies on environmental sustainability and waste-reduction. This, they say, proves supermarkets are investing in British agriculture. Nonsense. It’s pennies compared to their vast profits and nothing compared to the imperative of paying British farmers a fair price so they can genuinely invest in British agriculture for the future. This may mean price rises for the British consumer, and in a week when we have heard more than we may ever wish to about the boom in food banks, that may sound unpalatable.

But if it doesn’t happen, if Britain doesn’t do more to feed itself, if it doesn’t do more to support struggling sectors such as the dairy industry, we will be left at the mercy of the international markets. The food price rises we would see then would be excruciating.

Be in no doubt: the current crisis in Britain’s milk business is not an isolated incident. It’s a warning.

>>Read the original article by Jay Rayner on the Guardian.

Cargo Bike Tests by Ride On Magazine

Posted in Models, Movements, Research by Kate Archdeacon on July 18th, 2012

Source: Ride On Magazine

Photo by Richard Masoner/Cyclelicious via flickr CC

From “Ditch the car” by Simon Vincett and Jon Miller:

A cargo bike can do most of the errands for which people use a car, but with greater health benefits, less cost and reduced environmental impact. Simon Vincett and Jon Miller tested 14 options available in Australia.

The school run, grocery shopping, weekend sports, BBQ in the park: check, check, check, check – a cargo bike has them all covered. That big box or those capacious panniers can take a huge load – it’s a good thing there are also some strong, low-down gears to get you underway.

The development of these bikes comes to us from those most transport-advanced countries of Denmark and the Netherlands, where for decades families have zipped about and proprietors have conducted their businesses using cargo bikes. Most models on test here come with seats and harnesses for kids and boxes that can be configured for many different commercial purposes. Luggage racks, handbrakes, lights and locks are usually included – not to mention mudguards and chainguards – because these bikes are intended to provide the amenity of a car.

We’re using a general term of ‘cargo bike’ but there are really three main types:

  • Box trike: two wheels in front either side of a big box
  • Box bike: a box behind the front wheel and in front of the rider
  • Long bike: an extended rear rack carries the load behind the rider.
Read the rest of the article by Simon Vincett and Jon Miller to find out more about the different bikes and the way they handle.

Wanted: CERES Aquaponics Farmer

Posted in Models, Seeking by Kate Archdeacon on July 17th, 2012


Do you have what it takes to run a small hi-tec urban farm as a professional farmer growing high value crops and selling them direct to niche markets and through a veggie box system? We’re looking for a super motivated and entrepreneurial urban farmer to run our Aquaponic Food Hub system as part of our Food Hubs urban farming research project. This is a contract position – we are looking for a farmer who will run our established system (produces 400-700 vegetable units/week), keeping the profit in exchange for pushing the system’s productive potential and helping us document what yields are possible. The position is supported with training and mentorship.

Download the Position Description: Aquaponics Farmer PD July 2012 or go to the job description on the CERES site.

Learning from European Cities

Posted in Models, Opinion by Kate Archdeacon on July 12th, 2012

 Source: The Fifth Estate

Photo by Jason Pier in DC via flickr CC

From “Sexy … as in small: the European angle on cities” by Robin Mellon, Green Building Council Australia (GBCA):


In Australia, we have borrowed much from Europe in the evolution of our cities, not least some of the names. But the majority of Australia’s urban development has occurred during the era of the motor car, and so our towns and cities are much less dense and much more sprawled. And with that broad expanse of country on which to build have come larger and larger homes.

On a worldwide scale, Australia already has five of the 20 least affordable cities, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2012 Worldwide Cost of Living survey. Energy prices are rising fast, mostly due to under-investment in infrastructure over the past 25 years, and water and landfill charges will be tracking in a similar direction.

Europe is similarly undergoing its own financial worries, with significantly higher levels of unemployment, inflation and national debts than Australia. But can we learn from our European cities? What have I taken away from the last few weeks? The lessons I’ve learned can be grouped into four areas:

It’s not the size that counts.

First and foremost is the question of building size – it really isn’t how much you’ve got, it’s what you do with it that counts. Many of the offices, houses and apartments I saw were simply smaller – there was less space available and a much greater demand for what there was, and so small apartments were the rule rather than the exception. There were also many more good design and good technology solutions for coping with small spaces – whether new development or retrofits. The bottom line is that smaller homes are cheaper to run – how much less would a 100 square metre apartment cost to operate than a 150 square metre apartment?

Small equals savings.

The cars you see in European capital cities are also smaller on average than those in Australia. Whole days would go by without me seeing a big 4WD or people-mover, with everyone using bicycle share schemes, public transport or chic little cars (many of which were, in turn, either car share schemes or rechargeable cars). Small cars are just cheaper to run, and often have a comparable safety rating to larger cars, especially when considering where and how they are most often driven.

Old world ideas for a new age.

Most of Europe’s older buildings were built at a time when ‘sustainability’ was not a buzz-word – they depended upon natural ventilation and natural daylight, shading from the sun, eaves, shutters, balconies on which to grow plants, dry washing and sit outside, and thick walls and insulated roofs to keep the buildings cool in summer and warm in winter. Many of these older buildings, therefore, have good opportunities for retrofitting, now that we can combine good passive design with good technologies and good behaviour.

Adjusting expectations.

Because smaller apartments and cars, and often older buildings, are the norm, people have different expectations. Sure, they might want the latest in modern convenience, but what was most readily available was small and traditional and so the expectations were lower. Certainly the dreams of a European first-time home owner do not equal a 250 square metre house and land package with double garage thrown in, but a small apartment in a walk-up block close to public transport. In Europe I heard many times that the percentage deposit needed for a mortgage was much higher; in turn this helps to keep expectations lower because the smaller the purchase, the smaller the deposit needed.


Read the full article by Robin Mellon on the Fifth Estate.

Stormwater Harvesting in Geelong: Case studies

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on July 10th, 2012

Source: Clearwater

From Geelong Stormwater Harvesting Projects:

The City of Greater Geelong has embarked upon a number of stormwater harvesting projects to reduce the City’s potable water use and maintain green open space and recreational assets. Two of these projects are detailed below.

Kardinia Park is an open space precinct that includes Simonds Stadium, home to the Geelong Football Club, and a number of other football/cricket ovals. The precinct is an important asset in the sporting and cultural identity of the Greater Geelong. The stormwater harvesting system diverts stormwater runoff from a 30ha area of Newtown and from nearby roofs and playing fields into a new underground storage tank. Water is drawn from this storage tank and used to irrigate the AFL ground’s playing surface and other surrounding ovals. The scheme is expected to save 13 megalitres of potable water per year.

Grinter Reserve was a product of the City’s Sustainable Water Use Plan developed or established in 2006. Stormwater from a conventional drainage system from an adjacent 200ha residential suburb is diverted into a constructed wetland in Grinter Reserve. Additional water sourced from the ‘Splashdown’ aquatic facility located within the Reserve allows approximately 30 megalitres of cleaned water to supply 100% of the irrigation demand for the reserve, providing ecological habitat and amenity and eliminating the need for potable water.

Read the full case studies on the Clearwater website.

Community Food Map: City of Yarra

Posted in Movements, Research by Kate Archdeacon on July 9th, 2012

Thinking of starting a food project in Yarra? This directory and guide to community food projects has been developed in order to assist individuals and groups who may be already working on community food projects or who are thinking about getting something started. Although not an exhaustive map and directory of the Yarra Community Food System, this directory contains many of the food projects working across the municipality. The Yarra Community Food Systems Map is an ongoing development and can be accessed via this link.