Green Edge is a Creative Collaborative with a Green Agenda
Esther Gerrard :: Marion Keogh
:: Róisín de Buitléar
Bees and Shopping Centres. Not your normal combination but here at Green Edge HQ we like a challenge. When we had a meeting with a Shopping Centres management company on how to activate the central space of the Donaghmede Centre and the Galway Shopping Centre and to do this with a Greening theme we instantly thought of getting people to sow a seed and take home a new flowering plant to encourage more bees and pollinators. The management company loved it and so off we went to Raheny and to Galway’s Headford Road.
Green Edge always includes everyone, especially the non-gardeners out there. We preach to the unconverted and we want to get everyone growing, sowing and going green. We find that when we start talking about Bees and planting we are straight into discussions about Climate Change, the plight of the honey bees, Global Warming, temperatures increasing, plastic in the seas….. It gets very scary and out of control very quickly and people, especially the non-gardeners, get very overwhelmed and frightened. And with overwhelmingness comes inertia and inaction. You can freeze when you feel you have no control in a world spiralling out of control, climactically speaking.
So we at Green Edge like to make things easy for people. In our workshops we show people how simple it is to grow a flowering plant and what happens when you do that. You will have flowers so you’ll feel happier and better because you’re looking at something pretty. We often underestimate how important it is for our wellbeing to see beautiful things. That same flowering plant might produce fruit or food for you to eat. It will definitely attract bees and other pollinators so you can see you’re already saving the bees with just one plant. It will most likely produce a seed-head and bug-life which are beneficial for the birds. Plus those seeds will give you seeds to plant new plants next year. We gardeners know all this already but there are huge amounts of people who don’t and who are nervous about growing anything. And a lot of people do their shopping in shopping centres so we jumped at the chance to engage with them and to activate the communal space for an afternoon.
We arrived at Raheny’s Donaghmede Shopping Centre on day 1 and then at Galway Shopping Centre on Day 2, with soil and seeds and pots and set up from 11am. As soon as the poster went up and the tables were laid out we had people coming over to plant seeds. We also laid out a table with natural materials like twigs, cones, seedheads and some cardboard containers so the kids could make Bug Hotels. From lunchtime onwards the children coming from school were in making their Bug Hotels with us. It was mad busy all day – we didn’t get to talk to each other or stop for about 4 hours! Everyone was so engaged with sowing the seeds and making an insect haven.
We had lovely chats with people all day long too. We approached visitors with a smile and invited them to come to the tables. Our excellent visibility meant people came up to us and asked what was going on. A lot of people had already heard about the Event and came directly over to us to take part.We invited the kids to make Bug Hotel to bring home so we supplied a hotel/box template for each child, showed them the materials they could choose from and we helped them to stuff their hotel full of cardboard, old weeds, twigs, feathers, dead leaves, stems from dead wildflowers, cotton wool. They tied a ribbon around the outside to hang it outside safely in their own garden/yard/balcony.
We invited visitors to sow some seeds into pots and showed them how to fill the pot with compost and talk to them about what type of compost to use by steering away from a peat based compost. We showed them how to sow seeds, getting them to choose what they’d like to grow – lettuces, rocket, beetroot, or maybe ornamentals like sweet pea, marigolds, nasturtiums, sunflowers. We supplied packets of seed with colourful pictures of the flowers and food on the outside to make it really easy – all the little girls chose Cosmos seeds!
We showed them how to finish off the top layer of compost and talk them through aftercare, watering, pricking out and potting on and talked about other plants that could grow nicely as companions. Everyone got a printed takeaway leaflet containing all information as well as taking home their planted pot. They had learned how to plant something from seed and how not to be afraid to get their hands dirty. It was great.
Our client, the Centre Managers were delighted. The central space inside their Centres looked great for the day with lots of activity going on. People’s curiosity got the better of them and they wandered over to see what was going on. Usually these are through-spaces where shoppers move from the supermarket to the escalator so it was really nice to see something engaging going on there. The Managers also wanted to say thank you to customers and shoppers by engaging in a meaningful way with them and to offer some topical advice on environmental issues and to give back “something for free” to local people and loyal customers to give them a feel-good experience
by giving them a free plant and a free Bug Hotel.
And then there was the chat. People told us about their gardens, their allotments, their school gardens, their community garden projects. Shoppers told us they felt sowing seeds and making bug hotels were helping resolve climate change and other global environmental issues.
Some people told us they had never planted anything before and that they only ever cut the grass. Others were planting all their lives and had gardens, allotments and bee hives. Some children learned about planting in school with their school garden and they want to do it at home and some kids have seeds planted all over the garden and in their grandparents garden.
Some people wanted to know more about beehives and were very interested in our bee expert’s advice. Some people wanted gardening advice – when to prune a climber, what to grow in a shady corner etc. One 12 year old boy had a starter beehive and was hoping a queen bee would take up residence.
We were thrilled that everyone was very aware of the importance of helping to save the bees and other pollinating insects and provide food for birds. They were very animated about the over use of pesticides and felt the message should be “Do Not Ever Use Pesticides”. Even though we don’t like printing too much on paper, this time everyone wanted our step by step leaflet with the top 5 bee-attracting plants and tips for bees. A large number of people took the leaflets for someone at home who couldn’t be there on the day.
So many people engaged with us and told us their stories of how they garden, how aware they are of the environment and recycling and re-using, the importance of attracting wildlife and pollinators into our environment. Most people went home determined to help save the bees and other pollinators, and happy knowing they were already doing their bit for the environment by what they had in their gardens. One woman told us: “We heard about it on Sunshine Radio and saw the posters in the shopping centre the week before and decided to come down to help save the bees”. Another man came back at the end and said “I used to kill bees as a child and suck out their honey – now I want to help all bees by mixing sugar and water to revive bumblebees on a sunny day – I owe them that much”. And another man told us “Watering your plants is like putting Vinegar on your Chips!”
At the end of the day, the Green Edge team go home and analyse the power of these workshops and we realise that the simple act of placing bright flowering plants and bunting in the middle of a generic shopping centre plaza causes a stir and it sparks people’s interest.
People slowed right down and talked to each other and we chatted to them about protecting and greening their gardens and outdoor spaces and how we can all encourage biodiversity.
Then there is always that lovely generosity of knowledge shared from both sides when the customers give us garden advice. And we always love people’s surprise that the plants and seeds and bug hotels were a gift and that everything was free of charge.
Green Edge is a Creative Collaborative with a Green Agenda
Esther Gerrard :: Marion Keogh :: Róisín de Buitléar