Rubbish Free Year Blog

Week 45 – Future forests

We have had an amazing week.  Believe it or not, more surprises to do with flying.

Early last week Matthew got an email from the Air New Zealand Environmental Trust inviting ‘influential bloggers’ to attend a day at the Mangarara Station in the Hawkes Bay to see their tree planting work.  The funny thing is Matthew ignored the email, not realising that they were actually referring to us as ‘influential bloggers’.  So we got an urgent email on Friday asking us to confirm and next thing we knew we had canceled out of work and were flying up to visit ‘the family farm’.  Check them out online they are great.

When we landed we met 7 others including David Farrar from kiwiblog, Carlin Archer of Ecobob fame,  and Ruud Kleinpaste, the ‘Bugman’.  After driving for an hour we arrived at the Station. We met the farmers,Greg and Rachel, who are trying their best to run a productive and sustainable farm.  Its a gorgeous spot with a lake and one of the last stands of mature native forest in the Hawkes Bay.  They approached Air New Zealand Environment Trust for funding to help plant over 100 acres in natives, with the intention of the future forest being used for carbon sequention and as part of a ‘migration corridor’ for birds and bugs between national parks.  Greg and Rachel also see trees as just common sense for the future of farming; making use of marginal, dry land, improving water quality, providing shade for stock and nurturing biodiversity.

When we embarked on our tour of the farm we took buckets with us.  I wondered why, until I saw how dry everything was. The Hawkes Bay is currently undergoing its driest spring since 1914 and some of the seedlings are succumbing – others though are impressively hardy, looking cool and calm amidst stalky dead grass.  Journeying back and forth from the lake with my bucket to the needy ones made me appriciate the huge task of initiating a forest, it also some how filled me with hope, because while we were putting energy into living rubbish free, someone else is putting energy into  biodiveristy and carbon sequention.   I tapped into that elusive power of the ‘disassembled crowd’.  I came up with this phrase a few years ago when pondering the irony of how each one, when isolated can feel unable to make a difference, yet if each one were to come together, an immense, powerful and energetic crowd would result.  The irony is that  the feeling of power is largely symbolic when people stand around together in a crowd and activated when the crowd disassembles, and gets into whatever it is they do. So whether your thing is planting trees, organics, websites, parenting, energy, education, media, fair trade or buying local the trick is imagine yourself as part of this powerful disassembled crowd, which can be hard to do, but spending the day with these seedlings and other inspiring tenacious individuals was a great reminder.

The Air New Zealand Environmental Trust has been set up as an independent entity with funding guaranteed by Air NZ for the next three years.  Basically, when you book a flight online you have the opportunity to either offset your carbon footprint the traditional way, in which a calculation is made as to how much carbon your flight will create thereby providing you with an amount to donate through a Government scheme connected to windfarms, or to donate to the Air NZ Environmental Trust whose first project is supporting Greg and Rachel’s forest regeneration.  The resulting forest will be protected by covenant and the public will have access to it.

There were so many neat things about the day.  I milked the opportunity to talk to Ruud about why there aren’t any native birds in our garden yet, despite the native trees.  Not surprisingly he said that bugs were important and also explained how important organic matter is.  I came home and the first thing I did was go out the the back of our section (where the glasshouse used to be) and spend some time with our very own future forest.  I now have plans to get hold of as much organic matter as possible, leaves, seaweed etc, I can’t wait to see what will happen.

By the way, yes, Air New Zealand did make a donation to the trust to offset our flights for the day. 🙂 Now that I know I can do that I am going to make a donation for my escapade to Timaru last weekend.

Week 44-Flying away

I had a great birthday surprise last weekend, we did go camping but with a twist.  On Saturday morning Isacc, a friend of ours who recently passed his commercial pilot’s license, knocked on our door.  I instantly thought to myself, things have taken a positive turn… sure enough Matthew announced that we were off on a scenic flight around Christchurch.  The plane was a Piper Cub – a tiny canvas two-seater from the 1930-40’s. As it was not big enough for three we left Matthew at home. After looping around Christchurch Isacc asked me if I wanted to go a little farther south to check out Lake Ellesmere, great I said.  Then he made up another excuse to get us further south until we could see Timaru in the distance.  I asked for water and Isacc said he didn’t bring any but that since we were almost there we could fly to Timaru for a cup of tea.  I was totally sucked in, and when we arrived at the airport I was amazed to see Matthew and Jess (dog) smiling and waving at us.  Matty had raced us down in the car! After that Isacc flew home and we started our camping adventure, which I won’t go into but it was a totally fantastic time.  There we have it, a rubbish free birthday.  Bit of fuel though, hmmm…I guess consumption is what makes special occasions special.  Actually that’s a statement open to attack, perhaps I should retract it?  ….

On our way back we stopped for coffee in Geraldine.  When walking around the shops I was drawn by big SALE signs and before I knew it I was having quite an amazing shopping experience.  I am so glad I found it.  From what I could gather it is called the ‘100% made in New Zealand’ store.  (Although I haven’t been able to find them on line, including white pages).  It is a chain of stores and if you are lucky you’ll have one in your location.  As the the name suggests the store only sells clothing made in New Zealand.  What I really like about it is that it brings together a wide range of labels, like Swandry and Chalky Digits; and products – almost as handy as being in a department store.  A good range of mens and womens ware, jackets through to underwear.  Most items are made from natural fibers, which unlike synthetics are rubbish free because they break down.  However the most noteworthy thing for me in the shop was a complete lack of plastic. The tags were usually attached with string or ribbon or the like and when I made a purchase  (two Merino thermals for $30!!) I got a little paper bag.  A very thoughtful shop, I thought, and well worth a shout out.

Well that’s about it.  From your comments  we have decided that our big blob of paint is a big blob of synthetic rubbish and so we will be adding it to our bag.  And I am also finally sick of our muesli bar recipe that we have been making all year and am now endulging in baking white flour, sugary things instead.  Last week I made a sponge with jam and cream and as I write I am eatting a slice of apricot flan.  Its great!

Week 43- fat lips, socks and other surprises

Well summer is upon us and our rubbish free year is soon coming to an end – two months to go.  We are starting to think about what on earth a rubbish free Christmas will look like – what to buy, how to wrap , how to post …  more on that when we actually do it.  I can report on our birthdays though, both of which we had over the last few weeks.   I took Matthew out for dinner and a movie, and this weekend he is taking me away on a birthday surprise weekend.  I love surprises, so whatever we do I’ll probably be stoked.  We’ve found giving someone an experience is a great way to avoid gifting someone plastic -whether its the item or the packaging, it also often ends up supporting local business, so it’s all good.  The other trick is giving consumables,  added bonus people have a legitimate way of making it disappear if they don’t like it.  No questions asked.  Aside from my surprise weekend (which I am picking will be camping somewhere) I received two other presents.  One was cash.  No rubbish there.  The other was a pair of socks knitted by mum.  Mum knits great woolen socks that are hard wearing and really warm – not to mention package free. Good on you mum!  We live at the other end of the island to mum and dad so presents are always posted, and since our challenge started they have always sent packages of brown paper tied up with string (any S.O.M fans humming?).  I love receiving these wholesome little time trips, it reminds me of the 70’s.

Speaking of post, I think the last item of rubbish in our bag was from NZ post.  An Australian home design magazine had run an article on us and sent us a copy in a regular A4 paper envelope, unfortunately it wasn’t strong enough for the journey and it burst, so NZ post came to the rescue with a nice strong durable plastic bag for it and a big apology sticker explaining what had happened.  No one to blame really, everyone did their best, 🙂

This week we also had a paint spill in the garage and have ended up with a blob of solid paint.  What do you do with paint?  Is is plastic?  Will it biodegrade?  Are modern day acrylic paints toxic? – i.e. would you be happy for it to be breaking down in your compost heap?

The only other ‘rubbish news’ I can think of to happen this week was that I raided the ‘Lost Ark’ again (the treasure trove of items that will be rubbish when used, but are technically OK to use so long as we don’t finish them).  While biking I collided with a kid on a skateboard, I fell connecting my upper lip with the board as it flew up from the pavement.  Came home and considered not doing anything about it but Matthew raided the box for the disinfectant.  Probably just as well.

Week 42 – Canon vs Sony

Firstly, apologies for the complete absence of a blog from us for the past couple of weeks.  A perfect storm of travel, exams, work and life meant that we didn’t get a chance to sit down and write, but the storm has now moved on and the forecast is looking good for future weekly blogs!

One of our trips away was to attend my nephew, Adam’s, 21st birthday.  We decided to purchase Adam a camera, and at the same time look at getting one for ourselves, having previously relied on the goodwill of friends to take digital photos.  After all the comparisons and research was completed we purchased a Sony camera for Adam, and a week later, bought a Canon camera for ourselves.  On getting the Sony camera home and having a wee play with it before wrapping it up, I was struck by the simplicity of the packaging which consisted of a cardboard tray, cables tied with wire ties and that was about it.  Previously, I had rung the store and after explaining our challenge, had asked what packaging came with the Canon camera.  I was told that the packaging was very minimal and, like the Sony, cardboard based.  Therefore, when I purchased the Canon camera it wasn’t until I got home that I found a whole heap of plastic packaging.  It sat in a plastic tray, cables tied with wire ties were then sealed in plastic bags and the CD rom and manuals were also in individual plastic bags.  So our rubbish collection has increased.  We were reluctant to apply our standard practice of purchasing second hand products to the camera mainly because of the lack of warranties and the possibility of it having been dropped or damaged in it’s previous life, however, in looking at the unnecessary packaging, maybe two Sony cameras would have been a better idea!

In keeping with our decision to not put off any projects or activities around the house till after the challenge has finished, this week we have embarked on dismantling our glasshouse.  The glasshouse is a wooden construction about 40yrs old, measuring 5m x 4.8m and although veges certainly grow well in there we have found it to be too large, ugly and time consuming in maintainence.  After many conversations we’ve decided to get rid of it, convert that area into a semi-forest and enlarge the chicken coop.  Over the past few days I’ve built two new raised beds outside, closer to the house, and have transplanted from the glasshouse to there.  Although it would be no problem disposing of the glass, the wooden frame has been painted and the timber may be treated, therefore, we can not use it as firewood.  The problem was solved however, after I placed an ad in our local Freecycle group.  Freecycle is a geographically based Yahoo group that enables you to list, and view, items to be given away for free.  People are able to view the items and then email if they would like them.  The first person to make contact is then given an address from where to pick the item up.  In our case six people were interested in the glasshouse.  The result is that our glasshouse will be off to Dunsandel, 40mins from Christchurch, with the new owner coming over this weekend to begin deconstruction.  It is a great win – win situation, with the glasshouse not really being of great monetary value, except to someone who has the considerable time and energy it will take to complete the project, whilst at the same time saving the landfill from additional waste and reusing a resource…awesome!

Week 39 – Tired tires

We decided not to blog last week due to it being Labour Day Weekend and we were out of town and for those of you who have noticed our absence from the NZ Herald, we have been bumped in the interests of increased reporting on the election but apparently will reappear after we’ve all voted!

We often get the ‘What do you do about…?’ questions and have generally been surprised at how many we have been able to provide an answer , but they seem to be getting harder!  We were asked this week what we do with our old bicycle tires when they wear out?  Waveney’s tires are getting pretty thin, evidenced by three punctures in just over a month, and so this is an issue we are about to face as we look at getting her some new ones.  We haven’t had any car tires wear out so far this year, but in the past they have come in handy to make potato stacks.  Basically, after stuffing the cavity with newspaper, you plant your potatoes in one and then as the plants grow you add a tire and more soil until you have a stack about six tires high.  Then when it comes time to harvest you just go in reverse removing potatoes as you need them.  The tires make the soil warmer stimulating growth whilst also retaining moisture.  But back to the issue of bicycle tires, if anyone has any suggestions on alternative uses please let us know, we would be very appreciative.  I have found that worn out inner tubes make great tie downs for my surfboard onto the roof racks but haven’t found any uses for the tires yet.

There has been many times this year when we have lamented decisions made either by former owners and tenants of our house, or past Matty and Wave, therefore it is great to acknowledge where past decisions have had a positive impact on reducing our waste.  About two years ago Waveney bought a aluminum water bottle which last week sprung a leak.  At the time she was drawn towards the nicer colours of a range of plastic bottles.  It is hard to know which is more durable, but we are rapt that we can send this bottle to the scrap metal dealer, whereas once the plastic one had reached the end of it’s life, it would have been off to the landfill as it wasn’t recyclable in Christchurch.  The other item that died in the last few weeks was a coat hanger.  At the start of the year we got hold of second hand wooden coat hangers and it was one of these that broke.   The wood was used as kindling to light a fire one evening and the hook will join the water bottle in a trip to the scrap metal dealer, again, a plastic one would have joined the landfill.

Week 37 – Restaurant leftovers

On the odd occasion that Waveney and I go out for dinner we can generally be found at a Chinese restaurant imaginatively named ‘The Great Wall of China’.  When we went a few weeks ago we ended up with a lot of food leftover and were about to ask for it to be packaged up to take home when we spied the styrofoam takeaway containers.  The ethical dilema of whether it is best to have perfectly good food thrown out versus utilizing non-biodegradable or recyclable containers was easily solved in light of our rubbish free year.  However, the experience obviously made an impact because returning last Sunday, we were about to walk out the door of our house when we remembered to grab some containers and consequently we both had our lunches catered for the next day.  It has made me wonder whether it might be a good idea to keep some containers in the car for such situations…of course we should be on our bikes…

Speaking of cars, ours has finally added an item to our rubbish bag.  On a hot nor’west day here in Christchurch our car decided to overheat.  It soon became apparent that the top radiator hose had perished.  I attempted to shorten the hose but this was unsuccessful and so a new one was bought and the old one added to the bag.  I’m not sure what alternative uses exist for a reinforced perished rubber hose, so if you have any suggestions I would love to hear them.  In the meantime it has been added to our rubbish pile which has just pushed us out of the shoebox we have been storing our rubbish in for the past nine and half months.

Week 36 – a brighter future

the pitWe have had a few family members visiting in the last couple of weeks, making the most of the school holidays .  My cousin and her family live in Auckland and her eldest daughter goes to a eco-friendly primary school.  Its amazing what schools are getting up to these days. They have a worm farm and garden and every Friday the whole school is completely rubbish free.  Apparently this 10 year old is so in to it she tells her mum off for slipping fruit wraps or anything plastic wrapped into her lunchbox.  Not surprisingly she was very keen to explore our rubbish free home.  I showed her all of our rubbish systems, apart from our pit, which she wasn’t at all keen on experiencing.  (our ‘pit’ is a long term composting system  that consists of a hole in the ground covered by a big plastic bin the with the base cut out of it and a lid that seals the whole thing.  It is where things like dog poo, dog fur, fish bones, hair and fingernails end up.  Not a combo she was keen to see! – Although to be fair she managed a quick peek).  She wrote a report for her teacher about it.  We were all scared of dying in a nuclear war when I was her age, hadn’t given two thoughts about making the future a better place to be.  Good on you Emma.   My sister also came down with her family.  The were all keen to look at our rubbish – which is still managing to fit into a shoe box.  It amuses me how often people want to look through our rubbish!  I’ve even taken it out with me to show interested people when we visit!  It doesn’t smell because everything is washed and of course nothing is organic.  When looking through everything we decided to extract two items.  I took out the cigarette butts that Matty found in the woodshed and burned them in the logburner.  We originally decided not to burn them because we were concerned about the toxins in the filters, but we changed our minds.  I burned one and it seemed fine, so they all happily went up in a big woosh.  The other item was the medication packaging from Jess the dog’s antibiotics.  I thought it was a foil plastic composite, but my sister thought it was just foil (therefore able to be taken to a scrap metal dealer or recycled at the kerbside).  Upon thorough scrutiny we all decided that there was no evidence of plastic and that it was indeed pure foil.

Everyone who visited commented that it didn’t seem like a rubbish free house i.e it seemed to look and operate normally.  I think that this is a fair observation.  Most of the difference is in the way we shop, and sometimes in food preparation methods, but not so much not in what we serve up for dinner.  Although my sister, who is older than me and can remember the 70’s more vividly, did mention that  our pantry reminded her of mum’s ‘health food craze’.  A brief period where mum somehow found the energy to raise three children, bake bread, roast bran-flake-molasses-coffee, prepare lemon and barley water and squeeze our own fresh orange juice. It definitely has gone that way a bit round here, with fresh dandelion tea, soaking beans, and growing our own ginger root.  Did you know that you can make a lovely tea straight from dandelion leaves?  Especially great this time of year when there are lots of supple shoots around.  It’s a weak green tea like flavour.