Adelaide's journal for a smarter, better, fairer world

Tag Archives: green

We were looking for our dream home.

Our family had a fairly simple wish-list.

It included a wide street for road hockey, timber floorboards perhaps, large windows and maybe a fireplace. Lists were drawn up by all members of the family. A new house (daughters wish) was ruled out as we didn’t think we had time to build from scratch and it appeared there was a distinct lack of land for sale in the areas we wished to live. Sufficient space was important.

But it didn’t take long before the phrase “dream home” stopped resonating. For us it sounded shallow and overly consumeristic. Dream homes imply BIG homes – that you’ve thrown every penny you have at them. And much of the conversation we were having ended with “for re-sale”. So then it sounded like what we were possibly going to live in was OUR interpretation of SOMEONE ELSE’S dream, which doesn’t make sense.

Australians now have the world’s largest houses. Our dwellings are on average 243 square metres in size (our is a wee bit bigger at 252m sq). That’s 10% larger than our US counterparts ! Winning this global race is nothing to be proud of – it has forced our young people out of ever even entering the housing market. Surveying their expectations about home ownership shows a rapid downward slide since the 1980’s.

As our house meterage increases, we are also adding pools and outdoor rooms and a number of more complex gadgets. Our ceilings are stretching upwards, and our furniture outwards. Between 1984 and 2003, our house size jumped by an incredible 40%. 

In addition to that – we are only living in our dream homes for an average of 9 years !

Pretty brief dream.

So we stopped talking about a dream home. It’s not what we want. Out of interest, I thought I’d take a look at what other people thought “dream home” meant.


Here’s a classic North American style “dream home” image from the internet. There were hundreds of them to choose from. Note the great height, massive walls, balconies, porches, manicured lawns, spa & pool. Am guessing a family house, up to 5 people living here?

As a long-time environmentalist these images gave me the horrors. How to re-word what we were looking for ?

I tried “sustainable dream home”……..


Here’s a totally different kind of image. This is what you get when you add “sustainable” to the front of “dream home”.

The first thing these houses have in common is surroundings. The photos are all of houses situated in lovely places. The “sustainable dream home” images are largely of gardens and windows. They are lower to ground, much, much smaller and frankly, you can’t see anywhere nearly the same amount of house.

I thought about the notion of place and of dwellings and around this time went to an Aboriginal women’s night. I was super inspired at how when each woman introduced themselves they said “I am so & so, my father is from such & such tribe which is located in this place, my mother is from this tribe whose country spans this area.”

It made me think about the term Australian Aborigines use. The term “dreaming”. For them this phrase means the interplay between the daily world they inhabit, AND the other world of spirituality, morality & nature. Their dreaming is a guide book for their lives. There is no soporific state, no hazy, uninformed quality to their dreaming. It seemed to me I could draw parallels between our dream home and the qualities of indigenous beliefs.

I decided then that we should say this is our “dreaming” house.

Indigenous people see themselves as part of nature, and likewise the ecosystems around them having human qualities. Their stories, art and culture are interwoven with this link. Stories are told about ancient times where reptiles show empathy, or plants can lash out in anger. This deep spiritual connection to land goes beyond our understanding of “dreaming”.

With this context firmly tucked into our back pocket we looked further at houses for sale – looked more into the outskirts and the bush fringes of Adelaide. For me it seems that part of our disconnect with our external ecosystems & the way we treat the planet is a direct result of being too comfortable in our homes, cut off from light and weather, sounds and creatures. To be connected with the outdoors invites reflection, surprise, air quality, food sources, natural aromas and the constant change of clouds and movement. Aboriginal dreaming stories are all about this.

The next few blogs will trace the process as we search for our dreaming dwelling – that also happens to be our home.

And we’ll be there more than 9 years for sure.



My family is new to town – we arrived just this January.

A keen sustainability practitioner, I was ready to interview sustainability icons, write voraciously about benchmarks, GHG reduction efforts and brilliant social media campaigns.

But I forgot. It’s hot. And it’s lovely.

No surprise I lost the motivation to read through corporate brochures and was more interested in chasing squid than doing professional research and ground-truthing. So what was to be a dozen well-researching and glowing articles and interviews has become something significantly less. But isn’t that what sustainability is about? When the weather’s good, forget the policy, ditch the campaign – simply head to somewhere natural and beautiful and soak it all up.

So here’s my “summery” (rather than a summary).

What are the bricks, the disappointing first impressions? What are the bouquets, the things that have gladdened our hearts and buoyed our confidence that we have in fact, chosen a great green place to live?

Find it below in my “Top 10 Green Summery Adelaide”.

Over the coming months I promise to deliver (as I suspect it’ll get too cold for beach combing).


1) Locality – the topography and location of this slice of land that is Adelaide. So diverse, such great landforms, hills, gullies, beaches, rolling plains. So easy to locate yourself, so picturesque, something for everyone.

2) Sub-tropics ! There are coloured fish and coloured birds, banana plants and avocados bearing fruit. Oh my, what bliss to know we are living in such a lush micro-climate.

3) Obviously thanks go out to the ocean – to cool, rich, stabilizing water. Bringing incredible seafood to our shoes, steady mild seasons and great beaches to find ourselves when the cooped up inner-city suburbs get too much.

4) The heritage building stock was something we immediately were gladdened to see. From a sustainability perspective this is such a gift, and it is captured in this publication Sustainability and the Old Australian House. We have seen there is such an awareness about the great contribution old building stock makes to our communities.

5) Icons are everywhere. If I did decide to write about the iconic Adelaide institutions, where would one start, and how to stop? Haighs, the Zoo, the Central Markets, and so on. This place is as iconic as a Ken Done t-shirt.

6) Of course you have to mention the coffee and the local food (worth a bouquet each really). Well-supported hubs and hives of community activity and more posters of events on a single wall than my old home town had in a decade. It was here I saw the  – Lavazza sustainability report lying casually on a side table.

And heard about OzHarvest who pass on gourmet left-overs to local charities.

7) Cultural vibrancy. I think almost enough has been said about this, but do consider – that art, architecture and design contribute very strongly to our well-being.

8) Awareness and appreciation of natural resources, especially water vulnerability and biodiversity. It’s everywhere you look. Interpretive signs, swales and fenced off areas.

9) Local government sustainability. Yay ! You have sustainability officers, they’re everywhere ! And plans and measurement and……..

10) What really counts. Willingness. 

Will we bother with the bricks? Maybe next time.

I’ve got to go re-apply my sunscreen.