I’ve been thinking, hearing and talking a lot about eco-anxiety recently. Apparently 80% of young people in a 2019 study reported feeling “somewhat or very anxious” about climate change, and I know it isn’t limited to young people. I feel it too.

People often ask me what they can do to help make the world a better place, to combat climate change, or to feel better about the state of the world. My answer is: do whatever you can, wherever you are, with whatever you have. Any action that helps the world to be cleaner, greener, fairer and kinder helps. Because one action leads to another – not just by you, but by people inspired to act by you.

Interestingly, one of the things that helps the planet is also one of the things that helps our mental and emotional wellbeing (helping the world helps us!) – growing plants. Trees are great at storing carbon and cleaning the air, but so is healthy soil. And access to green spaces, social interaction and physical exercise are three of the best ways to protect and improve your mental health.

I’m a big fan of win-win scenarios. Gardening – particularly in a group – is one of them. So if you’re experiencing eco-anxiety, or you just want to do something tangible to help people and the planet, join a community garden, volunteer with us, come to a Dig Day or a farm tour or a workshop. And then let me know how it went! I really want to know.

Here’s some info about all of those things, and other news from Green Connect:

In Brief

  • We have new staff including Alexandra Godwin (Activities Coordinator), Emma Bailey (Op Shop Coordinator, UOW) and Zan Schmidt (Zero Waste Coordinator). Welcome!
  • Our farm is very muddy
  • Farm tours and workshops are back on
  • Garden clean-ups are happening across the Illawarra
  • We have opened a new op shop at the University of Wollongong
  • We have done some great projects with Wollongong City Council over summer
  • We have won a couple of awards
  • We would love more volunteers

New Staff

Since my last update in November, we have had three new amazing humans join the Green Connect team:

Alexandra Godwin, Activities Coordinator. Alex is looking after farm tours, workshops and all the activities at our busy farm. She is particularly excited about developing a schools program connected to the NSW curriculum at every level, and is also working on a low sensory tour and social story to invite children and adults on the autism spectrum to enjoy the farm with the support of and after some wonderful feedback from a local mum.

Emma Baselier, Op Shop Coordinator, UOW. Emma did an incredible job of setting up a zero waste op shop in less than five weeks, and is working hard to make sure it is a sustainability hub and a safe and welcoming space for all. Pop in and say hi if you’re at the University of Wollongong sometime soon.

Zan Schmidt, Zero Waste Coordinator. Zan is managing Green Connect’s waste audits, sustainability consultations, and managing waste at music festivals and large events.

Farm Update

The farm was significantly affected by the pouring rain over the last few weeks. We had to cancel several events because it was so muddy, and our fruit and veg is looking a little worse for wear. We’re busy planting and repairing as fast as we can, and appreciate all the support from veg box customers, staff and volunteers as we recover.

We’re one of only three market gardens left in the Illawarra. Recent events have shown we need local food more than ever, but that only happens with the support of the community. If you’re keen to support a local grower, please sign up for one of our veg boxes, or for one from Popes Produce or Dapto Community Farm.

Farm Tours

We’re running public farm tours every second Thursday and Saturday at 9am.

School tours are also running and we’re loving seeing busloads of kids arrive for a look at how food is grown and to meet our farmyard animals.

And private tours are available.

Autumn Workshops

 Alex and the team have been working hard to put together our seasonal series of workshops. If you have been eyeing up these courses for a while and thinking of coming along, now is the time! We’d love to see as many people as possible at the farm this autumn.

Garden Clean-ups

With all the rain, it isn’t just our farm that is looking worse for wear but many gardens across the Illawarra. We have noticed an increase in bookings for a garden blitz. If you’d like yours tidied up too, you can book online and we’ll send out our gardening and landscaping team to help.

New op shop and education hub at UOW

We’ve extended our impact in the Illawarra by opening a new op shop at the University of Wollongong (UOW).

As well as selling quality second-hand goods, the UOW op shop will be an education hub and space to share ideas on recycling and sustainable living. The shop officially opened on 28 February and has been well received by staff and students.

We’re really excited to be connecting with the UOW community in this new space and we can’t wait to share ideas on how we can create a more sustainable future together.

Read the full story here.

Clean, green projects with Wollongong City Council this summer

 Keeping our green spaces clean

Several Green Connect staff have been working in the Wollongong City Council parks team over summer, keeping our foreshore parks clean, tidy and litter-free. We love seeing each person’s skills, experience and confidence build during their time at Green Connect, and are incredibly proud to have so many of our staff secure casual work at Council.

Jake’s smile as he signed his contract says it all.

Public place recycling

We have also been working with Wollongong City Council to sort through what has been thrown in the yellow bins being trialed across more than a dozen locations in our beautiful region.

At the moment, there are a lot of non-recyclable items going in, including food, coffee cups and plastic bags, but having these bins in place is a start and we’re hopeful that our community will take up the opportunity to recycle in our public places to save cans, bottles, cardboard, recyclable packaging and more from going to landfill.

Watch the WIN News story here.


Keep Australia Beautiful Awards

Wollongong won the Keep Australia Beautiful tidy towns award for a city this month, after Green Connect won one award and Wollongong City Council won two.

It is wonderful recognition of some of the sustainable projects and organisations in our region. Zan and I went to the awards, hosted in Albury, and were inspired by some of the projects and towns that won.

I would love to see Wollongong crowned the overall winner at the November 2022 awards, which would mean our city would host them next year!

Diversity and Inclusion Award 2022

We’re also the very proud recipients of Wollongong City Council’s Diversity and Inclusion Award 2022.

We love how diverse Wollongong is, and what that brings to Green Connect and our broader community. We love sharing stories, identifying each other’s strengths, and doing great things for people and the planet together.

We were particularly touched by the nominations from the community for this award. After a year like no other, those nominations thanked us for our community support initiatives during lockdown, and for creating safe, welcoming spaces for all.

Volunteers Needed

Green Connect was created by the community for the community, to create jobs for those who need them most, reduce waste and grow fair food. To do all of this, we need a mix of staff and volunteers, and right now we need a few more pairs of hands on our farm, in our op shops and in our office.

If you have 4+ hours a week to spare, sign up to volunteer. You’ll be invited along to our next volunteer induction to learn more about Green Connect and opportunities to get involved.

As always, thank you for reading all the way to the end! If you have any advice about how to reduce eco-anxiety or want to give me any other feedback or stories, I love getting your replies.

Best wishes,