Community living

Community living is one of the most sustainable lifestyles we can choose for our planet, enabling people to live, be sustained, work, play, share and grow in a low-resource impacting way. Bellbunya Community explores holistically sustaining grass roots living through community, as an interactive teaching and learning centre for permaculture and sustainable living.

Holistic sustainability has regard to being ecologically, socially, economically and culturally sustainable. We are proud of our journey so far.

Ecological Sustainability

  • 100% renewable energy
  • Waste reduction – total consumption is 1/8th of general consumptive patterns
  • Organic food production
  • Reduced use of fossil fuels through car-pooling and food choices
  • Solar hot water
  • Low toxicity
  • Reduced energy consumption
  • Water quality and collection

Social Sustainability

  • Mutual support and sharing of skills
  • Labour saving
  • Access to a variety of recreational opportunities
  • Eating and sharing together
  • Actively supporting re-localisation
  • Healthier lifestyle

Financial Sustainability

  • Affordable lifestyle, sharing expenses and resources
  • Low food costs from $75pp/pw with ever-increasing community food production
  • Developing collaborative enterprises to stop economic leakage

Cultural Sustainability

  • Learning & personal development opportunities and commitments
  • Visioning
  • Sociocracy as a collaborative model for decision-making

Ecological Sustainability

100% renewable Energy. The grass roots community is run from 100% renewable energy sources, including 2 solar photovoltaic arrays totalling 7.2KVA. Additional power is sourced from wind energy. Reduction in waste disposal. The community uses 1 wheelie bin per week and 2 recycle bins per fortnight to handle the rubbish from community, conference and eco-retreat activities. This has been achieved through:Reduced packaging – growing organic food on-site, buying fresh, local and bulk foods rather than packaged and processed foodsRe-use of materials – such as paper and cardboard in vegetable gardens, composting of all plant based materials, using “green bags” rather than plastic bags, sharing of resources rather than multiple purchase of disposable items and fixing and re-using items.Organic Food Production: The community has organic gardens which supply the community’s vegetables, and has hens who give us fresh eggs every day. We continue to develop our overall permaculture design plans, incorporating native food forests, orchards and food gardens, and have a growing variety of herbs, fruits and vegetables for each season.

We are members of the Mary Valley Country Harvest Co-operative, supporting local food growers.

The community consumes fresh, organic food, including home-made kefir and sourdough bread made with organic spelt flour.

Water Quality and Collection: Climate models predict uneven rainfall for Australia, with more frequent drought-inducing El Niño events. This impacts on water availability, fire readiness, storm preparation, while energy use, building construction and maintenance are also continual considerations.

Bellbunya relies on rainwater. Any new buildings will use composting toilets. In 2015, two composting toilets have been purchased. One will be retrofitted at the Community House and the location for the second toilet has been selected for the potential to successfully decommission several current flush toilets. This will also be a trial for a particular make and also placement of other composting toilets.

For maintaining clear gutters for fire readiness, harvesting more and better quality water, as well as better protection for the gutters themselves (resource use and fire protection), gutter leaf guard has been installed on gutters most difficult to access for cleaning, or prone to leaf build-up.

Social Sustainability

The community is continually making choices for energy efficiency, for example purchasing a walk-behind slasher rather than a ride-on mower, as it has lower embodied energy and ongoing energy and maintenance requirements. We are replacing grass areas with herb/food production areas, and as resources allow we will introduce more animals for produce, fertiliser and grass/weed control.

Solar Hot Water. We have replaced several inefficient gas and electric systems with solar hot water, including the system for Lorikeet that used 90 litres of gas each week! We now use the sun and small electric boosting system that is much more efficient.

Low Toxicity: The community follows organic principles, does not use poisons and uses only eco-friendly cleaning products such as vinegar and bicarb soda.

Reduction in Energy Consumption. By sharing meals and utilising community rather than private spaces, there is less energy required for lighting, heating, cooking and cooling. With very little money or time allocations the community reduced gas consumption by 50% in Bunya House and 75% in accommodation through measures such as insulating and shortening hot water pipes.Fossil Fuel minimisation. Food for the Bellbunya Community is primarily sourced with low food miles, such as local produce and foods from the Community’s own organic gardens.

We car-pool as a matter of general practice also and have an internet-based car-pooling log. We also share a hybrid (electric/petrol) community car and 1 tonne utility truck powered by a combination of filtered vegetable oil and diesel.

Mutual support: The Bellbunya community is an intentional community, with the shared values described in our vision and mission statements. Informally and formally, community members support each other in a variety of ways, celebrating together events and successes, and teaching and learning skills from each other.

Each community member contributes individual skills and their own time for the benefit of each other and the whole community. The breadth of skills shared by community members includes (or has included!) building, gardening, horticulture, electrical engineering, catering, legal, IT, management of organisations, biodynamics, health, physical fitness training, yoga, massage and healing.

Labour Saving: ABS data suggests that the average Australian spends approximately 22 hours/week in domestic chores. Bellbunya Community members commit to at least 8 hours each work sharing their skills and time to enhance and support the life of the community. As well, each of us cook and clean for usually only one main meal per week (and usually not solo!), and help keep clean common areas as needed.

Access to recreation: Located in a rural environment, community members are able to enjoy a variety of social, recreational and developmental activities offered by the people at the community on the day. From time-to-time this can include meditation, yoga, dancing, music, swimming, singing (especially during dishes), games (especially Zilch) and movies at the Bellbunya cinema. Access to a wide variety of people and activities removes the feelings of isolation that are so prevalent in today’s society.

Eating and sharing together: A pivotal bond is created by the nightly dinners where community members gather for a feast, a laugh and fine company. Starting with a group blessing it is an opportunity to connect with our food (often freshly brought to the table from the garden), with our place and with each other. The lost art of conversation is enjoyably practiced.

The weekly sharing and connection circle gives the opportunity to get to know more about each other and stay connected with what is important at this time for each community member.

Support for Relocalisation in the Sunshine Coast. Since the community inception, we have initiated several local community get-togethers, including street Australia Day breakfasts, and during 2014-15 a monthly Organic Café, Swap-Meet and healing day. Some of our members are in the Belli Park Rural Fire Brigade, committing their support to the local community in the event of an emergency. Others are involved with Permaculture Noosa and Valley Bees., as well as the small Belli/Cedar Catchment Care Community.

From attending local events, to networking with people in the area, to buying local produce, we have been actively engaged in supporting the local community.

Health and Wellbeing. We enjoy healthy, freshly prepared and primarily organically grown food, a low toxicity environment and access to filtered rainwater. Among the resident and visiting community members there is a fitness trainer, people interested in whole-food diets and practitioners of a variety of practices such as yoga, massage and Reiki.

Financial Sustainability

Affordable lifestyle: By sharing expenses and resources, the community has created an affordable lifestyle. Sharing internet connection and phone connection costs decreases costs for each community member. Sharing of facilities through community spaces reduces the overall use and therefore costs of energy. In total, all services, including gas, electricity, water, telephone and Internet for all purposes costs community members $20 per week.Low food costs: The Bellbunya community purchases fresh produce rather than packaged and processed food, makes bulk purchases of seeds, nuts and grains and grows and makes an ever-increasing range of produce on site. As a consequence, the community disposes of less waste, supports the re-localisation movement and is healthier. The added benefit is affordability, as Bellbunya is able to supply healthy, vegetarian meals for guests and community members from $45pp/pw for full community members, and from $75pp/pw for visitors.Developing Co-operative enterprises: Enterprise development at Bellbunya is at the very initial stages, with encouragement from the community and the Association for Sustainable Communities Inc (ASC) to develop collaborative sustainable enterprises. Those currently in the start-up phases include a local-food experience Café and development of the eco-retreat and sustainability conference centre in conjunction with the ASC. On the agenda is to form partnerships with local enterprises, eco-farming and utilising the commercial kitchen to value-add local and community farm products.

Cultural Sustainability

Learning and Personal Development. Being in community can be exciting and challenging with many learning opportunities. Members of the community have made a number of personal commitments regarding how they will respond to the challenges of community living. Bellbunya community is an enrichening and enlivening experience, often moving members beyond their comfort zones.

The community engages in regular meetings for our activities, as well as weekly connection circles and regular reflection opportunities.

Visioning Process: The whole of Bellbunya Community participates in visioning processes from time to time to identify shared values and directions.

Sociocracy: Bellbunya community uses a form of delegated sociocracy as a governance model, with decisions being made by constructive consensus. Individuals, or small groups of people, accept roles and responsibilities for various areas of activity. Where a group decision or discussion is needed, they bring proposals back to the community as a whole.

The system is continually being refined and redefined.