Melbourne is famous for its coffee, laneway culture, and street art, but its environmental initiatives have earned it a reputation as one of the most sustainable cities globally, not just in Australia.
Melbourn is consistently ranked as the world’s most liveable city, but it has also become one of the most environmentally friendly. It made international headlines in 2003 when it announced an ambitious target of zero net emissions by 2020, making it one of the world’s first cities to do so.
The city is well on its way to meeting that goal by investing in renewable energy, urban forests, green buildings, waste innovation, and improved pedestrian and cycling infrastructure. It has now recommitted to the Paris Climate Agreement’s goal of achieving zero emissions by 2050.
Melbourne committed to environmental sustainability
The 1200 Buildings program was one of Melbourne’s first sustainability initiatives, assisting building owners and managers in retrofitting two-thirds of the city’s 1,800 existing commercial buildings with cutting-edge energy and water technology by 2020. Its efforts resulted in the city receiving a global sustainability award.
Melbourne was also one of the first cities in Australia to receive a six-star energy rating for 171 Collins St, a building with features such as floor-to-ceiling double glazing, a dedicated waste storage area for separation, collection, and recycling, and a nine-story atrium bringing in natural light.
The City of Melbourne is the first organization to have a carbon-neutral event portfolio certified under the National Carbon Offset Standard. In 2018, it hosted Melbourne Fashion Week and Melbourne Music Week.
Developing a green city
The city’s green infrastructure plan, which began in 2017, is another major sustainability project. Growing Green Guide, Rooftop Project, Canopy Green Roof, and Green Laneways Project are all part of the initiative to make the city greener by planting trees, increasing the number of trees, and lowering carbon emissions. The Green Your Laneway (GYL) project solicited nominations from local residents and business owners to transform or green four laneways with planter boxes, vertical gardens, climbing plants, trees, and sustainability-themed street art. Meyers Place, Coromandel Lane, Katherine Lane, and Guildford Lane were the lanes chosen.
Sol Wise is the CEO of ArtsHub, which is located on Guildford Lane and features a community garden with innovative drains, climbing plants, and 70 pots and window boxes. “I am ecstatic that the council has chosen to cherish and invest in these unique pockets within the CBD, such as Guildford Lane,” he said.
“I don’t take Guildford Lane from the hustle and bustle of La Trobe Street for granted because it’s a unique and inviting area to work in.” It makes me happy to see the plants and, more importantly, the pride that the locals take in maintaining them.”
Melbourne’s laneways are famous for their street art and names that honor some of Australia’s best musicians and bands. Meyers Place, one of its oldest buildings, has undergone significant renovations as part of the greening project. A partial road closure has aided in the creation of a pedestrian space, complete with a jungle-themed mural by street artist Makatron and trees such as weeping figs and native frangipanis.
However, one of its most distinguishing features is a vertical green garden that climbs the facade of Loop Project Space & Bar, a multifaceted arts space and cocktail bar. Loop Bar’s director Adam Bunny said the GYL project, which was funded by the City of Melbourne’s Urban Forest Fund, coincided with Loop’s own plans to green its business, which included a rooftop garden and ground floor green refurbishment.
“I believe that the GYL programme is an opportunity to create an iconic laneway in Meyers Place, one that will become world renowned for its ambitious greening project in the same way that Hosier Lane does for public street art,” said Bunny, who also leads Meyers Place Greening, a community-driven project dedicated to transforming Meyers Place into a green oasis.
In addition to greening the city through tree planting (an estimated 5 million to 8 million trees will be planted over the next few decades), the council’s priorities for meeting emissions reduction targets include: running on 100 percent renewable energy, developing zero-emissions buildings and precincts, providing zero-emissions transportation, and reducing the impact of waste.
Melbourne in Australia that moves
With 1.4 million people expected to live in Melbourne by 2036, the council is encouraging residents to walk, cycle, or take public transportation to work instead of driving. In a typical week, an estimated 21,000 residents rode bicycles to work, according to the City of Melbourne’s 2013 census. Bicycles accounted for 16% of all vehicle use in the city during peak hours in 2017.
Tourists can visit some of Melbourne’s best tourist attractions without having to take an Uber or drive thanks to the City Circle, a free hop-on/hop-off tram. The Royal Botanic Gardens, Old Melbourne Gaol, and Federation Square are among the city’s highlights.
If you do need a car to get around, the City of Melbourne has nearly 500 car-share vehicles, including Flexicar, GoGet, GreenShareCar, Popcar, and RACV Car Share.
Tourists are also becoming interested in eco-friendly walking tours, which allow them to explore the city on foot. Green Me Melbourne takes visitors to some of the city’s most intriguing sustainable projects, including urban gardens.
There are self-guided walking tours available for visitors who want to explore the city on their own, such as the Melbourne Street Art Walk, Melbourne Music Walk, and Arcades and Lane walks.