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How To Be Green in NZ

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How To Be Green in New Zealand

By Carlin Archer (July 2012)

The purpose of this article is to provide information for people in New Zealand wanting to know how to be green. I’ve tried to cover the easy ‘little things’ anyone can do and have also discussed the bigger items to consider when renovating a house to make it more eco friendly or building a new green home.

Easy green things to do at home

Recycle household food waste

Photo from Bokashi NZ

If your local council is not already recycling your food waste and green waste for you, this is definitely something you will want to do yourself. If you have the space you have the advantage of turning your food waste into nutrient rich compost for your garden!

Bokashi: One of the best systems I’ve come across for dealing with household food waste in an environmentally friendly way is the bokashi system. The advantage of this system over other methods is that it makes it quite simple to recycle meat waste along with plant based food waste. Also, the sealed system can be kept inside the kitchen for easy access.

Worm farms: Another great way to deal with food waste is by using a worm farm. There’s something fun about running your own worm farm and the resulting soil and ‘worm tea’ is super good for the garden.

Compost heap: With a bit more space you can start your own compost heap in the garden. Simply collected your scraps and from time to time deliver them to the compost heap. There are a ton of resources on the internet about starting a compost heap.

One of the issues people sometimes raise about composting their own food waste is that they don’t have the space. With the right solution and some planning you can get around this. For example, if you know a friend or family member with a garden you can deliver the resulting output to their property!

Click here to find more businesses/products dealing with household food waste.

Use less water at home

Photo from Rainline NZ

To be a good ‘eco citizen’ you need to be very conscious about your use of water. Some easy tips are:

  1. Take shorter showers and have shallower (and less) baths.
  2. Get a low flow shower head fitted.
  3. Put a brick in the toilet cistern so you use less water with each flush and use a half flush where appropriate.
  4. Use less water when you wash your car.
  5. Water your garden in the morning or evening on hot days - watering during the middle of the day means more of the water is evaporated before it can be used by your plants.
  6. Keep a lookout for leaks and any leaks fixed quickly.
  7. When brushing your teeth, turn off the tap after you wet your toothbrush
  8. Make sure appliances that use water such as washing machines and dishwashers and properly filled before use.
  9. Plant your garden wisely with drought resistant plants and have less space dedicated to lawn.
  10. Don’t leave the hose running while you are washing your car.
  11. Install rainwater collection tanks and use the rainwater for your garden or washing the car.

Google ‘reducing water use at home’ for more ideas or check out the businesses in our directory selling water related products.

Grow your own organic food

Photo from Food With A Story

It can be expensive to eat organically but you can reduce your reliance on the industrial food system by growing your own spray free food at home. Even with limited space you can get something started such as growing herbs in planter boxes or on the kitchen window sill.

Not only do you save money on food bills every week but you reduce the land used by industrial agriculture and provide more healthy food for your family.

Buy more organic food and local food

Photo from Green Urban Living

You can support a more sustainable food chain by choosing to spend your dollars on food grown in a more eco friendly way such as organic, spray free or from small local producers - if you haven’t already take a trip to your local farmers market. The added benefit of this approach is that you end up with less pesticides in your diet.

Although this type of food can cost more, you are voting with your purchasing power which will lead towards a sustainable planet for the next generation.

Make meat a treat

Eating less meat can have a positive impact on the planet. When you do eat make, choose meat from animals that are raised ethically - get to know more about where your food comes from and don’t support inhumane farming practices. Even better, consider going vegetarian.

Buy less stuff - share with your neighbours & friends

Get to know your neighbours and see if you can share some of your things! Rather than going out and buying a new power tool see if you can’t borrow it from someone nearby. There’s just too much stuff being consumed in the world and this is one of the biggest ways to reduce your impact - if you haven’t watched The Story of Stuff, make sure you check it out.

Also, why not recycle the babies and childrens clothing? It seems such a waste to purchase brand new clothing or to throw out out when they grow out of it. There are some websites out there that help you do that - why not buy and sell second hand clothes on Trademe?

Use more sustainably produced products

For items that you just have to purchase make sure you look into purchasing things that are more eco friendly/green. Have a look in the Ecobob Directory for sustainable products and services or check out for other ideas.

Use less fossil fuels

Over 90% of climate scientists say that the world’s use of fossil fuels is having a negative impact on the Earth’s climate causing changes in weather patterns and the melting of the ice caps.

You can reduce your impact on climate change by:

  1. Driving less - use a bike or walk where you can. Try to live close to your work or take public transport where possible.
  2. Speak out against further use of fossil fuels such as new coal mines, oil exploration or oil subsidies.
  3. Using a smaller car - sell the gas-guzzler and get a car with a smaller engine.

Save on electricity and use less power

This is of course a win-win situation as you get to be eco friendly and spend less on your electricity bill each month as a result.

Save power by:

  1. Use energy efficient light bulbs where you can.
  2. Turn off your appliances at the wall - stand by power can add to your bill.
  3. Turn off the lights when you’re not using them.
  4. Try washing your laundry on cold wash rather than hot.

Other things to consider

If you buy bottled water, get yourself a recyclable water bottle - watch the online video at The Story of Bottled water if you need convincing.

When buying new appliances ensure you select the ones with the best power saving features or that use the least water.

Have we missed anything obvious? Email us at and we’ll add it to the list.

Click here to read about green renovations

Renovate your house to make it more sustainable

Why not renovate your home to make it greener? Some advantages of doing this are that you could end up with a warmer house, lower power bills, lower water bills and a healthier family.

Insulate insulate insulate

Photo from Terra Lana

This is one of the most cost effective ways of saving power costs and creating a healthier home. The New Zealand government often offers subsidies for insulation work and by insulating your walls, ceiling, flooring and other areas of the house you prevent heat from unnecessary leakage of heat. If you have the budget for it, choose eco friendly wool insulation over less sustainable fibreglass batts. Get double or triple glazed windows installed as large amount of heat escapes through windows and use insulating curtains.

Solar hot water

One of the biggest culprits for electricity use in an average household is for water heating. Look into the economics of having a solar hot water system installed. Find a solar hot water installer in our directory of building products and services

Install a rainwater collection system

In a water scarce world it’s such a shame that rainwater isn’t harvested more often for use around the home. Think about having rainwater tanks installed and have your roof water diverted; you can use this water for your garden or to wash the car.

Eco friendly paints

Most paints contain a harmful cocktail of toxins such as ‘volatile organic compounds’ - the off-gases from these paints can damage the health of your family so consider using VOC free, non-toxic paints.

Install renewable energy

As power prices continually increase it is becoming more and more cost effective to have a renewable energy system such as photovoltaic solar panels or wind power installed. While this can be a high up-front cost the ongoing savings can be considerable. Read this article written in November 2011 about the payback time of having solar panels installed and this article on micro-generation in New Zealand.

Building a green home

The final part of this article 'building a green home' is coming soon - watch this space!

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