Civic Report: Slow Consumption

Super Low Consumption: increasing the value and life of resources through share systems.

Looking back at the development of EBD it is important to recognise that the community’s approach towards consumption was very radical for its time. In 2008, as the City of Melbourne was developing its low carbon policy, EBD set out to be a visible test-bed. As an exemplar of a ‘super-low’ consumption community, EBD could be economically prosperous with a high quality of urban wellbeing, yet still meet long-term aspirational goals for the reduction of greenhouse gases and water consumption.  At the initial planning stage of the development, EBD had a starting goal of a per capita reduction of greenhouse gas of 60% (of 2000 equivalent), the same target then adopted for the state of Victoria for 2050. Those who set this target originally hoped that it would achieve a longer-term goal of 100% reduction by 2032.

In reality, the community’s ability to monitor its consumption, actively engage in experimentation and adaptation of technologies and systems, combined with the strong culture of low consumption behaviour, meant that this goal was reached 3 years ago. Many of our consumption reduction strategies and services from the high-tech and low tech precincts – the outcomes of the ‘living lab’ of EBD – have been exported to the greater Melbourne community and beyond. The role of ACUR has been vital for these achievements. Of particular note was the low carbon community agreements implemented by residents when EBD was first established. This important piece of community action and governance was based on the example of the Slow Food movement – referred to in this case as “Slow Consumption” – which raises awareness of where products come from and how they are made. The low carbon agreements grew to become ‘slow consumption agreements’ which still remain voluntary (the latest form of these can be viewed on the EBD intranet) but they have been adopted by most businesses as a part of their general ‘community obligation agreements’ (also on the EBD intranet).

Community and personal targets have been supported by EBD’s infrastructure and built environment (see Energy, Water and Transport for more details). Examples can be seen in the reuse of old buildings, infrastructure and materials, which have become an aesthetic feature of the site. When EBD was in development, much of the original infrastructure and materials were maintained, adapted and reused. These materials represented a lot of embodied energy, which has not been lost. They preserve cultural history as well.

The social and community activities of EBD life that now play such a part in attracting residents to the site – the cultural cafes and bars where literary, art and music events take place, the bi-weekly gourmet picnics in the park, the shared commercial kitchens and the community gardens, the mobile community outdoor cinema, and so on – reflect the evolution of an EBD lifestyle. EBD life is a celebration of community wellbeing. It is not surprising that so many sophisticated systems of sharing (products, resources, knowledge) have developed from this community – the appliance, furniture and tool libraries, the open-source electronic dismantle-repair systems and so on. The businesses and services of EBD also help people to manage their carbon and environmental impacts.