Action is the antidote to anxiety and despair. One ‘theory’ is that we can change our habits if we stick with it for three weeks. So here’s the challenge, starting with the easiest habits to change, food and waste food. Of course many of you will already be aware of these habits but there are many others who haven’t got around to thinking about climate change, especially whilst we also deal with covid, so this might be a nudge in the right direction.

Mark the boxes of one or more changes you can work on, and tick any boxes that you are already doing. This gives you an idea of how you’re doing. Persevere for 3 weeks then pass the challenge on to someone else. Of course you can repeat with new choices, or move onto the next area. As you move down the challenges, they become more complex and some are costly, so just pick those you feel comfortable to have a try at.

The idea is that if enough of us make small changes, together we can make a big change, this is not a new idea but definitely worth reminding ourselves that we can make a contribution and it may be bigger than we expect.

At the end of each article there are references and links for you to learn more.

FOOD: We all need it, but it is possible to improve the way we shop, so here goes…

  1. Minimise packaging: choose items with less plastic. Recycle soft plastics, check out ‘soft plastic recycling scheme’ to find your closest drop off point.*
  2. Recycle bags: reuse bags from bulk bin purchases, use cloth bags for vegetables etc 
  3. Meat: cut back, even a little bit is a good start. Try cutting back meat portions, or if meat-free meals are a new idea, try to introduce one meat-free recipe each week*
  4. Free range or organic: If you are eating less meat perhaps you can afford to buy free range or organic. Bostocks Chickens work out great value and chickens and fish do not produce methane.*
  5. Fish: Eat only sustainable NZ fish, this seems to be Lemon Fish and Gurnard in Hawkes Bay. Sadly Tuna is not a good choice. It seems that Salmon is ok at this point in time.
  6. Locally produced: Buy as much food that is locally produced and in season, supporting your local community and cutting back on food miles.
  7. Grow your own: if you don’t have a vege garden, even growing some silverbeet or lettuces in a bucket is a good start. Learn how to grow sprouts, alfalfa and moong beans are easy.
  8. Eat healthy: it’s good for you and your family. Takeaways now and then not every week. Vegetables are cheap and good for you, and often works out less expensive. A general guide is to shop around the outer edges of the supermarket where the unprocessed products can mostly be found. Beans and lentils are a great addition helping to bulk out meals and add nutrients .

Link: For some great, simple recipes, check out:

Growing Veges
Growing Veges

FOOD WASTE: Possibly one of the simplest but most effective changes we can make:

  1. Bread: one of our most common items at the dump. Don’t throw away bread crusts, freeze them to use later. Dry them for breadcrumbs, turn them into croutons for soups, make a vege loaf. Make bread pudding or Bread and Butter Pudding* Don’t forget to recycle the bags.
  2. Leftovers: use them up for lunches or freeze*
  3. Cook extra: Cook enough for a couple of nights, even extra pasta, rice or spuds makes the next meal easier.
  4. Shopping list: Shop with a list and buy what you need for the next week or two. Of course your usual staples like rice and pasta get to stay.
  5. Storage: Store food so that the newest is at the back of the pantry or fridge (don’t forget the freezer) and you can easily use up the older stuff first. Check your fridge contents every so often to ensure nothing is expiring or about to go to waste.
  6. Stocks and soups: Learn to make stock or soups using the odds and ends of veges, meat bones etc.
  7. Composting: Learn about composting, a worm farm or bokashi, to feed your gardens. Or you can set up a system with family or neighbours, or share community gardens.
  8. Best before: You can use food items which are after their best before date as long as they look and smell Ok. Stuff past it’s use by date is not OK.
  9. Cleaner: Citrus peels can be added to a jar of vinegar to make a fresh smelling cleaner.*
  10. Fridge supplies: Try making a “what-have-we-got-left-in-the-fridge meal” instead of having a set plan for what you want for dinner?
Mobile compost heap

Links:

STUFF, STUFF and LESS STUFF: Recycle, reuse or pass it on.

  1. Habits: Adopt the new shopping mantra “do I need this?” or “do I want this?”. See the Buyerarchy of Needs (it’s a mouthful I know). See also the link below about Fast Fashion and its impact on the environment.
  2. Quality: If you are purchasing a new item, try to get the best quality and most durable option.
  3. Minimise plastics, recycle whatever you can, especially useful if you don’t get your rubbish collected. Check out your local dump’s recycling and also your local Environment Centre*. Also reuse your plastic bottles to get refills of hand soap, washing up and laundry liquid, oils and vinegars etc.*
  4. Give away: Pass on items that are no longer needed to others, or op shops, as long as they are in good condition.
  5. Babies and young children: If you have a baby or young children, get or make some soft cloths instead of disposable wipes, carry some damp ones in a bag or pot when you go out. Revisit reusable nappies, there are some great ones available now. Check out Trade Me or local online garage sales.
  6. Mend or repurpose: there’s loads of info on google these days on how to fix things.
  7. Sharing: Are there some items you can share with family, friends or neighbours? A bit challenging but there might be something, make sure you all agree on the terms of sharing such as maintenance and repairs.
  8. Takeaways: use your own coffee cup and keep it in the car, also some containers for takeaways if you are allowed.
  9. Paper Towels: Toilet paper and hand towels can be purchased in bulk by mail order and come without extra packaging, Greencane for example supply these made from sugarcane and bamboo.

Links:

OUR ENVIRONMENT: Bigger picture stuff, not all of us can do but any step is a step in the right direction. For those of us lucky enough to have gardens there are some simple changes we can make

  1. Litter: Don’t throw rubbish out of your car window, or leave where it can be blown around. Pick up any rubbish you see when out walking.  Much of the rubbish on the roadsides gets washed into storm drains, then into our waterways and eventually into the sea.
  2. Donate to a cause that supports protecting our natural environment, eg. Forest & Bird, Greenpeace, World Wildlife Fund others?
  3. Learn about methods of gardening that do not rely on pesticides and weed killer, and this will encourage a wide range of bugs and birds to live in your garden.
  4. Mow your lawns less often, now there’s a challenge!
  5. Mulching, using old cardboard boxes, newspaper etc topped with dried grass clippings,dried leaves, hay or straw. Bark mulch is Ok for flower beds. Keeps weeds down and prevents water loss in hot weather.
  6. Plant trees, or find someone to plant them that has the space.

Links:

Kowhai

WATER: A most precious commodity, what can we do to avoid waste and keep it clean?

  1. Rubbish: Be aware of your rubbish and where it goes, see previous challenges.
  2. Don’t leave taps running if you don’t need to. Choose eco function on washing machines or dishwashers if you can, only rinse dishes that are seriously dirty.
  3. Washing dishes: If you don’t have a dishwasher it’s more economical to wash dishes in the sink or a bowl rather than under a running tap.
  4. Rainwater collecting: Consider setting up one small rainwater tank, maybe off a shed or garage roof. It could collect into a dustbin sized container and could supply you with fresh drinking water, or water for your plants.
  5. The 4 minute shower *
  6. Use eco friendly cleaning products and hair and shower washes, or just plain soap, don’t forget the carwash suds ( if you wash your car!) *.
  7. Grey water: Can you set up a system for reusing your grey water from showers, washing machine etc
  8. Composting toilet: We saved the best to last… why not install a composting toilet? They save water and do not need processing in big sewage ponds which often end up polluting our waters. The compost created can be used after a year or two for feeding trees and shrubs. 
Our beautiful stream

Links:

POWER AND TRANSPORT: Another biggy. There’s a lot of information out there about how to cut back our use of cars, which is fine if you live somewhere with walking and cycling access, but much more of a challenge as rural dwellers. Luckily we can all do things to cut back our use of electricity.

  1. Use a clothes line rather than a drier
  2. Switch off lights etc when you are not needing them. If you have a heater on, keep the doors shut, and close curtains at night to keep the warmth in.
  3. Streaming: Apparently if you watch movies at a slightly lower definition it can effectively save power.
  4. LED bulbs: Replace regular light bulbs with LED bulbs.
  5. Screen time: What about a screen free sunday each week for everyone in your home? Perhaps it would be a good time to pursue some other interests, or have some old fashioned family time playing board games or going for a walk.
  6. Oven: If you have the oven on, use it to cook several things at the same time.
  7. Driving: Trips to town, try and do all your jobs on one trip, that’s an optimistic thought. Carpool for outings.
  8. EV: Explore the option of getting an electric or hybrid car, this is sure to get easier over the next year or so, and there is a government subsidy for new and imported cars. The pros and cons still need to be ironed out.
  9. Solar Panels: If you own your own house it would be great to investigate getting solar panels. Also check you have good insulation, and generally check out your home’s resilience.
  10. Investment: If you have money invested, check to see that it’s being used ethically to support the changes we need to see.

Links:

Solar Panels
Solar Panels

KEEPING IT ALL TOGETHER: Most importantly in these challenging times, we need to look after our own sense of wellbeing and find some positives. We are so blessed to live in New Zealand, and that’s a good start for being grateful.

  1. Support: We all need a support group of like minded friends or family to share experiences with, both good and not so good. You could join a group to learn new skills.
  2. Gratitude: The old cliche of counting your blessings. It’s now been proven that focusing on the good things in your day, before you go to sleep, helps to improve your mental health and optimism. What were your 3 best things today? Share them or write them down.
  3. Outdoors: Time in nature has been proven to give us a better sense of wellbeing and more positive health, even seeing trees outside the window counts. Best of all, take time to walk through the bush or along the beach, or simply walk along the road and admire the variety of gardens there.
  4. Screen time: What about a screen free sunday each week for everyone in your home? Perhaps it would be a good time to pursue some other interests, or have some old fashioned family time playing board games or going for a walk.
  5. Creativity is great for one’s wellbeing, whether it’s listening or playing music, doing something arty, writing, gardening, reorganising your space, singing, sewing or knitting, dancing, anything that you can put a bit of yourself into. You don’t need to be good at it, just able to lose yourself in it.
  6. Resilience: It’s not an easy task, but being mentally prepared, and understanding the predicaments we face, ultimately helps us be stronger and more resilient come whatever may. Resilience is about being prepared in our homes, and in ourselves.
  7. Meditation: really just another word for being present here and now and not lost in thoughts of what ifs and wherefores. Check out youtube for some options too.*
  8. Keeping afloat: It’s a balancing act between keeping up with the latest information on climate change, covid and so on, and getting bogged down feeling overwhelmed. Doing any of the things on these lists will help you to feel a bit more hopeful for our future, and will be adding your small changes to a whole lot of other peoples small changes and that adds up to a big change.

Links:

Finding beauty in the garden