Koo Wee Rup Hospital cultivates climate change action

If you ever find yourself at Koo Wee Rup Hospital, you’ll notice they offer their local community a little something extra – a lush community garden inside hospital grounds and a compost heap using food scraps from the locals.

Since 2008 that compost has kept the community garden green and productive, growing herbs like mint and basil and a huge range of vegies like pumpkin, bok choy, spinach and tomatoes.

As well as connecting local community members with one another, this garden is reducing climate change by cutting food miles and reducing the amount of waste that goes to landfill.

It makes sense that hospitals like Koo Wee Rup are passionate about tackling climate change.
We know it can affect communities in many ways including people’s health. Longer, more extreme heatwaves cause heat stress. Bushfires and drought have an environmental and human impact as well.

Aileen Thoms, the hospital’s Community, Health Promotion and Allied Health Manager and a TAKE2 member (pictured above, wearing the stripey top), got the garden going, with the commitment and hard work of community members.

Over the years, she says hundreds of people have worked on the garden, including teams from the local high school (the garden is part of the school curriculum), the men’s shed, youth groups and retirees.

“We have two generations working together, which is lovely to see,” says Aileen. “They get together twice a week to talk about plans for the garden. Nobody owns any beds. It’s for the whole community.”

If you work in the garden, you’re paid in produce, or you can make a donation to take home fresh, locally grown herbs, vegies or eggs (they have about a dozen chickens as well).

“It’s nice to see people popping into the hospital for a visit or an appointment and grabbing fresh produce on the way out,” says Aileen.

Nothing is wasted in the garden, which is also climate-friendly.

There are compost collection bins across the hospital for things like apple cores and fruit peels. Green waste from the garden and community members’ kitchen scraps are also used.

The local men’s shed recycles all sorts of things. Old toilets and sinks become pot plants, an old boat becomes a play area for children.

They also grow indigenous plants, creating a wildlife corridor for the locally-threatened southern brown bandicoot, which are regular visitors at dawn and dusk.

What was formerly the hospital supervisor’s home is now the local Ecohouse where people can learn how to reduce their climate change impact at home and attend workshops on how to reduce energy, water and waste.

Aileen recommends any community thinking of starting up its own vegetable garden to go for it! “It’s a great investment in your local community, bringing people together to tackle climate change and reap health and social rewards as well.

“If thinking about climate change globally is too overwhelming, look at how you can make changes locally to protect and support our environmental future.”

For tips and inspiration on fighting climate change make the TAKE2 pledge today.

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