We all know we need to change lightbulbs and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels – critical steps to a sustainable future. But what are the practical ways that Gold Coasters can have an impact on the conservation of plants and animals in this city?
Here’s five tips for having an impact on the natural environment.
1. Go native
There are many reasons to choose native plants for your home garden instead of plants which come from other places. Local native plants are more tolerant to localised weather conditions, need less water and fertiliser than exotic species and generally result in a low maintenance garden. They also attract native wildlife – from small marsupials and flying fox right down to the tiny native insects, like stingless bees, which are crucial to maintaining our biodiversity and ecosystem health.
- groNATIVE is a Gold Coast app, created in collaboration between Griffith University and environmental consultants Natura Pacific. The app helps users select the most appropriate native plants based on ecosystem type or garden style (for example butterfly garden).
- The Grow me instead project, from the Nursery and Garden Industry Australia tracks the most invasive plants from state-to-state, along with their native alternative.
- The City of Gold Coast (the City) also has a Plant Selection Guide available online, sorted by ecosystem type and growth form.
2. Grow your own
Growing your own food has countless benefits for a sustainable environment. When we eat locally produced food (and does it get more local than your own back yard?) we avoid the emissions associated with transporting food over long distances. Home-grown food is also less likely to need large volumes of fertiliser or herbicide. And when you convert lawn to vegetable patches, well, there’s less lawn to mow, and nobody’s complaining about that.
People who grow their own food are much more likely to compost and they eat a higher proportion of fruits and vegetables compared to their non-gardening counterparts. Not everyone has a backyard but there are a number of community gardens on the Gold Coast, spread between the Southern Beaches and Oxenford and at each of them you’ll find a welcoming group of local residents who love to garden.
3. Get your hands dirty
Volunteering has physical as well as mental health benefits, but most of all, it leaves a lasting impressing on the landscape. On the Gold Coast, there are literally hundreds of events every year where residents and visitors can get their hands dirty helping to create a better physical environment. Last financial year alone, more than 60,000 native plants were established at more than 100 community planting sites. These efforts add to the work of the City in maintaining some 13,000 hectares of natural assets across the Gold Coast.
- The City maintains a Beaches to Bushland Calendar for landcare groups
- BeachCare is a coastal community engagement initiative facilitated by Griffith Centre for Coastal Management in partnership with the City that provides an opportunity for the community to care for the coastal environment. There’s a huge calendar of events.
- Other citizen science activities include water quality monitoring and Platypus Watch.
4. Experience first-hand
With over 720km of recreational trails, 35,000 hectares of nature reserves, 480km of rivers and streams, 774 hectares of waterways and 57km of coastline, Gold Coast is a veritable smorgasbord for nature lovers. Get a feel for the city’s natural wonders: bushwalking is one of the lowest impact ways to experience our natural wonders but there are also trails, reserves or facilities for cycling, kayaking, multi-day treks, overnight camping and surfing.
- Details on trails and facilities for bushwalking, trail running, bird watching, kayaking and relaxing in nature are available as an interactive map.
- The Walking The Gold Coast website has an enormous amount of resources for self-guided walkers and its founder Jill Callcott has picked out her favourite bushwalks.
- The Gold Coast hinterland serves up countless options for exploring. From Tamborine National Park through to the World Heritage Listed Gondwana Rainforests of Springbrook and Lamington National Parks
5. Expand your understanding
It’s all well and good to get your hands dirty doing practical work to enhance the natural environment, but where do you go when you need to learn more about conservation, land management and biodiversity?
- CoastEd is an award-winning program of training for community groups and schools. There’s also the City’s Botanic Gardens Education program available for schools.
- Once a year, Gold Coast Catchment Association hosts a catchment crawl for people to see first-hand the work of local landcare and catchment groups. This year’s crawl (8 June 2019) heads into the Numinbah Valley and takes place as part of Gecko’s Green Week.
- Naturally GC pulls together a huge calendar of events delivered by its partners and covering topics such as native stingless bees, nature journaling, creatures of the dark, coastal tours, guided walks at Gold Coast Regional Botanic Gardens and Burleigh Headland, bush tucker, bugs in creeks, rocky shore explorations and more.
- For those on properties larger than 1 hectare, joining the Land for Wildlife program, gives you access to a wealth of information and resources as well as free, hands-on, practical workshops on topics related to protecting and restoring wildlife habitat, such as bushland restoration, native plant ID and building and installing nest boxes.