The Clarence Valley’s newest and probably most sustainable education facility was opened on Thursday June 9 during World Environment Week 2016.
The $1million Clarence Environmental Learning Facility (CELF), or as the sign says, Clarence ELF, is located at the Grafton Regional Landfill.
The facility is designed to “immerse visitors in sustainability principles and provide a focal point for [Clarence Valley] council when engaging our community and schools on important environmental issues”.
Waste management is a major theme and the location of the facility provides connections to resource recovery facilities located on site.
Other key themes of the education centre include water cycle, biodiversity, soils, sustainable living and the beauty of the Clarence environment.
Gardening Australia host Costa Georgadis, in character as a garden gnome, dirtgirlworld characters dirtgirl and scrapboy, and the mayor, Richie Williamson, officially opened the facility.
Whiporie-based Mememe Productions (dirtgirlworld) and Melbourne-based Aeroplane Workshop P/L were engaged to develop the interactive education displays within the facility.
“The dirtgirl branding was chosen because of the success of the ‘Rubbish…handle with care’ waste management campaign currently running in the Clarence Valley and the fact that dirtgirl is such a local sustainability icon,” a Clarence Valley Council media alert states.
dirtgirlworld co-creator, Cate MacQuillen, said the facility is an important link towards “getting people to connect, to really feel the love for where we live” and that it would encourage children to learn more about the environment.
dirtgirl described the landfill as a perfect backdrop for environmental education.
She explained how the reuse of food scraps through composting can be used to grow more food, “so we’re not wasting the nutrients in our food scraps”.
“That’s happening in the whole town and the whole area – it is actually life changing and planet changing if we all do it … and that’s what’s happening,” she said.
She said that 10 webisodes about “how amazing what is happening here in the Clarence Valley” have been produced.
Costa Georgadis said, as he pulled a phone from his pocket: “Garden gnomes can’t always come to facilities like this, because they have their role in their garden, but us garden gnomes are connected [laughs from the audience].
“We can share what’s going on here in our social networks and that’s as important as today is.
“Today is … the beginning of the reason it’s been created and that is ‘to project education and information’.”
The education facility and accompanying administration building were designed by Lawrence architect Linda Wright.
Ronald Van Vyfeyken and his team from Nanobuild Pty Ltd built the facility, including key components of the education displays: the Tree of Knowledge, dirtgirl’s house and the think tank.
Most of the funding for the $1m learning facility came from the NSW Government’s Waste and Sustainability Improvements Program and the Better Waste and Recycling Fund.