Kicking Sustainable Goals at Planetary Health Day

There was a lot happening at the first ever Planetary Health Day in Katoomba (Video: Kalani Gacon)

Story by Linda Moon

The first Blue Mountains Planetary Health Day was held on 24 February 2024 in Katoomba, and was a huge success with an estimated 600 attendees. With the goal of equipping people with the knowledge and resources to achieve their sustainability goals, the day featured workshops, stalls, activities and much more.


Key Points:

  • The Blue Mountains’ first Planetary Health Day was held on 24 February, 2024 at the Planetary Health Precinct in Katoomba.
  • An uplifting, informative and community-focused day of sharing and caring about the planet, it centred on ways to make our sustainable goals become reality.
  • With the event a success, it’s hoped Planetary Health Day can be a regular event.

It was that trademark misty, drizzly day in the mountains. But the rain didn’t stop the locals from turning up to the Blue Mountains’ first ever Planetary Health Day.

The day featured fun stalls, free workshops, talks, exhibits and activities designed to help us tick off our personal sustainability goals and support the health of the planet.

Mayor Mark Greenhill opened the event, followed by a stirring ‘Welcome to Country’ by Chris Tobin (on behalf of the Dharug traditional custodians) and Kelsie King (on behalf of Gundungurra).

Rhiannon Phillips of Mountains Gourmet showing drip irrigation installed on the Planetary Health Precinct

Despite the wet weather the Planetary Health Precinct (the former Katoomba Golf Course) catered for over 30 activities throughout the day in the gardens, the main building and in a large marquee. (Photo: Linda Moon)

The opening of the event by Mayor Mark Greenhill (Photo: Lis Bastian)

Our relationship to Country

Chris explained that beginning with a Welcome to Country was highly appropriate to the occasion as it trains us to acknowledge our relationship to Country. He said: “It [Country] extends beyond our property to all creatures, our old people, generations beyond us, the people waiting in earth for their time. It is not a resource for us to gobble up, not a commodity, but a home for us and generations after us.”

In her speech Kelsie said: “A healthy Country means healthy people.”

Chris Tobin and Kelsie King

Chris Tobin and Kelsie King. Their ‘Welcome to Country’ encourages us to deepen our relationship to the land and help preserve it for future generations. (Photo: Linda Moon)

Following the Welcome to Country the Wagana dancers put on a stirring performance in the mist.

The Wagana Dancers helped open the event. (Photo: Linda Moon)

One-stop shop for sustainable goals

Organiser and Senior Program Lead for the Planetary Health Initiative, Lis Bastian, described the event as a “one-day, one-stop shop” for our sustainability goals. “We understand that most people are overloaded,” she said. “We often can’t get to doing all the things we feel we could or should do because life is so busy and stressful. We’re hoping to make it easier by bringing a lot of options together in one spot at one time.”

Encouraging collaborative action at the local level, she said: “We’re trying to create a swarm for planetary health, emulating the way that birds and bees all start to work together in unison: people feeling the need for change in their whole being. And we need to change and act quickly together. That’s what we’re trying to achieve here, by bringing everyone together to see how enjoyable it can be and how we can all support one another to move together to a better way of living for ourselves and the planet.”

rowe morrow

A chance to connect with community groups, practical skills, experts and businesses in the sustainability space. Pictured: Permaculture Blue Mountains (Photo: Linda Moon)

Stalls, talks and workshops

Over 30 participants providing stalls, workshops and talks, focused on ways to save money, reduce disaster risk and reduce our environmental footprint. Many diverse topics were covered: from how to use your waste bins properly and what to consider when installing solar panels, to learning about Home Energy Efficiency Assessments from MKC Building Design, to learning about Hempcrete (a fire resistant building material) with Kirstie Wulf from Shelter Building Design

Carly Cura from Council’s Waste and Sustainability Team (Photo: Lis Bastian)

Blue Mountains Solar provided advice on installing solar panels (Photo: Lis Bastian)

Kirstie Wulf from Shelter Building Design had a stall and gave a comprehensive presentation on Fire-Resistant Building with Hempcrete. (Photo: Lis Bastian)

Talks commenced with a Drip Irrigation presentation, followed by Chris Tobin’s presentation on Dharug Culture.

Chris Tobin’s presentation on Dharug Culture (Photo: Lis Bastian)

There was the chance to get a discount on a water tank through a Community Water Tank Bulk Buy and more.

clothing swap

Parents exchanged clothing and smiles at a Kid’s Clothing and Toy Swap organised by Blue Mountains Parents For Climate. (Photo: Linda Moon)

There were activities for all ages, with Sarah Daniel from Kindle Hill engaging very young people in claywork (Photo: Lis Bastian)

Other young people participated in the Upcycling Fashion Workshop and in learning how to sew their own Boomerang Bags. (Photo: Maria de Luca)

Meet the celebs and experts

‘Off-grid Chippendale Sustainable House guy’, Michael Mobbs installed a ‘Cool Seat’ at the Precinct with Ian Collins of WaterUps. A Cool Seat, as Mobbs put it, is “a seat, garden bed and compost in one.”

Designed with wicking garden beds below composting baskets, it can hold 150 litres of food waste. According to Mobbs, it can transform food waste into compost within three weeks. Other advantages include minimal watering, worms and compost juice. The structure also keeps rats out.

The wicking design, an Aussie creation by Ian Collins and Vince Hunt of WaterUps, recently won the prestigious Groene Sector Innovation Award in the Netherlands.

Michael Mobbs (L) and Ian Collins (R) installing a ‘Cool Seat’ on the site. (Photo: Lis Bastian)

Eat the weeds

The public had the chance to sample unique dishes, like the delicious Three Weed Salsa Verde on crackers and Wild Fennel Seed Cookies, from the Eat Weeds book by mushroom and foraging expert Diego Bonetto.

Stylist, forager and foodie, Marnee Fox (Diego’s partner the other half of Forage to Feast), showcased numerous examples of edible weeds and fungi, and enthralled many. 

Photo: Marnee Fox manning the popular ‘Eat Weeds’ stall. (Photo: Lis Bastian)

Growing your own food

Growing food was a big topic of the day. Permaculture Blue Mountains, Mid Mountains Seed Savers and Blackheath Community Farm were present to answer questions. Gardening books, locally grown seeds and plants were also available for sale.

Permaculture educator and grower, Rhiannon Phillips of Mountains Gourmet, led a well-attended workshop on drip irrigation.

Rhiannon Phillips from Mountains Gourmet demonstrating how to install drip irrigation after her presentation (Photo: Lis Bastian)

Gardeners were also able to inspect examples of waterwise gardening (drip irrigation and wicking beds) constructed on the site, plus a demonstration pond.

seedlings from blackheath community farm

Growing your own organic food – a fun way to help the planet and yourself. (Photo: Linda Moon)

Sustainable food

Shopping locally and eating fewer animal products are some of the easiest ways to reduce our environmental impact on the planet. To help showcase plant-based food, tasty locally-produced vegan and vegetarian foods were available for sale. Dishes included pakoras and lentil dahl using hand-blended spices supplied by Bibi’s Kitchen.

“Growing lentils actually helps the planet,” Lis said. “Lentils put nitrogen into the soil, they’re low cost and one of the healthiest things you can eat.”

bibis kitchen

Lentil and vegetarian dishes from Bibi’s Kitchen: great for people and planet. (Photo: Linda Moon)

Roasters With Altitude did a busy trade in sustainable, fair-trade coffee. They also tempted the crowds with their vegan hot dog, sweet treats and cakes.

Roasters with Altitude supporting the Timor Learning Centre (Photo: Lis Bastian)

Attendees also had a chance to taste-test vegan cheeses, and partake in a vegan ‘how-to-make-your-own-cheese’ demonstration by Teya Brooks Pribac.   

teya brooks pribac

Vegan cheese-making workshop by Teya Brooks Pribac, author of Not Just Another Vegan Cookbook. (Photo: Linda Moon)

Electric vehicles

EV owner Alan Wardrop turned up on the day to share the how-to of having an electric vehicle with interested members of the public. He was joined by some of Blue Mountains City Council’s EV fleet drivers willing to share their everyday experience of driving an electric car in the Blue Mountains.

electric cars at planetary health day

Electric car owners generously gave their time to chat to the public. (Photo: Linda Moon)

Volunteering 

“Volunteering with others in the wider community trying to make a difference is another way to support the planet”, Lis said.

Blue Mountains Bushcare encouraging more people to engage with nature and protect our bushland. (Photo: Lis Bastian)

For those with an interest in volunteering, representatives from Blue Mountains Conservation Society, Blue Mountains World Heritage Institute, Blue Mountains Wildplant Rescue Service, WIRES, Mid Mountains Seedsavers, Blackheath Community Farm, Permaculture Blue Mountains, Blackheath Art Society, Blue Mountains Parents for Climate, Resilient Blue Mountains, South Katoomba RFS and Blue Mountains Bushcare were available for a friendly chat. The RFS was also at hand to provide tips on fire safety.

Student Dylan McCarthy was also encouraging everyone to sign up to his Petition calling for urgent action on Climate Change.

WIRES: Helping wildlife is critical to the health of the planet. (Photo: Lis Bastian)

Exhibits, art and culture

The local arts community also got in on the act. Blackheath Art Society and local artist Julie Paterson of Cloth hosted a big, collaborative drawing workshop called “Everyone Can Draw”.

art workshop at planetary health day

Collaborating on art. Planetary health requires working together! (Photo: Linda Moon)

Visitors also enjoyed the onsite ‘Water For Life’ exhibition.

Geoffrey Smith from Council’s Healthy Waterways Team explained how our actions affect water throughout the catchment in the Water for Life Exhibition (Photo: Lis Bastian)

Ending the day, the internationally acclaimed Bowerbird Collective enchanted listeners with a live performance and helped everyone experience that they were part of nature.

The Bowerbird Collective gave a stunning and interactive musical and visual art peformance. (Photo: Lis Bastian)

Support for Planetary Health Day comes from a Disaster Risk Reduction Fund jointly funded by the Australian and NSW governments.

With the event dubbed a success by everyone involved, it’s hoped that Planetary Health Day can become a regular event in the Blue Mountains calendar.


Take Action:

  • Connect to local businesses and organisations from Planetary Health Day and find out how you can volunteer and contribute.
  • Plant some seeds or seedlings and start growing your own food.
  • Tick off three or more items on your sustainability list – like reducing your waste, growing some veggies, eating more plant-based food or upcycling secondhand clothing.

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This story has been produced as part of a Bioregional Collaboration for Planetary Health and is supported by the Disaster Risk Reduction Fund (DRRF). The DRRF is jointly funded by the Australian and New South Wales governments.

Planetary Health Initiative partners

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Our fortnightly Planetary Health Newsletter shares news about upcoming events, like our free Water Symposium on Friday 26 July, and stories from the Lower Mountains to Lithgow that are jam-packed with inspiration and a blueprint for the way forward.

Read it here and subscribe via any of our news sites (links in profile):
https://bit.ly/4cXQg2f

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Katoomba Area Local News: Learning How To Upcycle Fashion with Sherlie McMillan

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Springwood Area Local News: Beyond the Yellow Bin: Surprising Things You Can Recycle – and How to Do it!

Lithgow Local News: The Gang Gang Farmers Market will Return in Spring!

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CALL OUT to the community: Does anyone have a spare sewing machine that they can donate or lend to the Planetary Health Centre? We`re providing free training to help build the skills in our community to meet the growing need for upcycling fashion to reduce textile waste, but there is so much interest in the program we need more sewing machines (and overlockers). Contact Lis on 0407 437 553 if you can help us out!

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About Linda Moon

Linda Moon has lived in the upper Blue Mountains since childhood and is a freelance writer for Australian media. A qualified naturopath, permaculture designer, mother and former student of social work, her passion is building local community, gardening, mental, emotional, social, housing and environmental health – all of which are linked!

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