Gifts that keep giving

At conferences around the world presenters are being thanked for the time and effort put into preparing for the event and the distances many have to travel in order to attend them. While the need to come together to tackle global challenges is unavoidable, the environmental costs to gather such an international delegation can be large. This conundrum weighed heavily on the ECOCITY World Summit organisers and so we decided to do things a little differently.

Students from Footscray Secondary College helped plant shrubs in nearby Newells Paddock.

In addition to our local and interstate Australian representatives, the ECOCITY World Summit (12-14 July) brought together delegates from over 30 countries making it the largest event of its kind ever to be held in Australia. One of the key principles of the Summit was the deep awareness of the ecological consequences of running a major international gathering. As a result, global and national air transport to the conference has been based on carbon offsetting, achieved through the help of our key partner Qantas. However we wanted to do more. We wanted to provide a lasting legacy from the Summit to the citizens and visitors of Melbourne.

We decided that rather than provide a gift that was at worst unsustainable and at best unmemorable, the Summit would collaborate with Melbourne Water and local volunteer conservation groups to regenerate wetlands and riparian areas along the Maribyrnong River. Summit presenters and organisers, along with members from Melbourne Water, Maribyrnong Shire Council, volunteers and students from Footscray Secondary College came together to plant 600 scrubs and 400 trees.

MSSI staff took time out of their usual day to plant trees at the Newells Paddock site in the inner west of Melbourne.

The 400 trees were planted in Avondale Heights (provided under the Greening the West Program through Port Phillip and Western Port Catchment Management Authority) was the second stage of the Ecocity planting project. Stage one of the project was completed on June 28 at Newell’s Paddock near Footscray with 600 ground covers and shrubs.

The planting of these trees brought the total number of plantings to 1000, symbolic of roughly the number of delegates that attended the Summit. While the Melbourne Organising Committee foresees a wave of new collaborations and findings arising as a result of the three day event, this project is the first tangible outcome that can be directly linked to the Ecocity World Summit and a good sign of things to come.

We hope that presenters and delegates will walk with pride through Newell’s Paddock and Avondale Heights knowing that their participation at the Summit has contributed locally and globally in more ways than one.