There’s a bit more than a month to go until I say farewell to Green Connect and naturally, I’ve been reflecting on what I have learned in this role and what to do with that knowledge.

I had an interesting conversation with someone the other day about whether you’re a good businessperson if your enterprise never makes any money. They came from the commercial sector, where the only real measure of success is profit. I have been having variations of this conversation for years now and often it is only when I mention that I graduated at the top of my MBA cohort that I’m taken seriously. It is a wonderful moment, watching someone’s mind open to the possibility that the measure of success is not how much money you make (either individually or for an organisation) but how much good you can do with the resources that you have.

And Green Connect does SO. MUCH. GOOD.

I’m still in awe of the jobs we create, the lives we change, the food we grow, the waste we prevent going to landfill or prevent from becoming waste at all, the connections we make in the community. We may have tripled in size since I started in 2018 but we still operate on a shoestring and as someone said to me recently, “you have a way of turning one dollar into two”. I replied “actually, we turn one dollar into five” – for every dollar donated or granted to us, we generate four dollars in trade income, which means we can employ five times as many people.

On that note, we are fast approaching the end of the financial year so if you are feeling generous with your tax-deductible donations, we would REALLY appreciate your support. Check out the options at Donate to Green Connect, especially our chicken run crowdfund!

Here’s what else is happening at Green Connect…

Interesting projects

 Lots of people write back to these updates (thank you! I love your replies!) to say they like hearing about some of the new things we have been doing. Here’s a little snapshot of Green Connect’s work recently.

Waste audits – we’re now working for four different organisations to conduct waste audits at various offices, shopping centres and public places. Waste is fascinating, and working with these companies to figure out how to help people to compost and recycle better is even more interesting. We’re seeing progress at some of the sites that we have been auditing for two or more years, which gives us hope for a zero waste future.

House clean-out  – we helped an older woman to clear out a lifetime of belongings, ensuring that all sentimental and valuable items were kept to be cherished, that what could be sold went to our op shops, and what could be recycled went into our 44 recycling streams, with just one trip to the local tip for things that couldn’t be kept out of landfill. A huge thank you to Emma and Kaw Reh who put in a mammoth effort to get it all done in one day.

Events – you may have seen us at Illuminate Festival in Wollondilly and we’ll be up there again next weekend for Steamfest. We’re also managing the waste at the Social Enterprise World Forum in Brisbane in September, and have several more events in the pipeline. It is great to be out in public gatherings again, with more interest in sustainability than ever before.

School gardening incursion  – we were recently asked to do an incursion to help a local school re-establish their vegetable garden in a really interactive way, engaging staff and students in their food system. Next month we’ll be back again, coordinating a school-wide working bee with students’ families.

Strata grounds maintenance – one of the owners in a complex in Bulli got in touch with us to take on their grounds maintenance, from mowing and brushcutting to pruning and weeding. It is looking much better than it was, with lovely feedback from many of the residents in that complex. You can book our team at Gardening services

Beautifying gardens in time for weddings – a large wedding venue have contracted us to get their gardens in tip-top shape in time for a lot of upcoming Big Days, getting their large green spaces looking as beautiful as possible. It was a big job the first time around but now that we are on top of it, the maintenance is easy – and great work for our staff.

Corporate volunteers – we have hosted teams from three different companies lately to do some team building at the Green Connect farm. We love all the emails we get afterwards to tell us how much fun they had! More info at Corporate Volunteer Day

Cleaning – we have a growing number of staff who are trained in and want to work in cleaning (and be paid fairly for it). We’re currently servicing Woonona and Port Kembla. If you or someone you know needs a residential or commercial cleaner in those suburbs, please get in touch via [email protected].

Farewell Mon

Mon Enriquez (pictured centre with staff Freyja and Danielle) has been our Staffing Solutions Coordinator for the last year and has brought incredible skills and dedication to the team. They have improved our processes, supported our staff with a smile, and worked with a range of Staffing Solutions customers to get great staff to their sites when they need them most. Despite working remotely for most of their time at Green Connect, Mon has been an integral part of our team and we are going to miss her greatly!

Luckily we have found two great new team members, Rowena and Amanda, to replace Mon in a jobshare arrangement. I’ll do a proper welcome for them in my next (and final?) newsletter.

Farm Activities

Farm tours are being held every Thursday and Saturday throughout and just after the school holidays. If you have friends and family visiting Wollongong this winter, let them know it’s a great time to come and see how we grow food and integrate animals into our 11-acre permaculture site. Farm Tours (green-connect.com.au)

Our Beekeeping workshop in September is already half full. Beekeeping is increasing in popularity (and I can attest to how fun and interesting the workshop is – I have been backyard beekeeping for the last couple of years since doing one of these workshops!). More info at In-depth Beekeeping – Sat 3rd Sep 2022 (green-connect.com.au)

School fieldtrips are also very popular (including for vacation care providers). More info at Field work on a working farm (green-connect.com.au)

Dig Days are a way to come and get hands on (for free!) once a month. The next one is on Friday 24 June. More info at Dig Days at Green Connect (facebook.com)

Our fruit and veg boxes are now being delivered on a Tuesday in every location (all eight pick-up hubs and all home deliveries), so they’re super fresh – paddock to kitchen in a matter of hours. Order a weekly or fortnightly box at Green Connect Shop (green-connect.com.au)

Op Shop News

If you haven’t visited our UOW shop yet, mid-term break (27 June to 22 July) is the perfect time because there is unrestricted parking on campus. While Unanderra is a far bigger shop, the UOW store has some great boutique-style clothes racks including vintage/retro, high end items and of course everything is still ordered by size and colour.

We are having to have a snow gear sale at our University of Wollongong op shop 4 to 8 July. We will also be having a camping gear sale in early spring. We welcome donations of those and any other items in good condition, especially at our Unanderra store (37 Princes Highway, Unanderra, with access to the back of the building via First Avenue).

We will be starting a sewing group in July. Watch this space! Or email me if you want to be the first to know and I’ll add you to the list.

Ways to help

We need smartphones! Our staff can best access their shifts and payslips on a smartphone but not all of them have access to one. We are partnering with SCARF to extend on their device donation drive. Please donate any laptops, smartphones and tablets (that are less than three years old and in good working condition, preferably with all of the cables and chargers needed) to:

  • SCARF / MCCI, 117 Corrimal Street, Wollongong
  • Green Connect Op Shop, 37 Princes Highway, Unanderra
  • Green Connect Uni Op Shop, University of Wollongong (next to the pharmacy)

Donate any unused Discover vouchers before they expire on 30 June at Donate your NSW Discover Voucher so we can invite students and community groups with limited income to the farm for free tours.

Make a general donation at Donate to Green Connect. Every dollar helps us to create jobs, reduce waste and grow fair food.

Get Involved

We LOVE our volunteers and are always happy to have new pairs of hands in our office, op shops or at the farm. Register your interest at Volunteer with Green Connect and you’ll be invited to an information session to find out more.

We particularly need a volunteer that knows about Search Engine Optimisation at the moment. Is that you? Please get in touch!

We host Dig Days at the Green Connect farm on the last Friday of every month. Come and join us on 24 June! More info at Dig Days at Green Connect (facebook.com)

You could also join the Green Connect Landcare group which is working to restore endangered Illawarra subtropical rainforest and remove key environmental weeds at the Farm. The group meets on the second Saturday of each month, 9am-12pm, to carefully remove weeds and nurture native plants. Contact the group coordinators Ange and Emma via [email protected]

Keep Australia Beautiful awards – apply now!

Earlier this year, Zan and I attended the Keep Australia Beautiful awards in Albury. It was a wonderful celebration of sustainable initiatives all over NSW.

There are so many amazing projects, organisations and initiatives that deserve to be celebrated in Wollongong and elsewhere that we didn’t see there and wish we had. Please tell everyone you know to get their entries in via Awards – Keep Australia Beautiful NSW (kabnsw.org.au)

That’s all for now, folks!

Best wishes,