Community Gardening: Integrating Social Responsibility and Sustainability in a Higher Education Setting—A Case Study from Australia

  • Johannes M. LuetzEmail author
  • Stephen Beaumont
Part of the World Sustainability Series book series (WSUSE)


Community gardening (CG) has been the subject of growing interest, both within and without the realm of academia. The reasons for this increase in interest are straightforward, given that CG typically offers benefits in at least three areas: (1) fostering a sense of community among contributing stakeholders; (2) promoting a sense of social responsibility; and (3) heightening awareness in areas of sustainability. As such CG is typically recognised as having the capacity to conjointly meet core human needs. This paper presents a case study that describes the inception and progressive implementation of a community garden project (“campus greening”), set within the university context of a private higher education (HE) provider in Brisbane, Australia. The paper charts progress made to date, highlights hurdles that have had to be overcome, distils relevant lessons learned, and extrapolates success factors for future similar projects. Capitalising on ‘right timing’ emerges as a critical success factor for incentivising, progressing and implementing CG projects. The case study analysis also culminates in a shortlist of tentative recommendations for different stakeholders: (1) soliciting input from alternative leaders; (2) building supportive interdepartmental coalitions; (3) building a broad stakeholder base; and (4) building momentum and support through unconventional means. Experiences and lessons gathered in this paper will be useful for education stakeholders who are interested to use CG to promote community, social responsibility, and sustainability.


Community gardening Higher education Social responsibility Sustainability Sustainable development 



The authors wish to thank Paul Willis for his enthusiastic support of the community garden, Kyano Maddock for his practical logistical help with successive ‘secretive’ seed pack and invitation letter distributions, Noah, Daniel and Aurora Lütz Barrón, and Leila Margus, for their creative invitation letter artwork and design, Kirsty Andersen for her copy-editorial support, Stephen Jones and Jesse Keech for their volunteering spirit during ‘working bees’, and the School of Social Sciences for the constructive input and enduring support throughout the community garden design phase.


  1. Alaimo K, Reischl TM, Allen JO (2010) Community gardening, neighborhood meetings, and social capital. J Commun Psychol 38(4):497–514Google Scholar
  2. Aplin G (1998) Australians and their environment: an introduction to environmental studies. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  3. Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC 2007) Gardening Australia: creating a school garden. Feature length documentary: 30 mins. ABC Commercial. Marcom ProjectsGoogle Scholar
  4. Bawany S (2014) Managing your boss: the two-way conversation of management. Leadersh Excellence Essentials 31(10):47. Accessed 7 June 2018
  5. Bloom JW (2006) Creating a classroom community of young scientists, 2nd edn. Routledge, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  6. Brown-Fraser S, Forrester I, Rowel R, Richardson A, Nicole Spence A (2015) Development of a community organic vegetable garden in Baltimore, Maryland: a student service-learning approach to community engagement. J Hunger Environ Nutr 10(3):409–436. Scholar
  7. Bryman A (2016) Social research methods, 5th edn. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  8. Calverley J (2017) The urban farmer: how to create a productive garden in any space. Harper Collins, SydneyGoogle Scholar
  9. Candlin A (2011) The self-sufficiency manual: a complete, practical guide to living off the land. Murdoch Books, Millers PointGoogle Scholar
  10. Cheang CC, So WW, Zhan Y, Tsoi KH (2017) Education for sustainability using a campus eco-garden as a learning environment. Int J Sustain High Educ 18(2):242–262. Scholar
  11. Christian Heritage College/CHC Higher Education (CHC 2015) CHC strategic plan—towards 2020: ‘Raising the standard’ 2015–2019. Resource document. Author. Accessed 28 Apr 2018
  12. Christian Heritage College/CHC Higher Education (CHC 2018) CHC rates among the best in national rankings. General CHC news. Online news article. Accessed 29 Apr 2018
  13. Cilliers F, Greyvenstein H (2012) The impact of silo mentality on team identity: An organisational case study. SA J Indus Psychol/SA Tydskrif vir Bedryfsielkunde 38(2), Art. #993. Accessed 7 June 2018
  14. Collins English Dictionary (n.d.). Working bee. Online dictionary entry. Accessed 7 June 2018
  15. Crane A, Matten D, McWilliams A, Moon J, Siegel DS (2009) The Oxford handbook of corporate social responsibility. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  16. Creswell JW (2013) Qualitative Inquiry and research design: choosing among five approaches, 3rd edn. Sage, Thousand OaksGoogle Scholar
  17. Creswell JW (2014) Research design: qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods approaches. Sage, Thousand OaksGoogle Scholar
  18. Davies A (2012) Enterprising communities: grassroots sustainability innovations. Advances in ecopolitics vol 9. Emerald, Bingley, UKGoogle Scholar
  19. Drake L, Lawson LJ (2015) Results of a US and Canada community garden survey: shared challenges in garden management amid diverse geographical and organizational contexts. Agric Hum Values 32(2):241–254Google Scholar
  20. Draper C, Freedman D (2010) Review and analysis of the benefits, purposes, and motivations associated with community gardening in the United States. J Commun Pract 18(4):458–492Google Scholar
  21. Fell D (2011) Vertical gardening: grow up, not out, for more vegetables and flowers in much less space. Rodale, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  22. Fetzer AV, Aaron S (2010) Climb the green ladder: make your company and career more sustainable. Wiley, ChichesterGoogle Scholar
  23. Fisk P (2010) People, planet, profit: how to embrace sustainability for innovation and business growth. Kogan Page, LondonGoogle Scholar
  24. George DR (2013) Harvesting the biopsychosocial benefits of community gardens. Am J Public Health 103(8):e6. Accessed 7 June 2018Google Scholar
  25. Gilbert CG (2005) Understanding the structure of Inertia: resources versus routine Rigidity. Acad Manag J 48(5):741–763Google Scholar
  26. Guitart DA, Pickering CM, Byrne JA (2014) Color me healthy: food diversity in school community gardens in two rapidly urbanising Australian cities. Health Place 26:110–117Google Scholar
  27. Hammerman DR, Hammerman WM (1973, eds) Outdoor education: A book of readings, 2nd ed. Burgess, MinneapolisGoogle Scholar
  28. Hardin G (1968) The tragedy of the commons. Science 162(3859):1243–1248. Scholar
  29. Harris E (2009) The role of community gardens in creating healthy communities. Aust Planner 46(2):24–27. Scholar
  30. Henriques A (2010) Corporate impact: measuring and managing your social footprint. Earthscan, LondonGoogle Scholar
  31. Hensmans M, Johnson G, Yip G (2012) Strategic transformation: changing while winning. Palgrave MacMillan, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  32. Hey S (2013) Mega churches: origins, ministry and prospects. Mosaic, Preston, VicGoogle Scholar
  33. Hodges Snyder E, McIvor K, Brown S (2016) Sowing seeds in the city: human dimensions. Springer Science & Business Media, NetherlandsGoogle Scholar
  34. Hoffman AJ, Wallach J, Sanchez E (2010) Rediscovering community: Interethnic relationships and community gardening. Gateways: Int J Commun Res Engagem 3:171–184Google Scholar
  35. Huckle J, Sterling S (eds) (1996) Education for sustainability. Earthscan/Routledge, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  36. Johnson B (1995) Earth education: learning to live more lightly on the earth. In: Kraft RJ, Kielsmeier J (eds) Experiential learning: In schools and higher education. Association for Educational Learning, Kendall/Hunt, Boulder, CO, pp 123–127Google Scholar
  37. Johnson RB, Christensen L (2017) Educational research: quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods approaches, 6th edn. Sage, Thousand OaksGoogle Scholar
  38. Kerfoot K (1998) Leading change is leading creativity. Pediatr Nurs 24(2):180–181Google Scholar
  39. Kitzman-Ulrich H, Momoh J, Martin A, DeHaven M (2013) Community gardens. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  40. Kotter JP (2011) Change management vs. change leadership—what’s the difference? Forbes. Online article. Accessed 14 Feb 2018
  41. Kotter JP (2012) Leading change. Harvard Business Review Press, BostonGoogle Scholar
  42. Kotter JP, Cohen DS (2002) The heart of change: real-life stories of how people change their organizations. Harvard Business Review Press, BostonGoogle Scholar
  43. Kraft RJ, Kielsmeier J (1995) Experiential learning: In schools and higher education. Association for Educational Learning, Kendall/Hunt, BoulderGoogle Scholar
  44. Kurlantzick J (2013) Democracy in retreat: the revolt of the middle class and the worldwide decline of representative government. Yale University Press, New HavenGoogle Scholar
  45. Laycock Pedersen R, Robinson Z (2018) Reviewing university community gardens for sustainability: taking stock, comparisons with urban community gardens and mapping research opportunities. Local Environ 23(6):652–671Google Scholar
  46. Leal Filho W (ed) (2018) Handbook of sustainability science and research. Springer, ChamGoogle Scholar
  47. Luetz JM, Walid M (2019) Social responsibility versus sustainable development in United nations policy documents: a study of key terms in human development reports. In Leal Filho W (ed) Social responsibility and sustainability: how businesses and organizations can operate in a sustainable and socially responsible way. Springer Nature, Switzerland.
  48. Luetz JM, Buxton G, Bangert K (2018) Christian theological, hermeneutical and eschatological perspectives on environmental sustainability and creation care: the role of holistic education. In Luetz JM, Dowden T, Norsworthy B (eds) Reimagining Christian education: cultivating transformative approaches, (Ch 4). Springer, Singapore, pp 51–73. Scholar
  49. MacFayden JS (2013) Culture of innovation. Holist Nurs Pract 27(4):196–198Google Scholar
  50. Marsh P, Spinaze A (2016) Community gardens as sites of solace and end-of-life support: a literature review. Int J Palliat Nurs 22(5):214–219Google Scholar
  51. Marsh P, Gartell G, Egg G, Cross M (2017) End-of-life care in a community garden: findings from a participatory action research project in regional Australia. Health Place 45:110–116. Scholar
  52. Mason J (2002) Qualitative researching, 2nd edn. Sage, LondonGoogle Scholar
  53. McIvor DW, Hale J (2016) Common roots: urban agriculture’s potential for cultivating deep democracy. In: Hodges Snyder E, McIvor K, Brown S (eds) Sowing seeds in the city: human dimensions. Springer Science & Business Media, Netherlands, pp 179–188Google Scholar
  54. McRae K (1990) Outdoor and environmental education: diverse purposes and practices. Macmillan, South MelbourneGoogle Scholar
  55. Milliron BJ, Vitolins MZ, Gamble E, Jones R, Chenault MC, Tooze JA (2017) Process evaluation of a community garden at an urban outpatient clinic. J Commun Health 42(4):639–648. Scholar
  56. Moorhouse PA (2014) Dialogic landscape: reciprocity between a campus garden and a university community. Northern Arizona University, unpublished thesis, on file with authorsGoogle Scholar
  57. Nelson W, Luetz JM (2019) What can we learn from Pope Francis about change management for environmental sustainability? A case study on success factors for leading change in change resistant institutional environments. In: Leal Filho W, Consorte-McCrea A (eds) Handbook of sustainability and humanities. Springer, Cham, Switzerland, pp 503–524. Scholar
  58. Okvat HA, Zautra AJ (2011) Community gardening: a parsimonious path to individual, community, and environmental resilience. Am J Commun Psychol 47(3–4):374–387Google Scholar
  59. Parr H (2007) Mental health, nature work, and social inclusion. Environ Plann D: Soc Space 25(3):537–561Google Scholar
  60. Peters J (1992) Total strategy. Manag Decis 30(8):12–21Google Scholar
  61. Punch KF (2014) Introduction to social research: quantitative and qualitative approaches, 3rd edn. Sage, Thousand OaksGoogle Scholar
  62. Quality Indicators in Learning and Teaching (QILT n.d.) Compare student experience and graduate employment: find a study area or institution. Online resource. Author Accessed 28 Apr 2018
  63. Raffan J (1995) The experience of place: exploring land as teacher. In: Kraft RJ, Kielsmeier J (eds) Experiential learning: in schools and higher education. Association for Educational Learning, Kendall/Hunt, Boulder, pp 128–136Google Scholar
  64. Rodale A (2006) Precious garden of hope. Prevention 58(8):204Google Scholar
  65. Schweitzer A (1996) Brothers in spirit: the correspondence of Albert Schweitzer and William Larimer Mellon, Jr. Syracuse University Press, New York, NY Google Scholar
  66. Scoggins HL (2010) University garden stakeholders: student, industry, and community connections. HortTechnology 20(3):528–529Google Scholar
  67. Stake RE (1995) The art of case study research. Sage, Thousand OaksGoogle Scholar
  68. Strout K, Jemison J, O’Brien L, Wihry D, Waterman T (2017) GROW: green organic vegetable gardens to promote older adult wellness: a feasibility study. J Commun Health Nurs 34(3):115–125Google Scholar
  69. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs n.d.) Goal 4: ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning. Online resource. United Nations. Accessed 6 June 2018
  70. Tangwanichagapong S, Nitivattananon V, Mohanty B, Visvanathan C (2017) Greening of a campus through waste management initiatives: experience from a higher education institution in Thailand. Int J Sustain High Educ 18(2):203–217Google Scholar
  71. Tattersall A (2010) Power in coalition: strategies for strong unions and social change. Allen & Unwin, Crows NestGoogle Scholar
  72. Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA 2017) Australian Government. Accessed 7 June 2018
  73. The Garden Project (2018) We don’t just grow plants, we grow people too. Online resource. Author. Accessed 26 Apr 2018
  74. University of California (UoC 2018) Community gardens: what is a community garden? Online resource. Author. Accessed 22 Apr 2018
  75. Walid M, Luetz JM (2018) From education for sustainable development to education for environmental sustainability: reconnecting the disconnected SDGs. In: Leal Filho W (ed) Handbook of sustainability science and research. Springer International, Berlin, Germany, pp 803–826Google Scholar
  76. Wattchow B, Brown M (2011) A pedagogy of place: outdoor education for a changing world. Monash University, ClaytonGoogle Scholar
  77. World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED 1987) Our common future. Brundtland Report. Oxford University Press, Oxford. Accessed 5 Mar 2018
  78. Wozniak JR, Bellah J, Riley JM (2016) Building a community garden: a collaborative cross-disciplinary academic community engagement project. J Bus Strat 33(2):95–115Google Scholar
  79. Yin RK (2009) Case study research: design and methods, 4th edn. Sage, Thousand OaksGoogle Scholar
  80. Yin RK (2012) Applications of case study research, 3rd edn. Sage, Thousand OaksGoogle Scholar
  81. Zick CD, Smith KR, Kowalski-Jones L, Uno C, Merrill BJ (2013) Harvesting more than vegetables: the potential weight control benefits of community gardening. Am J Public Health 103(6):1110–1115Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CHC Higher EducationBrisbane, CarindaleAustralia
  2. 2.University of New South Wales (UNSW)SydneyAustralia
  3. 3.School of Social SciencesCHC Higher EducationBrisbane, CarindaleAustralia

Personalised recommendations