HPH083 : Can You Live Sustainably in a City? – with Michael Mobbs
Author Michael Mobbs reflects on what he's learnt about sustainability over the last 20 years. From living without a car and bringing key services in-house (his home is not connected to mains water, mains electricity or mains drainage) to growing his own food and being careful how he spends his money, Michael considers how effective he has been.
Interview with Michael Mobbs
Michael first realised the might of the climate, aged six, when the farm on which he was living got flooded. His family had to rely on food parcels being flown in and Michael was unable to get to school for four months!
These days he lives in the city, but he's gone out of his way to think about how he lives his life.
The Meaning of The House Has Changed Throughout His Life
Michael's home has changed throughout the passages of his life, which have included practicing law, marriage, children and divorce. Now he feels that the house is a place of contentment where he can find solitude. This is despite having had over 19,000 visitors through his doors!
An Extraordinary House That Seems Very Ordinary
Michael thinks that often people over complicate sustainable living and think that it is outside their reach. By opening up his house to visitors he aims to dispel these myths by showing that it can actually just be a very normal house. Unless told, people wouldn’t know that the drinking water was harvested rainwater, or that the toilet water was recycled sewage.
His other reason for opening the house up is to make others aware that even though there are mistakes there is still great value in doing a house like this.
The Sustainability of a Building’s Systems Are Dwarfed By The Requirements of The Resident
Michael states that the systems of a building, and even his house, are trivial when compared with a person’s food and drink requirements. He gives the example of how a simple Australian breakfast (produced and wasted in a typical way), would actually be using eleven hundred litres of water. By this reckoning he explains that his stomach has a 20 to 40 times greater requirement for water and energy than his house does.
We All Have the Ability to Live More Sustainably
- You don’t have to be special, rich or qualified to do it. You just need passion.
- Don’t see yourself as a failure if you don’t do everything at once. See what you’re doing as being for future buyers and not just for yourself.
The Suburb Grow Their Own Edible Plants in The Streets
The community are able to harvest plants such as rosemary, bay leaves and lemongrass from the verges in their local streets.
In addition to growing produce at home, Michael chooses to shop at local farmer’s markets where the farmers will receive the full amount of the price he paid, rather than a small percentage of it through a supermarket.
Sustainable Systems Can Threaten the Status Quo
By not being connected to the main systems Michael doesn’t need to pay electricity, water or sewage bills, thus denying money to big businesses (and tax revenue to the government).
Therefore there is a conflict of interest between what might be best for the environment and what might be best for government.
Take Responsibility For Your Own Needs
The reason Michael created the Sustainable House was because he was tired of hearing his own voice complaining about what the government should be doing. Once he accepted responsibility for meeting his own needs, he says that the whinging, complaining tone left his voice.
What gives him hope is that there is increased interest in environmental issues.
Find Out More
Download a transcript of the interview with Michael Mobbs.
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About The Author
Lucy Cowell is owner of the Virtual Assistant company Quantum PA. Being immersed in the world of architecture for over 20 years and since working with Ben Adam-Smith, she is now determined to build her own house one day too!