Week 21 – Chemotherapy

May is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. For one of my actions in my challenge last year I learned about breast cancer and did some fundraising for the Breast Cancer Society (https://camilla4peace.wordpress.com/2014/08/31/number-66-fundraising-for-breast-cancer-awareness-and-research). For my action this week I thought I would learn more about chemotherapy, as I have heard it can be effective in treating some cancers, but can also be devastating to the body.

What I discovered

Chemotherapy uses drugs to destroy cancer cells. It works by stopping or slowing the growth of cells which grow and divide quickly (like cancer cells, but also healthy cells that grow and divide quickly, like in the mouth, intestines and ones that make your hair grow).

Chemotherapy can be used to cure or control cancer, or ease the symptoms (e.g. reducing the size of a tumour which causes pain). I did know that there were other therapies for cancer but did not realise they are often used in conjunction with chemotherapy. I looked on the internet for natural remedies for cancer. I found a lot of positive testimonials for many different herbal medicines, though struggled to find resources that backed these up with peer-reviewed scientific studies. It seemed many reputable cancer organisations said there was a need for greater research in to natural/herbal therapies, though it did not seem that they were willing to carry out many/any of these studies.


I organised a ‘Pink Ribbon Breakfast’ for my colleagues, family and associates. I raised $130 which I will be donating to the New Zealand Breast Cancer Society.


Week 20 – Appreciation

I help manage a soup kitchen and serve once a week. Before each meal, one of the patrons blesses the food and says a karakia (Maori prayer). I was so moved by the prayer a lady said this time:

‘Dear God, thank you for this meal and for those who have prepared it… please bless those that are less fortunate than ourselves‘.

It really made me think; because a lady living in poverty and struggling with day-to-day living asked for those less fortunate than her to be protected. So for this week, I decided to learn more about appreciation.

What I discovered

Appreciation is defined as the recognition and enjoyment of good qualities of someone or something. And there has been some interesting research conducted around appreciation and gratitude which has found that people practicing gratitude are happier and less stressed. This website listed scientifically-proven strategies for learning how to appreciate what you have and stop wanting more: http://www.happify.com/hd/how-to-appreciate-what-you-have/, which included getting to know someone who does not have what you have, and giving to others.


I made a donation to the New Zealand ‘Make A Wish Foundation’ (www.makeawish.org.nz), who work to grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions. The charity is based on the desire to enrich the child’s life with with hope, strength and joy. This was my action because I realise how lucky I have been my entire life so far – I have had some pretty amazing experiences and done some really awesome things, and I’d love to help enable someone else to also have a wonderful experience that is meaningful to them.

Week 19 – Plastic bags

I avoid using disposable plastic shopping bags where I can but cannot say I am living anywhere near ‘plastic free’. Recently I became coordinator for a campaign to stop the use of disposable plastic bags in supermarkets in my city and realised it was time to be more aware and proactive about my use of plastic.

What I discovered

I went to a presentation by a university lecturer and a Green Party MP about plastic and in particular plastic bags. I learned that the average plastic shopping bag is used for about 12 minutes. One trillion (1,000,000,000,000) are thrown away each year, and hundred of thousands of sea animals die each year because they ingest, suffocate or get trapped in them. The oil used to make one plastic bag could power a car for 115m.


I will be carrying out the Plastic Free July challenge this year – http://www.plasticfreejuly.org and be an ambassador for the campaign in New Zealand. I am also helping organise a community event to help people engage with the Plastic Free July campaign. I have started making sure I have a re-usable bag with me at all times, so I can say no to plastic bags. I distributed ‘Say No To Plastic Bags’ stickers and wrote a letter to the Environment Minister asking her to declare single-use plastic bags a ‘priority product’ under the New Zealand Waste Minimisation Act 2005, which means they could be restricted and phased out in the near future.

Week 18 – Living wage

I was put in touch with someone from the New Zealand Living Wage Movement and realised this is something I needed to learn more about.

What I discovered

A living wage is the hourly wage needed for a family to meet basic needs: to live simply but with dignity. The living wage is constantly changing, and almost always increasing (following the cost of living): last year it was $18.80/hr NZD, and this year it is $19.25/hr NZD. Between 500,000 and 750,000 people in New Zealand are living in households with incomes below the poverty line, and the gap between rich and poor continues to increase.


I went to a hearing with the city council, and spoke to councillors and the Mayor about why the council providing a living wage to all its employees would be a good example to businesses in the region. I do not know whether the presentation will have any immediate effect on the council, but hopefully change will occur with time if the Living Wage Movement persists with its message.

Week 17 – Family meals

I chose ‘family meals’ as a topic because I noticed that our family does not all sit down together and have dinner together. There are several reasons for this (my partner’s shift work, eating at different times because of our schedules, not having a dining table, and others) but it is something I wish we did (it was certainly a memorable part of my childhood).

What I discovered

There has actually been quite a lot of research in to the importance of family meals and eating together. It seems to be especially beneficial for children and teenagers, with many studies showing positive effects (e.g. high academic attainment, strong family bonds, decreased likelihood of smoking/drinking in adolescence). The research also showed preparing food and eating together was important in terms of teaching children how to cook and how to nourish themselves.


I will be putting in more effort to make sure we have more meals together as a family each week (whether that be breakfast, lunch or dinner). We have a small table which I can bring in to our living room and we can sit on the floor around it: maybe not a fancy dining table, but better than nothing!

Also, I decided to help a lady with several grandchildren living with her with her groceries: she has been coming to soup kitchen serves because her money runs out and she cannot afford to buy food. The location of the soup kitchen is changing and she will no longer be able to come, so each week I will bring her a little box of grocery items, so that she and her family can enjoy nourishing meals together.

Week 16 – Insulation

Winter is coming to New Zealand. Our house is old and very poorly insulated, and I have wanted to make it more energy-efficient since we moved here a year ago. So for week 16’s action I decided to learn a bit more about insulation, including the positive and negative environmental impacts.

What I learned

Among others, I read the article ‘Insulating Materials: Environmental Comparisons’ : http://www.civil.uwaterloo.ca/beg/ArchTech/EBN_insulation_1995.pdf. I found it offered a good comparison for different insulating materials.

I learned many things, including that certain insulating materials contribute to ozone-depletion (as they contains CFC’s) and that most kinds of insulating materials contain recycled materials (this percentage can vary from 5% to 100%). In terms of embodied energy, cellulose insulation and then wool insulation are the lowest, but both of these have low insulating power per metre, compared with some of the less sustainably sourced materials.


We installed insulation in our house: the underfloor insulation is wool, and the roof insulation is wool mixed with plastic from recycled bottles. It was placed thickly enough so that it is suitably insulating, and we already feel the difference. It was more expensive than some of the other alternatives, but I am happy that is is an environmentally-considerate product.

I also added the company that installed it to the mailing list of the Sustainable Business Network, so that when there are events they can come and network and promote their work and sustainable products to others.