Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

To add to last week’s great landscaping achievements we had two outstanding excursions: the first was a visit to Michael Mobbs sustainable terrace house in Chippindale and the other was a bus trip to Kimbriki Resource Recovery Centre at Ingleside. Okay, for the skeptics a trip to the tip or listening to some guy talk about recycling poo in his backyard would hardly be their ideal fun day out but for the like minded who share a vision for a more sustainable future I can assure you both destinations offer a huge range of inspiring ideas and money saving options.

We’ve been talking about meeting Michael Mobbs for years and as 2011 celebrates his 15th year of sustainable living, and as we surge towards a similar vision, it seemed like a good time for us to take a visit. The main feature of Michael’s house is that everything is produced or treated on site with virtually nothing leaving the property.

Daily domestic energy needs are generated from the sun and returned to the grid. For those of you out there with a back to grid solar system you have Michael Mobbs to thank. He was the mastermind behind the idea and took on the power companies in the late 90’s  just so the average Jo Blow could contribute extra energy they produced back to the grid.

Rain water is collected in an underground tank and purified for drinking, cooking and showers and hot water is also heated by the sun. All sewerage is treated in a backyard subterranean holding tank which uses ultra-violet light and agitation to separate substance and treat water which is reused for toilet flushing, washing clothes and the garden.

Overflow sump for Michael Mobbs rain water tank

Disconnecting from the sewerage system meant that Michael had to find somewhere for the small amount of human waste produced each year, so working with the local community in developing a street garden was a simple solution as he could supply the garden with a free treated organic fertiliser.

The tiny backyard space is well utilized with vertical gardens for vegies and herbs, potted fruit trees, a hydroponic growing system and a couple of chooks who free range through the garden and also enjoy a 15m run down the side of the house. Composting and other reuse processes have enabled Michael to disconnect from council rates and garbage collection. If only we could all be like this.

Reused pallet for vertical vegie garden in Michael Mobbs backyard

Michael Mobbs is a quiet, unassuming man and the way in which he has transformed his little 4m wide city terrace with a back yard the size of the average single garage is quite remarkable.  And to think that this is all happening in a quiet little city street just two blocks away from Broadway.


The bus trip to Kimbriki, organised by Hornsby Council, was equally as inspiring.  The whole site is owned by 4 Sydney councils with the area being split into about 5 different processing sections for metal, plastic, computers, green waste and construction materials.

At first glance, the huge mounds of council collected green waste piled up to 6m, look harmless. But a closer look soon reveals a smouldering stack where the internal combustion process is reaching temperatures of up to 120°C. These temperatures obliterate any viable seed bank and the whole process continues on for months on end. Months and sometimes years later, the result is a range of organic gardening and landscaping products available for sale and is where we’ve opted to buy our bagged potting mixes, compost and manure products. At $12 for 3 x 30ltr bags of high quality product, it is still more expensive than having a metre of garden soil delivered to the house but a lot cheaper than the equivalent bagged product you can purchase from nurseries.

On the other side of the site is another contract which converts used construction and building material into reusable products for sale. This includes crush from old terracotta roof tiles and concrete and sandstone bounders that have been cut down into smaller sized landscape blocks, similar to those Uncle Robot makes.

There’s also a buy-back centre where you can purchase pre-loved household goods and garden ware ranging from fence posts and pavers to wardrobes and clothing. We’re keen to get our hands on some pavers in the coming weeks which we plan on using on the nursery floor. At 50 cents each, they’re a bargain.

The award winning Eco House and Garden was definitely a highlight. It operates as an educational facility for schools, community groups and individuals and Peter Rutherford, the centre’s senior eco gardener has been an integral part of it over the last 11 years.

Peter Rutherford (and his Swiss Hang Drum) the senior gardener at the Kimbriki Eco Resource and Recycling Centre at Ingleside

As a former farmer and then soil scientist Pete’s former ways of trying to dominate nature were dramatically altered after a first-hand experience with the devastating long-term effects from overuse and misuse of large-scale commercial fertilizers and pesticides. Armed with a new perspective and new-found knowledge, he now enthusiastically promotes a totally different way of living. His days of abusing our natural resources are over and he know promotes respect for the earth through organic gardening and application of an ecological and sustainable approach to living.

The place is amazing with a permaculture garden, worm farms, composting system, composting toilets set in a beautiful strawbale building, vertical gardens, aquaculture, and imaginative reuse of 2nd hand stuff. I encourage you all to get down there some time and have a look at this marvelous site and meet the shy man behind the project.

Aquaculture at the Kimbriki Eco Resource and Recycling Centre

A beautiful vertical garden at the Kimbriki Eco Resource and Recycling Centre

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