Renew Magazine: Solar Lawn Mowers and Community Wind Farms

Renew magazine has, for well over 25 years, been the digest that Australians have turned to when they wanted detailed how-to information for living a more sustainable life. A large part of its appeal has been its down-to-earth persona. This is no glossy high brow publication, its written as if the writers were hanging over the fence, passing on gentle advice to a friendly neighbour. And they could well be your next-door neighbour, as often the articles are by lay people who 'did it' themselves. Like Shaun Williams, who made his own retrofitted solar-powered lawn mower, that mows 250m2 of thick grass, for $450 AUD. Or David Rowe, who energy audited his 80 year old house and made some changes, such that his electricity and gas bills dropped by about half.

But the current Oct-Dec issue is packed with much more. Such as the community co-op that is looking to buy its own pair of 2MW wind turbines and plant them on nearby hill above cows and potatoes. Hepburn Wind has all the permits, community, business and government support it needs. All that’s missing is the $9.5 million needed for the turbines. So far they’ve about $2.5 million, with a public share offer open until 12 December 2008 to raise the remainder.

And then there is the article discussing whether carbon rationing or carbon taxes might be a better bet than the emission trading scheme that Australia is soon expected to embrace. We’ve discussed the idea of communities establishing self managed CRAGs (Carbon Rationing Action Groups) on TreeHugger.

Renew points to Carbon Equity as an Australian organisation promoting the idea down under. But also points out that a carbon tax that piggybacks out existing Goods and Services Tax (GST) would be much easier to administer than the auction nature of an emissions trading scheme. However whilst learned academics can see its merits it is unlikely politicians will be keen to institute a new tax. The article also references green cities like Sweden’s Vaxjo, who have slashed their emissions as one way of dealing with that countries carbon tax.

Elsewhere in this issue of Renew magazine, there is a piece on a primary school that afforded its 3kW solar panel systems partly by offering to pay back, via grid credits for electricity generated, local residents who bought panels for the school. The school feeds data to a monitor in its foyer so students can see how much greenhouse gas isn’t being emitted.

Not that the Alternative Technology Association’s (ATA) magazine is all technowizardry. There are also stories on community gardens, cargo bikes, peak oil, ethical food production with Peter Singer, stormwater harvesting, a strawbale house in New Zealand, and a competition to find the most sustainable shed. But if green technology is your scene, then it is here in droves: an electric vehicle conversion, solar thermal energy, a solar inverters buying guide, energy audit meters and more.

The Alternative Technology Association is a membership based organisation and Renew is a strong element of its fundraising. But the magazine has never been a mere adjunct. It’s always been a robust and highly informative publication that showcases ordinary people doing remarkable things and aspiring others to the same. Renew is not available online, but it does have a web based feedback section for people to comment on the print articles they’ve read.

They do also publish a sister magazine called Sanctuary, which focuses more on the built-environment and sustainable residential architecture and design.

::Alternative Technology Association.

[Disclosure: TreeHugger was provided with a review copy of Renew, but this writer had for a long time prior been a paid-up subscriber.)

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Tags: Australia | Carbon Taxes | Community Gardens | Energy Efficiency | Gardening | New Zealand | Wind Power