Taking on… plastic bags

You have to have been living under a big plastic rock if you weren’t aware of the damage plastic is doing to our planet, in it’s generation and end of life.  So, when I walked into Countdown last night and saw a new plastic bag intended to replace the old plastic bag I sighed…  Here’s what I have to say to those who are having trouble breaking up with the plastic bag.

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Nooooo. Countdown replaces plastic bag with plastic bag.

1,  Suck it up Buttercup.  It’s that simple.  When you consider the damage plastics are doing to our environment, the small sacrifice that we have to make is insignificant.

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11 minutes in your hand, a lifetime in the sand.

2, Use your Scout or Girl Guide experience and Be prepared.  Take one or some of the million bags you already have at home to the supermarket with you next time.

3, Stash stash stash.  Think ahead, put some in your glovebox, roll some up into your handbag or revert back to point 1.

4, You didn’t plan on going to the supermarket and now you have 12 items?  It happens to the best of us – ask for a box… failing that – play tetrix and balance them for your walk to the car – treat it like a game, it’ll be Fun and is infinitely rewarding.  DO NOT CAVE IN to the bag.

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This guy knows

5, You can usually juggle half a dozen pieces of fruit, but if you get caught out use the brown mushroom bags… it might cost you .01c more but provided you fling it into compost or recycling after you reused it – ka pai e hoa.   You might just save a dolphin.

Plastic bags are just the tip of the plastic iceberg.  Personally I think our toughest battle is going to be food packaging – but lets start with the bags.

Now that I have your attention I want to let you know about two fantastic volunteer groups in Hamilton.  Both make reusable bags out of reused fabric to give away!! Check them out, find out where you can get your hands on a bag, donate some fabric or volunteer your time!

Plastic Bag Free Hamilton East and Plastic Bag Free Glenview.

It’s coming up to Plastic Free July – sign up to do the full challenge, or tackle one item… if nothing else let that item be the plastic bag.

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We are not paying “The True Cost” #fashionrevolution

On the 24th of April 2013, 1138 people died and 2500 others were injured when an eight-story building with several garment factories inside collapsed.  The Rana Plaza disaster became a tragic illustration of the consequences of fast fashion, largely thanks to the 2015 documentary “The True Cost”.  I urge you to watch it if you haven’t already.

As a result of this disaster a campaign called #fashionrevolution was launched and this week I looked a little bit more into the social and environmental costs of fashion and what we can do to join this revolution.

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While up until the 1980’s it was more common than not to find “Made in New Zealand” on clothing tags – since then, most manufacturing has been outsourced to developing countries.  There are 40 million garment workers in the world, mostly in Bangladesh and China, with some working in substandard physical conditions and many more being exploited – all for the sake of our obsession with cheap fashion.  While the $2 or $3 a day might seem better than the alternative for people in these countries; the constant pressure to produce more clothing for less money is having an impact.  We, in New Zealand are not paying the True cost of our clothing.  The workers are.

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While pressure continues to provide safe conditions and a living wage for these workers, both in New Zealand and around the world, we are still having to address the fact that fashion is our 2nd biggest polluter after oil.  So, how does fashion impact on our environment?

“The True cost” shared the impact of genetically modified cotton – being intensively farmed and sprayed with Roundup to control pests.  I’m talking large scale – millions of acres of soil being drenched in poison to try to keep up with the demand for fast fashion.  I knew Monsanto was a dirty word – but it wasn’t until I started looking more into it in terms of a cyclical trap for farmers that I realised how significant this is for all of us.  Google it.

After we destroy our soil, air and biodiversity we move to dying textiles with toxic chemicals which not only causes disease and death to workers, but gets into water ways, and the soil they use for food production.   Speaking of water, the 2700 litres required to  produce one t-shirt is a crime in itself, particularly given how many people don’t have access to clean drinking water.

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<Sarcastic tone> But that’s okay because we now have a $5 t-shirt, which is considered disposable.

Clothing has become so cheap that we think nothing when we dispose of it or “donate it” to the op-shop.  But, did you know only 10% of what we donate to op-shops sells in their shop?  The rest is bundled, shipped overseas where they don’t want it either so is incinerated or sent to landfill.  We in New Zealand are not paying the True cost of our clothing.  The environment is.

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So we, as consumers of cheap fashion find ourselves responsible for a dying planet and exploitation of people.  We need systematic change.  That’s where #fashionrevolution comes in.  Change starts with us. 

This list isn’t exhaustive but here are 5 ways you can do something.

  1.  Shop wisely.  Do you really need it?  Chose quality over quantity, or just say “No”. (Added benefit of being good for your wallet too).
  2. Check out the label.  Tearfund is one of the organisations who have made it easy for us to find out how ethical different brands are.  If a label is an “F” leave it on the rack.  Better yet – send a letter requesting ethical compliance.  If we don’t buy it, they can’t justify making it.
  3. Shop local.  We’ve got so many awesome local designers who you can support that there’s no need to ship in your fashion.
  4. Feel it. Think about what happens at the end of a garments’ life.  Fair trade organic cotton, hemp or wool is good because it can break down naturally, unlike synthetic material.  Another way to look after the environment is to avoid polyester or if you do wear it, wash it when it needs it not after every wear.  Microfibres are getting into our waterways and is now in the fish food cycle. Yuk.
  5. Buy second hand.  It keeps clothes in the cycle longer; stops the need for new clothing to be made and again, saves you money without the exploitative side.

#fashionrevolution is held around the 24th of April each year so we don’t forget the lives of those who died bringing us fast fashion.

Zero Below by Katie

In this week’s podcast I chat to zero-waste advocate Katie Hine.  Over the last couple of years, she’s worked towards reducing her waste to just a jar every couple of months, far shy of the 780kg the average Hamiltonian is responsible for each year.  Hear about her journey, and tips on how we can all reduce our environmental impact starting in the home.  (www.zerobelow.co.nz or insta “zerobelowbykatie“)

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Katie Hine has a blog called http://www.zerobelow.co.nz

Earlier in the week Katie and I organised a meet up for those interested in zero-waste which was a great opportunity to share ideas, ask questions and find out what is happening at a community and political level with regards to waste minimisation.  If you’re interested in future meetings, or want to be one of the first to sign a petition to the Hamilton City Council which launches next week – join the Zero-waste Kirikiriroa group on facebook.

In this episode I also talk about the proposed name change to Kirikiriroa and play music from local bands The Shrugs, The Good Fun, Loudhailer, Date Month Year, Ancient Tapes and Snake Oil Peddlers.

 

With thanks to Two Birds Eateries for their support for Kelli from the Tron and FreeFM89.0.  Listen to the podcast here.

Two Birds Eatery

One of the ethos I live by is to actively work towards reducing my impact on our planet.  Some of the ways I’ve done this so far is by being more mindful of the food packaging or single use plastic I use, reducing the use of chemicals on my body and in our house, switching to a moon cup (too much info? sorry); reducing my intake of meat and jumping on a bike to get to work.   I’m conscious of the choices available to me on a daily basis and try to support businesses that are doing the right thing too.  It’s not always the easy (or cheapest) option for us or them, but I think it’s important to consider the “true cost” of a purchase.

Two Birds Eatery gets the tick in terms of an environmentally conscious business … so I’m super excited to have them as a sponsor of Kelli from the Tron.

I have to admit I’m not a “foodie”, I’m just as happy chowing down on Macca’s as I am to eating a raw, locally sourced, gluten free, vegan meal but I do appreciate, and am conscious of which one is better for my body and the planet.  Two Birds is well known for their raw baking, which basically means no crap yummy goodness.  Seriously.  Check out the ingredients in their cakes, slices etc and you’ll see what I mean.  I wouldn’t say knocking back a whole cheesecake is good for you… but if you’re going to do it…

Anyway… I digress.  I’m pretty childish when it comes to diet, I’m much more at home telling you more about waste-minimisation.  I even set up a group on facebook called Zero-waste Kirikiriroa to enable people to share tips, ask advice and reduce waste to landfill by swapping.  Anyway … back to Two Birds.

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The recycling wall in the Two Birds courtyard is awesome – it gets customers thinking about what happens to the vessel they just used for their drink.

For those who are familiar with the waste hierachy, you’ll know that recycling is good -but not using a disposable product to begin with is better.  So while I may sarcastically slow clap someone when they say they always recycle at home (recycling is sooo 2017), the reason the Two Birds recycling wall is so cool, is because it reminds customers that even when they are “eating out”, their bottles have to go somewhere…  I mean, is what cafes do with their waste even something you’d considered before?  While Hamilton has a recycling service for glass, and plastics 1-2, the smoothie cups and coffee cups are a whole other kettle of fish – and have to be taken to a commercial composter (in Hampton Downs or (soon) Raglan).   So well done to Two Birds for not taking the easy way out by putting it all in landfill.

Two Birds Eatery don’t just leave environmentally conscious practices at recycling, they take it further.  Much further.  They consider the packaging you take your slices home in, the packaging their suppliers send them products in, they use local suppliers when they can (less food miles) and da dum da daaa IF you take your Keep cup (Joco etc) in to Two Birds for your morning coffee, You get double stamped!  Talk about an incentive to not use disposable cups.  (Plus also, these cups are so pretty…).

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I guess what I’m trying to say is Go check out Two Birds Eatery – it’s a cafe, offers catering and an event space.  A little bird (get it…) told me to keep an eye on their facebook page for cooking classes soon too.

Massive thank you to Two Birds Eatery for being the Captain Planet of cafes in the Tron, and for sponsoring FreeFM local content!

You’ll find them in the Clyde Street carpark (off Grey Street) in Hamilton East.

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How to help your community eat.

Kelli from the Tron shares Hamilton news, views, events and music on a weekly FreeFm89.0 show and podcast. 

While some of us struggle with over-indulgence and send a third of a rubbish bag of wasted food to landfill each week; other Hamiltonians don’t know where their next meal is coming from; go without, and can keep kids at home due to the shame of not being able to send them to school with lunch.

Robert Moore from Anglican Action and Poverty Action Waikato and Alex Bailey from the Catholic diocese of Hamilton interviewed for and wrote a report called “Breaking Leftover Bread: Kaivolution and food insecurity in Kirikiriroa Hamilton”.  Rob joined me in the studio to share that report with us.

Kaivolution recently reached the milestone of rescuing 350 tonnes of edible food for redistribution –  reducing landfills and greenhouse gas emissions.  While environmental outcomes of food rescue have been recorded; this report was instigated due to the need to record anecdotal evidence of the social value of the role Kaivolution has.

Access to consistent nourishing food is a significant issue for many families who are recipients of Kaivolution food.  The most serious physical consequence of this shortfall is seen with child hospitalisation for malnourishment doubling in the last decade.

The reasons for deficiencies vary – quality of the food we are eating is decreasing, with more processed, convenience and take-away foods being consumed.  The cost of living has increased faster than incomes with food being the safest budget to drop, without fear of persecution from a landlord, the power being disconnected or lacking the ability to get to work.  Pride is considered a barrier to accessing food, with recipients recounting the shame and stigma attached to seeking help through WINZ, who have decreased accessibility to hardship assistance.  Many also found the governmental organisation difficult to navigate.  The food assistance provided by Kavolution and it’s recipients allows a more empowering way to support ones family – and also builds communities around the 75 charities Kaivolution support.

So, what can we do?

Support local groups like Poverty Action Waikato, Living Wage Aotearoa and Reality Check Aotearoa. Among other campaigns, they advocate to lift benefit levels and introduce a living wage.  You can help by being aware of their work; liking and sharing what they do with your friends and whanau and attending events/rallies or donating where possible.

Donate food.  If you want to collect non-perishable food at work, or from home you can donate at a local food bank.  Their shelves empty out around Christmas so now is the time to start thinking about this.  If you have food that is edible but about to go to waste please contact Kaivolution.  This includes donating produce from your garden or trees.

Support local groups – or the Council to enable groups to plant fruit trees in public places and build community gardens to improve food sovereignty.  The added benefit of giving access to food is the community it builds around the group or garden.

At a political level, we are seeing calls for GST to be removed from fruit and veges and for subsidies to be put on nourishing food.  Food prices in the land of milk and honey have increased due to the demand from overseas for our exports – addressing the free market conditions could help reduce prices.

Consider using initiatives like Eat My Lunch, who match a meal you buy for yourself with one for a child who would otherwise go without.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but hopes to give ideas on how you can help your community eat.

Listen to my latest podcast, which includes the interview with Rob about “Breaking leftover bread: Kaivolution and food insecurity in Hamilton”.  (About 8 minutes into the show)

 

 

Zero-wasting is hard – but let’s do this!

I don’t always overthink every decision in a supermarket, but when I do….

Let me share a recent “quick stop” at the supermarket with you.

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Unassuming bag of dilemmas

Butter.  I’ve been procrastinating buying butter because a) it’s expensive (due to overseas demand) and b) I was doing a mini-protest at New Zealand’s unsustainable farming industry (carbon emissions, water quality etc); but since I haven’t looked into vegan baking yet, I felt resigned to make the purchase this time.

Produce.  The most ethical way to shop for fruit and veges is from a market in terms of less food miles (carbon emissions), supporting your community and less packaging.  However, the best choices today were NZ apples and Fair trade bananas.  I had to reach over the heavily packaged apples and wrapped bananas to get to the “better choices” and even then they’re not perfect… fruit has sticker labels which is annoying (not recyclable) but laser tagging is on it’s way so it won’t be an issue forever.  I’m just going to put this out here – if produce is wrapped in plastic please leave it on the shelf to send Countdown a message that we think it’s stupid and wasteful.

Actually we have a selection of produce bags in our shop to choose from, which means you’ll never need plastic again mwah ha ha haaa

 

Deli meat.  We stopped cooking meat at home over a year ago, to protest animal cruelty and the impact of farming on our environment (which makes us ‘Reduceatarians’ lol) but I was hankering for a ham toastie…  The options were (since I didn’t take my own container); in one of their plastic bags, their container or as I found out in brown paper.  If you ask them to wrap it in brown paper – make sure they don’t weigh the item in a plastic bag and then tip that onto the brown paper – defeats the purpose, which I politely pointed out.  It does mean you’ll spend an extra cent or two on paper which is heavier but small price to pay.  I can chuck the paper in our compost but those flimsy plastic bags will last hundreds of years which is ridiculous for the 10 minutes use it will have.  The next best option would be one of their containers if you can commit to reusing it – at the moment I use ours to raise seeds 🙂

So a consumer dilemma with every purchase…. the silver lining is how much power we have with those decisions. We can’t be perfect all the time and every little change or thoughtful purchase helps.

But shopping can be a nightmare when you overthink things so to help us along on the zero-waste journey are Hannah and Liam “No waste Nomads” who are travelling around New Zealand running free workshops to show you how easy it can be. We’re hosting them at Go Eco on November 2nd.  Join me to get tips, so your head doesn’t implode every time you go shopping.

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I don’t want to swim in the river anyway…

*This formed part of my show on ‘Water’ – you can listen to the podcast here.**

I spent my childhood summers swimming in the Mataura river.  I lived in Wyndham, a painfully small hick town where all we had for entertainment was that river.  Even at a young age, it would be normal to spend your whole day there.  While I have heaps of good memories about hanging out there and learning to swim – something always stuck with me, though it wasn’t until I was much older that I understood it…  the stench. Did you know you could smell water while being underwater? Wyndham is downstream from Mataura which at that time had the Papermill and Meat works… utilising it’s position on the river banks to pump it’s discharge.  By the time the water got to us, it was rank.  But strangely enough we didn’t get sick – I’m not sure if it’s because Southland kids are tough or if it just didn’t have bacteria like E-coli we hear so much about now.  Back in those days Southlander’s were sheep farmers – dairy conversion happened in the 90s – this will have impacted on the water quality in replace of more stringent controls on what the factories did.  I wish this intro could have been about how clean the water used to be… I guess my generation wasn’t that lucky either.

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My family checking out the views around Pukete Pa, on the Waikato River.

That’s one of the reasons I went to the public meeting on swimmable rivers, hosted by the Green party.  Before we go further – no this is not about campaigning for the Green party – if National or Labour organised a meeting on swimmable rivers I’d go to that… but it’s obviously not going to happen, according to our current government there is no problem.  I believe it’s important to leave the planet for our kids if not better – at least no worse than we inherit it.  We’re currently failing them.

About 50 people turned up – which is pretty good considering it was a chilly Tuesday night.  Heading the meeting was Catherine Delahunty who James Shaw described as a “Warrior” and she is.  She has lead a public meeting for 10 of the most compromised rivers in New Zealand – she is a passionate advocate for protecting the wairua of the river.  Before I share some of main technical challenges with our water quality – I just wanted to remind you that this isn’t necessarily about swimming off Wellington Beach or Swarbrick landing… it’s about protecting our freshwater sources.  In the three elections that the Greens have campaigned for swimmable rivers – this election has had an unprecedented amount of support for that policy, partly because the Havelock North contamination reminded so many of us that we are NOT guaranteed clean water supply.  We have to look after what we have.

There were three speakers for the evening; who have dedicated their time and energy to speaking up against polluters. collaborating to improve policy and educating industry and the public on what our threats are so we can work together to address them. Contrary to popular belief this is NOT anti-farmer, it’s anti-bad practice.  Once we know more – we should do more and science is unrefutable… or is it?… we’ll come back to that later.

There are four main threats to water quality.  1.  Nitrogen levels. 2. Phosphorus levels.  3. Germs/bacteria, and 4. Sediment.  These were outlined in more depth and formed the base for the Healthy Rivers Wai-Ora plan (The Waikato Regional Council is currently collating submissions on this).  No one believes that the “80 year plan” in it’s current form goes far enough, far enough.  The focus on the night was our dairy practice – because that is the biggest contributor to pollution in our river (but not the only one, point source discharge and what us city dwellers puts down the sink and into our soil also contributes).  Fencing, is obvious and a part of the solution; riparian planting and planting native bush in general helps to counter run off.  A pollution levy (which could cost the ratepayers about $7.50 per year) to support good change.  No more dairy conversions (this is a big one).  At the moment we have 9 million cattle, that is the equivalent of 126 million people … without a toilet or sewerage system.  It’s undeniable that we need to decrease our cow numbers – but ultimately what does this mean for farmers?  Have you heard of the sentiment quality over quantity?  We need to shift from a growth focussed model (thanks to Fonterra) and focus on added and higher value output.  This can be done and there are heaps of inspirational farmers to prove this.  We need to make sure the land consented for dairy is actually suitable for it.  This comes down to our Regional Council doing it’s job.  We also need to change how we view our natural resources.  A controversial “Scientist” Jacqueline Rowarth has claimed our river is amongst one of the cleanest in the world and seems to think that if the river goes out to sea it is wasted – well it doesn’t work like that… We have to allow  nature to do what it wants to do and work with it.  Which brings me to science.  It can be confusing – but doesn’t have to be.  Our current government changed the acceptable levels of E-Coli in the water to make it look like the rivers were more swimmable… on paper yes – in practice… obviously no.  Can Scientists stand up and call the government out on this?  Well, only with a great deal of difficulty and guess what – it all comes down to money.  It depends if they can afford to have their funding cut.  This happens.  It happened to Mike Joy who is a fantastic advocate and happened to one of the speakers Dr Alison Dewes who agreed it was a real fear.

So… I know you’re all asking what can I do?  Well, I think it comes to a few easy things.

  1.  Help your community restoration planting activities.
  2.  Inform yourself to have an overview on environmental policies.
  3.  Sign the petition for swimmable rivers (whether you vote Greens or not, this is about sending a message that we want more for our river).

We have fabulous advocates in government; follow them – share their work, party politics aside.  And please, support our farmers.  This is not us and them, we have to support the farmers who the majority want to do better – don’t denigrate and put it all on them.  They deserve it.

We have to remember that “nature can heal itself if we let her”.