Over the last three weeks I’ve shared a handful of stories from newspapers both international and local. This week I’ll just start the column by referring to an article that appeared in the Herald in mid-March: Kiwis take more than fair share (Jamie Morton, 15-03-13).
This headline may come as a bit of a shock to those who consider New Zealand to be a fair, just, egalitarian nation. (But then again, we do rank among the top countries in income inequality.) This headline refers to a concept called Ecological Footprinting, which measures the overall environmental impact of an individual, a family, a city, or, in this case, a nation. In other words, as the article states: “If the entire world lived like a New Zealander we’d need more than two planets to sustain us.”
The article reports on two papers released by the Royal Society of New Zealand that looked at the following areas: food production, water quality, biodiversity, fisheries, transportation, and climate change. The combined direct and indirect impacts of all of these add up to the Ecological Footprint, which can be reported in “fair earth shares.” A fair earth share is calculated by taking the world’s total arable land, and dividing it by the human population. The current figure is 1.7 hectares per person, while estimates for New Zealand citizens fall between 5 and 8 hectares.
But even for those of us who have traveled to Africa, India, or parts of Asia, and seen people existing on a fraction of an earth share (1.7 hectares), the concept can remain abstract. I’ll try to simplify it by using a reference that may be more familiar, the 3 Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. It should be fairly easy for anyone to recognize that ‘doing’ the 3 Rs would shrink his or her ecological footprint.
Recycling, at this point in time, should be a no-brainer for everyone in New Zealand as it saves money, conserves resources, and helps the environment. This is the type of win-win-win situation preferred in eco-thrifty thinking. Yet I am shocked at how little recycling takes place in many of our public places and sporting venues around Whanganui. After the outstanding, world-class waste minimization effort at the New Zealand Masters Games in February, I was surprised to find out that the organisers of other large, public events in our city have chosen not to make efforts at waste reduction.
Reducing and reusing, for me, go hand-in-hand. Put another way, by reusing, we reduce. For example, nearly everything in our entire ‘new’ kitchen is second-hand, saving the mining and transportation of new resources, the manufacture and transportation of new products, and the disposal of old products.
New, second-hand kitchen
Another example is the second-hand flue pipes I bought for our second-hand Shacklock 501. Reusing them saved me about 75% of the cost of buying new flues, saved the large carbon footprint of steel production, and supported a locally-owned and operated business, The Renovator’s Centre.
New, second-hand flue
One final example, although I could describe dozens, is our hanging laundry cabinet that was once a floor cabinet, and came to us via Hayward’s Auctions. Although Nicky, the cashier at Hayward’s, was rightly horrified when we told her we planned to paint the rimu cupboard, it turned out alright.
Some tricks that I used when converting the floor unit to a hanging unit were: 1) inverting it so the original top is now the bottom, revealing the nice side, not the grotty side; 2) taking off the hinges and taping the glass when painting helps to make second-hand items look first rate.
Reducing, reusing and recycling help keep dollars in our community, extend resource reserves for our children and grandchildren, and reduce our impact on the environment. The Win-Win-Wins keep piling up, a lot like the All Blacks.