Shiny globes of purple passionfruit shyly peek from a lush vine meandering along a trellis, while plump green pea pods tempt passersby with an endless variety of culinary possibilities. The fresh earthy smell of hay mulch lingers in the air, free-range chooks cluck contentedly and tiny tadpoles dart here and there in a small pond. Welcome to the wonderful world of eco-friendly home gardening - right here in the suburbs of Perth.
Despite our shrinking backyards and the ever-increasing complexity of our lives, over the last few decades the humble backyard garden has undergone a remarkable renaissance, albeit in a way that's environmentally sustainable. There is no doubt about it – the times are a-changing, and over recent years eco-awareness has burgeoned throughout Australia, fuelled by active groups of local volunteers, the establishment of community gardens and widespread educational programs within our schools. Where once upon a time, topics such as composting or organic growing were rare outside 'alternate' conclaves such as those in northern New South Wales and southern Queensland, these days they're decidedly mainstream - actively promoted by the media, popular gardening magazines and programs held at local environment centres.
Situated in a tranquil spot close to the Eric Singleton Bird Sanctuary in Bayswater, Environment House is a place that has been at the forefront of Perth's sustainability scene for many years. First established in Maylands way back in 2000 by three friends who felt there was a need in Perth for an easily-accessible shop-front environment centre, Environment House moved to its present location at 125 King William Street in May 2009. These days the centre has a well-deserved reputation throughout the city, providing a host of valuable information about sustainable living, a great range of products for earth-conscious consumers, food gardening classes for big and little people, and a variety of other services.
Many of us have a strong desire to abandon bad old habits, and embrace those that are healthier for ourselves, our families and the world we live in. However, sometimes it's difficult to know how to make such changes and therefore centres such as Environment House are invaluable community resources. Manned by part-time staff and volunteers, the centre stocks an immense range of high- quality books written by experts in various fields, and well as loads of free information that give you a glimpse into sustainable living and how you can introduce earth-friendly practices into your own life. Topics range from organic growing and permaculture to eco building / renovation, healthy homes, bushwalking, native wildlife, natural health and much more.
Regular courses and workshops are also held at Environment House on topics that include composting, water-wise gardening, passive solar design and worm farming. However, amongst the most popular are their food gardening classes. Back to Basics Veg Gardening workshops are suitable for adults and teenagers, and introduce participants to all the essentials of creating a beautiful productive home garden, while the much-loved Little Gardeners is for littlies aged one to four, teaching them basics such as digging, planting and watering. For current information and prices, check out the Environment House website
Finally, Environment House's Eco Shop is an absolute gem, purveying an immense variety of products for the home, garden, pets and personal care. If you're a wannabe organic gardener who's unsure how to begin, some great products to check out include the Bokashi kitchen composters, larger outdoor composters, worm farms and sturdy 'wicking' (self-watering) planter pots. The centre's volunteers are all knowledgeable home gardeners and will be sure to help you make the right choice. There is also a great range of eco-safe soil improvers, natural pest control products, eco seaweed fertilisers and organic seeds. If you have a little gardener in your family, be sure to also take a look at the gorgeous kids' gardening tools that are often available. These include hand tools, watering cans, buckets, gloves and even a wheelbarrow.
Eco Shop also stocks a wide range of kitchen products, including dishwashing liquid and fruit and vegetable wash, while all sorts of natural products for the laundry are also available. There is also an incredible range of natural personal care products including the awesome Tinderbox Range (a local company, based in Balingup), baby care items and women's sanitary products. For the environmentally aware home-owner, there is a small eco-hardware collection as well, which you may like to peruse.
In a nutshell, if you're pining for a cleaner, greener way of life but are stumped as to how you'll begin, a visit to Environment House may provide just the inspiration you need. Situated right next to the wonderful Eric Singleton Bird Sanctuary and just a short stroll from Bayswater Riverside Gardens, it's a unique community centre that's cent-percent dedicated to educate people about living in a greener, more sustainable way. Since Environment House is manned by volunteers, it's not always open to the public. If you want to visit, it's best to phone first so you can be sure that there's somebody there. However, it's always open on Saturdays, from 10am until 4pm. If you'd like to purchase some of the Eco Shop products, Environment House also has a stall at the City Farm Markets each Saturday from 8am until 12 noon. In addition, the centre holds stalls at other community festivals around Perth, from time to time.
Environment House is situated at 125 King William Street in Bayswater. To find out more, take a look at the Environment House website
or give them a call on 08 9271 4488.