June 9, 2010
Eastern Suburbs become the sustainability hub of Sydney
So, just where do we find the hub of Sydney's sustainability movement? It's not over on the northside, not in the Inner West nor down in the distant southern suburbs — it's here in the city's Eastern Suburbs where the Pacific's swells wash onto the sands of our broad beaches and crash against an impressive cliffline.
Yes, it's true. Sydney's Eastern Suburbs are becoming something of a hub of sustainability. A far-from-complete rundown of local initiatives shows that the region's three councils and its innovative citizens are leading the metropolis in developing local solutions to metropolitan, indeed to global problems. And when citizens and councils co-operate, the effect is greater than that achievable by either party.
Just take a brief look at a mere handful of the initiatives pushing the urban east towards leadership in urban sustainability...
We have Waverley Council stimulating an interest in food issues with its recent cafe talk in Bondi, its Food and Farmers Markets on Thursdays and Saturdays at Bondi Junction, and the Sustainable Homes Workshop: Renno's, Retrofits and Rebates, offered as recently as June. Waverley has also offered a workshop in Permaculture design and provides a hands-on opportunity for residents of the local government area to grow their own food in its allotment garden. Also in Waverley is a new group, Transition Bondi, a member of the Transition Towns movement that is growing rapidly around the world and that seeks local solutions to the challenges of climate change, peak oil and water scarcity.
Woollahra Council also offered its Green Renters workshop in June. Its ongoing Environmental Education and Action Program is aimed at schools, business and citizens and provides opportunities for local people and organisations. Woollahra was active in its support for the Paddington Community Garden and adopted a policy on community food gardening some time ago.
Meanwhile, Randwick City Council is putting photovoltaic arrays on some of its buildings and, just a week ago the latest group of enthusiastic, newby-green-thumbs graduated from Council's free Sustainable Gardening course. The course is offered to existing and would-be home, balcony and community gardeners.
There are a lot of renters in the Eastern Suburbs and many of them would like to practice sustainable living, so, like Woollahra and Waverley councils, Randwick also offered a Green Renters workshop. This took place at Barrett House, once the home of pioneering Australian filmmaker Walter Franklyn Barrett, now a sustainable living demonstration centre which you are welcome to visit on open days. Barrett House is used by the joint Waverley/Woollahra/Randwick councils Ecological Footprint Project which is managed by Richard Wilson. Adjacent to public transport, it's already been adopted as a meeting place by local sustainability groups like Randwick Community Organic Garden and Permaculture Sydney East.
I don't want to let Randwick hog the limelight too much, but, well, credit is due where credit is due. So please indulge me as I explain that the retrofitting of Randwick Community Centre (Munda Street, Randwick) for energy and water efficiency, and the installation of a state government-funded Water Trail to educate visitors on water saving strategies they can do at home, has gone through a public consultation and development application stage and is now going through the usual planning hoops, but is definitely moving forward. The retrofit has already brought the installation of a photovoltaic (solar electricity) array and could soon feature a small wind turbine for Council to assess the viability of wind energy in the region. The community centre retrofit includes another educational component that Council's Sustainable Gardening course will make use of — the PIG — the Permaculture Interpretive Garden. Not to be outdone by Woollahra Council, Randwick is now developing its own enabling policy for community food gardening and had held a consultation with local community gardening interests.
Another progressive sustainability initiative in the Eastern Suburbs is the growth of Food Connect, a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), a social enterprise that has attracted the support of Randwick Council with Randwick Mayor, Cr John Procipiadis, describing it as “... a win for our residents as they get access to fresh, organic and chemical free fruit and vegetables, a win for farmers as they gain access to new markets which support their local produce and it’s a win for the environment with a reduction in food miles and support for chemical free farming practices”.
Food Connect offers a weekly box of fresh, chemical-free or organic food produced mainly on small, family farms in the greater Sydney region. Subscribers collect their box of local, seasonal fruit and veges from the City Cousins, one of which operates Monday evenings at Randwick Community Centre, others being found in Coogee and Bondi. The social enterprise complements a community food initiative, Sydney Organic Buyers Randwick that supplies weekly boxes of affordable organic food. Food Connect's point of difference is that most of the food it supplies comes from Sydney region farmers and has a food miles average of only 250km. Unlike supermarkets which return something like 5% of the checkout price to farmers, Food Connect returns more like 40%.
These are just a few of the initiatives in what is a hive of sustainability activity in our Eastern Suburbs. There's so much going on that it is understandable that you feel compelled to connect with others similarly motivated in a social network of the sustainability kind.
Written by Russ Grayson
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