When it comes to sustainability, we need to take a restorative approach where we give back more than we take out. And in retirement villages across Australia, residents are making choices to live smaller and more sustainably in many ways.
In this article, we highlight how residents are reusing and recycling to reduce landfill, making sustainable gardens in small spaces and downsizing to enjoy the financial and lifestyle benefits of a low-maintenance home.
For us, sustainability is a collaborative effort to help create the best places for people to prosper in homes designed to adapt to changing needs.
It's true that one man's trash is another man's treasure. And giving new life to something old is an eco-friendly way to add unique touches to your home decor. But the benefits of recycling go beyond aesthetics.
According to Clean Up Australia, Australians are among the highest waste producers in the world. We generate almost 41 million tonnes of rubbish each year. And half of that is either dumped in the environment or sent to a landfill where it can’t be recycled.
At The Lakes Bundaberg, resident Don Glasby is passionate about repurposing items that would otherwise end up in the trash. He’s set up a project shed where fellow residents can work alongside each other to create, make and reduce waste.
‘The beauty of repurposing is that there's no limit to how creative you can be.’
Don’s careful about what he discards and says the beauty of repurposing is that there’s no limit to how creative you can be.
Wooden crates stacked on their sides can become a rustic bookshelf. Empty flour sacks make striking cushion covers. Old fabrics can stretch on a frame for instant wall art. Empty jars and bottles are the perfect vessels for sprouting succulents. Combining imagination with resourcefulness can reduce the ever-climbing mountain of rubbish.
Don reused his kitchen cabinet doors and shelves to make new drawers, and he loves making things from scrap materials. It’s all part of Don’s drive to reuse and recycle.
Learn more about The Lakes Bundaberg, QLD.
Husband and wife team Rodger and Gwen Elliot know a thing or two about cultivating plants. The Victorian couple, who live at Woodlands Park received an Order of Australia (OAM) in 2001 for their horticultural work. They were also recognised with the 2013-14 Horticultural Media Association's Gold Laurel. And admitted into its hall of fame.
Now, Rodger and Gwen are sharing their propagating knowledge with their village’s resident gardening group.
Gwen says if you're short on space, small pots on the windowsill can be an easy and attractive option.
‘It's beautiful to be able to grow some edible things, even if they're only pots of herbs like mint, parsley, thyme or basil to use when you're cooking,’ she says. ‘You don't even need to have a large patch of soil to create a beautiful garden.’
‘We had a lot of hard pavings outside, so we lifted the pavings up and planted herbs in the ground there,’ adds Rodger. ‘We don't have a lot of greenery in the house, but we have floor-to-ceiling windows, so we have a pretty good outlook.’
There are plenty of striking varieties of plants you can grow if you want to make a style statement. Gwen and Rodger say Australian native plants are their favourite ornamentals.
‘There are some really good ones among them,’ says Rodger. ‘Some of the long-flowering grevilleas are beautiful. In fact, looking out the window now, I can see a wattlebird getting nectar from the grevillea, which is lovely. Winter is one of the best times for them. Wattle's a good one too. It starts to flower in late June, which is perfect if you want a bit of colour.’
‘You can snap off some of the foliage and stick it in a vase,’ Gwen adds.
‘Some of the plants have very pretty fragrances too. Lemon myrtle, for example, is a native shrub that has the most marvellous lemon fragrance. It looks great on the windowsill, and you can use it in your cooking too.’
Beautiful and edible. When it comes to sustainable gardening, Mother Nature really has thought of everything.
Learn more about Woodlands Park, VIC.
As a building contractor, Closebourne village resident Owen's last project involved him building an entire street of 9 houses. Each in a different style.
‘We kept the last house for ourselves. A Tuscan-style home on 5 acres,’ he says. ‘It had 6 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms, which I put in so all the kids could visit. But with the grounds, when I wasn't mowing, I was weeding, and when I wasn't weeding, I was gardening.’
After all that maintenance and upkeep, Owen is now enjoying the lifestyle and financial benefits of small-house living at Closebourne Village. Living in a retirement village can reduce your bills and environmental impact compared to a much larger home with greater energy needs.
‘In a way, when we moved to Closebourne, it was a blessing in disguise,’ says Owen. ‘We downsized to a 2-bedroom home, which meant we had to shed a lot of our belongings. It's costing us a lot less too.’
Owen says while it's easy to accumulate plenty over time, it's liberating realising you don't actually need that much. And smaller spaces can lend themselves to creating aesthetically inviting interiors.
‘My wife's really good at interior decorating. For example, in the lounge room, we've put in a fireplace with bookcases on either side. You might not think you can do that sort of thing in a space like we have, but you can. And it's magic.’
‘We downsized our living space and upsized our social life.’
‘The best way to approach downsizing is to get rid of a lot of your things, like furniture, and begin again to suit the space. Keep it simple. There's no downside to it that I can see.’
Moving to a smaller house can come with other unexpected benefits too.
‘The best thing about living at Closebourne Village is the people. When we lived on acreage, there weren't that many people around that we knew. But now, we live in a community. You could say we downsized our living space and upsized our social life.’
Learn more about Closebourne Village, NSW.
For more information about the lifestyle and support offered at our retirement villages, call our customer service team on 1800 550 550.
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