An Interview with Georgia Glen, Committee Secretary of Lakeside Drive Community Garden, about how reducing waste in a city brings people together and local partnerships that are keys to a positive change
Lakeside Drive Community Garden is a two acre garden in Darwin, Australia. It functions as a demonstration site for tropical food production, sustainable living education and also participates in the Dole Program (an Australian work-based welfare program). The activities in the garden and the enthusiasm of its volunteers go far beyond the boundaries of the garden.
Tell us a little bit about the Garden?
It was set up 10 years ago by a student group from Charles Darwin University and now it's open to and organised by the general community. The garden is based upon permaculture principles and we grow all of our food organically.
Original founders of Lakeside Drive Community Garden
How many regular volunteers help run the Community Garden and how often do they get together?
We currently have 70 members. Most of them participate by attending our monthly workshops, weekly nature playgroup, weekly working bees and other special events. The bulk of the gardening and maintenance is done by the Work for the Dole Crew that runs three mornings a week. All of the management and administration of the garden is currently done by a few dedicated volunteers. We would like to get a part-time position for a garden coordinator and introduce private plots for community organisations and households.
The Garden has been involved in many activities and the volunteers have been working hard towards the vision of community you created together.
Yes, we have a lot of additional projects running based upon the passions and energy of the members involved. Over the last year and a half we have had a focus on waste education and waste reduction. We also receive grant funding from the City of Darwin and Northern Territory Government that assists us to run our activities and improve our infrastructure (we recently got a fence and a shed).
The garden runs a gardening playgroup for children. That's a great idea but not very common.
We have just started Little Gardeners of Lakeside Drive which is a playgroup that brings together more than 20 families. The playgroup was the initiative of one of our members, Billee McGinley who is a mum with a two year old. She wanted to see more play areas in the garden, as well as regular kid-friendly activities. With some grant funding from the City of Darwin we set up our weekly playgroup that includes gardening, cooking, art and music activities.
With some grant funding from the City of Darwin we set up our weekly playgroup that includes gardening, cooking, art and music activities.
Little Gardeners playgroup in action
Could you tell us more about the waste education activities?
For the last two years we have partnered with the Environment Centre NT and the Festival organisers to reduce landfill waste generated at the Nightcliff Seabreeze Festival. This included creating three educational Waste Wise stations. Volunteers staffed the Waste Wise stations and helped festival goers to separate their rubbish correctly and answered more general questions about composting and recycling.
We are also currently testing ‘compostable’ products, such as cups, plates, cutlery and bags to find out whether they breakdown in a backyard compost and how long that process takes.
The Waste Wise stations have since gone on to be used at other events including the Botanic Gardens Open Day, Transitions Film Festival and Katherine Junk Festival. We are also currently testing ‘compostable’ products such as cups, plates, cutlery and bags to find out whether they breakdown in a backyard compost and how long that process takes.
This year the Garden co-organised a WasteWise festival and collected 174kg of organic material. The contamination of the waste was surprisingly low for such a public event (less than 0.01%). What do you think was the key to this success?
I think the low contamination rates were due to a few reasons. Most importantly was the willingness and support of stall holders and the general public to take the time to separate their rubbish. People were supportive of the initiative and they wanted to do the right thing. Generally people understand what is organic material and where there was any confusion our volunteers were able to answer questions and assist. The clear signage and bin covers also helped.
It was all very immediate and direct compared to other types of recycling, where materials are sent interstate or overseas.
There was also a high degree of accountability. The people collecting the organic waste were also composting it on a site that was only 5 mins away. It was all very immediate and direct compared to other types of recycling, where materials are sent interstate or overseas.
You also started collecting and saving food scraps from a local cafe. How does that work?
Our garden is located on the edge of Charles Darwin University campus in Darwin. We have been picking up food scraps from the Ugly Duckling University cafe twice a week for the last 5 months. The cafe staff separate their fruit and veggie scraps as they work and at the end of the day throw them into our standard 60L black plastic bin that is clearly labelled LDCG Compost. Twice a week we swap the bin over with an empty one and take the food scraps back to the garden to compost.
Your efforts in education and waste reduction have already resulted in some very positive outcomes.
Yes! All of these activities, in conjunction with the efforts of other community organisations such as Waste Free NT have created considerable momentum in our relatively small city. ABC Radio Darwin has been very supportive following our waste reduction activities, with two of the presenters starting to compost for the first time.
In January 2018 this ban will be extended to all festivals and events that are held on Council land. We are looking forward to plastic free markets and festivals next year.
The City of Darwin Council has also responded to the groundswell of community concern. They recently committed to phasing out single use plastic from their own Council events and operations. In January 2018 this ban will be extended to all festivals and events that are held on Council land. We are looking forward to plastic free markets and festivals next year. The next step is a commercial composting operation for Darwin.
Georgia Glen, Committee Secretary of Lakeside Drive Community Garden
Many activities you do are dependent on volunteer labour and transport. What motivates the volunteers to stay involved in the garden activities in long term?
I can't speak for everyone involved, but I am motivated by a desire for a greener, more sustainable city. I have been living in Darwin for 20 years and care deeply about the place I live. I would like to see more local, organic food production (most of our food is transported 3000km), a better use and valuing of our resources (less waste, more reuse and recycling) and conservation of our native bush and mangrove areas.
If no-one is doing what you would like to see happen, than start it.
I have been finding that the best way to create change is to talk to everyone you know about your ideas, find out what other people and organisations are already doing and work with them. If no-one is doing what you would like to see happen, than start it. Actions, no matter how rudimentary or small scale, help to raise awareness, start conversations and provide a practical example for how things can be done differently.
Water wise workshop
Your Garden has joined ShareWaste recently and the number of compost hosts in Darwin and surrounds rocketed immediately from zero to sixteen! Do you have an explanation for that?
Yes, we are very excited by the increasing use of ShareWaste in Darwin this year. When I first heard about the ShareWaste site via Waste Free NT, I thought it was such a great idea. I signed up immediately as a host and than shared the information via Facebook. I also emailed all of the other community gardens to let them know about the site. When I am doing talks, workshops and radio interviews about composting I mention ShareWaste. Many people in Darwin live in apartments and they are wanting to deal with their food waste responsibly, ShareWaste facilitates a simple, practical solution. I hope the use of the site and the uptake of composting continues to grow.
Visit the garden online: https://www.facebook.com/lakesidedrivecommunitygarden/
Thank you, Georgia, for your support and inspiring answers.