Today I was lucky enough to have my own personal tour of the EcoCentre located in the St Kilda Botanical Gardens. The centre is situated in the EcoHouse in the old ground keeper’s house which in 2003 was retrofitted to a five star equivalent standard by installing solar panels, a grey water/black water treatment system, large underground water tank, wall, ceiling and floor insulation and solar hot water.

The site includes a community garden, native plant garden and on-site composting and worm farm. The EcoCentre also runs a host of activities including weekly organic veggie box pick-ups, workshops on composting, bike repairs, redesign of old clothes etc.

Apparently there are already several other community gardens operational in the council area (City of Port Phillip) and a few more about to start up. For an area with a relatively low ratio of open space to residents, it appears that community garden plots are in high demand.

I wonder how many of these ideas are transferrable to Canberra?

I know we already have quite a few different community groups with an environmental focus, but do we have enough push factors such as restricted private open space and like-minded people close together looking for similar facilities? It seems to me that the population density and higher education facilities of Canberra’s inner north appear to attract an alternate crowd interested in food co-ops and the like, but what about the rest of us out in “the burbs”?

To me one of the major benefits of these centres, apart from the environmental outcomes, are the community building aspect, by bringing together people within a local community to work towards a common purpose. Local schools, churches and sporting groups can also help in the development of community, but maybe this is another rallying point to improve the sense of community, generate activity and reduce social isolation in our suburbs?