Sustainable Living

Rolling hills of the Otways  

Sustainable rural living

Council's sustainability activities

Sustainable living is a lifestyle that tries in as many ways as it can to bring into balance the conservation and preservation of natural resources, habitats, and biodiversity with human culture and communities.

If each of us aims to run a sustainable household, which means thinking about the type and amount of resources we use, how we recycle and dispose of materials, the steps we take to manage and conserve the natural environment we all depend on, we are not only conserving energy, we are saving money too.

Little things like changing to a water-efficient showerhead can save hundreds of litres of water a year, and stop your dollars going down the drain. If we consider our purchases carefully, a lot less waste will end up as landfill and pollution.

Water usage remains a key environmental concern and there are many ways to use this resource sparingly, without compromising on comfort. Whether it’s fixing a leaking tap or installing a household greywater system, every little bit helps.

Lots of little actions by lots of people can help turn things around. We have compiled some simple steps and actions you can take:

Save energy - improve your home’s energy efficiency with better heating, cooling, hot water, insulation and lighting.

Be water-wise - Save water in the home and garden by using efficient appliances and practices. Something as simple as changing the time of day you water your garden can have a big effect on the health of your plants and how much water is wasted. The best time of day to water is early morning, which ensures plants have a good supply of water throughout the day. It also tends to be a time of lower winds and thus reduced evaporation. If watering cannot be done in the early morning, very late afternoon is also okay.

Smarter choices - Choose more water/ energy efficient appliances and compare the running costs of different models. Choose locally produced food, goods and services and avoid excessive packaging.

Recycling and waste - Avoid, reduce, reuse and recycle waste.

For more sustainable living tips and ideas about small, easy changes that can have positive impacts on the environment, our health and wellbeing, please visit the Sustainable Living Guide.

Sustainable rural living

To maintain a healthy rural lifestyle, sewage and household waste must be properly managed, waterways protected, roads and other areas well-constructed and maintained, and diversity of the natural habitat preserved. The following are some areas of concern and ways in which you can contribute to the sustainability of our shire:

Sewage waste

If not properly treated and managed, sewage causes nutrient and bacterial pollution of creeks, dams and groundwater, presenting a danger to human health and to aquatic habitats. Nutrient pollution contributes to algal blooms, oxygen depletion of water and kills fish.

  • Choose the right treatment system. The best system for your block will depend on soil type, slope, climate and closeness to creeks, rivers and groundwater systems.
  • Maintain your treatment system so that it continues operating efficiently.
  • Don't overload it, otherwise it won’t treat sewage to an adequate standard.

Household wastes

Garbage buried onsite can pollute creeks, dams and groundwater with damaging nutrients and toxic chemicals (especially from household cleaning agents and gardening products).

  • Never dispose of garbage in gullies or waterways.  
  • Compost organic waste.  
  • Recycle paper, glass, metals and plastics whenever possible.
  • Dispose of all other wastes at properly managed landfills.

Water quality

It is vital to the biodiversity of the shire as well as to our community's health that we protect sensitive areas, such as creeks and rivers, from residual pollution.

  • Maintain healthy vegetation near streams and rivers, to filter run-off and ensure stable banks.  
  • Manage your water areas to prevent degradation from concentrated stock access. Fence off sensitive areas and provide stabilised access points, or water your stock elsewhere.  
  • Site your dams below disturbed or high-activity areas to capture nutrients and sediment before it enters natural waterways.  
  • Design your dams to filter pollutants and have shallow sediment traps. 
  • Manage your stock to prevent overgrazing and consequent erosion.


Council and community members have to work together to protect areas of high natural value, such as native vegetation, creeks, rivers and wetlands.

  • Plan the development and use of your site to minimise disturbance of native vegetation, fauna habitat, and permanent and non-permanent waterways.
  • Be aware of the harm that uncontrolled domestic animals (cats and dogs) cause to native flora and fauna.

If you are interested in the sustainable management of natural resources on your property, get involved with Landcare. You can find your local group through the Victorian Landcare Gateway.


Council’s sustainability activities

Carbon Neutral by 2020

Colac Otway Shire Council has a longstanding commitment to reducing its carbon emissions and addressing climate change impact. Priority areas Council has identified for action include energy generation, building design and fabric, fuel use and lighting. Major energy efficiency projects have enabled Council to significantly reduce its energy consumption. To see how much solar energy is being captured by the Council office solar project, please visit Council’s solar initiative page.

 Solar panels on roof of Council office

Other sustainability initiatives completed by Council in recent years include:

  • the upgrade of 1300+ streetlights across the shire to LED lights, reducing  streetlight electricity consumption by 65%
  • significant environmentally sustainable design features included in the Bluewater redevelopment project to reduce energy and water use.
  • small solar PV systems at the Colac and Apollo Bay visitor information centres and the saleyards;
  • instantaneous gas boosted solar hot water installed at seven council facilities, including Central Reserve, Lake Oval, the youth centre and the pound;
  • rainwater harvesting, solar hot water, improved insulation, occupancy sensors, energy efficient appliances, water saving taps and double glazing in Council's office buildings;
  • the landmark regional project Climate Resilient Communities of the Barwon South West, which brought together ten south-west Victorian councils and other environmental agencies to work collaboratively to better adapt to the long-term impacts of climate change, in particular extreme weather events. To celebrate the successful conclusion of the project and to launch the Barwon South West Climate Change Web Portal, Council facilitated the Barwon South West Climate Change Forum for practitioners.

If you have any ideas for future projects or initiatives Council could trial to improve its environmental performance, please contact Dora Novak, Council’s Environment & Sustainability Coordinator on 5232 9574.