Gardening and Greenery in the Workplace: A Worker’s Retreat

The benefits of growing and harvesting your own food does not have to only happen at home or at your community garden. Have you thought about growing food at work? Workplace vegetable gardens is increasing in popularity and builds upon an increasing trend of vertical and rooftop gardens, at-home growing and community gardening. There are many appealing factors of having a communal veggie patch in a workspace, so here we will provide you with a brief introduction to office-based edible gardening and some practical tips to make your workplace more sustainable.

Benefits of growing edibles in the office:

  • Plants help purify the air by absorbing pollutants. They can also reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) levels. High levels of CO2 can cause headaches, drowsiness and difficulty concentrating.
  • Optimise balconies or otherwise unutilised indoor and outdoor spaces.
  • Provides an incentive to staff to get up from their desks, to observe and interact with the plants.
  • Indoor plants and greenery lead to a significant reduction in anxiety, depression and fatigue, thereby increasing productivity, creativity and overall mental health of staff.
  • Encourages staff to begin growing food at home as well as eating fresh seasonal produce.
  • Fosters staff community connectedness and positive relationships.

What conditions are needed:

  • An indoor or outdoor area that receives at least 5-6 hours of natural sunlight per day.
  • Ideally north-facing, floor to ceiling windows (or windowsills for smaller plants).
  • Raised garden beds or pots.
  • A coordinator or designated team to ensure ongoing maintenance of the garden.

What to grow:

  • Salad leaves and greens (lettuce, spinach, silverbeet, herbs) = ideal for beginners, suitable for indoor or outdoor with low light.
  • Roots (carrot, parsnip, beetroot) = suitable for indoor or outdoor.
  • Fruit trees = can be potted, ideal for balconies or deck areas.

To help get you started, you can pick up some Food from Home FREE seeds (including carrot, parsnip and silverbeet) at all branches at Casey Cardinia Libraries or Greater Dandenong Libraries. If you’re not sure where your closest free seeds are, register your interest on our home page and we’ll let you know!

REA Group Limited office-based edible garden (based in eastern suburbs Melbourne)

If you cannot foresee an edible garden growing in your workspace, there are many other simple ways to make your office a little more sustainable:

1. Green spaces
If your office space is not suitable for growing food, you can still optimise unused spaces with indoor non-edible plants. Many are ideal for low lighting and suitable for big or small spaces. These include succulents, rubber plants and peace lilies. Depending on the number of indoor plants you have, they have the ability to absorb sounds, thus reducing the distraction of background office noise. Creating a green space can become a respite from stressful workspaces and allows staff to experience the many health benefits of indoor plants.

2. Composting
Reduce food waste and waste removal costs and have a dedicated food scraps bin in your office. A colleague who has a compost bin at home can take this bucket home each week. Alternatively, you could look at joining a community composting scheme such as Share Waste, where organic waste can be dropped to neighbours who may have compost bins, worm farms or chickens.

3. Keep Cups on hand
We’ve all had those days where we have forgotten our keep cup. Creating a communal collection of reusable cups in the office can help on days like these! You can also just take an ordinary mug to your local coffee shop.

4. Loose leaf tea
Some teabags are not recyclable nor biodegradable and consist of microplastics, especially those premium brands who use higher levels of plastic mesh. So, ditch the bags and embrace loose leaf! Bonus points if you source your tea from your local bulk foods store.

5. Eco-friendly workplace practices
As many of us are heading back into the office, being intentional of your office practices can help reduce waste and energy. Such as reducing your use of printing, opening the blinds instead of turning a light on, and avoid heating/cooling as often as possible. You may also want to organise your office days with your colleague who lives nearby so you can carpool. Every effort to reducing your carbon footprint, no matter how small, is an effort worth giving.

Extra resources:

  • Click here for a case-study of an office-based edible garden based in Eastern Melbourne.
  • Click here to access Food from Home’s Monthly Growing Guides (FREE to download)

– Georgia (FFH team) 🌱

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