Alan and Denise Richardson’s property is both a serene scene and a sanctuary of sustainability. 

Key points:

  • Regional homeowner say it is up to everyone to live more sustainably amid climate change concerns
  • More than 21 per cent of Australian households now have rooftop solar panels
  • Other things to consider are installing LED lighting, building a veggie garden, preserving excess produce and reusing or recycling older items and materials

Chickens cluck and strut through an orchard filled with trees that are ripe with fruit.

A neat veggie garden has been rigged with a hose irrigation system and tanks of rainwater supply the house and garden year-round.

Tucked away on the roof are glossy black solar panels, while a futuristic-looking battery works in tandem with the panels.

Mr Richardson said when the couple first moved into the Mount Gambier home in 2000, the property looked very different.

“It was basically a brick veneer house, a fairly standard house … nothing special about it,” Mr Richardson said.

a chicken struts towards camera, its plumage bright orange and its comb bright red

The couple keep chickens and a dairy cow, as well as maintaining an orchard and vegetable garden.(

ABC South East SA: Laura Mayers

)

Two decades after settling into the property, Mr Richardson is still tinkering away, turning it into a truly special, sustainable sanctuary.

“I like the idea that you could actually live by yourself … and without impacting the environment too much,” Mr Richardson said.

Multiple solar panels sit on the roof of a brick home

Solar panels feed power into the Richardsons’ 5KW battery. (

ABC South East SA: Laura Mayers

)

Passing along the torch

For decades, Mr Richardson has been a strong advocate for sustainable living.

A couple, dressed in a white bridal dress and a fawn suit, are about to cut their three-tier wedding cake

Denise and Alan Richardson were married in the 1970s. (

Supplied: Alan Richardson

)

The eco-whiz was involved in the Mount Gambier organisation Community Action for Sustainability for many years, although the 70-year-old has now taken a step back.

“That was all about encouraging others to be more sustainable, and to try [to] encourage the adoption of sustainable practices by the community and by governments,” Mr Richardson said.

“I mean, my son, who lives in Townsville, is a builder and building designer

Pantry of preserves

In a world of fast fashion and fast food, the Mount Gambier couple are proud to be living at a slower pace.

When the pandemic hit, Mr Richardson saw it as an opportunity to take on some new “COVID projects”, including creating a cement-enforced preserves cellar.

“I’d always thought that every house in Australia should have a cellar … it’s a great way to keep things cool and in a nice, dark environment, which is good for preserving,” Mr Richardson said.

Rows of colourful fruit sit in glass jars

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Alan took on a ‘COVID project’- creating a wine and preserves cellar, using the Richardson’s own home-grown fruit. (

ABC South East SA: Laura Mayers

)

The cellar helps the couple cut down on food waste, while a passion for purchasing secondhand equipment and materials keeps the costs down and brings new life to old discarded items.

“Don’t tell my wife, but I love going to clearance sales,” Mr Richardson said.

“So, if I buy something, it usually ends up in the workshop with a few modifications.

“It really is better than the original in many cases.”

His most recent “COVID project” sits proudly in the backyard of the home: A treehouse for the grandkids, made of almost entirely used materials.

A little tree house with a verandah sits on a tree

Another ‘COVID project’ for the grandkids… a treehouse made out of secondhand materials.(

ABC South East SA: Laura Mayers 

)

Small steps, strong impact

However, Mr Richardson insists it does not take much to make a home more environmentally friendly.

“LED lighting is another obvious one, they’ve come down in price quite dramatically,” he said.

“These sorts of things are making it easier and more affordable for people … to adopt.

“A lot of people are very aware now about the issues of climate change and they, hopefully, believe that they need to take action, not just governments.”

Richardson Alan

Posted , updated 

Richardsons show others how to successfully live sustainably
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