Walking down Flinders Lane in Melbourne on a sunny Monday morning, I noticed a small group of school students looking up at the buildings, discussing with each other place names, and pointing to planter boxes on balconies overhead.
With curiosity and spontaneity, an approach was made to ask the students what they were doing. Only minutes before commuting to work on the train, I was reading a Richard Register article about eco-city mapping. The boys told me they were undertaking an exercise called "City Experience." One eager student said they were identifying place names and marking them on a map. Clearly marked on their maps were the names, Flinders Lane and Centre Place. I wished the boys good luck and said goodbye.
Walking along Flinders Lane with the spring sunshine illuminating the streetscape, my thoughts centred on:
What are the signs of an emerging eco-city? And how in this age of technological advancement, can we connect with other emerging eco-cities to be inspired by the work of others, to celebrate our achievements, and to focus on our future work to help build sustainable and just communities?
More than 10 years ago, I volunteered time to work with Urban Ecology Australia on the Halifax Eco-City Project in Adelaide. Vivid memories of lavish, home cooked, organic lunches remind me of a happy time, with passion uniting eco-city architects, interns and the founders of Urban Ecology - Cherie Hoyle and Paul Downton. It was indeed a memorable time - an experience fused with spirit, laughter and community. Little did I know at the time, that the experience was to form the foundation for my own personal and career development in the field of sustainable community design. Maybe I did know, but like ancient wisdom, it's there to learn from, if we choose.
Like a lot of things in Life, history repeats itself, and now the time is right for me to begin, or continue the work of developing eco-cities with another organisation - Village Well.
Village Well, based in Melbourne, is a progressive communication and cultural change organisation that is recognised as one of Australia's leading facilitators in creating sustainable communities and businesses. Village Well ask:
How can we move beyond the rhetoric, dropping our personal agendas, and activate new measurements of sustainable progress?
How do we enrich the lives of our local communities, local businesses, youth and elders?
How can we access the knowledge, leadership, wisdom and creativity in our communities?
Village Well weaves a connection between many disciplines: Community, Government, Business, Environment, Urban Design, Culture and Deep Ecology. We help communities realise and implement their vision of a positive future by creating cooperative partnerships and accessible forms of communication.
Led by the colourful and inspirational Gilbert Rochecouste, Village Well has talented, dynamic and innovative place making and cultural change practitioners inspired to create a better world. From town centre renewal, to business retail development, community building and practical sustainability projects, Village Well has established a network of change across Australia, with more than 1000 businesses experiencing the unique and authentic processes that unleash the creative capacity of teams to create vibrant and sustainable cultures. In particular, regeneration projects such as St Arnaud in regional Victoria provide support to rural communities in the hinterland where sustainable solutions are just as important as they are in major cities.
Green Streets Program
Conceptualised as a result of Village Well's mainstreet renewal work, Green Streets is Australia's first integrated sustainable mainstreet program. This innovative program was piloted in Smith Street, Collingwood between September 2003 and September 2004. Twenty small businesses were involved in a series of workshops, training and audits to transform their business practices. Hands-on tools and processes assist the traders to manage their businesses in a sustainable manner that is practical, profitable, decreases ecological footprint and promotes community participation to raise the awareness of sustainable business practice.
The program is unique in its deliberate integration of economic, environmental, social and cultural initiatives. The current Green Streets program is running in the Rose Street Precinct in Essendon. Assessing sustainable behavioural change is a key objective of the program, and while sustainability assessments can determine areas of immediate retrofit improvements, surveying the attitudes of business traders for long-term behaviour change addresses the link between the human dimension and a sustainable culture.
The results of the Village Well projects and programs allow communities to experience a sense of purpose and place. The strategic partnerships between community, businesses and local government assist to build dynamic and diverse communities that are able to embrace sustainable choices appropriate to their needs.
The culture of collaboration unites creative and motivated people to build those "urban fractals" that will eventually converge to truly make eco-cities, towns and communities a reality and not just a vision.
Adam Johnstone is the Green Streets Program Manager with Village Well. He was a volunteer with Urban Ecology Australia in 1993-94, and has worked with State and Local government on environmental policies, projects and programs, and most recently developed wind farms in Victoria and South Australia.
This article is intended to inspire all people committed to building safe, healthy and vibrant communities.
For more information on Village Well or the Green Streets program, please visit our websites or give us a call. We'd be pleased to help make more eco-cities a reality.
Ross House, Level 4, 247 Flinders Lane, Melbourne VIC 3000
Phone: (03) 9650 0080 Fax: (03) 9650 0477
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