Cooling a city block project: the new ice block

It has been a pleasure working with Street Coolers, and I’m proud of everything we’ve accomplished, the positive changes we’ve made in Newtown, and all the friendships we’ve developed along the way.

There’s still a lot going on, and we’ve begun stage two of the project. If you’re interested in what we’re doing, visit our Facebook page for the latest news and contact me at mariannaverlage@gmail.com or 0406-270-138 to get involved!

Here are a few highlights from our first six months of cooling a Newtown block!

In just six months, Street Coolers, with valued assistance from the NSW government, Marrickville Council, researchers and the community and industry:

  • gave Newtown its own reverse vending machine where hundreds of containers a month are now being recycled
  • installed two weather stations and ten temperature loggers to collect detailed and granular information about the area’s microclimate
  • collected over 20,000 hours of energy usage across ten homes on the block
  • tracked energy consumed by individual appliances to pinpoint potential sources of inefficiency and to help cut household bills
  • continuously converted the Athena School’s food waste into compost overnight
  • created an interactive return on investment calculator and two instructional videos for the general public on how to cut your bills and cool your streets

The Cool a City Block project aims to develop a template for cooling any Australian city block and land use type by reducing, replacing, or amending the actions and structures which heat up cities. The template requires installing cool roads and roofs, increasing tree canopy with simple irrigation systems, reducing the consumption of energy and water by introducing efficient appliances, and composting local food waste to provide nutrients for trees and plants.  These actions tackle the two ways energy is used - indirectly and directly.  Cutting direct and indirect energy use is complex and requires Street Coolers to implement strategies across public and private land and to win the support of all those who use energy in the city block where the project is located.  The template offers solutions at the level of the local street and city block.

A dark road causes air pollution and heats up a city block; that heat causes people to increase their energy use as they either choose to turn on air conditioning or their fridge works harder to stay cool.  Food and other waste causes pollution and increases resource use; the garbage truck carrying waste burns energy to get it from the private land to the public waste facility – and so it goes for most actions that take place in a city block.

To succeed in cooling the Newtown city block, Street Coolers has installed different equipment in the block to begin the data collection process and establish an efficient foundation that’ll allow measurements and analysis to continue in the coming decade.  We have begun to collect the ‘before’ data that can be used to compare the effectiveness of the actions we take when the ‘after’ data is obtained.

The initiatives accomplished during the first six months were mainly in preparation for the next steps of the project, which will be to install the proposed solutions and monitor the changes in the energy usage and temperature data.

With this stage of the project complete, Street Coolers has begun achieving the following three main objectives detailed in our original proposal:

  • Increase public awareness of climate change
  • Stimulate investment in new water and energy saving technology
  • Reduce demand for drinking water and grid electricity, consequently saving greenhouse emissions from energy production and distribution of water

We believe that once all our solutions are installed (cool roads and roofs, increased tree canopy, and installation of more efficient appliances) all of our proposed objectives will be achieved.

I hope you decide to get involved in this awesome project. It is an interactive and fulfilling way to make a positive environmental impact in our city!

Marianna with OEH folk after the Athena students presented their data research; notice the weather station on the pole behind the school fence.