The Climate Factory is taking the heat out of urban environments

Edwina Robinson

Edwina Robinson is a landscape architect, and concerned about temperature increases in cities. This occurs when vegetation is cleared for housing, and waterways and open spaces are paved over. The concrete and asphalt used absorb heat making them 8 per cent warmer than surrounding countryside, according to a CSIRO study in 2017. In Australia heatwaves are one of the biggest killers of people, animals, insects and habitat.

So, in 2020, Edwina Robinson began The Climate Factory to create micro-forests in urban areas. These lush green spaces provide a better quality of life for locals, environmental respite for animals and insects and reintroduce plant species that are vital for a healthy eco-system.

With 3 micro-forests under her belt and a fourth underway, Edwina is well on the way to making the ACT and NSW more liveable.

We’ve built them in Holt, Watson and Downer and are currently creating one in Moruya.

Downer was the first. We began in September 2020 following the driest summer on record in 2019. The site in Downer was a dry uninspiring dead field. We built the forest over four community working bees, but an enormous amount of pre-work needs to be done first.

Time wise it takes 12 -18 months from planning to implementation. I’ve developed an eight-step process to guide people on the journey because you need to manage government approval, landscape design, water harvesting design, earthworks, crowd-funding and community consultation and commitment.

All of the work is done by community volunteers. I’m happy to say there are plenty of passionate people out there that want to get involved to regenerate their local community amenity and the environment. It usually takes three leaders then heaps of locals to sign up for working bees.

Akira Miyawaki was a Japanese botanist and expert in plant ecology, specialising in seeds and the study of natural forests. He is active worldwide as a specialist in the restoration of natural vegetation on degraded land.

He pioneered the method to create a dense forest quickly. I use part of his method like incorporating organic soil preparation and dense planting. We are looking at climate ready species for the future alongside with local occurring plants.

Mostly tube stock because it grows really quickly. We use plants native to local area – on av. 1500 per 3 sq metre and we need 500 sq metres of shrub bed to create the forest. We’ve also started to include pollinator patches to encourage more insect, bees and bird life.

The Downer micro-forest was a pilot project in Canberra. We did it by raising $23K through crowd-funding with the Mill House, StartSomeGood and the backing of SERVICE ONE. We used dense planting of 1800 native plants, water harvesting and fabulous soil preparation. It now looks like and urban oasis.

Watson was our second forest and includes nature play areas to encourage kids to use their imagination. There are landscape-based challenges made of natural materials instead of fixed play equipment. We’ve created a board walk made of recycled timbers, a shop front to encourage imaginative play, paths going through forest, and a large log up an embankment that needs to be scaled to get onto a path.

Both Holt and Watson forests were created over long weekends – all volunteers were from the community including school children. Most days we had between 100 – 200 people there.

In 2023 Moruya the miro-forest construction is at the St Johns Church in the heritage part of town.

Practical experience. The opportunity to learn about the power of crowd-funding was pivotal and of course the funding and support received from SERVICE ONE. I also had the opportunity to test the idea beforehand to understand the amount of money people would be willing to commit – this enable me to estimate just how many crowd-funding supporters I would need.

My first crowd-funding experience saw 189 donors. All funding is raised using the StartSomeGood platform and Tom Dawkins, the owner, has been really helpful too. We also apply for government grants and are looking for sponsors in the future.

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