Owning their impact by:

Using materials wisely - and encouraging more people to do the same

  • Type: Community-based organisation
  • Based: Subiaco

"We see an opportunity to teach by example, to show ‘thrifty and conservative’ can be easy and fun. We always define ‘waste’ as ‘wasted resources’ and challenge ourselves to see how much we can do with what we have.”

Peg Davies, Earthwise Community Committee Member.

What is Earthwise Community all about?

The Earthwise Community truly ‘embrace the waste’. The not-for-profit, volunteer-staffed community centre undertakes a variety of community and environmental activities with an emphasis on utilising ‘wasted resources’ and ‘using what you have available’.

Sustainable living practices are at the heart of the group’s activities and they wholeheartedly promote the principles of reducing consumption, re-using and recycling.

It was a concept that grew from a dream, an aspiration to help others to recycle and repair unwanted items, and a desire to establish a volunteering opportunity where people could donate their time in exchange for goods. Today, the group runs an op-shop, food centre (with a weekly free lunch) and permaculture garden.

Courtesy Lotterywest. Read video transcript

What are they doing?

  1. Giving items a second life. Open 6 days a week, the retail space is furnished (shelving, tables, benches, racks) with second-hand donations. All goods for sale have been recycled from the local area (clothes not sold are donated to the Good Samaritans to be made into rags) and the shop also operates as a collection point for recyclables such as fluro tubes.

  2. Keeping food waste out of landfill. With food donated from Foodbank, Oz Harvest, 2nd Bite, a Bakers Delight, a local Nandos and two local supermarkets, Earthwise volunteers distribute more than 200kg of food each week to around 45 people on low incomes. They also put on a communal-style lunch once a week. Any food left over is delivered to a wider metro network and perishable spoiled food is composted on-site.

  3. Educating others. The Earthwise garden showcases the philosophy of using local ‘rescued’ materials – everything from garden soil, to beds, structures, seating and even artwork has been sourced from discarded or no longer needed items. Volunteers are encouraged to spend time there, and it’s also used as a venue for workshops on topics like composting, worm farming, creating edible and productive spaces that are cheap to create but bountiful in harvest, and creative repurposing of unwanted materials.

Earthwise garden beds
Old de-gassed refrigerators make ideal wicking beds.

What impact is Earthwise making?

  • 300+ clothing items pass through the Earthwise op-shop each week, plus household goods, bric-a-brac and furniture – giving these unwanted items are new home.
  • Around 1.5 tonnes of food is diverted from landfill and enjoyed by community members instead each year.
  • 50kg of coffee grounds, 140L bin of shredded paper from dentist and doctor surgeries, 10kg fruit pulp from the local Saturday market, 8-10 bags of veggie leaves from a local produce store and 10kg of food scraps from the day care centre next door are rescued from the local community each week and transformed into nutrient-rich fertiliser for the gardens

  • By sharing knowledge, and enthusiasm they empower others. For example, garden workers have taught others to set up wicking beds in foam boxes, fridges and baths and they often frequent local festivals and host workshops to help others to become more environmentally savvy around the home and garden.

What does the future hold for Earthwise Community?

While Earthwise set out initially to ‘show by example’, today they encourage extensive user participation (activities and special projects can be initiated by anyone showing an on-going interest). They also run workshops and work programs (including Work for the Dole) with an increasing emphasis on ‘rescuing wasted resources’.

The Earthwise team is also forging closer ties with neighbours and the wider local community, including the day care centre, primary school, City of Subiaco parks and gardens and Waste Department, local coffee shops, a local woodworker (from whom they collect sawdust), fruit & veg shops, and supermarkets.

How can YOU get on board?

One of Earthwise’s goals is to inspire people to create an interesting space in their garden using ‘rescued’ materials, so take a leaf out of Earthwise Community’s book and embrace the waste:

  • Create a worm farm in an old bath, tub or bin
  • A de-gassed fridge can become a wicking bed
  • Wicking beds can also be made from foam boxes, clothing and flower pots
  • Wooden planks cover garden beds
  • Bricks, wire and tin can all be used for fencing
  • Old sleepers make great compost bays
  • Give old tools and equipment a new lease on life in the garden
  • Get creative and create an artwork from repurposed materials
  • Try your hand at upcycling, think old lampshades turned into pot plants
  • Find out more about composting

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