Category Archives: Seasonal

Charity begins at home: an alternative giving guide to help ‘save the world’

Charity Begins at Home. Blog Post Talina Edwards Architecture Sustainable design Ballarat

“How wonderful it is that nobody needs to wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” ~ ANNE FRANK

Well as the year draws to an end and with the smell of Christmas is in the air already, it engages our spirit of generous giving to loved-ones… But I do hate the over-spending and over-consumption of so much non-ethical and non-sustainable “stuff”!  But this post is not a gift guide (you can find one of those here or here), THIS is about extending our generous spirit beyond our loved ones, to our wider community… to help out others at this time of year too.

Here’s some little ways that don’t have to cost much (if anything!) that might just make a big difference to someone, and if that doesn’t give you a warm fuzzy feeling inside, then perhaps you’re missing the point of the Christmas season. ;o)

Show Gratitude

This is the cheapest and easiest one! Just taking the time to say thank-you and letting someone know they are appreciated. You can tell them face to face, send a gift-card, post a comment publicly on social media… Taking this time to be thankful not only brightens someone else’s day, it will improve your wellbeing too!

Partake in Random Acts of Kindness

One of my favourite films of all time is Amelie! If you don’t know it (I highly recommend it!), it is a quirky art house film set in France, about a woman who does cute, odd little things to help influence the lives of the people around her, for the better.  If everyone was a little more kind, imagine the world we could be living in! Some like to see this as “Pay it forward” – or Good Karma – that the kindness you show others now, will be returned to you in a time of need. Maybe you could pay for a coffee/meal for the person in the queue behind you at the cafe, or fill up a parking metre as you leave, donate blood, let a car in front of you in a traffic jam, offer babysitting to parents, walk a friend’s dog, pick flowers from your garden to take to an elderly neighbour….  there are hundreds more ideas online if you’re stuck.

Volunteer Your Time

More than a third of Australian adults are already involved in voluntary work – are you? It also happens to be International Volunteer Day #IVD2014 on December 5th, and the theme for this year is “Make change happen: volunteer“. Helping make a difference in your community at a grassroots level is what it is all about… just by helping in a small way, you are in fact helping to change the world! Often giving your time, is more valuable than giving your money.

Donate with ‘Shout For Good’ App

I first heard about the ‘Shout for Good’ App at the Big Hearted Business Conference, and thought it was such a fabulous idea  – by changing the way we donate to charity in the age of the smart-phone. It is so easy – when you shout yourself lunch, how about donating the same amount to a favourite charity. With a tap on our phone it is that easy! No more being hassled by cold-callers asking you for your bank details for recurring monthly donations to the big charity organisations. Check it out here.

Support a Crowdfunding Campaign

I must admit, I’m quite a fan of supporting these. It is a very different feeling to say, giving money to the Guide Dogs or Oxfam – and please don’t get me wrong, of course each and every charity is worth supporting and I have given to these organisations many times, but I do love that with “Crowdfunding” you are supporting a person or a cause or a big idea that you feel more connected with. You can support, and share in their journey,  and more often than not, you  also get a “reward” because you’ve helped kick in the funds upfront toward capital for their project – so it’s a win-win situation for everyone. I’ve loved receiving some artwork, a CD, or knowing that a tree’s been planted all due to some very worthy ‘pozible’ campaigns. Two that are close to my heart at the moment, and still really need your help, are firstly, a local art and design collaborationCollidescope  where a total of 22 Ballarat visual-artists and fashion designers are working together to create wearable-art as part of the Melbourne Fashion Festival – but this is much more than just ‘fashion’! It is about celebrating creativity, community and collaboration! I’m fortunate to know many of the amazing creatives involved in this project, and I can’t wait to see the outcomes. Please see more here.

The other fabulous initiative that you may have heard about isThe Nursery Project‘ by two inspiring local creatives: blogging-royalty and author Rowan Anderson (Whole Larder Love) and his partner – photographer/blogger/cook “the lunch lady” Kate Berry. You may know that they are passionate about simple, wholesome, healthy, down-to-earth living, eating sustainable, and growing your own food and making it from scratch. I love their philosophies and share *most* of them (but, err, as someone who eats predominantly vegetarian, I must admit,  I’m not quite so fond of the raise/hunt/butcher and eat the WHOLE animal – as sustainable as this scenario is!). They “want people to get their hands dirty, minds thinking and bellies and hearts full”. They’ve chosen the Daylesford area for the location, noting “We’re also basing The Nursery Project a short drive from one of the unhealthiest regional cities in Australia – Ballarat – where food and lifestyle choices are at their worst. It’s here that we hope to encourage some positive change.” If you can, please do something to help change this fact, by finding out more here.


I’m sure you’re already giving generously to others in your own unique way, I just thought I’d put a few more ideas out there. I think this is especially important to set a good example for kids at this time of year – that it is not about receiving gifts from Santa, it is about giving to others.

And in this spirit of giving, I want to show my gratitude to all of you – my wonderful family, friends, clients, colleagues, consultants, supporters, readers, fellow-bloggers, creative tribes-folk, followers and “likers”. Thank you from the bottom of my heart! Without all of you, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing! 

Ballarat Sustainable Architect Green Builder

Talina Edwards Architecture is a Ballarat-based studio, specialising in sustainable design, green buildings and healthy homes. We like to help answer your questions about environmental design. Don’t forget you can click here to sign up to receive our monthly newsletter  (or over there on the top right-hand side of this webpage) so you won’t miss out on our news!


5 ways to embrace springtime (for a healthier home – and life!)

Thank goodness Winter is over here in Ballarat…well almost…we’ve had a few teaser days of glorious Spring weather. There’s a lot to love about Winter, but I am certainly ready to embrace the change of seasons and celebrate the “newness” of Spring. It has a positive feel…some sunshine, fresh air, new blossoms signifying new life…So here are five ways to embrace the new season for a healthier home – and a healthier life.

Talina Edwards Architecture Spring Seasons  Celebrate

1. Air out the house!

The doors and windows have been tight shut all winter, keeping the cold out. But now is the time to open the house up and flush out the stale air and dust. On sunny, windy days, take out your bedding, pillows and cushions and let them get a good airing. Clean any mould or mildew that has built up inside (avoiding harsh chemicals of course; a bit of white-vinegar and elbow-grease usually does the trick!). The quality of our indoor air is very important to our health – and ventilation is the key. A few indoor plants will help purify the air too.

2. Get outdoors!

After spending so much time indoors over the colder months, it is now time to get outside! Time to get stuck into planting that vegie patch, go on a bush walk, or perhaps just take time to literally stop and smell the roses! It’s amazing how re-connecting to nature has such a positive impact on our  health and wellbeing.

3. Start a new activity!

Spring is all about new beginnings, and it’s the perfect time to start something new (or re-commence something you’ve stopped for a while). For me it is all about getting moving again after slowing right down over winter – so it’s time to start those yoga classes again! Perhaps it’s swimming, cycling, or just walking more now that the weather is not so nasty. Of course it could be something new that isn’t for your physical wellbeing, but something that enriches your mind/soul instead – as that is just as important.

4. Socialise!

Many of us go into a bit of hibernation over winter. But as soon as the weather warms a bit, it’s the perfect time to plan some BBQs or picnics and reconnect with friends and family before the Christmas rush! Good food, good conversation, good company = good times!

5. Buy and eat local seasonal produce!

So, last but not least, why not support your local community by visiting a Farmers Market. Our bodies thrive on fresh, organic, produce that is in season and not imported from miles away (which is just not sustainable). This can also cover many of the points above in one hit – get out of the house, perhaps ride your bike there, buy some seedlings to plant or fresh flowers, meet some friends there, enjoy the sun and fresh air, and make it a new habit to buy local! The new “Smart Living Market” (Ballarat Lakeside Farmers Market) just happens to be starting THIS Saturday morning 9am – 1pm, Windmill Drive, Lake Wendouree. This is now run by the local community organisation BREAZE (Ballarat Renewable Energy and Zero Emissions)…so hope to see you there!

Farmers Market Lake Wendouree


Do you love Springtime too? How do you like to embrace Spring? I’d love to know in the comments below!


P.S.  Don’t forget you can click here to sign up to receive our monthly newsletter  (or over there on the top right-hand side of this webpage) so you won’t miss out on our posts!


Best tips for more efficient heating this winter

Talina Edwards Architecture is a Ballarat-based studio, with a passion for sustainable design, green buildings and healthy homes. We like to help answer your questions, and this post is about the “Best tips for more efficient heating this winter”. You may also be interested in our past few posts: “Best ‘green’ ways to keep YOU warm this winter” and “Best ‘green’ ways to keep YOUR HOME warm this winter”.

Advice Heating Your Home Best Top Tips Keep Warm House Home So hopefully you’ve taken on board our top tips in our past few posts about warming yourself and your home. However let’s be realistic, until we all live in 10-star-rated homes, we will need heating – especially here in Ballarat! Did you know that in Ballarat we spend over 75% of our household energy for heating!  This is because MOST of our housing stock was designed so poorly in the first place! So here’s some tips to make sure your heating is  as efficient as possible – which not only saves energy and the earth’s resources, it also saves you money!

But before we move onto these tips, I must reiterate how important is to do things like seal up your draughts, and close your curtains at night, double glaze if possible, (as draughts and windows can account for over 50% of heat loss!) and check your insulation levels…if you don’t do these steps and others that I discussed in my previous post, then you’re basically letting all your hot air escape…it’s like trying to bake a cake in the oven with the oven-door left open…or like trying to have a relaxing hot bath without the plug in!! It’s not efficient, you’ll be using your heater much more, and it will be wasting you lots of money that could be easily (and often cheaply) avoided!

Efficient Use of Heaters 

Turn the thermostat down a few degrees: Put on some warmer clothes and drop the temperature down between 18 – 20 degrees celsius – if you’re swanning about the house in your summer frock with the heater cranking, it is up too high! These few degrees can make a huge difference to the amount of energy you use – every degree above 20 degrees adds 10% to your heating bill.

Turn your heater off at night (or right down): The ideal sleeping temperature overnight is 16 degrees celsius, and with warm bedding you can still sleep very comfortable with a lower temperature than this. If there are infants or elderly or ill people in your home, they may require slightly warmer rooms.

Only have your heater on when you’re home: Don’t heat your whole house when you’re not even there! What a waste!

Close internal doors: Keep all internal doors closed to unused (and utility) rooms – like laundries. Don’t pay for heating for rooms that don’t require it.

Only heat the rooms that are occupied: Use a space-heater to only heat the room being occupied – instead of heating a whole house.

Zone your heating: If you have central-heating, ensure it can be zoned and have adjustable (closable) vents to different zones that so you only heat the rooms you’re using.

Programmable Thermostat: Ensure your heating system has a programmable thermostat that will cut out when the rooms are warm enough, and then kick back in when the temperature drops.

Use a timer: Does your thermostat or heater have a timer? Use it to set your heating to come on in the morning, and ensure it turns off when you go to bed. You can also purchase timers that plug into your powerpoint that will do the same thing.

Regular Maintenance: Ensure your heater/boiler/ducts/outlets are all regularly maintained to help your system run more efficiently. For example, make sure filters are clean, ducts haven’t come loose, and to make sure it is safe and there are no gas leaks, etc.

Install Ceiling Fans: These can be used both in summer and winter! Turn your ceiling-fans to “winter-mode” or reverse so that they help blow the warm air down from the ceiling and distribute around the room – especially with high ceilings. Don’t turn them up too high though or the faster air-movement will feel too cool. And it’s not ideal to install them if you have low ceilings (2.4 metres or less) – particularly if you’re tall!

Consider “Green Power” to pay for your heating: Consider installing photovoltaics or ensuring that you are buying “green power” from a renewable energy resource to run your heating.

Consider Carbon Offsetting: Perhaps plant some more trees, or look into carbon offsetting to add something positive for the amount of energy your heating is using.

Check Your Wood Source: If you have a slow-combustion wood-heater, where are you sourcing your wood from? Is it from a renewable plantation? Your own block of land? Or some old-growth forest?! Please educate yourself so you can make informed decisions about your fuel. You need to ensure your wood is well-seasoned (very dry) before burning so it doesn’t smoke or produce too many pollutants into the air (and it burns better and produces more heat too).

….and finally

* So you’ve done all these things to keep yourself warm and keep your house warm, and to make sure your existing heating system is running more efficiently, AND you still need the heating on all day and night?  Well, at least you’ll have a warm fuzzy feeling knowing that you’ve done the right thing, you’ve saved some energy and you’ve done your best!

** And if you’re still cold…perhaps it’s time to relocate to somewhere a bit more tropical!!! Bali anyone?


Do you feel the cold? Have you found these posts helpful? I’ve love to hear about it in the comments below!

We’ll aim to answer more questions about sustainable design, green buildings and healthy homes, also with reference to our local climate (Regional Ballarat area and Melbourne) in future posts. Don’t forget you can sign up to receive our monthly news  (over there on the top right-hand side of this page) so you won’t miss out on our posts!



Best ‘green’ ways to keep YOUR HOUSE warm this winter

Talina Edwards Architecture is a Ballarat-based studio, with a passion for sustainable design, green buildings and healthy homes. We like to help answer your questions, this week we chat about the “Best ‘green’ ways to keep YOUR HOME warm this winter”. Last week we posted the “Best ‘green’ ways to keep YOU warm this winter” and next week we’ll finish with the “Best tips for more efficient heating this winter”.

Talina Edwards Architecture top tips

So, hands up if you’ve had the heating on at your place? Yes, us too! Ballarat doesn’t have a reputation for being one of the coldest places in mainland Australia for nothing! Hopefully you’ve taken on boards one of our tips from last week about to KEEP YOURSELF warmer…before turing the heater on!

But did you know that here in Victoria, the largest percentage of our home’s total energy use is for heating! On average, Victorians spend about $800 a year or around one third of the average home’s energy bill on home heating. If we can all reduce the amount of energy we use, the planet will be much happier…so we’ve compiled an extensive list of the best “green” ways to keep your house warmer this winter!

Of course, the best way for a home to be thermally comfortable, is for it be designed properly in the first place! It is possible to design and build a home that requires little or NO mechanical heating – simply relying on passive solar design principles (including correct orientation, adequate insulation, air-tight, internal thermal mass to store the heat, double-glazing, etc…)

But since we can’t all go out and build a new home right now (much to my disappointment!), in the meantime here’s some tips to help make sure your existing home can be as warm as possible! Many of these are cheap and easy to do, and can even be done if you’re renting. Other retrofitting ideas are more for homeowners which will cost $ now, but often the payback in terms of what you will save will be relatively quick.


Best green ways to keep YOUR HOME warm:

1. Take advantage of FREE solar-heating during the day:  If you have a cat, you’ll probably notice they always manage to find these sunny spots! Ensure those north-facing windows have the curtains/blinds open during the day to let in the warm winter sun! (Bonus points if you have some ‘thermal mass’ inside which can help trap the sun’s warmth and keep the temperature stable inside for longer).  Also, if there are evergreen trees blocking the sun to these north-facing windows, consider replacing them with deciduous trees.

Image via

Image via

2. Close the drapes at dusk:  A single pane of glass can lose almost 10 times as much heat as the same area of insulated wall. it thick, heavy, insulated curtains to all windows and ensure they are closed at dusk to trap the warm air inside the house. You can add thermal liners (or even material like polar-fleece) to your existing curtains or even use old woollen blankets.

3. Install Pelmets: You know those wooden boxes that sit along the top of the window? They aren’t merely decorative (or daggy vintage decor), they actually are very effective when used with heavy drapes to keep the cold air out! See image below to help explain how the air moves around the room,  without getting into too much technical talk about thermodynamics!

4. Hang curtains (inside) over your external doors:  It is worth considering hanging a curtain/blanket over your external doors during the winter months when you’re home, to help trap the cold air before it enters the house. Even when gaps beneath the door are sealed (see more about that below), drafts can still get through the sides and tops of doors. You can hang them overnight, and take back down during the day.

5. Close external shutters: If you have external blinds or shutters, closing them at night will also help to prevent the cold air reaching the glass. Don’t forget to open them during the day to let the sun shine in!

6. Put down some warm rugs: Cover bare floorboards (after you’ve sealed any gaps between boards!) with rugs or carpets to help add a layer of insulation.

7. Seal up the cracks: Check for gaps around doors/windows/floors/old vents and stop cold draughts (air leaks), and have draught-stoppers (weather-strips) fitted to all external doors, plus you can use door-snakes or rolled-up towels. Not sure where drafts are coming from? Look for obvious gaps like visible light around doors and windows, or use a candle or lit-incense stick to help detect them. Drafts account for up to 25% of heat loss in your home, and can increase your heating costs by 20%!

8. Seal unused chimneys: Ensure unused chimneys are sealed to prevent heat loss or cold air blowing down (you can use a chimney balloon). Open fires are lovely to look at, but 90% of the heat goes up the chimney, so you’d be best to either seal up that chimney, or install a closed fire-box (slow-combustion wood heater) instead which is much more efficient.

9. Upgrade Insulation: Upgrade your ceiling insulation (and walls and floor too) if possible. Up to 35% of a house’s heat is lost through the roof (hot air rises) and the minimum R-value (resistance to heat flow) for ceiling insulation in Ballarat is R4.5 – so really we need double this amount if not more. If you have a properly insulated roof, you can save up to 45% on your heating bills!

10. Re-use heat in the home: Leave the oven door open when you’ve finished baking and you’ve switched it off, and you can do this with the dishwasher too to let the hot air escape into the room. Of course only do this if there aren’t small children and pets around who could get hurt.

11. Upgrade to double-glazing: Replace existing single-paned windows with double-glazing if possible. There are also retro-fit options to add a secondary layer to existing windows, and special films you can add to your single-glazing that can be as effective as double-glazing for a much lower price. For a really cheap DIY solution, you can add a layer of bubble-wrap to the inside of your existing windows over winter!

12. Rearrange furniture: Move things around a bit to ensure beds and couches aren’t up against external (un-insulated) walls. If you can, put bookshelves against external walls as they help provide an additional layer of insulation.

13. Don’t heat bedrooms: At least not overnight – the ideal temperature for sleeping is 16 degrees celsius. If you feel the cold, or have small children or elderly family members, then add extra blankets and a hot water bottle (or an electric blanket if you must – but not at same time as hot water bottle!)


Stay tuned for next week, where we discuss greener ways to ensure your heating is running efficiently, so you’re not using excess energy or paying excess dollars for it!

Have you done anything to ensure YOUR HOME is kept warmer? What have I missed? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

We’ll aim to answer more questions about sustainable design, green buildings and healthy homes, also with reference to our local climate (Regional Ballarat area and Melbourne) in future posts. Don’t forget you can sign up to receive our monthly news  (over there on the top right-hand side of this page) so you won’t miss out on our posts!


Best ‘green’ ways to keep YOU warm this winter!

Talina Edwards Architecture is a Ballarat-based studio, with a passion for sustainable design, green buildings and healthy homes. We like to help answer your questions, and this post is about the “Best ‘green’ ways to keep YOU warm this winter“. This is part 1; we’ll also be doing the “Best ‘green’ ways to keep YOUR HOME warm this winter”, and “Best tips for more efficient heating this winter”.

Talina Edwards Architecture Eco Free Easy Cheap ways to keep warm winter


Brrrrr….winter has well and truly settled in here in Ballarat! The temperature has certainly dropped, and the cold wind sure is fresh! Our thermal comfort levels sure are put to the test here, and the first thing we do is usually to switch on the heating.

But did you know that here in Victoria, the largest percentage of our home’s total energy use is for heating! Over a third of our home’s energy use is for heating…imagine how much we could reduce our carbon footprints by doing some *free*, easy and green alternatives to keep ourselves warm – inside the home, not just when we go out to brave the elements!


Keep yourself warm:

1. Wear Layers: Put on more layers of clothing, including a singlet, long socks, long tights, thermal underwear, and overcoats/jackets. The layers prevent exposure to the cold, and the air trapped between the layers provides insulation which helps retain body heat.

2. Wear a hat: Wearing a warm hat or beanie as a lot of your body-heat escapes through your head. Yes, you can wear it inside. Try a balaclava if really cold, but perhaps tell your family members/housemates first!

3. Warm toes: Wear some warm socks and ugg-boots or warm slippers. Slipper-socks can be good too. If your tootsies are cold, you’ll feel more cold all over.

4. Get moving: Try jumping up and down, jogging on the spot, dancing in the lounge (this track will get you up and grooving!), ride an exercise bike, pull out a skipping rope if you have the space, or perhaps venture outside for a brisk walk or jog around the block. In a few minutes you’ll feel much warmer! Of course you can do any other activity that can get your blood pumping….err I am off course talking about vacuuming!

5. Do some housework: Speaking of vacuuming, this is also a good time to mop the floors, scrub the bathroom, do the ironing, or dust all the shelves…any of these boring tasks will actually get you moving and warm you up, and you can cross another chore off your list!

6. Cuddles!: Snuggle up close to someone – your partner, children, parents or even a close friend to share some body-heat. Pets can be great for this too (but perhaps not goldfish!).

7. Cover up with a blankie: When lazing on the couch, wrap yourself  with a blanket/snuggie/shawl/doona when reading or watching TV. Even when sitting at the computer, you can cover your lap with a blanket to keep your legs warm. In Japan they have blanket/doona-like table cloths called Kotatsu– often with small heaters underneath the table to keep everyone’s legs toasty-warm while they eat/work at the table!

8. Make yourself a warm drink: Put the kettle on, and have a cup of herbal tea, a hot chocolate or just warm-water with a slice of lemon (or perhaps with some ginger and honey too…yum!). Note that ‘moderation’ is the keyword when it comes to caffeinated drinks (and alcohol…mmmm did someone say “mulled wine”!) as they increase blood flow to the skin which make you feel warmer, but you actually then lose that heat.

9. Eat comfort-foods: Enjoy warm comfort-foods that easily digestible – think porridge for breakfast with stewed fruit, and soups, curries, daals, stews and casseroles for lunch and dinner.

10. Go old-school with a hot water bottle: Fill a hot-water-bottle with hot water (but not boiling – as it can deteriorate the rubber) or use a heat-pack to pre-warm your bed, or to warm your toes, or just to snuggle with on the couch.

11. Relax in a Hot Bath: Have a relaxing hot bath (or shower) to warm your whole body up. If you don’t have small children around, leave the bath-water in the tub to continue heating the room until it reaches body temperature before draining away.

12. Flannelette Sheets: Ok these sheets may seem a bit daggy, but they are SO much warmer and cosy then crisp cold cotton or stain or silk! Bamboo sheets are probably a better choice too, and also remember to add extra blankets if needed.

13. Take advantage of free Solar heating: During the day, sit by the north-facing window that still has some warmth from the winter-sun shining through. (You can also park your car is a sunny spot during the day, and it will soon heat up inside so you won’t need to turn the heater on in the car!)


Stay tuned for our upcoming posts, “Best ‘green’ ways to keep YOUR HOME warm this winter“, and “Best tips for more efficient heating this winter“. In the meantime, we’d love to know if we’ve missed any ideas, so please let us know how do you keep yourself warmer in the cooler months (without turning on the heater)?! I’ve love to hear about it in the comments below!

We’ll aim to answer more questions about sustainable design, green buildings and healthy homes, also with reference to our local climate (Regional Ballarat area and Melbourne) in future posts. Don’t forget you can sign up to receive our monthly news  (over there on the top right-hand side of this page) so you won’t miss out on our posts!