GOOD LIFE: Elaine Wood at the garden of her “sustainable sanctuary” in Dunoon.
GOOD LIFE: Elaine Wood at the garden of her “sustainable sanctuary” in Dunoon.

See pensioner's 'sustainable sanctuary' for green home envy

CREATING smart and sustainable, not to mention beautiful homes, is something the Northern Rivers does particularly well.

Perhaps none more so than Dunoon woman Elaine Wood.

Thanks to her do-it-yourself attitude, the 70-year-old lives a lifestyle many stuck in the rat race of modern life would envy.

And yet Ms Wood does so not with squillions in superannuation, but on a modest pension.

Her 8000sq m "sustainable sanctuary" is impressive enough to be showcased to the public this Sunday as part of Sustainable House Day, an annual Australia-wide event.

The home's solar system creates more than enough electricity for Ms Wood's needs, with the excess pumped back into the grid. She also has a composting toilet.

OPINION: Admiration for those living sustainably

Ms Wood designed the home to maximise its use of passive solar energy and did many of the jobs herself such as insulation and painting. She even had a second-hand kitchen installed which she sourced from a nearby property.

"There are a lot of things you can do if you're not scared to just get in and do it," she said.

Outside, Ms Wood has a sprawling vegetable and flower garden that balances productivity and beauty. It is fed by a rainwater tank, and there's a greywater system at the bottom of her yard, right next to the chooks.

"I like the idea of a mixed landscape; flowers and vegetables growing side by side," she said.

"Tomatoes look great coming up between marigolds. Even carrots have a beautiful flower when they come up, so you can pick some and leave others."

She said living off a vegetable garden required a shift in attitude.

"You have to create recipes out of what you are producing. I have pumpkin soup for breakfast," she said.

"You do have to eat what's in season ... and you've got to preserve things." It's all part of her DIY, frugal lifestyle which, amazingly, includes no car.

"In Dunoon I can walk to the bus, catch the school bus into town and catch the bus coming back at 3.30pm," she said.

"It cost me $2.50 for the day. I can even use that ticket to go all the way to Byron (and back)."

Sustainable House Day

The following three homes will be open from 10am to 4pm on Sunday:

  • Elaine Wood, 51 Cedar Pl, Dunoon
  • Simon Hartley, 2/89 Figtree Dr, Goonellabah
  • The Robinsons, 182 Bentley Rd, Tullera

As part of the nation-wide event there will be a Sustainable House Expo at Lismore City Hall on September 19, from noon to 4pm. 

This is the culmination of the Sustainable Housing for Life Design Competition, with more than 35 sustainable house designs by architects, designers and young people on display.

Visitors can talk with the designers in person and see which designs take out the annual awards.

All visitors will also go in the draw to win some amazing lucky door prizes including a Light Touch 1kW solar system, a hemp masonry builder's starter kit and much more.

Entry is free.

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