Sustainable Melbourne

EDIT: I am very pleased to note that this feature, originally published in Honda Magazine, has won the Australian Society of Travel Writers' 2014 award for Best Responsible Tourism feature.

Little Hunter, 195 Little Collins St, Melbourne

Travel can be a guilty pleasure for the green-minded, but Melbourne shows how to blend ecology and exploration without stinting on the good times, discovers Belinda Jackson.

For clothes with karma, vintage clothing is the classic sustainable fashion option: what goes around, comes around.  Forget fusty, Melbourne’s top shops yield fabulous finds. Check out one of Australia’s largest vintage stores, Retrostar, in the equally vintage Nicholas Building (1st floor, Nicholas Building, 37 Swanston St), while Shag finds all its clothing in Melbourne (Centreway Arcade) and Circa Vintage has fashion dating from the Victorian era (1st Floor, Mitchell House, 358 Lonsdale St).  Serious hunters, book your spot on a Melbourne Op Shop tour (0421 431 2780421 431 278,

Don’t want to wear clothes made by small children or workers in life-threatening factories? Melbourne’s Etiko sources eco-friendly range of footwear and clothing from owner co-ops in Argentina and Pakistani micro-businesses, so you can look good outside and feel good inside. Shop online or see for stockists.

Lisa Gorman designs
You can go green with current fashion: each season, top Melbourne designer Lisa Gorman releases her gorman organic range, which uses organic and sustainably produced fabrics produced without pesticides or with non-chemical processing (GPO Melbourne, Bourke St Mall,

Out of the CBD grid, make like a Melburnian and jump a tram for the fashion label, shop and café that is Social Studio for limited-edition garments handmade from reclaimed and up-cycled material (126-128 Smith St, Collingwood,  On Saturdays, dig for handmade treasures at the artists’ haven of Rose Street Markets (60 Rose St, Fitzroy).

You know organic and sustainable production are on trend when the quest takes you to some of the city’s top tables, including Vue de Monde, for its salt-cured wallaby (Level 55, Rialto, 525 Collins St) and the signature smoked trout broth at Attica, recently voted number 21 in the world’s top restaurants (74 Glen Eira Rd, Ripponlea). Even old-school can go new school, as Italian dining staple Cecconi’s has demonstrated, becoming the first restaurant to compost its food waste through the Closed Loop system: the compost is used to grow vegetables on its Bellarine Peninsula farm (61 Flinders La).

Head underground to a recent Melbourne edition, Little Hunter, tucked away beneath city streets, and order up on beef from the remote Tasmanian locations of Cape Grim and Robbin Island or tiny Chatham Island’s Blue Cod with seagrasses. Chef Gavin Baker sources all produces from farmers committed to organic production and humane treatment (downstairs, 195 Little Collins St)

Melbourne’s café scene is justly famous: check out the winner of the 2012 Tourism Victoria Sustainability award, Silo by Joost, a café that doesn’t have garbage bin. Everything is recycled, renewed or composted, including the bench you’re sitting at (123 Hardware St, 03 9600 0588). Meanwhile, newcomer Dukes Coffee Roasters is pushing toward a carbon-neutrality with its emphasis on minimising waste and off-set power, with organic and ethically produced products. What does that mean for you? Seriously fine coffee (247 Flinders La). And shoppers at Melbourne Central can grab a cuppa at social enterprise STREAT Café, which has so far trained 60 young homeless and at-risk kids into a hospitality career (Cnr Elizabeth & La Trobe St and 5 McKillop St).

Kinfolk cafe, 673 Bourke St, Melbourne
Kinfolk is a rare bird: it is environmentally sustainable and also socially responsible, its staff training volunteers to run serve local, organic, good-tasting food. A private enterprise by young entrepreneur Jarrod Briffa, its high overheads are eased by the generosity of its patrons: coffee is donated by crop-to-cup pioneers Di Bella, while meat is from renowned Barossa organic producer Saskia Beer (673 Bourke St).

And finally, self-caterers can find local produce at Queen Victoria Markets, which also has a section devoted to organic fresh fruit and vegies (513 Elizabeth St).

A night on the town can also be good for your conscience when you start (or end) with a drink at Shebeen, Australia’s first not-for-profit bar. All profits go back to the countries where their drinks are sourced: think Chilean wines, Sri Lankan beer, South African cider, (36 Manchester Lane).

Melbourne is also a playground for ‘green’ brewers. Pope Joan pours beers from Victorian independent breweries such as Victoria’s Secret Hoppy Wheat Beer from North Melbourne and Moondog ‘Love Tap’ Double Lager from Abbotsford (77 Nicholson St, Brunswick East). Get on your bike into the Mountain Goat Brewery for real beer and pizza (Wednesdays & Fridays, 80 North St, Richmond) or tram it to Monkey  for local, organic and biodynamic wine, beer and cheese (181 St Georges Rd, Fitzroy North).

Alto on Bourke hotel
Take a walking tour of the city to orientate yourself (1300 311 0811300 311 081, and uncover the city's vivid street art scene (03 9328 555603 9328 5556, or to get under the city's skin, through its literature and laneways (0407 380 9690407 380 969, Hit the shops with hunters of high quirk (03 9663 335803 9663 3358, or discover the city's Aboriginal heart (03 8622 260003 8622 2600,


Alto on Bourke is Australia's first carbon-neutral hotel and winner of domestic and international sustainability awards. The 4-star hotel uses 100 per cent renewable energy, harvests its rainwater, recycles and uses energy-efficient cars. There are even beehives on the roof, as part of Melbourne's rooftop honey project: see the results on the breakfast buffet alongside the fairtrade coffee ( There are 50 hotel rooms from petites to three-bedroom apartments with full kitchenettes, employing the best environmentally aware technology including LED lighting, low-water showerheads and an electric Goget hire car on site, with free parking for all hybrid cars  (1800 135 1231800 135 123,

The best start to a green escape is to offset your airline flight, which costs around $2 per flight. Melbourne's CBD grid is a walker's paradise: you can cross the city by foot in about 20 minutes. Otherwise, it’s a short tram or bus ride: the red Number 86 City Circle tram does free tours, as does the Melbourne Shuttle Bus (131 638, If you need a car, consider a green car, which can be hired by the hour from $15 (try, or or go luxe with an eco-limo ( Melbourne Bike Share hires bike for 30 minutes for free (1300 71 5901300 71 590,

Keep a day free for the 2014 Sustainable Living Festival, held annually in Melbourne. Expect fabulous fashion, thoughtful thinktanks, green markets, gardening and art. Now on until 23 February, 2014,

This article was published in Honda magazine. 

Popular Posts