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.