Medium term things to put on your checklist

Last year, following James Renwick’s talk on climate change, we wrote two (2!) blogs about how to “pick the low hanging fruit” of climate change. To start this new year we thought we’d list some of our medium term things that you can start planning for now.

The growing season is in full swing in the Southern Hemisphere, and here in Thames we are lucky to have a pretty long growing season. You can still plant something now and expect a yield. If you are a complete novice and have never planted anything before go along to the Bright Smile Community garden work day every Thursday (northern end of Mackay St) from 9-12 to get a feel for what is growing in this climate right now. Once again the library has a number of books on growing too. The benefits of growing your own things are numerous; you know where it has come from and what is on it, there is little or no packagaing associated with it, and less waste in that you can, for example, pick only a few leaves of a lettuce instead of a whole head which then goes soft in your fridge.

Home gardening goes hand in hand with composting. There are a number of excellent web resources on how to get a compost bin or worm farm started, what to put in, what to avoid. Most importantly, the WHY of composting is a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions at the landfill, and a reduction of valuable resources into the waste stream. When vegetative waste and food scraps end up in a landfill they break down anaerobically (without oxygen) to release methane. In your home compost bin you’d have to work pretty hard to get an anaerobic environment, and yes, there are gas emissions from the aerobic breakdown of waste, but it is young carbon dioxide; it has been captured and released on a short timescale (compared to that released during fossil fuel burning which was captured while in ancient history).

Appliances dying is really a nuisance most modern appliances are simply not repairable (compare this to the toaster my (Robyn) parents were given as a wedding present in the 70s, which was only retired 3 decades, and a few repairs, later). If possible, chose to avoid compulsory obsolescence; ask at the shop what the expected useful life is likely to be like and base a decision on that. It is also worth asking how repairable an item is.

In the last few decades there has been a shift towards light bulbs and lighting systems that are more efficient in their energy use. Modern day LED bulbs fit into standard fittings, and according to Consumer NZ will save you $14.38 per year over the life of the bulb compared to an incandescent. Make this your first medium term change!

What is going to be the first medium term saving you achieve in 2018?


Feature image:


Go pick the low hanging fruit – Part 2, Agriculture and Energy

We have previously made a few suggestions for easy places in the average life to save some carbon; essential first steps to control the predicted future climate change. Here, we continue into the two biggest sources of emissions, Agriculture and Energy.

Agriculture is our biggest slice of the emissions pie. Emissions from this sector are split into enteric fermentation (digestion from animals; the burps and farts), agricultural soils (some soil management practises (tilling) but mostly nitrous oxide emissions from soils; animals #1s and fertiliser), manure management (nitrous oxide emissions from manure spread as fertiliser or deposited directly), urea application (application of synthetic fertiliser) and liming (application of lime and dolomite). Sources of agricultural ghgsSource: GHG Emissions Inventory 1990-2015. Note that there is no rice cultivation in NZ (it is a good source of methane emissions where it does occur), and that emissions from other carbon containing fertiliser is not estimated.

As you can plainly see, enteric fermentation, the farts and burps, make up the biggest portion of our agricultural emissions. There are some technologies beginning to become known that can reduce these emissions, but they aren’t applicable to you to do today (and yet we will explore those in a future T3aser), but for the most part this is a natural process that is part of being a ruminant. There are many experts world-wide calling for a reduction of meat consumption for the sake of the planet. The McCartneys (yes, Sir Paul and daughters) launched a campaign in 2009 called Meat Free Mondays which is both catchy, and on the face of it quite simple. You don’t even have to be strict about keeping to a Monday for meat free. Amongst the many compelling reasons to reduce meat intake that they list are cost savings as many vegetarian staples are less expensive than meat. The library has recently put the spotlight on vegetarianism month, and they have a multitude of recipe books which you can borrow to try new things.

Finally, let’s tackle energy. According to the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment the majority of our energy sector greenhouse gases come from liquid fuels, and the majority (45%) of those are from transportation. That seems to me to be as good a place as any to start. Like many smaller towns in New Zealand there are few options that are not private vehicles to commute to and from work, to school, to play etc. But from the first Monday of this month there IS a bus service on trial in Thames and the usage during the trial will determine whether or not we get to keep it long term. The council is also pretty willing to hear about what tweaks and adjustments might make the bus more appealing. But it really is use it, or lose it. Let us be clear that this is not an emissions free journey, but sharing transport options reduces the emissions from an individual journey (there is also a lot of social good to be had). You can download the timetable here.

Other ways to reduce transport emissions are to car pool, or to replace a car journey with something else (bicycle or walking). If you are technologically savvy there are apps that you can get for ride sharing, the prominant being Localift. To have any real benefit on that however, you do need to have friends or neighbours also using the app; it can’t connect people who are strangers. The traditional approach of talking to people in your proximity may work best here.

Summer is coming, which certainly makes cycling and walking more attractive! The key here is to make sure that the journey is replacing a car journey, and the good news is that shorter car journeys are less efficient so hopping on your bike to nip out for bread and milk is valuable.


  1. Have one less meat based meal each week.
  2. Replace a car journey with walking or cycling, or car pool.
  3. Use the bus.

Naturally, there are many other good tips out on the web. What’s yours? Do you have a favourite vegetarian recipe? Have you succesfully car pooled? Use the comments to share!


Feature image photo credit: Michelle Spomer,

Go pick the low hanging fruit – Part 1, Waste

We are very fortunate this week to have hosted NZ’s foremost climate scientist James Renwick in a public talk on climate change. James’s talk covered broadly what climate change is and how it is working, and then covered some of the consequences, one of which will be increasingly hotter years, and another sea level rise. New Zealand’s per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are still relatively high in the OECD, lower only than Luxembourg, Canada, The USA and Australia (page 4).

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Despite already being locked into some warming and some sea level rise, we can mitigate what happens after that. This is the first of a series of four T3aser’s in which we will make suggestions about easy, medium term and long term changes you can make to your carbon footprint.

Each year the Ministry for the Environment compiles and publishes a report on the emitted GHGs from 1990. The collection and collation of such datum is such a big task that it is 2 years behind the current year when published. The 2017 report (which examines 1990 to 2015) shows  that Agriculture (47.9% total emissions) and Energy (40.5%) are the biggest sector contributions, with Industrial Process and Product Use (6.6%) and waste (5%).

Waste is, I think, the easiest place to start to reduce your emissions. New Zealanders, alas, are terribly bad at chucking out stuff. The OECD (page 9) says that we’re worse than everyone except Switzerland, Denmark and the USA (there is no data available for Canada and Latvia; we may be 6th worst and not 4th). We are getting better at this, and there are number of places to go for information on waste reduction. In 2008 a Christchurch couple managed produce only 1 supermarket sized shopping bag to go to landfill. They created an A-Z relevant to NZ waste reduction. Another couple, who are on a nationwide “Rubbish Free trip” at the moment, were in Thames in August and have produced a Coromandel specific guide to zero waste.

The Rubbish Free Trip advocate that you consider a zero waste hierarchy with each purchasing decision. Top of the list is refuse. We’re qzero waste pyramiduite fortunate in that we have ways to refuse what in some places is unavoidable waste, specifically packaging. At Bin Inn, for example, you can take your own container and fill it up with whatever you want. Make sure you weigh it on arrival to avoid paying for the weight of the container! You’ll have noticed a shift towards paper bags if you’ve been in recently too. You can also take this unnecessary refusal to the IXL Butchery where you can have your meat weighed into your own containers.

It is also worth remembering about the Seagull centre when you have something you no longer need, or you want something.

Plastic bags, along with straws, single use water bottles and takeaway coffee cups are in the zero waste top 4 least desirable; they are energy intensive to make, they never break down completely, and they can be mistaken for exciting yummy things when in the ocean and eaten by turtles and squid. Happily for us all Boomerang Bags are now in Thames, and the dedicated volunteers are sewing reusable cloth bags available outside shops for free. In the ideal the clue is in the name and the bags should be returned for use by someone else. However, as someone who has given up my time to sew the bags, if you are using and using and not returning the bags, I forgive you so keep up the good work!


So to recap on things you can do today:

  1. Refuse packaging where you can.
  2. Don’t take home a plastic shopping bag.

Do you have another waste reduction tip you’d like to share? Be sure to write a comment, it’d be great to hear from you.



Thoughts on the Anthropocene

This week’s T3aser is brought to you by our in-house philosopher and student of life, Mark Skelding.

Behind the ongoing climate “ping-pong” argument – how much, how soon, how bad – is another, even more arresting concern.  Human beings, as a species, have reached a point where we can change the way the planet system functions – and we know it.

In relocating fossil carbon from underground to atmosphere to ocean, we impact the geology and the chemistry of the planet. In diverting rivers and clearing rainforest, we change local ecosystems. In parallel to these activities, a massive extinction is underway, plastic turns up in the foodchain, weather systems change, deserts move, populations starve, war, or migrate – and so it goes.

Intellectually, it is almost impossible to believe that one species can become a force of nature in little more than 50 years, yet viscerally, emotionally, intuitively we know this in our bones and being. We have had the knowledge for around 25 years, and in that time things have got much worse – including the social and psychological damage to ourselves.  That we fail to look for connections keeps it simple – and preserves the illusion of powerlessness.

The sudden collision with so many human driven events has been called “catastrophic” for the planet, a word that places human impact alongside that of the asteroid that hastened the demise of dinosaurs.  That’s powerful.

Ironically this opened the way for our evolution: we are children of chaos. We are unique, however, in now knowing the impacts of our actions. This intelligence brings with it unprecedented moral and ethical issues for which Western thinking has little language, less imagination and almost no appetite.

As we clear-fell the lungs of the planet, convert oceans into plastic micro-bead soup, frogmarch species to extinction, allow human population unlimited increase, treat rivers as chemical drains and reduce the growing capacity of living soil, what does kaitiakitanga mean on a planetary or national scale – or even for our regional and local members and staff?

In treating the planet as an inert, uninvolved setting for our human drama, we maintain our focus on the “only-human”dimension of life.  By making only ourselves meaningful, we consign all else to wallpaper.  However, in exercising our power over the Earth system we have changed a balance, and that system is resetting itself in ways we cannot fully know – we just get the data of a power infinitely more all-encompassing than our own pushing back to reach a new equilibrium over the next hundreds or thousands of years.

To become a force of nature means that we have made a mark in the geological record.  As well as the upward march of CO2, the radiation from our nuclear explosions has caused a measurable gauge of when we stumbled upon this rite of passage – the Trinity Test: 5:29 a.m. on July 16, 1945. This marks the start of the Anthropocene, a new geological age, predicated on the shift of one species from smart ape to planetary force.

We have begun to understand that we and this beautiful planet are uniquely bonded.  We depend upon the Earth system for the miracle of life, creativity, love, care, and laughter.  The Earth depends on us for the recognition, awareness, appreciation that only a self-reflective consciousness can bring.  Evolution appears to follow a trajectory of finding ever more efficient ways of moving energy and information around.  The latest appears to be self-reflective consciousness, and we have an opportunity to co-evolve this, or go the way of the dinosaurs through our own volition.

We will doubtless continue to debate the meaning of the data, but, in concluding that we have careered into the planet system and knocked it sideways, we must decide whether we continue to try to bend it further to our self-interested service or whether we can learn to work with the Earth system processes to achieve the great benefits of civilisation. The one is a form of violence that will almost certainly end in tears, and the other is like stepping into a brand new, committed relationship: a responsibility for sure, but it’s a whole new adventure, impossible on our own.

Either way, there’s no going back now: mopping up won’t work.


Did you miss us?

Hey! Welcome back! Or rather, welcome back to us.

We’ve had a bit of a hiatus, but we now have a shining new website, and will be updating the T3aser blog as well to replace the blog function on our previous website.

We would very much like this to be a space to share positive ideas and stories. If you would like to make a contribution, or have an idea you would like to share, please contact

Thames Be Fruitful

Have you walked along the waterfront path in between Richmond St and the Wharf and seen the citrus planted there? Have you swung on the swing at the new playground on Hauraki Tce and wondered what the trees to the south are? Have you seen the fruit tree plantings at Te Puru School or along Burke St? You probably have; we’ve been busy.fruitytree

Many of these trees have been proudly planted by Thames Be Fruitful; over 200 in fact. And the best bit is that the trees are there as a community resource; by the people, for the people, and they join the Bright Smile Community Garden on Mackay St as another way to add food to a conversation about community.

The benefits of having trees around where we live are multiple and far-reaching: they provide shade, provide shelter for birds and insects, calm moods, and can even promote spending more time in the outdoors. Initiatives such as Thames Be Fruitful has the added bonus of bringing communities together to share an experience- an experience which only gets better as the trees get older.

Our next community planting day will be Saturday 13th August, beginning at 9am at the Community gardens on Mackay St. We would love to see you there, and if you are able, please bring a spade with you.

What’s new with old stuff?

I’m sure you all know the Seagull Centre – where you can pick up a bargain or drop off your old stuff and know that someone else will have a use for it…but did you know that we are about to expand both in area and purpose? Work will begin soon on the area adjacent to the Seagull Centre constructing a new drop off area with additional buildings for sorting and storage and some new education and workshop spaces. Also the road will be re-routed so that EVERY car on its way to the transfer station will pass through this new drop off area. ALL useful items will be recovered before people travel on to the Transfer Station thereby saving resources from the landfill and our customer money in dumping fees. This will also mean that the existing “old” site will be for sales only and ultimately car-free, making it safer for shoppers.

Since the Seagull Centre opened its’ doors 10 years ago, the number of legal landfills in New Zealand has halved from 60 to 30. This means that waste has to be transported long distances from source. This is true in the Coromandel; our waste has to be transported from all of our transfer stations to the rubbish tip in Tirohia, 40+ kms away. This rubbish tip also services places as far away as Gisborne!

When we expand, the Seagull Centre will be placing a lot more focus on education and community involvement.  One of the volunteers at the centre has already been running holiday programmes for kids around making cool stuff out of bits and pieces from the Seagull Centre. The new classroom and workshop area will provide dedicated spaces to run programmes like these and others around how we can reduce waste. The workshop area will provide facilities for the local community to get involved in upcycling, that is, making new things out of old ones; and fixing up old or broken things. And later there may also be the potential for partnerships in community enterprise.

T3 supports the Seagull Centre in their philosophy of looking at “waste” as usable resources. Come down, check it out….and see what may be possible!

This guest post was brought to you by the Seagull Centre’s Trish Hatfield and Louise Deane

Be green all the way- a natural burial option in Thames

Most people don’t like thinking about it, definitely prefer not to talk about it unless in euphemisms, even though it is inevitable and unavoidable for every one of us. Death, the ultimate consequence of living…could also be described as a human beings final opportunity to choose the sustainable option. At death a person can make the ultimate gesture to the environment, by returning the body’s nutrients to the ecosystem rapidly and without pollution, contributing to the restoration of our land and the planet to a more natural state. In the words of Edvard Munch, ” From my rotting body, flowers shall grow and I am in them and that is eternity.”
Many of us are familiar with traditional burial, which involves a standard treated wooden casket, embalming of the body, and burial 6 feet deep in the soil with a tone or plaque to mark the spot. However, room is scarce for such luxuries as a grave each, and the traditional burial may not be best choices for the environment: embalming bodies uses quite harsh chemical such as formaldehyde and these are leached into groundwater, perhaps at up to 40 mg of formaldehyde effluent per litre of groundwater in the first year.  Another important consideration is the depth of burial: there is limited biological activity six feet under the soil to aid decomposition of casket or body. One alternative to traditional burial is cremation, and you can read arguments for an against the environmental footprint here and here. Another alternative is a burial in more natural circumstances, where the body is not embalmed, treated with oils, or in fact put in a large box made of treated wood. During the natural burial the body is placed within an untreated wooden or cardboard casket or shroud, and buried between 50 and 100cm deep in the active top layer of soil. Often a tree is planted on the site with the intention of regenerating natural forest to create a bush park commemorating those buried there. Around the world natural burial sites vary from woodlands to wildflower meadows, orchards and parklands of native flora. While “returning to the earth” is key, equal emphasis is placed on the natural burial ground as a special site in which the bereaved can visit a loved one for peaceful contemplation surrounded by natural beauty.

As part of the global rise in environmental awareness, natural cemeteries started appearing in the 90’s in the United Kingdom, where there are now more than 300 natural burial sites. The first eco- internment in New Zealand took place in Auckland in 1999, and when Wellington City established Matakara in 2008 it was the first natural burial cemetery in a city outside the United Kingdom. The natural burials group in Thames formed about 2 years ago with the aim of creating a natural burial site in the TCDC area. Submissions were made to local council and a new Cemetery Bylaw was adopted in May 2015. The standard depth for all burials is set at 1.9m (6 feet, 2 inches), with the exception for natural burials which are treated differently but maintain a minimum soil cover of 1 metre between the top of the casket/ shroud and the surface of the earth. For the natural burial site two options at the Totara cemetery were looked at but found to be unsuitable due to lack of topsoil. The group working in collaboration with TCDC is now committed to a site at the Omahu Public Cemetery about twenty minutes drive from Thames towards Pareoa. The site is currently in the design stage with plans for trees to be planted at grave sites so that the natural burial site will become like a park.

In the meantime, if you would like any more information about natural burials, or would like to participate in a workshop on Mortality and Living Wills, please come along to the Thames Community Resource Centre at 609 Mackay St on Saturday 16th July from 9am. Koha entry.


To bring Power to People

Wintec is supporting a T3 initiated research project into sustainable energy in Thames.  For T3 it is an opportunity to progress a vision of a community owned energy company that draws power from sustainable sources, delivers energy to local users at beneficial rates, and nets a surplus that is used to develop other community initiatives.  Wintec see it as part of an international project looking at sustainability solutions in several countries, which – they hope – will generate further developments in New Zealand. T3 is most involved in the first phase of research into the range and viability of energy options for Thames. This is currently underway with preliminary results due in August.

The research project will look firstly at the potential for local energy generation, including solar, microhydro, and even geothermal from accessing flooded mine shafts.  Second, the research will conduct a preliminary needs assessment of power users, particularly in areas where there is significant daytime power usage – such as Pollen Street and users such as TCDC offices, Thames hospital, schools, and retirement villages. This is because storage systems are still relatively expensive, and there are not great incentives to use the national grid itself as a giant battery. These two sets of information will inform an assessment of the potential to create a local energy network in line with the Thames Urban Development Strategy, that sees Pollen Street as the spine of a local energy network.

The final piece of this first phase will explore business models for such community initiatives elsewhere in Australasia and beyond. “Pro-sumers” – who produce and consume power – are driving a worldwide move towards energy grids that are more like interactive networks than systems to deliver power from central producers to distant consumers. Prosumers – particularly those who own a social enterprise energy company – have direct control over their energy, and are far more protected from corporate profiteering.

On the basis of this work, Wintec and T3 anticipate a second phase involving local electricity and energy contractors. This will enable members of their staff to develop the technological specifications for getting an integrated energy network underway. These staff members will be able to use this work to achieve a Masters qualification form Wintec.

The vision of a locally owned energy company was spurred by Grant Burnett, then CEO of AG Price engineering. He suggested “Thames and the coast could be self-sufficient in its own energy, from sun, wind and water, in five years if the will were there.”

That was 2010.  We’re getting there.


This is a guest post by Mark Skelding- he’ll also be at the T3 cafe on the 6th of July (7:30pm, at Brew cafe, Pollen St). Come along and say hi!

Our community learning to speak out.

Toastmasters is an international organisation that supports hundreds of thousands of people to challenge themselves and improve speaking and confidence. An exciting new initiative to bring Toastmasters to Thames is giving locals this chance to gain confidence in presenting and public speaking. Effective communication of ideas can drive change within our community which is exactly what T3 is about, and Toastmasters has developed guides to improved speaking, listening and presentation skills that are developed through club participation. Every person has a role to play (appraising, timing, introducing and being an audience member) at every meeting; essential skills that also assist whoever is speaking to develop.

How often is there a opportunity to stand up for something you believe strongly in or speak in front of our peers, but you step back and leave it to someone else to step up? Often enough, which isn’t surprising when public speaking is rated as one of people’s greatest fears. This is why the club has started in Thames and is attended by a great range of locals from beginners to experienced speakers. They are all keen to see everyone do their best every time someone has a chance to speak. This all started as part of a conversation at T3 meetings and at the T3 cafe, where there was strong interest expressed by many locals. From there a public demonstration meeting was held at the Thames Civic Centre which was well attended and received, and gave attendees a great deal of information about how Toastmasters works. From that a club of enthusiastic local gather to work together on their public speaking skills.

Most of the ideas that T3 are of interested in promoting are essential services and include groups like TCDC and the community board: in fact TCDC and the Community Board have clearly stated that they need community input. They are aware of the interest that T3 has in developing a sustainable future for the Thames district. Confident speaking will ensure that they hear what members of T3 have to say. This can be best achieved when ideas are clearly thought through and spoken in a powerful way.

Having a Toastmasters club in Thames is one way of allowing people to practice speaking
confidently. By getting key community leaders to listen and understand will bring about the change that will make our community sustainable.

When: The club in Thames started meeting on the 11 May.
Where: The Lounge at St James Church twice a month. The second and forth Thursday of the month.

This post was brought to you by the man bringing you Toastmasters: Ian Stewart. Thanks, Ian!