Get To Know Renae McBrien, Founder of Tarragindi Community Garden

From a vision of creating a shared backyard where the community can grow their own food and share it with others, Renae McBrien is now leading one of the most successful community gardens in Brisbane, the Tarragindi Community Garden.

Read: Tarragindi Community Garden: Championing Domestic Waste Reduction

Whilst leading Tarragindi Community Garden, Renae McBrien has been serving as the Community, Horticulture and Environment Consultant for the Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service since 2020. 

As an environment consultant, her work involves promoting a healthier future for the children of Queensland through creating sensory and therapy landscapes of patients and staff and by reducing the environmental impact of the health care service through innovative recycling.

Before working at Queensland Children’s Hospital, she also served as the community garden and recycling consultant for Metro South Health.

Renae McBrien
Photo Credit: Tarragindi Community Garden/Facebook

Through Tarragindi Community Garden, Ms McBrien gets to lead free community workshops on composting, native bees, and worm farming.

Since opening the garden in 2020, the group has diverted 9 tonnes of organic waste from the landfill and converted it into free landscape supplies for the garden.

Every month, the group visits local Tarragindi child care centres and local primary schools to conduct recycling education sessions, and also give away free compost bags for the community.

Renae McBrien
Photo Credit: Tarragindi Community Garden/Facebook

One of their notable initiatives is the Tarragindi Toppers recycling hub, where recyclable materials such as bread tags, plastic lids, and beer and wine metal tops are being processed and then reused for circular economy projects.

For instance, the 61.4 kg of bread tags were handsorted into colours and donated to Transmutation in South Australia, where they are made into different plastic products, such as bowls, platters, and plant pots.

All their efforts have paid off, when the community garden received the 2021 WasteSMART Community Award, whilst Renae McBrien was named that year’s University of Queensland Brisbane’s WasteSMART Champion.

Read: Tarragindi Community Garden Celebrates WasteSMART Award Wins

At the last Sustainability and Science Showcase held in June 2022 at the Queensland Museum, Ms McBrien got to share her insights on how small steps in our homes can build a sustainable future.

Just recently, the group has successfully applied for the Lord Mayor’s Community Sustainability and Environmental Grants, and was awarded $2,244 which will be used to provide free herbs, harvest and plants to the community all year round as well as purse some big plans to make the garden bigger and better.

Tarragindi Community Garden Celebrates WasteSMART Award Wins

Tarragindi Community Garden, together with its founder, Renae McBrien, celebrate back-to-back wins at Brisbane’s WasteSMART Champions Awards 2021.

They were recognised for helping Brisbane hospitals adopt smarter clinical recycling methods and responsible waste management.

The 2021 WasteSMART Awards is a collaboration between Brisbane Sustainability Agency and Brisbane City Council with a prize pool of more than $4,000.

During the ceremony held at City Hall on 18 November 2021, eleven awards were handed out to recognise individuals and groups who have contributed to the preservation of the city’s natural environment. 

University of Queensland Brisbane’s WasteSMART Champion Renae McBrien was recognised for her role in mitigating waste from Brisbane landfills. Ms McBrien established the Tarragindi Community Garden Group in 2019 and has since devoted more than 850 hours doing volunteer work. 

Photo credit: Charmaine Consolati – Tarragindi Community Garden / Facebook

Through her small waste diversion and resource recovery projects, the city has mitigated about 9 tonnes of domestic and commercial organic waste since January 2020. As part of her advocacy, Ms McBrien also educated over 1,200 hospital staff about responsible waste management and clinical recycling methods.

“Tarragindi’s Renae McBrien has helped Brisbane hospitals adopt smarter recycling methods and she also dedicates time to educate the community about waste initiatives through her War on Waste Brisbane Facebook page,” Cr Steven Toomey said.

The Tarragindi Community Garden won the WasteSMART Community Award along with Ocean Crusaders Foundation Ltd. The Tarragindi Community Garden currently has over 1,000 social members. This community space has collected over 150 compost caddies and rescued over nine tonnes of food waste in the past 10 months. 

The community garden provides free harvest and garden produce, conducts sustainable education sessions, and runs their own Recycling Hub.

The other WasteSMART category winners are:

  • Councillors’ WasteSMART Choice Award – Karana Downs & Surrounds Community Garden Hub
  • WasteSMART Business Award (<19 employees) – Vessel Nundah
  • WasteSMART Business Award ( >20 employees) – Howard Smith Wharves
  • WasteSMART Early Learning Award – Bellbowrie Early Education Centre
  • WasteSMART Schools Award – Joint Winners: Mt St Michael’s College and Pallara State School Environment Club
  • Outstanding WasteSMART Award – Save Our Supplies
  • People’s Choice WasteSMART Award – Mt St Michael’s College.
Photo credit: Charmaine Consolati – Tarragindi Community Garden / Facebook

The finalists were judged by a panel of experts, except for the People’s Choice Awards which was determined through public voting.The other two finalists for the WasteSMART Champions Award were Holly & Charlie Garrity (Highly Recommended) and Pamela Gibson. On the other hand, Care Kits for Kids Qld Inc was WasteSMART Community Award Highly Recommended awardee. Other WasteSMART Community Award finalists were Save Our Supplies, eWaste Connection Limited, and Moreton Island Protection Committee.

Tarragindi Community Garden | 34 Esher St Tarragindi QLD 4121

Dispose of Old Pool Toys, Air Mattresses at the Tarragindi Recycling Bin

Do you have old pool toys, air mattresses, umbrellas or lunch boxes for disposal? As the Council’s kerbside collection remains suspended until mid-2022, consider dropping these items at the Tarragindi Community Garden at Wellers Hill Bowls Club, where there’s a Tarragindi Recycling Bin. 

The bin, an initiative by Tarragindi resident Renae McBrien, is accessible 24 hours a day and collected regularly. Ms McBrien’s team brings these broken or popped items to PLOYS, an initiative that repurposes old stuff into trendy bags, backpacks, smartphone cases, pouches or wallets to promote recycling and achieve zero waste.   

Photo Credit: PLOYS/Facebook

At the end of December 2020, Ms McBrien was able to collect a substantial number of recyclables that were taken to PLOYS’ Bundaberg site, where the items will be cleaned, repaired and sewn to become new products. 

Incidentally, PLOYS celebrated its first year of operation on 9 Jan 2021 with a price cut on its online eco-friendly items.

Ms McBrien is a radiographer, horticultural therapist and consultant on community gardening and recycling. She has been instrumental in helping Brisbane hospitals adopt smarter recycling methods.

“We have a responsibility to reduce the environmental impact of the health care service and to improve our hospital environments to increase our wellbeing and connection with nature,” Ms McBrien said.

The Council has recognised Ms McBrien’s contribution by awarding her the Waste Innovation 2019 award. She was also honoured with an International Woman of the Year citation and a Planetree Kindness Award in recent years.

Photo Credit: Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner/Facebook