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steel tank planter tubs with rosemary and lavender

The Canberra Discovery Garden at the National Arboretum Canberra opened last Sunday and provides planting ideas for those dealing with dry climate gardens, such as found in Canberra (although this year has been unusually wet!)

tractor outline with sky in background

Artistic touches give the garden interest and colour, despite not having masses of green leaves or vibrant flowers.

National Arboretum Canberra arid garden

Even better, the garden is perched atop a hill overlooking Canberra, so there are great views over Lake Burley Griffin and the rest of Canberra.

For more information see Discovery Garden or National Arboretum Canberra. Both will be open permanently in 2013 to celebrate Canberra’s centenary, in the meantime we will have to just enjoy the occasional open day!

Canberra Discovery Garden Logo


light bulb

Time, money and ignorance are the major barriers to Australians doing more at home to reduce their environmental impact, according to recent research.[1]

 Do any of these sound like you?

  • 37% of householders will only reduce their environmental impact if it doesn’t cost anything;
  • 12% will only do so if it doesn’t take too much time;
  • 18% would like to reduce their environmental impact, but don’t know how;
  • 28% will go to ‘any length’ to reduce their environmental impact; and
  • 5% are not at all concerned about their impact on the environment.

I could fit myself into several of these categories depending on the time, occasion and issue. So what are some ideas for low cost, quick and simple changes that will reduce your environmental impact? (And I apologise to the 5% that are not concerned about their impact at all, but this blog probably isn’t for you anyway!)

  1.  Turn off appliances and lights – sounds simple, but how often do we walk out of a room and leave the light on, or the TV playing with no audience?
  2. Short showers – get a shower timer, limit yourself to a 4 minute shower. Buy One
  3. Recycle your rubbish – sort everything that can be recycled and put it in the recycling bin.
  4. Compost your food scraps, for more information.
  5. Wash your clothes in cold water and line dry, for more information.


[1] from a study commissioned by AAMI in conjunction with Greenfleet.


After writing about Laundry Environment Savers last year, I have been meaning to follow up with some information on which laundry detergent ingredients are best avoided to make sure that the water going from your washing machine into the garden is safe and not hurting your plants or anything else.

1) Phosphorus – avoid products containing phosphorus as this can harm sensitive native plants.

  • Try to buy products labelled NP (No Phosphorus).

2) Sodium – otherwise known as salt this can build up in the soil and damage your garden.

  • Try to buy products labelled “No Sodium”.

3) Sodium Lauryl (or Laureth) Sulphate – a strong and harsh detergent, repeated use can accumulate SLS in the body.

  • Not sure how regularly this is found in laundry detergents, but best avoided as build up in your body or the environment is not a good thing!

Home Energy Action Kit

I discovered at our local library something called a Home Energy Action Kit. The kit is available on loan for a week and contains all manner of interesting things including a:

  • Power Mate for measuring the energy consumption of your appliances
  • Infrared Thermometer for measuring fridge, freezer and hot water temperatures
  • Stopwatch for timing shower and tap flow rates

Most fascinating was the Power Mate which I had tried to use some years previous without any instruction manual. This time around there were clear instructions on how to use it, plus a worksheet to complete, clearly outlining what I was measuring.

After measuring all our applicances in standby and operational mode, I realised we have some appliances plugged in all the time, but only use them for around 30 mins a week! So most of the time they are consuming electricity, but for no purpose. The solution: unplug at the wall and plug back in when we need to use them.

Possibly the biggest downside for me in using the kit, was that there wasn’t enough to keep my young son interested while I completed the worksheet and survey. However an older child may be able to stay focused for longer (or would be happy to run off and do something else :)). Certainly a kid’s version would be useful, or maybe there is such available for older primary kids through schools already?

Overall this was a useful kit to help understand the energy and water use in our home. I would recommend checking out your local library or local government to see if they have something similar.

Other helpful online Australian resources I have found include:

Green Home Australian Conservation Foundation


Plus there are also home energy/sustainability advice programs where people come to your home and give feedback on what improvements you could be making, plus sometimes provide rebates ($$) and other incentives to make these changes.

These include:


Climate Smart (Qld)