PRIME MINISTER Kevin Rudd may have done an about-face on climate change but householders are enthusiastic about reducing their carbon footprint and living sustainably, says an expert who walks the walk.Jerry Coleby-Williams has had ”green thumbs” since the age of four, when he lived in England, inspired by his family of gardeners and farmers.He’s come a long way since then. Coleby-Williams, a presenter on Gardening Australia on ABC1, settled at Wynnum on Brisbane’s Bayside in 2003 and transformed his century-old timber Queensland home, Bellis, into an award-winning example of ”retrofitted sustainability”.He and the other two householders minimise their impact on the environment by generating solar power, recycling sewage and grey water and harvesting rainwater for inside and outside use. ”Anything we do here can be done at any suburban house in Australia,” he said.The house is connected to mains water but it is rarely needed. ”We are 90 to 98 per cent self-sufficient and only need to turn on mains water after months of no rain,” Coleby-Williams said.The trio use only about 117 litres each a day from their water tanks, compared with Queensland Water Commission figures showing south-east Queenslanders averaged 152 litres per person daily last week.The back garden boasts a magnificent array of fruit, vegetables and herbs – all grown organically – and feeds three people using only 350 litres of recycled water a day.The 300 square metres of land provides about 70 per cent of the trio’s fresh food.Coleby-Williams knows most of his neighbours, who regularly drop in for tips and pass the information on to like-minded friends.”Word spreads and it’s wonderful how many people are converting their small suburban blocks into their own version of what we’ve got here,” he said.When he had an open day last year, the garden fed 150 people who walked to the local bowls club where the four-course meal was cooked.The front garden has ornamental subtropical plants suited to predicted climate change. The plants were watered six times to establish them but have not been watered again since 2004.The property has no hard surfaces – it has a porous driveway and paths, and a pit to capture stormwater, which also gets reused.Coleby-Williams practises crop rotation and his collection includes many rare and endangered species, the seeds of which he collects to replant.He came to Queensland via a circuitous route, qualifying in horticultural estate management, arboriculture, landscape design, horticultural and botanical sciences at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, England.In 1982 he was awarded a Kew scholarship to study the flora of Western Australia and said he was so captivated by the people, plants and places, he decided to emigrate.Postgraduate work included managing horticultural enterprises in Britain and Australia, including nurseries, inner-city parks and gardens. And he helped establish Sydney’s Mount Annan Botanic Garden.He has worked as a consultant in Sydney, including for the Darling Park business complex, Central Station, St Mary’s Cathedral, the Conservatorium of Music and the international airport. For 11 years, he managed the horticultural estate for the city’s Royal Botanic Gardens.Last year Bellis won a prestigious savewater! Alliance award. The group works with businesses and governments on water conservation programs. Entries for this year’s awards open on May 17 and close on August 9.Get more tips