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Branching out with sustainability blossoms for Mt Claremont resident

Sustainability is a basic common sense way of living – it always has been and always will be. 

That’s the message from founding member and former Mayo Community Garden President Gail Stubber, also a member of the Nedlands Sustainable Committee.

She is a strong advocate for sustainable living and has been heavily involved with the Mayo Community Garden in Swanbourne over the past four years.

When Gail returned to Perth in 2013 after living overseas for 16 years, she found herself at a crossroads, searching for something to do. That’s when she decided to invest in her green thumb and complete her Masters in Sustainability, focusing on community gardens.

It was a timely decision that saw her passion in sustainable living lead her on a journey to the Mayo Community Garden in the Swanbourne heritage precinct, which was in action as she completed her thesis.

“I have always been interested in sustainability and development,” Gail said. “I don’t understand why people don’t do it.”

Community gardens are an increasingly popular form of civic and urban agriculture shown to have multiple benefits for participants and the wider community, providing a hub where people come together to grow organic food, design urban green spaces and nurture sustainable living.

The idea of a community garden in Swanbourne originally came from community consultation. After searching for a place, the Mayo site at Allen Park was chosen and the gardens were incorporated in 2014.

“The Mayo Community Garden site is great because of the history and natural regeneration work that goes on around it by the Friends of Allen Park Group,” Gail said. “It has been a good fit and ties in with the natural surrounding bushland area.”

With a core group of eight to 10 people, Gail has enjoyed being involved in a community founded on sustainable practices, which include no chemicals, using a “make-do and mend” mentality and asking for help to make things happen. 

“The more sustainability you do, the more it comes back to simple answers,” she said. “I once saw a landscape gardener pulling apart a limestone wall and asked, if he didn’t want it, could he leave it at the gardens? He was nice enough to do that for us. Bunnings has also come on board and built a shed for us.”

From its conception, Gail has helped the garden to grow to fill a range of needs, whether it’s people renting, those with small backyards or the less green-thumbed who are still interested in the community and social aspects of the garden.

“We have had a lot of people who walk past, interested in talking to us and finding out about gardening at their house, but they are too time-poor to join the garden themselves,” she said.

Gail’s sustainable resume includes running school community gardens in Asia and working with non-governmental organisations to take children on trips to Cambodia to build new homes.

As a member on the Sustainable Nedlands Committee, she has also used her passion for sustainable living to push for positive change for the wider community.

Some of Gail’s achievements include hosting the annual Earth Hour event, as well as tree pruning and composting workshops at the Mayo Community Garden.

Gail stepped down as the President of the Mayo Community Garden in 2016 and is preparing a lifestyle change in the South West.

“When I do leave the gardens, I would really love to see it grow with more people,” she said. “We are always seeking new community members who are interested in getting involved.”

Gail continues to provide inspirational ideas to the committee, such as converting streetlights to LEDs to reduce power generation, promoting green corridors and installing trees along the middle of Stirling Highway to counter the heat island effect (a phenomenon where temperatures can often be a few degrees higher in cities than surrounding rural areas).

“For something to be really sustainable, you have to try and get people from all sides of the problem to sit around the table and talk about it,” Gail said.

“As people come up with intelligent and simple answers to fix the problems, you combine everyone’s responses to come up with a solution.”