Talking to Children about Earth Care

Earlier this week, the Enviroschools Programme held an action-packed learning day for children in the Waikato (Aotearoa, New Zealand). The theme of the day was ‘Creating Catalysts for Change’, and I was invited to deliver workshops as well as be the keynote speaker.

In the keynote speech I wanted to empower the children so they felt able to take on the challenge of being considerate, conscious citizens. But I also really wanted to let them know that while there is important work to be done, they do not need to shoulder the entire burden. I think because of my own experiences of learning about issues and then feeling like I must solve all the problems, I wanted to make sure the children knew they would not have to do this alone.

My speech:

Kia ora koutou. Greetings to all of you.

Ngā mihi tuatahi ki ngā atua. Papatūānuku kei raro, Ranginui kei runga, me au rāua tamariki kei waenganui. Ngā mihi tuarua ki ngā mana whenua o tēnei rohe ātaahua. Me ngā mihi nui ki a koutou, ngā kaimahi, ngā kaiako, me ngātamariki mokopuna.

Greetings firstly to the Gods. Papatūānuku, the Earth Mother, below. Ranginui, the Sky Father, above. And all of their children from which the Earth was populated. Secondly, greetings to the mana whenua of this beautiful area. Thank you for letting us use this space. And of course greetings to all the staff, volunteers, teachers, and all of you kids.

Nō Ūropa ōku tūpuna. Kei Kirikiriroa tōku kāinga. Ko Camilla tōku ingoa. My family is originally from Europe, and I now live in Kirikiriroa Hamilton. My name is Camilla.

Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.

Nau mai, haere mai and welcome to what I think is going to be an amazing day! You are all going to be making, learning, and doing lots of different things, and I hope you have heaps of fun.

The theme for today is ‘Creating Catalysts for Change’. A catalyst is something that speeds something up, so a ‘catalyst for change’ is something or someone who helps speed up change… and any guess who we are talking about? YOU! 🙂

We are all here as Enviroschools and environmental organisations, and our kaupapa (reason) for today is all about how all of us can become catalysts for change to help protect our beautiful nature, and all the ecosystems on which we depend… which also just so happens to be the same ecosystems all animals, and all of life depend on as well!

There are a lot of ways we can help create change to protect Papatūānuku, nature, and our environment, and I would like to talk about three:

The first is our everyday actions and behaviours. Because all know that everything we do and every choice we make can have an impact -positive or negative- on the environment, right?

Can anyone tell me some of the everyday things we can do to look after the environment?

  • Recycling
  • Not wasting electricity
  • Not wasting water
  • Walking and cycling
  • Not dropping rubbish where it shouldn’t be.

The second thing we can do is to be an active citizen. That means taking part in activities and groups that are doing things to look after the Earth.

Raise your hand if you are part of an environment team or club, or you have done conservation work, or you are part of a group that works to look after the world, like Greenpeace or Friends of the Earth? (pretty much everyone raises their hand)

Another thing people can do to be active citizens is to write to people that have decision-making power, and who can change a lot of stuff. Raise your hand if you have written to people in charge to tell them what you think – maybe a local politician or MP, a company, or even your headteacher? (lots raise their hand)

Writing to people is a great way to get change happening and it is brilliant because everyone can do it; it doesn’t matter how old you are. And that is really cool because there are lots of things that only adults get to do, aren’t there? You kids aren’t the ones that buy the groceries, or choose the power company in your house. You guys don’t get to vote in elections yet.

But talking and writing to people that can make these decisions is something everyone can do, including kids! 🙂

And that brings me to the third way all of us can be ‘Catalysts for Change’: talking to people and using your voices to inspire others.

Hands up, how many of you have family or friends? (everyone raises their hands)

What about other people? Do any of you ever talk to your neighbours, someone in the supermarket, people visiting your house? (most raise their hands)

All the people in your lives, whether you see them once or every day, they are all people that might be interested in talking to you and learning about your ideas for looking after the planet.

And I have to say, the power of talking to people to inspire change cannot be overestimated! Because each time we hear something, it enters our conscious or subconscious thoughts, and then our brain thinks about it. So every time you tell your teachers about how you are growing your own veggies in your garden, or each time you remind your parents that they can recycle bottles instead of putting them in the trash, or each time you let your friends know that they need to make sure the lights and heater are off when they leave a room… all that contributes to change in the way people think and act in their environment and in the world.

I have one more thing to say, and it is pretty important. You may hear many times in your life that you kids are the ‘future generation’, that you are the future guardians of the Earth, and that what you do and how you treat the planet is really important.

I have got to say, those people are spot on. They are 100% correct.

But I also want to let you know that even though there is lots to be done to protect and restore our planet, you don’t need to do it all by yourselves: it is a team effort, and there are lots of people already doing lots of stuff!

And guess what? When I was your age, I was told the exact same thing about being ‘the future guardians of the Earth’. And do you know what else? When my parents were kids, they got told the exact same thing, too.

Each generation and each person has a responsibility to look after the planet. Not just the kids! We have all got to do what we can.

So while all of you go and do all the activities and learn all sorts of things today, and then you go back to your schools and homes and think about all the things you have learnt, and then when you go and live and act and do things in your communities… please get excited about nature and our awesome planet Earth, and share your passion with others.

I have got to warn you, sometimes it might be difficult. Sometimes you might find you have two values and they conflict with each other, or you might face obstacles and challenges – kei te pai, that is OK. It is times like that, that I try to remember a phrase that is really important in our family:

‘We do what we can’.

We try our best to live sustainability; sometimes we do pretty well, sometimes not so well, at all. But we do try our best. And we do the three things as often as possible:

  1. Behaviours and actions: doing good stuff
  2. Active citizenship: getting others to do good stuff
  3. Communicating: talking about all that god stuff.

Thank you for listening and joining in this kōrero (discussion). I hope you have heaps of fun today, and get to show your teachers and friends how creative you are, and how much you care about Papatūānuku and our planet.

Bye for now 🙂

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Guerrilla Gardening with Kids

Setting the scene

A friend of mine, Briar, co-ordinates an after-school club, Kirikiriroa Explorers, which focuses on getting kids in and engaged with nature and our local community. It is pretty grassroots-y, there are several of us that help run it, we sometimes make it up as we go along (with the help of the kids), parents can pay using TimeBank credits, and it is a pretty cool little group I am happy to be quite involved with (plus it gets my daughter out and about, too).

I was the main facilitator for several weeks this term (while Briar was away) and I had a great time sussing out what we would be doing.

One week, we went on a scavenger hunt in our local (and rather stunning) botanical gardens. The next week we went to a conservation project site to plant natives, and visited a community garden. But then the third week was extra fun: we trained the kids in guerrilla gardening, and did some guerrilla planting!

What we did

First, we got everyone ready. We put on ninja, superhero, camouflage and other disguises, and thought up secret names for everyone – just in case we got caught! 😀

 

Next, it was important to lay down some ground rules and discuss guerrilla gardening etiquette. We stressed the importance of only using unused/underused public land. We covered which plants were suitable, and where (no non-natives in the bush, no invasive weeds, etc.). We showed them this great video covering the top 10 rules for guerrilla gardening:

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Guerrilla Gardening Training, so the kids are responsible guerrilla gardeners!

Then we went out into the field. There were quite a few of us so the kids decided to split into two groups: some people were going to garden, and others were going to keep watch in case of approaching City Council Officials. They even made up code words, alert calls, and a Emergency Plan in case official-looking people looked like they were coming to tell us off (I feel I should add that while guerrilla gardening isn’t really allowed, in reality it is barely/rarely frowned upon, and in my opinion it is possibly one of the most peaceful, positive and beautiful kinds of resistance that we can engage in. Anyway, they had fun!).

We ended up planting 2 plum trees and about 10 edibles in a few of the nearby green spaces (edibles were marked with ribbons, so they don’t get mown).

 

Then we ‘returned to Base’ and prepared some seed bombs which they could take home and distribute in their own time (again, big focus was placed on where it is OK to throw different kinds of seed bombs).

All in all, a great afternoon!

www.guerrillagardening.org 

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Left to right: Captain Mustache, Sparkly Cupcake (yes, that is my child and she made up that name -.-) and I, Swirly-Face.

Plastic Free July – Reflections

In July, our household attempts the Plastic Free July challenge. I can’t say the whole house (comprised of myself, my daughter, my partner, and our boarder) embraces the challenge with the same level of enthusiasm or commitment, but we do try.

There are a number of variations of the challenge, with our (ahem… my) goal to be avoiding all single-use plastic. I shall say it straight away – we were not successful. It is darn hard avoiding plastic. It is sneaky and pervasive, and sometimes it seems to just take a moment of distraction for it to find its way in.

Here are some of my reflections from the challenge:

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    Furoshiki wrapping for presents – one way to avoid plastic Sellotape and (often plastic wrapped) wrapping paper.

    It gets easier with time. This is our third year doing it, and now that many plastic free habits (started in previous years) have become part of our everyday routine, the change required for the July challenge is not as major as before.

  • There are sometimes ethical compromises. I found that sometimes going for plastic free options conflicted with other ethical factors we take into consideration when purchasing. For example, we usually buy a fair trade organic coffee but it comes in packaging containing plastic. During the challenge we bought a different (non-fair trade, non-organic) brand in a glass bottle, but this is not a change we have kept up beyond the challenge because overall for this product we prefer supporting fair trade and organic over plastic-free-ness. But we find we assess each item/conflict on a case-by-case basis, because there are often multiple considerations to factor in.
  • Not being prepared can contribute to plastic sneaking in. A number of occasions when ‘plastic happened’ was when plans changed or I wasn’t prepared. For example: leaving the house without snacks for my daughter; not doing groceries and having to use something containing plastic that was already in the cupboard/fridge from before the challenge. Having said that, I am not one for meal plans and organisation when it comes to food, and mostly I was still successful with the plastic-free lunch boxes and snacks. And even a few take-aways!

 

 

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    Tattoo plastic

    Sometimes things are more important than the challenge. For example, I am on medication and it comes in plastic packaging. I need to take the medicine, and my health comes before the challenge. Basta. Another example is one night when my partner prepared a ‘home date night’ for us which involved a film and (plastic wrapped) popcorn: I could have rejected the popcorn and avoided the plastic, but it was more important to accept his gesture. The popcorn was delicious.

  • During a plastic free challenge is not a great time to get a tattoo. I did try to say I didn’t want to wrap it up, but it was company policy to cover it before I left.
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    Plastic free meat: frozen fish, free-range eggs, tinned beef, glass jar of meat spread (I did not know that was a thing!), tinned tuna, byo container of ham.

    Plastic-free eating seems to lead to healthier eating. By eliminating plastic, suddenly lots of packaged, more processed food is eliminated. We ended up eating a lot more fresh, simple food, with less sugar, salt and other additives. Meat might be the exception to this though, see below!

  • It can get you thinking outside the box. My partner eats meat but his usual choices weren’t options during the challenge. Yes, there was some compromising on the free-range front 😦 but all in all I was very impressed at what he managed to find!
  • Being conscious of the things we buy and consume is part of ‘the solution’, but it doesn’t solve all the problems. The article Conscious Consumerism Is A Lie Here Is A Better Way To Save The World is probably one of the best articles I have read recently, and definitely puts everything into perspective. In a good way!

So how did we actually do? Well, as our boarder and my partner we ‘less actively involved’, I didn’t rigidly monitor their plastic. My daughter and I generated this much:

 

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If only I didn’t get two colds, there would have been no Lemsip sachets and only half the medicine packets! 

 

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A month worth of plastic. And almost all of it we were able to send to recycling.

Yes, there was plastic I could have avoided if I had planned better.

Yes, there was plastic I could have avoided if I had more energy/patience/will power.

Yes, there is plastic I could have avoided if I had more time.

But actually we tried really hard. We did our best at the time. And something I started telling my daughter when she started worrying about any plastic we happen to get, which I now also tell lot of people I meet who ask about ‘living sustainably/ethically’, and I even remind myself on a fairly regular basis:

We do what we can, when we can.

We can only do our best. And sometimes our best-at-that-time is super, and sometimes there is room to improve/learn 🙂


 

Some of the things I have found relatively easy to do in order to reduce the plastic in my life:

  • Purchase food in glass, paper, tin or no packaging whenever there is the option.
  • Not buying food that is in plastic packaging (or only buying the item occasionally).
  • Not using plastic wrap/Glad Wrap/cling film (beeswax wraps make good alternatives for sandwiches, for covering food I use a tea towel, and if all else fails I use baking paper).
  • Using a bamboo toothbrush
  • Using reusable items instead of disposables, for example cloth face wipes, handkerchiefs, menstrual products, and cloth nappies when my daughter was little.
  • Avoiding disposable items in general and especially ones that are/have plastic (straws, cotton buds, bags, cutlery, bottles, containers). For most items there are plastic-free alternatives.
  • Bringing my own containers, bags, coffee cup and/or refillable bottle.

Things I changed this July that I will be continuing throughout the year:

  • Using loose tea instead of tea bags.
  • Getting homemade soya milk from my colleague (in a glass bottle) whenever I can.
  • Making my own toothpaste.
  • Making my own deodorant (which has incidentally been the most effective deodorant I have ever used!).

There are some really great resources for going plastic-free. Some of my favourites are:

 

 

Refugees – Doing Our Bit

Earlier this week I went to a really interesting talk by Murdoch Stevens, who is an advocate for refugees and began the campaign Doing Our Bit – Double The Quota,

He talked about how current narratives around refugees (and policies pertaining to them) are often conveyed in a way that makes the issues about migrants versus other vulnerable people. He explained the importance of reframing these issues, so that they do not place people in competition against each other for resources.

For example, there is all this talk about how it costs around $80,000 to resettle a refugee – around $28,000 a year for roughly three years in New Zealand. (At this point it is also interesting to note that to keep someone in prison costs $90,000 for just one year.) What this figure fails to acknowledge is that most refugees coming here are families, and 45% are children… mostly people that will in time end up contributing to the economy.

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Murdoch Stevens talking in Kirikiriroa, 2017

But I believe that even if there was no direct financial incentive, there is still a moral duty. There is an ethical responsibility to do what we can to support vulnerable people, regardless of where they are from.

And in Aotearoa New Zealand that definitely means increasing the quota… this country ranks very poorly compared to other more economically developed nations – five times lower per capita intake than our neighbours in Australia, and 47 times fewer than Sweden, the top ranking nation.

There are strengths to having a quota system. It is good because it is a way of going out into the world and saying ‘yes, we want these people’. But the number really needs to increase (it hasn’t since 1987!), especially as -unlike many other countries- we get very few asylum seekers, because of our geographical isolation.

(For the difference between asylum seekers and refugees, click here)

Fortunately, from 2018 the NZ quota will increase from up to 750 people per year to up to 1000 people per year, but it is election year and nearly every party except National (who are currently in government) will increase it beyond that. So, fingers crossed for a change in government (for a multitude of other reasons, as well!).

Stevens said some really thought-provoking things. He pointed out the New Zealand does not often get into wars. New Zealanders like to spend money on humanitarian causes. New Zealanders are kind and generous people. And that there is compassion across the political spectrum (it isn’t just for ‘The Left’).

So let’s update the quota to reflect that 🙂

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Image from http://www.wpclipart.com

To stay up to date with news relating to human rights, and people who are internally displaces, seeking asylum, or refugees, I find the following organisations useful:

To volunteer to support refugees in Aotearoa New Zealand, contact Red Cross. Other countries will have different organisations doing great work in your local communities too, so it can be worth looking around to see who is doing what 🙂

(I have worked as a Refugee Resettlement Volunteer for several families coming to New Zealand and it was probably one of the most rewarding volunteer experiences I have had).

 

Options for More Sustainable/Ethical Procurement

This morning my colleague, Dr Anna Casey-Cox, and I ran a workshop on making more sustainable/ethical procurement choices. It was at a conference called Thriving in the 21st Century and the audience were mainly representatives from different organisations, not-for-profits, and social services. I mention this because often organisations like these do not have spare money to spend on non-essentials, so the aim of our workshop was to engage participants in making more sustainable/ethical procurement choices within financial constraints.

We began by showing the clip MAN by Steve Cutts, to reflect on the way we use nature and resources.

Anna introduced the idea of environmental and social externalities that occur when we produce ‘stuff’. These are unintended (and almost always unaccounted for) costs that arise during the production, processing, use and disposal of goods.

Having recently visited the USA and reflecting on food culture there, she used a burger as an example of a product where there are many environmental and social externalities that are not factored into price.

She said on average a good burger costs $4. This was for a bun, a bit of beef, a bit of cheese, a bit of lettuce, a slice of tomato, and a bit of relish.

A small selection of things the $4 price does not take into consideration are:

  • the cost of pollution to waterways as a result of cattle farming;
  • the environmental cost of the methane and other greenhouse gases that are emitted,
  • the environmental and health effects of the use of pesticides and fertilisers on the lettuce and tomatoes, and
  • the long term individual welfare and broader social implications of paying less than a livable wage to the people involved in preparing the food (growers, processors, cooks, wait staff).

Conservative calculations suggest that by the time externalities are taken into consideration, the $4 pricetag on the burger is probably less than half the true cost of the burger.

Anna observed that here in Aotearoa New Zealand, the dairy industry is seen as a huge industry on which we all depend (which might well be true). It is hailed as one of the essential parts for our economic success, domestically and internationally, contributing $8 billion to the GDP each year.  Yet if we factor in the environmental and social externalities, it may not even cover its own costs!

What we would like to see is the price of our commodities better reflecting the true cost of their production, use and disposal. This will help protect our communities and environment, but will also give us the opportunity to make more informed and conscious decision decisions.

This led on to the the next topic…

When it comes to making more sustainable/ethical consumption or procurement choices, we believe it is important to emphasise that sustainable/ethical choices look different for every individual/household/organisation: what works for one will not necessarily work for the other, as we all have different knowledge, time and resources available to us.

The process is just as important as the end result. So, instead of having a list of DOs and DON’Ts, we have a list of considerations and questions for aiding decision making.

For each purchasing decision, there are many factors to consider and often a persuasive factor is price. Other factors you might wish to incorporate, which take into consideration the welfare of people and the planet, are:

  • Which raw materials and resources were used to make this product? Are there more environmentally considerate options? For example, do we buy envelopes with plastic windows? These require paper, glues, and plastic (derived from fossil fuels). They also contaminate paper recycling. Could we use windowless envelopes instead?
  • What is the packaging on this item? Is it recyclable? Is it compostable? If not, are there alternatives with less packaging, or packaging that can be disposed of responsibly? The same questions can be asked about the item itself. For example, is there less packaging if we bulk buy pens? Or could we shift to pencils (maybe just some of the time?), as they produce less waste and the waste can be composted.
  • Where is the item made? Can we source the item locally? Then it has a lower carbon footprint, and it also support our local economy. For example, are the biscuits in the coffee room locally made or imported?

Labels and accreditations can also be helpful in identifying more sustainable/ethical options. For example the Fair Trade logo indicates producers received a fair wage for their products. There are various eco and environmental logos which can indicate the product has been produced in an environmentally considerate way. Product labels often say where something was made.

Image result for fair trade logo  Image result for environmental tick   Image result for kiwi made

Of course, Anna and I are hardcore passionate about environmental and social justice issues, but it is important to recognise that not everyone might be: we all have different values and different things we care about.

We believe that the first step to making more informed and conscious decisions is first reflecting on what is it that you/your organisation stands for? Then the next question can be ‘how do my procurement choices reflect these values?’

(So for example, if your organisation is about supporting members of the community manage their budget and become financially self-sufficient, buying local might be an important action to reflect your commitment to supporting local people, businesses and the community)

What we believe is important is that we all do what we can, when we can, which almost always means we can do SOMETHING. Most of us cannot change everything all in one go. But each change, and each conscious decision is a step forwards to your/your organisation’s goals, and every action helps make a difference.

I shall finish with this thought-provoking article:

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 http://www.evolveea.com/work/sustainable-consumption

Meathooked and the End of Water

This evening I went to a screening of Meathooked and the End of Water by VICE (who do some really brilliant documentaries – please check them out if you don’t already know them!)

The video has one graphic scene that some would find emotionally-charging (ahem, I did. My 4 year old was unphased, though). However, it is not your average stop-eating-meat-because-it-is-cruel-and-evil kind of documentary. Instead, it looks at the features of industrial agriculture and explores the unintended environmental impacts that result.

It especially looks at water and other resources that are needed to mass produce livestock to meet current demands, and talks to farmers and other people who are worried about what is going to happen once they run out of water (which for several people interviewed in the film will be happening quite soon!).

It is just short of half an hour long, and worth watching for anyone who eats food (i.e. pretty much everyone).

I would say ENJOY, but it isn’t really that kind of film. Perhaps more suitable would be WATCH, BE MOVED, then ACT 🙂

Thriving By Nature – Permaculture

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Next weekend my colleague and I begin running a Permaculture Design Certificate at our work. Unfamiliar with permaculture? This is a nice little clip where people explain what permaculture is to them.

I think that permaculture means different things to different people, and people choose to apply its principles and processes differently. But essentially, it is a series of 12 principles underpinned by three values – care for the Earth, care for people, and sharing resources fairly – that can be applied to… anything!

Traditionally, permaculture was used to design food systems that mimicked natural systems but were more productive. More recently, we are seeing examples of permaculture principles and design being used in: architecture and building; city planning; designing businesses, organisations, and services; and all aspects of how we organise and live our lives.

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The permaculture course we are running at my work will take place over the next year – there are 12 modules (approx. one a month) and for each one I will be writing a summary post about. Details about the modules are here.

In the meantime, some of my favourite permaculture resources are:

 

Future Living – Sustainable Food Choices

Food is incredibly important. We eat food to stay alive. It influences our health. It brings us together as families and communities. It allows us to express ourselves culturally.

It is easy to get quite defensive about food, as it is such an important part of our individual and communal identities. But it is important to realise that our personal food choices have impacts beyond us, and the decisions we make about food affect other people, communities, and the environment.

The purpose of this article is not to make any kinds of judgements or guilt about food choices and habits. Nor is it supposed to offer a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer to how to buy more sustainable food, it is just some food for thought (sorry, that pun seemed unavoidable) 🙂

Kaivolution Food Rescue

A good place to start is looking at how much food we throw out. On average, a third of food produced is wasted, and this takes place at every stage of the food system:

  • A third of food grown will not make it to food distributors…
  • A third of that food will not make it to the market/supermarket…
  • A third of that food will not be sold…
  • Of the food that is sold, a third will be discarded, uneaten.

That is a lot of food!

The majority of this food

And this flaw in the system is serious, because in a world where each year we produce enough food to comfortably feed 12 billion people, having 795 million (out of 7.3 billion) people hungry is just not ok.

There are many resources, tips and suggestions for how businesses and households can reduce their food waste.

For organisations and businesses, useful resources include Ways To Reduce Food Waste In Your Business by the Australian EPA, Food Recovery Hierarchy by Recycle.Com, and 16 Tips for Restaurant Food Waste Reduction.

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For households, the website Love Food Hate Waste is a brilliant resource for helping maximise food use and minimising food waste.


But it is possible to reduce the impact of our food by looking at the stage before it arrives in our homes: the purchasing stage.

There are many factors we can consider when we are deciding to purchase food:

  • Price – by far the easiest, because this is what the most obvious label is!
  • Taste
  • Brand reputation
  • Advertising and/or brand familiarity
  • Nutritional value

… all of these are factors that will affect us, personally. However, it is possible to also consider factors that go beyond just us…

  • Packaging (how much is there, and what is it made from?)
  • Country of origin (how are people growing and processing food treated? Does the making of this food have political or human rights implications?)
  • Distance traveled (what are the associated transport emissions?)
  • Method of production (which chemicals and resources were needed to create the food?)
  • Have producers been adequately compensated for their work? (e.g. is it a Fair Trade product?)
  • Have any animals used in the product been humanely treated? (e.g. free range)
  • … the list can go on.
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Image from the Food Ethics Council – a great resource for learning about the what, why and how of making ethical food choices.

Of course, there are often conflicts when it comes to making more sustainable or more ethical food choices, and it can be helpful to choose to focus on just a few factors… because otherwise it is easy to end up not knowing what to choose:

  • the Fair Trade coffee wrapped in plastic, or the Nescafe in a glass jar?
  • the more expensive free range eggs, or the cheaper eggs from caged or barn hens
  • and so on…

My top 5 considerations for more sustainable and ethical food choices (for reducing harm to the environment, people and other animals) are, in no particular order:

  1. Buying food that is local and seasonal, where possible (this means travel emissions will be lower, as will resource inputs – growing out of climate and out of season means a lot of energy and other resources are required)
  2. Buying food that has been produced with fewer chemical additions, where possible (organic and spray-free production is better for soils and the environment. Similar crops and animals produced with the addition of inorganic fertilisers, chemical pesticides, fungicides and hormones use more resource inputs and result in more negative impacts on ecosystems)
  3. Buying food that is less processed (every stage of processing requires energy, resource and labour inputs, which all have environmental and social impacts. Less processing usually means lower impact)
  4. Buying food that has less/no packaging, where possible (just like the food itself, packaging requires many energy and resource inputs, which all have environmental impacts. Avoiding excessive packaging means fewer resource inputs and fewer impacts. It also reduces waste generation)
  5. Buying food that considers the well-being of those involved (e.g. where human and animal welfare conditions are upheld)

Of course there are always exceptions, loopholes and conflicts to these considerations, but by-and-large following these considerations when possible will lead to more environmentally sustainable and ethical food purchasing decisions 🙂

Other tips and cool resources:

  • hoe-2448148_960_720If you can, growing your own food is a great way to source packaging free, organically grown food with zero food miles. Plus there are many health benefits of gardening, including being a source of light exercise, fresh air, and interaction with nature.
  • Cutting down on meat and animal products reduces the carbon emissions and and resource requirements of our diet. Plus it is a win for animal welfare.
  • For low-carbon eating, check out  www.eatlowcarbon.org (I strongly recommend doing the fun and eye-opening quiz).
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    Plastic is avoidable, even in supermarkets!

    For avoiding plastic food packaging, have a look at plasticisrubbish.com.

Future Living: Water Care

Before we look at HOW we can practice water care, it is useful to reflect on WHY it is important. Here are a few reasons, but you might think of more:

  1. Water is essential for all life; every species on the planet relies on water in some form.
  2. We rely on water for growing food.
  3. Access to clean water is essential for good health.
  4. For many people, water has spiritual and/or cultural value.
  5. We use water for recreation and fun.
  6. We use water to travel, and to transport good.
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Waikato River

Across much of Aotearoa New Zealand, we are lucky enough to have good access to drinkable water; often just at the turn of a tap.

But how aware are we of the processes, effort and resources that allow us to just turn on our taps and have this water? And how aware are we of what we are putting back into our water when we send it down the drain?

In Kirikiriroa, Hamilton all of our supplied water is abstracted from the Waikato River. 60-100 million litres per day, on average. It all goes through a 10-step process to make sure it is potable, and this uses a lot of energy and resources (though ironically, 95% of it is not drunk).

Then, of course, once it leaves the tap it usually quickly goes straight down the drain – and often with added chemicals.

Think about when you use water in your house – how often is it just water going down the drain, and how often there are soaps, detergents, cleaning products, added nutrients (like poo and pee), or other chemicals.

Water makes up the largest proportion of our rates/local taxes, and the cost continues to rise as we abstract more and more water, and put more and more strain on resources.

So how can we look after our local water system?

There are three ways we will look at here:

  • Reducing our water use
  • Being careful what we put in our waste water
  • Support water care projects.

Reducing our water use

Michelle Templeton, the Smart Water Co-Ordinator at Hamilton City Council says there are 5 R’s to follow to maximise water efficiency and reduce wasting water.

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The Smart Water website has lots of easy ideas for how households can cut their water consumption in the bathroom, kitchen, laundry and garden.

If you already have all the basics sussed, the next step is to check out 100+ Ways To Conserve Water (its actually more like 190 tips!) by WaterUseItWisely.com.


Being careful what we put in our waste water

Unlike the 10-step process water goes through before it reaches our taps, it undergoes a much less rigorous process before it is returned back into the river. In Aotearoa New Zealand, waste water treatment mainly phosphates, e. coli, and solid waste. Everything else goes back into the ecosystems and environment.

bioflush-bio-enzymatic-toilet-bowl-deodoriserIt can be a good (though scary) exercise to consider all the different products we put down drains and look at their ingredients. Many products, such as drain deblockers, toilet fresheners and cleaning products, even state on the label that they are ecotoxic or toxic to aquatic life. And where do we put these products? Right into our aquatic ecosystems 😦

Diane Millow from The Dairy Farmers Daughter is very knowledgeable of the different chemicals we -households- put down our drains and on our body’s largest organ, our skin. For years she has been making her own cleaning and cosmetic products out of natural ingredients, and she says the benefits are manifold:

Diane runs MAKE (Making A Kinder Environment) workshops, where she demonstrates making your own cleaning and cosmetic products. She also shares great resources on her Facebook page.

EarthEasy have created an excellent resource for people wanting to try making their own eco-friendly, non-toxic cleaning products. For cosmetic and make up products, The Coconut Mama and The Wellness Mama are great resources.


Support water care projects

Around the world, people, communities and organisations are working to protect and restore streams, rivers, lakes, wetlands, seas and oceans. Wherever you are in the world, there will most probably be local projects you can support.

And if there aren’t, a) there are international organisations working to protect our waters (such as The Nature Conservancy and WWF), and/or b) you can start your own project.

In Aotearoa New Zealand, there is a big focus on native riparian planting (planting native species along waterways) because riparian planting has many benefits to areas with water challenges.

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Riparian planting working bee in the Waikato. Photo from Waikato Regional Council.

The Sustainable Business Network and EnSpiral have collaborated to create a nationwide crowdfunding platform to support the restoration of waterways in Aotearoa New Zealand: the Million Metres Streams Project.


A final quote to reflect on…

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Future Living: Smart Travel and Sustainable Transport

“Each million we invest into urban motorways is an investment to destroy the city“ – Mayor Hans Joachim Vogel, Munich (1970).

Similar to many economically developed countries, in Aotearoa New Zealand 20% of greenhouse gases are emitted through travel and transport. Culture and infrastructure have encouraged high car use, car dependency, and a myriad of social and environmental costs including:

congestion, air pollution, accidents and deaths, noise pollution, greenhouse gas emissions contributing to climate change, land clearing and ecosystem destruction, water pollution, soil pollution, dependence on imported fuel, less active lifestyles and associated health implications, and …, and …, and…

"There doesn't always seem to be a reason for the traffic apart from at Takanini," Bob Mitchell said.
Image credit: CHRIS SKELTON, Fairfax Media

Transport, Energy and Climate

Simon Gascoigne, Emissions Expert at the Waikato Environment Centre explains that there are two converging issues: climate change and peak oil.

He explains that before the industrial revolution, there were approximately 280 ppm (parts per million) of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. Now we are at 409.76 ppm. This is significant because CO2 has a warming effect in the atmosphere, and the greater the proportion of atmospheric CO2, the greater the warming; the greater the level of disruption and change to the climate.

The burning of fossil fuels to fuel our lifestyles is the greatest contributor to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Simon shared that in Aotearoa New Zealand we use approximately 3 litres of oil per person each day on transport and freight. From that we get the same amount of energy equivalent to 291 hours of humans engaging in moderate energy-exerting work, so we are actually very lucky we spend less than $6 on that amount of energy (it would cost $5878.30 to pay humans to do that, assuming they were paid a living wage).

What all the data on peak oil shows is that it is happening now (or has already happened), and now we are using more oil than we are finding. In addition, we are relying more and more on unconventional oil sources, such as fracking and tar sands, which are more difficult and more environmentally destructive to extract oil from.

Transport Options – Breaking Away From The Car Addiction

We need to DIVERSIFY our means of transport. We may not be able/willing to eliminate car use from our lifestyles, but every journey that is not taken by car means fewer emissions and pollution.

Plus, nowadays there are many alternatives!

 

Bicycle. Especially good for shorter distances, increasing activity in our lifestyles. $50-500 for an average/good model.

 

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Electric Bike. Great for commuting, 20-30km/hr. $2000-3000 for an average/good model.

 

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Scooter

 

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Electric scooter approx. 25km/hr

In some parts of the world, dockless bike sharing is growing. This involves using a QR Code which, when scanned using a phone, unlocks the bicycle and charges your account 30 cents per hour. You use an app to locate the nearest one, ause it, and then leave it when you no longer need it. Amazing!

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Dockless Bike Sharing

There are also a growing number of car sharing and car pooling options available in many cities and towns, including Your Drive, MyCarYourRental. These allow people to rent other peoples’ cars by the hour, day or week – a bit like AirBnB for your car.

Local Action

It is worth checking out what your local council is doing to support low carbon transport options. For example, here in Kirikiriroa Hamilton the Council wants to create a Bike Friendly City and so there is a lot happening to promote active transport and road safety.

Electric Vehicles

Justin Boyd, EV enthusiast and owner, and part of Leading the Charge, talks about the many direct and indirect incentives for and advantages of electric vehicles.

For example, it is becoming more and more affordable to purchase new and second-hand EVs. Here in Aotearoa, it costs 50% the amount to register your EV as it does a conventional car, and there are no road user charges (only to be introduced when 2% of the vehicles on the road are electric – and currently that is a long while away).

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Justin has driven electric for over a year and currently owns a BMW I3. Using free fast-charge stations he accesses through ChargeNet, he powers this zero-emission vehicle.

EECA have developed some great resources about electric vehicles: https://www.energywise.govt.nz/on-the-road/electric-vehicles.

Fuel Efficient Driving

Using low-carbon transport options is an important part of creating a more sustainable future. However, for some of us car use is sometimes unavoidable.

When this is the case, the next best thing we can do is engage in fuel efficient driving. Through best practice driving techniques and correct vehicle maintenance, it is possible to reduce fuel consumption and emissions by 30%. Here is a blog post about how to practice fuel efficient driving.

But of course, the best way to reduce emissions associated with driving is to make a commitment to drive less 🙂

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For more information, contact Tania or myself via education@envirocentre.org.nz.