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Seniors Week tours a step in the right direction for climate change

What do wind power, compost cubes and an enviro-wise nursery have in common?

They are all initiatives of a select group of Tasmanian businesses throwing open their doors to older Tasmanians during Seniors Week this week. The Taroona Community Garden, New Town Station Nursery and Nichols Poultry have invited visitors to discover more about their operations.

These three diverse enterprises share a common thread, having all been involved with the Environment Division’s CleanBiz program which helps Tasmanian enterprises achieve cost savings and prosper from improved environmental performance.

Several new "compost cubes" have been installed at the Taroona Community Garden. An initiative of North Hobart’s Amulet restaurant, which received a small CleanBiz grant to help build the units, the cubes allow Amulet to better manage its organic residues and to reduce waste disposal costs and greenhouse gas emissions.

Amulet’s co-owner Kevin Redd processed the restaurant's kitchen waste in his own backyard worm farms for some time before he met his neighbour David Stephen, Tasmania’s "compost guru".

"Together, David and I came up with the idea to link the business with the Taroona Community Garden," Kevin said.

"David has been composting for years and has used a wide range of ideas and recycled materials to achieve soil improving results. These include the composting cubes which, due to their shape, occupy less space than other models and have a hinged lid for easy access. The sides are made of Colorbond which is quite strong and weather resistant and the front panels can be removed when the compost is matured and ready."

Kevin and David were on site at the Taroona Community Garden today discussing with senior Tasmanians the rudiments of compost and building raised garden beds.

They were also proud to boast that the garden has just been awarded two additional grants for fencing and the planting of fruit trees.

Kevin said volunteering was the best way to become involved in the garden as the 40 plots are fully subscribed.

But he sees the garden as just the beginning of a wonderful community enterprise. There are lots of potential projects that could spin off from it such as a 'CWA'- like model with garden produce turned into jams and preserves for sale, or the production of seedlings or potted plants for sale. Also the garden could become a focus for community activities like family days, picnics and working bees.

New Town Station Nursery is the first Tasmanian nursery to host an enviro-wise garden centre. CleanBiz, with the Nursery Garden Industry Association (Tasmania), provided a grant to help the nursery introduce a pot sterilisation and recycling system, a tank to harvest rainwater, various "educating for sustainability" displays and materials and to extend its reusable shopping bag initiative.

The eniro-wise centre's Greg Kerin says the Seniors Week tours are showing people how slim the rainwater tanks actually are, how little space they actually take up, how much water the nursery currently uses and how much they expect to use over the drier summer months.

"It’s also about giving people the chance to think about reusing materials – from their rainwater to their pots," Greg says.

The nursery’s pots carry labels asking customers to return them once their plants have been potted. On return, the pots go off to our production area at Granton where they undergo solar sterilisation. Pots are then ready for re-use.

"The feedback we are getting is that people are rapt that we are recycling our pots and we are actually getting pots from all over the place - people are stopping and dropping off their old pots and we are averaging about 100 drop-offs each week," Greg says.

He says he had the idea to recycle pots ten years ago but people were not so keen and not many customers returned their pots. Fast forward a decade and Greg is delighted at the difference in public attitudes and habits when it comes to recycling and sustainability in the garden and around the home.

"The enviro-wise centre is designed to show people how to create their own vegetable garden in a raised bed and how a rainwater tank operates. It is a tangible example of what people can do to make their home more sustainable. Our next step here at the centre is to put some solar panels in the nursey roof so we can show people the benefits of solar power."

Hosting local groups to learn about renewable electricity generation from wind and observe this first hand is just part of everyday business for Sassafras poultry producer Nichols Poultry. Nichols is another successful recipient of a CleanBiz grant, which has been invested in an on-farm 225W wind turbine. The turbine means the business is more energy self-sufficient and allows the company to reduce its annual greenhouse gas emissions by about 400 tonnes.

For more details about these and other CleanBiz resource efficiency projects, visit http://www.environment.tas.gov.au/cleanbiz/ or contact Damien Blackwell on (03) 6233 7850.