1 May 2012 – City of Sydney has added beekeeping to its composting initiatives to encourage greater backyard sustainability.

At the Asylum Seekers Centre community garden in Surry Hills, stingless native bees have proven to be a hit.

A City of Sydney environmental grant has helped establish a garden with fruit, veggies, bush tucker and edible weeds, along with a worm farm, compost bins and a regular permaculture group.

Volunteer Jess Perini said: “Asylum seekers are always a bit wary when you say you’ve got bees, but bees cross all language boundaries and once they see the little shoebox hive and know the bees are stingless, they’re hooked.

“Our sugarbag bees are Australian stingless bees that don’t survive much further south than Sydney. They pollinate mainly Australian natives and produce only about a kilo of honey a year.

“Frances Bodkin, a Dharawal elder, told us sugarbag honey is much prized among Aboriginal peoples and is low in glucose so it can be eaten by diabetics. It’s very expensive to buy, so having a hive is a perfect compromise.

“Even if you only have a balcony or small space it doesn’t matter. They’re stingless so you can have them in school gardens and nursing homes.”

The City will also supply native beehives to several community gardens later this year. The hives will be home to several hundred native non-stinging bees, which only grow to between three and five millimetres.

“We’ve had a great response from community gardeners wanting to install native beehives, because of the fantastic environmental benefits to gardens,” City of Sydney Urban Ecology Manager, Katie Oxenham said.

Worm farming and compost workshops

Household sustainability encouraged

Sarah van Erp, waste programs coordinator, for the City told The Fifth Estate the move towards composting, indicated by residents who attend regular council sponsored workshops, was also growing, with healthy spinoffs indicated by surveys.

“Our post workshop surveys tell us that getting residents and workers to engage in one activity such as composting often results in further lifestyle changes along the sustainability spectrum,” she said.

Programs on worm farming and composting are held most months and in the past six months 214 people attended workshops,  with 84 worm farms and 39 compost bins given out to residents.

The City ran a trial of a public composting initiative in Peace Park in the inner city suburb of Chippendale, initiated by The Fifth Estate columnist Michael Mobbs.

It plans to develop supporting tools for community composting to help the development of future community composting projects.

Part of this will involve residents of an apartment building through its Smart Green Apartments program.

Anyone interested in helping develop community composting resources should email svanerp@cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au

The Smart Green Apartments program

The City’s free workshops and other sustainability programs for residents

Bunnings sustainability savings plan

Adding to the trend has been dominant hardware chain Bunnings which has chipped in on sustainability with a sustainability savings plan

Bunnings managing director, John Gillam told The Fifth Estate: “Not only do we believe that it’s the right thing to do, but our customers and team members expect it. We regularly run sustainability-themed workshops as part of our do it yourself schedule, with the aim of educating customers on how they can be more sustainable in the home and garden.”

The sustainability savings tool allowed customers to create a personalised action plan through a simple assessment of their home and garden.

“The plan suggests simple and cost effective ways to save money and resources such as water and energy, and includes hints and tips, information on rebates and suggests a wide range of products to suit individual needs and budgets,” Mr Gillam said.

The plan indicates the direct savings associated with the implementation of suggested products, highlighting to customers the savings they can make by living more sustainably.