‘Reconnect, relocalise, build resilience.’ This is how Megan, founder of Sustainable Greensborough, summarises the primary ethos of Transition Towns. It is subsequently the primary ethos behind this young and passionate community group which is using small changes to make big waves in the realm of local, sustainable living.
Having only begun in 2017, Sustainable Greensborough is still deepening its connections with the local community and the other Transition groups in the area. For now, though, it is clear that Megan has high hopes for this young group and its members, all of whom are passionate about encouraging sustainable practices in the Greensborough and Watsonia areas. Group member and avid gardener Margot believes that ‘every single area will have their own issues,’ so it’s only a matter of time until members of Sustainable Greensborough define what’s unique about their group. Arguably, though, they are already doing so, deciding this year to shift their focus towards transport and education, such as working with Banyule City Council to improve biking throughout Greensborough and becoming more involved with local schools.
The group began modestly, forming as an extension of the ‘Transition Streets’ project started by Megan during the Community Leaders Program in 2015. This project involved seven out of ten households in Megan’s street getting together to discuss a range of sustainability issues – specifically, food, water, waste, transport and energy. Based on the success of this project, Megan decided to establish Sustainable Greensborough as a Transition Town. ‘My street group was such a success that I wanted to spread it out and make more of an impact in my wider community,’ Megan explains.
It is no surprise, then, that Sustainable Greensborough is proving to be a success within the local community. ‘Lots of reading I was doing was pointing to community being the way back from the brink, getting people to work together again,’ Megan says, describing how community spirit can be utilised to enhance Greensborough’s connectedness, creating a deeper sense of belonging for all.
The Transition to a Safe Climate Conference, held in May 2018, galvanised the group and set the tone for their upcoming projects. The questions they’ve been encouraged to ask are ‘Where’s the energy going? Where do we want to put our efforts?’ Whilst these might be big issues to address, Sustainable Greensborough wants involvement from the local community to help solve them. A family-friendly group with members already including young families, single full-time workers and older couples, they are hoping that others with an interest in sustainability will attend their meetings and workshops to take part in discussions on how local households can live more sustainably.
‘The thing that really attracted me to the Transition Towns movement was it lets you know all about the heavy stuff, but it gives you really practical and positive ways that you can help,’ Megan says. ‘One of its strengths is that it talks about individuals doing their little bit but it also links you with people in the area.’ This is a recurring theme in Transition messaging, highlighting the need for individuals to work together on sustainability issues rather than apart.
A group member from its inception, Watsonia local Stella agrees with this ethos, explaining that ‘there are little things you can do, but it makes such a difference when everybody’s doing it.’ Megan also explains the importance of knowing that there are other like-minded people there to support you in times of need: it’s all about ‘building resilience so as changes have to be made down the track, people know that there are others around who can help them.’
It’s also about connecting with international communities as well as local ones. ‘Transition’s not just here, it’s international. So we’re part of something much bigger,’ Megan says. ‘They have so much going on all over the world. That’s something that’s heartening… when you remember that you’re also part of something that’s international. When you think about your efforts being magnified, then you start to realise that change is possible.’ This inspiring ideal brings hope to Transition’s aim of moving communities away from the use of fossils fuels and towards renewable energies. As Megan describes, ‘we want to raise awareness about climate change and encourage the sustainable habits that will help mitigate it.’
At the moment, one of the group’s main goals is to sign up more members. ‘The more people we get, the easier it will be to have more projects happening,’ Stella says. Whilst anybody and everybody is welcome, Megan emphasises the importance of becoming embedded in Greensborough and the surrounding areas so that the group can form relationships with those in the local community where their work will be most relevant. The friendly atmosphere that Sustainable Greensborough evokes ensures that anyone who wishes to be a part of the initiative is enthusiastically welcomed – the more people that join, the more ideas there are to share.
An approach embraced by Sustainable Greensborough that is particularly striking is the Transition concept of ‘head, heart and hands.’ Megan describes this evocatively, explaining how ‘with your head you hear the facts and figures, with your heart you react, and with your hands you do something practical.’ This, in essence, is the message that Sustainable Greensborough hopes to convey. Coming together as a local community, using all of the resources at their disposal and connecting with the environment through their heads, hearts and hands are actions that will hopefully lead to a more sustainable local network of happy and engaged citizens.
This story was originally featured in the Banyule Community Conservationists magazine published by Remember The Wild and supported by Banyule City Council. You can view the magazine in full here.
Banner image courtesy of Caleb McElrea.