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Issue 78
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Welcome to the first issue of Sustainable Wollongong for 2022!


We hope everyone has had a fun and safe holiday break and feeling refreshed for the new year.

This month's newsletter includes the following articles:

  • Grow Local: Sustainable Gardening

  • World Wetlands Day

  • A Year in Review: The Good, Great and Inspiring FOGO statistics

  • Over the Fence Gardens

  • The Climate Friendly Gardener

  • Did You Know? Recycling

  • Threatened Species Profile: Wollemi Pine


Feel free to forward this newsletter on to interested friends and family.

If you would like to make any comments or suggestions please contact us at sustainability@wollongong.nsw.gov.au

What's On Sustainable Wollongong - activities from backyard chook keeping workshops to cooking classes, bushwalks and education activities

Click here for Calendar of Events

Grow Local


Growing your veggies at home is a sustainable way of obtaining produce, but what if you could make the whole process even more sustainable? Well you can!

Tools and materials needed to create and maintain your veggie patch can be sourced locally and even better, second hand. It is always a good idea to see whether the products you buy have been produced sustainably and ethically.

You will also need to water your garden regularly; by creating a more water-efficient garden and incorporating rainwater and/or greywater collection such as a water tank, you can save on your water usage. 

You can also help support local biodiversity through the type of plants you use; integrating native species, particularly those that are local to the region, will help create habitat for native animals. Informing yourself of plant species which have the potential to get out into the environment and/or become weeds will also help you to reduce the risk of garden escapees.

Finally, you can also use organic waste from your kitchen on your garden to provide extra food. Turning organic waste into compost and then using it on your veggie garden reduces waste going to landfill which in turn reduces the production of methane from the breakdown of organic waste. Spreading compost on your veggie garden will improve soil quality and helps the soil to retain moisture.

Harvest Now
FRUIT: Apple, Banana, Carambola, Cherry of Rio Grande, Chestnut, Davidson’s Plum, Feijoa, Fig, Lemon, Lychee, Mango, Olive, Panama Berry, Paw Paw, Peach/Nectarine, Pear, Sapodilla, Small-leaf Tamarind, Wampee, White Sapote, Acerola Cherry, Blueberry, Brazilian Cherry, Guava, Raspberry, Strawberry, Watermelon, Dragon Fruit, Passionfruit, Grape.

VEGETABLES: Leek, Shallots, Carrot, Radish, Rocket, Cucumber, Squash, Zucchini, Green Bean, Capsicum, Chilli, Eggplant, Tomato, Corn, Lettuce, Sweet Potato, Warrigal Greens.

HERBS: Basil, Parsley, Chives, Ginger, Mint, Lemongrass, Oregano, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme.
 
Plant Now
VEGETABLES: Shallots, Beetroot, Silverbeet, Carrot, Brussel Sprouts, Radish, Rocket, Cucumber, Squash, Zucchini, Green Bean, Capsicum, Chilli, Eggplant, Potato, Tomato, Corn, Lettuce, Warrigal Greens.

HERBS: Basil, Coriander, Mint, Lemongrass.
 
Prune Now
FRUIT: Peach/Nectarine.

World Wetlands Day


World Wetlands Day was on Wednesday 2nd February, with this year’s theme: Wetlands Action for People and Nature. This day calls for action for people to help protect these essential ecosystems, to invest financial, human and political capital to save them from disappearing and to restore them.

Wetlands are critically important ecosystems, supporting many plants and animals, filtering and storing freshwater, and are also a source of livelihood for many people. They also help with both climate change mitigation and adaptation, absorbing carbon from the atmosphere and acting as buffers to storms in coastal areas. But we are losing these ecosystems at a rate three times faster than forests, with nearly 90% of the world’s wetlands having been degraded since the 1700s.

Australia has 66 RAMSAR Wetlands of International Importance, such as the Cobourg Peninsula in the Northern Territory, Moreton Bay in Queensland and the Macquarie Marshes in New South Wales.

For more information, visit the World Wetlands Day website.

A Year in Review - The Good, Great and Inspiring FOGO statistics

 
It's been just over a year since we rolled-out FOGO to Wollongong residents, and we're reflecting on our FOGO successes. 

FOGO—Food Organics and Garden Organics—provides residents with the opportunity to put food scraps in their green-lidded bins. Diverting food waste from going to landfill reduces the amount of harmful greenhouse gas emissions produced as the food waste decomposes.

So far, more than 91 per cent of eligible households in the Wollongong Local Government Area have a FOGO kerbside collection service! That’s a total of 78,690 households who have received a FOGO caddy starter kit and caddy liners in the past 14 months.

“Over the past year or so, we’ve collected over 36,000 tonnes of FOGO waste and diverted this away from landfill. This includes at least 4,700 tonnes of food waste which is equal in volume to nearly seven Olympic-sized swimming pools,” Wollongong City Lord Mayor Councillor Gordon Bradbery AM said.

“We want to improve how well we’re using FOGO as a community. Wollongong has a low contamination rate of under 1 per cent which is excellent, that’s the amount of non-FOGO waste that is put into the green-lidded bins.

“But at the same time, we can see a lot of room for improvement when it comes to making sure that food waste is only put in the green-lidded bins and kept out of the red-lidded waste bins which goes straight into landfill. That’s why this year one of our big priorities is on education.”

With FOGO in most eligible households in Wollongong, now’s the time to shift our focus to keeping up the good work and improving.

“It’s all a work in progress, but I think we can all celebrate and acknowledge the effort we’ve already put in as a community to make this work. Let’s keep up the good work this year by continuing to FOGO,” Cr Bradbery said.

Over the Fence Gardens


We have all looked over a fence and seen an amazing garden. Be it fruit and veg, flowers, shrubs or ground covers it’s the vitality, design and aliveness that sparks our attention. What if I told you that the vitality and aliveness is all about the soil health. Yes, compost and manures are all building blocks to getting great soil, but the other building block is having a variety of plants.

You see plants can actually share nutrients and water, but they are linked together through fungus. Fungus along with composters such as bacteria, worms and snails are all working together to break down nutrients and put it in a form that plants can absorb. Fungus forms a network, called mycelium, which links plants together and shares about the nutrients. What does the fungus get out of it you ask? Carbon. The fungus feeds on carbon, locking it under the soil. This all sounds great, but if you don’t have a very big garden it can be tricky trying to create an environment for all of these composters to start working for you. Or do you? Wollongong City Council encourages people to have verge gardens with mulch. This means maybe you will grow a variety of ground covers and shrubs out the front which will form a network of roots and mycelium under the mulch, under your fence and link up with your plants in your front garden. If your neighbour has a nice garden, again, the plants and compost creatures don’t stop at fences. They can still link up under ground with your plants, feeding each other. What can stop all of this happy sharing and digesting of compost and nutrient? Synthetic fertiliser and fungicide. If you start adding in fertilisers they are like offering fast food. You instantly break up the slow food network in your soil and your plants become dependent on you to feed them.

So, if you want your garden to be one people admire over your front fence, look around at what plants are near you and design your garden so that it can optimise relationships with the neighbours. Give it compost, mulch and water and watch it take its first steps to becoming a neighbourhood icon.

For more info we will be running a workshop series on Gardeners for Climate Change at the Discovery Centre in the Botanic Garden. Keep your eyes peeled on the Wollongong Botanic Garden Facebook page for what’s on.  Alternatively, take a look at our Verge Garden page on Council’s web site and maybe consider getting involved. Verge Gardens | Wollongong City Council (nsw.gov.au)

The Climate Friendly Gardener


Global temperatures have increased by 1.4 degrees Celsius since 1910. Gardeners can help slow the rate of this global warming by making a few changes to the way they do things. If each one can only decrease small amounts of emissions, every bit counts!

The education team at Wollongong Botanic Garden are currently developing a series of workshops, tours and online presentations for the community to explore ideas of how we can make a difference in the fight against Climate Change in our own backyards. Here are some tips for gardeners while you wait for the course later in the year.

Plant a Tree: If every gardener in Australia planted a tree in their community, school, workplace or even in their own backyard and brought it to maturity those trees would absorb more than 0.75 million tons of CO2 each year. The equivalent carbon released by four million motor vehicle journeys around the planet. Trees also provide shade for the house and garden, reducing emissions associated with home heating and air conditioning.
 
Compost and Fogo can reduce your contribution to carbon pollution, especially methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas. Every 1kg of homemade compost saves 0.1kg of fossil carbon being released into the atmosphere and is an excellent source of nutrients for your garden, reducing the need for synthetic fertilizers. By putting your food and garden scraps into the FOGO Bin you are helping WCC to reduce methane emissions from Landfill which makes up 78% of the total Carbon emissions of Council’s Operations.
 
Reduced use of synthetic fertilisers which are a significant contribution to global warming due to the release of Nitrous oxide. This gas is around 300 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a warming gas and around 10 times more powerful than methane. We can reduce their environmental impact by only using what we need and applying them as slow release.

Manage Water: There are many ways to reduce water consumption in your garden, which is particularly important during increased heat waves and droughts caused by climate change. These include mulching, installing rainwater tanks, adjusting your watering schedule, and using drip irrigation. Practices like mulching also provide nutrients to the soil, reducing the need for chemical fertilizers which take significant amounts of energy to produce. Using Wicking beds is the most efficient way to provide water to the garden in dry periods associated with Climate Change.

Replacing hard surfaces with plants will help tackle climate change. Concrete for example involves high green-house gas emissions in the manufacturing process and it absorbs solar energy released back as reflected heat.
 
Green Walls and roofs insulate buildings so reduce energy use in heating and cooling. Simply painting your roof a light colour reflects solar heat, reducing the need for energy intensive cooling in summer.

You can purchase or make your own BIOCHAR: This is a charcoal derived from the burning of plant material in the absence of oxygen. This creates a stable form of carbon rather than releasing carbon dioxide to the air by natural decay processes and heating the planet.  
 
Pest Control: Using integrated pest management techniques and companion planting rather than manufactured products to control insects, weeds and disease also reduces carbon emissions. This will minimize such products which require energy-intensive, carbon-dioxide emitting processes in their production and transportation.

Wild-Life Oasis: Garden plants help keep pollinators such as native bees and birds alive that are under stress from the changing climate. A garden can be a wildlife oasis, especially if you encourage your neighbours to join, turning your neighbourhood into a Community Wildlife Retreat.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: We can become thrifty gardeners! Being clever about minimizing our purchases, reusing items and recycling what we can’t reuse in their current form means less waste, less resource use (including less coal-fired electricity) and less waste going to landfill. We can minimize use of plastic pots for seedlings by using newspapers to make seedling pots which can be planted directly into the garden. We can repurpose furniture and household items as garden edging and containers, for example umbrellas, sinks, baths and even toilets. This novel approach to fighting Global Warming can be seen in the Recycled Discovery Garden at the Botanic Garden.


The Recycled Discovery Garden - Re-purposing household items in your garden to help fight climate change

Did You Know?


You can recycle many common household items including cardboard, paper, plastics, steel cans, rigid plastic containers and glass bottles and jars in your yellow top bin which is collected fortnightly. But there are some common household items that cannot be recycled in your yellow bin at home but can be recycled at Council’s Community Recycling Centre at Kembla Grange. 

This includes items such as gas bottles, paint, fluoro globes, oils, household and car batteries, mobile phones, cardboard and paper, e-waste, fridges and freezers, scrap metal and mixed recyclables. Plastic bags are not accepted in your regular recycling bin, these will contaminate the recycling process.

Items must be in household quantities; except for fridges and freezers, items should be no larger than 20kg or 20 litres.
 
For more information, please visit the Wollongong Waste recycling webpage here and the Community Recycling Centre webpage here.

Threatened Species Profile


The Wollemi Pine is considered Critically Endangered by both NSW and the Australian Government. This tree was discovered relatively recently in 1994, and is one of the world’s oldest and rarest plants. They are a coniferous tree, meaning that they bear cones.

This living fossil can grow up to 40 metres tall, with multiple stems at the base and a narrow crown. They have dark green needle-like leaves and bubbly-looking bark, and their seeds are flat and brown with a single wing.

This species is restricted to remote canyons north-west of Sydney in the Wollemi National Park. It can be found in warm temperate rainforest and rainforest margins in remote sandstone canyons. It prefers acidic soils, with their natural habitat’s soil pH going as low as 4. There are less than 100 adult trees known in the wild.

Due to being recently discovered, there is little known about their ecology, so research is ongoing. They are a long-lived tree, but the growth of seedlings in the wild is very slow. Seed is found in the canopy, with both male and female cones occurring on the same tree, and seed cones taking from 16-19 months to mature. Seeds are light and winged and are dispersed by wind. Trees tend to coppice, meaning that they sprout multiple arms from their base, which can make it difficult to tell individuals apart.

This species is the focus of extensive research in order to safeguard its survival. The Wollemi Pine faces several threats, such as:
  • The introduction of pathogens such as phytophthora which has been found to cause mortality in this species in experiments
  • Unauthorised access to wild population resulting in damage to seedlings and adults
  • Catastrophic fire events
  • Small population size which means they have a lower genetic diversity and therefore more susceptible to threats
  • Invasion of weeds such as blackberry
  • Climate change causing changes to known habitat

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