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Our Carbon Heroes - Reducing Carbon Footprints

What is it? A celebration of the efforts and achievements made by every-day people who are actively reducing their carbon footprints and inspiring others along the way.

This project highlights a sample of the many residents in the community of Mount Alexander Shire with stories about living an energy efficient life or choosing to make a positive change. It shows us some of the ways we can make a difference in our own habits and behaviours to make a positive impact around climate change. We also acknowledge the individuals who tell the stories of those that inspire them.

This small anthology represents the vast network of active and dedicated carbon heroes in our community. There are many untold stories and many un-sung heroes. Carbon heroes can be our neighbours quietly reducing their carbon footprint; friends sharing their knowledge with others; a relative who has always been energy efficient; or someone who has just joined the campaign. They are the unexpected; the once-were climate change sceptics; someone sustaining a low income. They work with the community; they work alone; they are one individual; a child; a family; a business; an un-sung hero. They are many of us. They are people living in a community like you and me.

Strengths: The more people there are involved in a community development project, the more of an impact it has on the community through the links and networks of the people involved. Our Carbon Heroes profiled 30 participants/families, and each had their stories told by others from the community. That made the project engaging of 60 plus people, all of whom told their friends and families and were known to numerous people in the wider community.

Opportunities: The project was launched at World Environment Day and has since been on display or borrowed by various local businesses or groups in the Shire. It will soon be displayed in the Castlemaine library and, as a 10-piece banner construct, continues to have some of the images displayed at the MASG office. The banners are available free for loan by interested groups. Another more socially-engaging approach for this type of opportunity would be to invite other photographers to contribute or teach photography skills with loaned cameras to a specific target group (such as lower income households who could share their stories of managing increasing costs of food and fuel) or seniors with their vast family knowledge of making ends meet during the depression or getting by with what you had.


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Trevor Butcher - We are delighted to nominate Trevor, a local builder and developer, as a carbon hero. We first came across Trevor some eighteen months ago when we joined others to object to his planning proposal for a residential unit development adjoining a property we owned. We’ve since moved from being critics of Trevor to enthusiastic supporters. His innovative unit and home development style impresses us greatly because of its good design features & his sustainable building practices. For us, however, the pinnacle of his work to date is the sustainable display home he is currently building. His commitment to sustainability and his ‘walking the talk’ make Trevor our carbon hero. - Tony & Nada Smark

Mischael & Linda Marold - Unlike many of the back-to-the earthers, the Marolds have continued to dwell happily in their tiny home, a recycled guards van with a tiny lean-to, made warm and snug in winter by its north facing windows, heated by a few twigs burned in their tiny fireplace. They use so little energy they run a battery that’s charged when they go out in their car, kept immaculate for about 30 years. Linda sews on her beautiful old treadle sewing machine, they grow most of their fruit and veggies, keep goats and chooks for milk and eggs, keeping well within the 100km food miles radius - probably 100 metres! - Abbie Heathcote

Mark Anstey - I have admiration for someone who retrieves discarded and under-valued building materials; someone who takes the time to de-nail timber and work with challenging things, and has the ability to incorporate the old to blend and enhance with the new. Mark’s workmanship is inspirational. He lives by example, taking care of Mother Earth and loving the land, and I see Mark as someone contributing rather than taking away. 
- Susan Orchard

Jacinta, Ben, Kalia & Rilka - Barefoot Ben Laycock and his partner Jacinta Walsh are community icons. For many years they have lived a life based on minimal environmental impact. In 1993 the couple completed the construction of their family home out of recycled materials with solar hot water, electricity and wood fired heating.  Ben’s painted landscapes and Jacinta’s extensive community development work continue to inspire us to emotionally engage with our environment. For their personal integrity and generosity to our community, I nominate them as my carbon heroes. 
- Jen Sharman

Peter Hay & Jelse Veenstra - Peter and Jelse have been probably the most practically committed exponents of a light touch on the earth that I have met so far. They encompass many aspects of sustainability - solar power, growing food, entirely bicycle or public transport, and a strong commitment to community projects. They mercifully do not take themselves too seriously. They are willing to discuss every aspect of their lifestyle and have helped me, and my partner, in our own quest to establish a more sustainable life. They not only demonstrate what is possible to achieve, but the joy and satisfaction of this way of living. - Peter Sullivan

Netty, Tadhg & Kitty Byrns - Netty reminds me of so many people I knew abroad who walked the talk, no matter the hardship. To be able to live as simply and gently on the land and with nature as Netty does is a strong reminder of the values of keeping traditional, sustainable farming methods alive. Using productive animals in work such as harnessing the donkey for wood collecting, tending goats that provide milk and cheese is important to Netty, regardless of the constraints of living so far out of town. She has passed on these responsibilities to her children, Tadhg and Kitty, who in turn are humble and gentle like her. - Helena Read

Jilly Rose, Lars & Nemo Fields - Jilly, Lars and Nemo, a family of carbon heroes, cycle instead of using a car to get around. One time, when our children’s class was out on an excursion to the old Barkers Creek School, I noticed them cycling out as I sailed by in my car, so I offered support by saying I could drive them next time we had a school outing or to out of town locations. I was warmly informed that cycling was their chosen form of transport. Nemo now has his own bike and this cycling family continues to demonstrate their determined commitment to the Earth. 
- Janet Phillips

David & Julie Farrell - I think my Uncle and Aunty could teach people a lot. They started in 1990 with a diesel generator and 4x12 volt batteries. They use bottled gas for cooking, the fridge and hot water. They get their power from a generator, solar panels and a wind mill. The power is stored in batteries in their shed. They grow food that’s organic and lush. They compost their food scraps in a worm farm then use the worm pee for their garden. Also for supplementary power they have the steam engine. I am very proud to be their niece and learn about being carbon neutral.
- Caitie Gildea-Ellis

The Chewton Bushlands - These are some of the residents of the Chewton Bushlands with a solar power installation in the background. Most of the now 30 homes here ran on gas lights and generator power when the area became settled over 30 years ago, but switched over time to photo-voltaic power. The new industry offered technology to people who were prepared to try this approach. The residents have continued to invest in solar power, solar hot water systems and tank water, all contributing to carbon emission reduction. Hopefully these panels and systems will become as iconic as a cattle dog on the back of a ute! - Laura Hall-Levetan

Bronwen Machin - Bronwen enthusiastically applies her principles of treading lightly on the earth and leaving minimal impact to every part of her life, and symbolises to me what behavioural change looks like.  In her endeavour, she oozes warmth, positivity and always inspires others to do the same, whether it be through some tidbit of information or in a simple act, like catching the train (with her bike in tow) to her holiday destination.
- Robyn Gibson

Wendy French - Wendy inspired me from the first moment we met with a multitude of low cost ways to retrofit my home and reduce my carbon emissions. She introduced me to the latest low cost products for creating shading and double-glazing on windows. She also showed me how to read my electricity meter, which allows me to make informed decisions about the products I use and their impact on my carbon footprint. Wendy’s a complete renewable energy source herself! The passion and dedication she brings to her many de-carbonising and sustainable living ventures is a great example to everyone. - Lee Fox

Suzan Redlande - Suzan has been trying to minimise her carbon footprint on our 20 hectare property for the past 15 years. She has built a “passive design” solar powered, mud brick home. Rainwater tanks gravity feed the house and chook shed, complemented by a composting toilet. A dedicated fire dam also provides water for the orchard and veggie garden. In her home, she endeavours to use sustainable, natural, local and low-impact materials/resources as far as possible. Suzan has inspired me by her passionate commitment to preserving her environment for future generations.  She has fundamentally changed my understanding and behaviour in these aspects. - Michael Redden

Sr Kath Grant - In recent years the Order of the Sisters of Mercy has taken an informed and active stance towards the Christian responsibility to care for Planet Earth; to place one’s footsteps gently and with due care. In collaboration with her landlords, Sr Kath’s home has been draft-proofed and insulated. The back garden is a private enclave where Sr Kath has created a beautiful setting for self and guests; for prayer, contemplation and rest. All garden beds are heavily applied with water saving materials, compost and mulch. A worm farm and a compost bin enrich the soil and reduce landfill. - Carol McDonough

Abbie Heathcote - If it is not re-used, recycled, low impact or re-invented then it won’t be part of Abbie’s life. Her house itself was retrieved from a paddock and rebuilt maximising the sun for warmth.  For decades she has grown her own food, made her own clothing from natural or recycled materials and given new life to old, cast aside household items. Her car leaves the site only when public transport is not available or heavy items are to be carried. Whilst unable to afford much of the new technology, she has found ways throughout her life to tread very softly on the earth. 
- Felicity Faris

Carol McDonough - Carol was brought up in a frugal family with the ethics of ‘care of earth, care of people’. Carol lives alone, does not own a car, and lives 2 blocks from the train station. Reading years ago that Westerners are spoilt by a small household temperature range, she decided to increase her tolerance to heat and cold. So, indoors in winter she wears fingerless mittens, scarf and beanie with a woollen robe over ‘normal’ winter clothing, all of which have to be hauled off when she is in public buildings or visiting with friends.
- Sr Kath Grant

Manfred & Nita Pruter - Ten years ago, when Manfred Pruter, a retired mechanical and electrical engineer,  started exploring the potential for renewable energy on their property, his wife Nita made it very clear that a reasonable level of comfort was essential. So, using money which would have otherwise gone into superannuation, Manfred designed and built a brilliant and powerful alternative energy system. Most notably, all their space heating needs are supplied by circulating very hot solar-heated water from storage tanks deep in the ground. Manfred and Nita have shown us how easy it is to live in comfort without electricity bills. They are carbon heroes!
- Neil Barrett

Bishop Jeremy Ashton & Mrs Betty Ashton - I have not nominated the Ashtons for the admirable things they have done to make their lives more sustainable – many far-reaching and significant changes that reduce their water and energy usage. Rather I am inspired by their reason for doing so. It arises from a fundamental experience of the need to live in harmony with creation. It comes from the heart. It makes the necessary changes to the way we live less about choice and more about a compelling and lightening way of being. It compels me not only to change what I do, but also to let it seep into my heart. - Sid Larwill

Cheryl Jakab - Problems like global warming and big carbon footprints are scary for children growing up today. Mum is my carbon hero because the books she writes help children like me learn they are not alone, that there are people across the world working on and finding long term sustainable solutions to today’s environmental problems. - Ilona Jakab

The Benham-Bannon Family - The thing that is extraordinary about the Benham-Bannons is that they don't go around telling everyone about all the things they do, but you become aware through their generous gestures - free eggs, veggies, hand-me-down clothes. That's how we became aware of the way they live their lives and that's what inspires us to live differently. They’ve been working together with an environmental consciousness for years. But it's not the recycling, composting, veggie garden, chooks, tanks and hybrid car that make them exceptional. It's the sharing of their ideas that has inspired us and others to do more. - The McNaughton Family

Jill Gibson - Earlier this year the State Government, VLine and Connex announced a ‘no bikes on trains’ policy. Realising the environmental impact of this decision spurred Jill in to action. She organised community meetings and a strong media campaign. Her hard work and efforts helped to influence the minister to reverse the decision - and that makes Jill a carbon hero. - Mary Kidd

Neil & Heather Barrett - I first met Neil and Heather over six years ago when I first came to Castlemaine and was immediately inspired by their compassionate concern for others and for the environment. I visited their garden, with their chooks and ducks, amazing pumpkins and other veggies and their orchard. I was inspired by their commitment to riding their bikes into town whenever possible to minimize their carbon footprint, and later I was inspired by the way they are using their personal resources to enable others to work together to make our community more sustainable through the Mount Alexander Sustainability Group. Carbon heroes? A dynamic duo if ever I saw one! - Rev Gordon Bannon

Cath James, Joel Meadows, Micah & Lloyd - According to the ‘Consumption Atlas’, greenhouse gases generated by producing food are greater than those generated from electricity. For Cath James and Joel Meadows reducing waste by preserving food is their passion. They preserve enough fruit to last a year, harvested from local street trees or friends with excess fruit. They also press their own olive oil and make their own vinegar, cider, honey, yogurt, cheese, butter and bread. Part of the challenge is in rediscovering the art of food preservation and preparation and finding innovative solutions, such as a bicycle-powered olive press, which also keeps the kids entertained. And their apple and quince muffins are to-die-for! 
- Sally Smith

Elsie, Naomi, Maggie, James & Jane - We nominated the Rigby-Thompsons because they ride their bikes instead of using their car, even when it is cold, dark or wet. They have also chosen to reduce their commuting by moving from Maldon to Castlemaine. We see them making environmentally friendly choices in their daily living and in the renovating of their new home. They have chooks and compost and harvest fruit and veggies. They sing inspiring songs. - Tegan, Asha and Abi Benham-Bannon

Monique Yoshitake - Monique's personal integrity and gentle respectfulness for the earth's natural environment is daily mirrored in her interactions with her admiring customers. Her hands lovingly nurture her gardens and her chickens from which she and Brian produce simple, delicious, organic dishes. She uses greenpower in her home and business; restored furniture and old artefacts constitute her shop-fittings; she stocks local organic produce and recycles everything possible from the business. She is truly the Quiet Achiever and a great model to us all.
- Hilary Da Costa

David & Alison Woodgrove - David & Alison’s renovation includes a 'buried pipe' passive cooling system proposed by a local architect. In summer, outside air is drawn from a shaded place in the garden through a pipe half a metre underground to the house cellar, where the temperature is consistent (15 to 20 deg C), then up into the house. They will install a unit to take their bathwater directly to a greywater system that will nourish their garden plants. They are taking steps towards the big-picture challenges. - Athena Williams

Doug Ralph - For fifteen years Doug has grown all his own vegetables. He rarely eats meat, and doesn’t have a fridge. He often eats food raw. He lives in a mud brick house, which he built. He has solar panels, and apart from a laptop computer and a small black & white TV, has few consumer goods. He gets up early, so he can use the sun for lighting. Despite his low-greenhouse-emission lifestyle, he insists he is no carbon hero, and says he lives like this for economic reasons. - Margaret Panter

Roy & Jean Lake - Roy and Jean have the wonderful practical wisdom of their 'waste not want not' and 'make do' generation, which is worlds apart from the wealth and consumerism that exists today for many. Their attitude combined with a 'never too old to learn' approach, reminds me that 'sustainability' is not new, it’s just been re-branded. We must listen carefully to ALL generations, including those in the spring and autumn of their lives. We have much to learn as we are confronted with the challenge of the need to return to the thrifty times of the 'good old days'. 
- Wendy French

Mary Johnston - Why is Mary Johnston my carbon hero? Because she inspires me to do better, grow better, think better.  No, we are not all going to milk our own cow, make our own butter, and ride our horse to visit friends instead of getting out the car. But seeing what Mary does shows me that in my own small way I can lessen my footprint on the earth.  Mary is a role model for many young people and by living her life in such an earth caring way she spreads her word gently but powerfully. - Ruth MacLaren

Step Forbes, Lucy Mow & Raphael - Step, Lucy and Raphael supplement their veggie garden with an organic locally-grown, in-season veggie-box delivery service. They also have fruit trees, watered with grey water direct from the shower and basin in the bathroom, then run it through a reed bed before watering the garden and trees. As well as being conscious of water usage they have installed rainwater tanks for house and garden. They are also involved in a local neighbourhood group that revegetates the nearby bushland and a group that’s planting food trees in the surrounding streets. Baby Raphy uses cloth nappies and is a dear little chap!
- Eliza Tree

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