Changing our Future
Right now, the climate crisis is the greatest risk to our planets future. Failure to cap and reduce global greenhouse gas emissions will be catastrophic for human society, animal and plant life, and biodiversity in general. And it is now clear this is happening sooner rather than later. The scale of the threat and the challenge can seem overwhelming especially when the results of any effort to prevent further environmental damage may not be seen for decades, even centuries. So how do we face up to this collective crisis? How do we make a difference now that will make our planet more liveable in the future? The answer is, we do what we can and don't delay. Already, in communities across Aotearoa, New Zealanders are working towards a sustainable future. In the image-led series Changing Our Future, a partnership between Stuff and Gen Less , we will highlight individuals who are leading the way and building a tomorrow that meets the needs of future generations. Over the next few months, you'll meet the people in our country who are positively changing our future. A second story series, Kiwis on the Right Side , captures the amazing innovation and initiatives of everyday heroes showing the way and doing their bit. From composting to shopping locally and green investment, these stories show how the moment to act is now if we want to make an impact that will resonate into our children's and their children's future. Jericho Rock-Archer/Stuff Jericho Rock-Archer/Stuff When Holly Norton started talking to businesses about sustainability, most of them had no idea they could actually be labelled green. As a result, they were missing out on customers looking for sustainable products and services, and customers were missing out on options. Norton is a senior project and partnership manager at the Sustainable Business Network, part of a small team who completed Creative HQs GovTech Accelerator programme in November, creating a toolkit a checklist, of sorts for businesses to measure their impact on the planet. The goal was to facilitate sustainable procurement. About 95% of the 60 businesses the team talked to werent able to even define the term, she said. In reality, Norton said, procurement was just businesses going shopping. From stationary to cars to cleaners, businesses including Government departments needed resources and services. By making it easier to tell whether the businesses they were buying from or contracting were doing their bit for the planet, the group hoped to make it easier to choose sustainable options. Businesses were looking for small and medium-sized suppliers who aligned with their values around carbon, waste and modern slavery. The toolkit was set to launch around mid-year, Norton said. Christel Yardley/Stuff Christel Yardley/Stuff The swap to solar was a no-brainer for Troy Hillard . Over the past six months Hillard, managing director for the Rite Group franchise, has taken their lawn mowing business off grid - switching to battery-powered equipment, with solar charging from the trailer. As the operator is working throughout the day, the trailer will actually produce the electricity to keep charging the battery. With skyrocketing fuel prices in recent months its paying off economically, Hillard says. The money they save on fuel is around $30 to $40 per day and that money over 10 weeks is covering the cost of the total solar set-up. Theyre basically putting $200 to $250 into their pocket extra per week, he said. Reducing the business carbon footprint was also a priority. Vanessa Laurie/Stuff Vanessa Laurie/Stuff The power to change the world and live a more sustainable life is at your fingertips, says Jamie Silk . The Taranaki man is committed to helping people live a healthier, cheaper and more sustainable lifestyle through small changes they can fit into their life without having to dip into their wallets. Silk runs his own consultancy and is an energy behaviour change advisor for Sustainable Taranaki. He champions life tweaks like driving less, four minute showers and getting on your bike. The 55-year-old gives free energy advice to those struggling with their power bills and unable to invest in improving their homes. He covers simple things like window seal kits, covering draught gaps, changing your lights, and wrapping hot water cylinders. It's about us just sitting down over a cup of tea, and sometimes I will get a free scone. Silk walks his talk. Eighteen months ago the keen paddleboarder moved his family to a rural property near the beach. Now when he wants to check the surf he jumps on his bike, not in his car. Lawrence Smith/Stuff Lawrence Smith/Stuff Certified passive house architect Joe Lyth of Respond Architects is walking the talk with his own family home - a passive house designed to a tight first-homeowner budget. The familys bright red home in rural Tahekeroa north of Auckland references traditional barns, but inside, its a spartan space designed to grow with the family. His philosophy? To spend money on the shell and everything that is going to impact the performance of the home. Fancy kitchen fittings can come later, he says. Taking this approach has meant the family has all the energy-efficiency benefits of a passive house for around the cost of a standard build - $2600 + GST per square metre. He says, as far as his family were concerned, there was no alternative: I am trying to keep my kids healthy, he says. As with all passive houses, this one is a well-insulated airtight envelope conditioned by a mechanical heat recovery system. High-specification, double-glazed windows and shading mitigate the solar gains in the summer, while allowing the warmth into the house during winter. Martin De Ruyter/Stuff Martin De Ruyter/Stuff It requires just 10.3 seconds of sun to produce a 380g jar of peanut butter. The Nelson factory has installed 486 solar panels on the roof of Peanut Butter World, using the regions plentiful sunshine to roast millions of peanuts a day. Picot said the lifecycle of peanuts used in the company's spreads was coming full circle. Fresh roasting ourselves here in New Zealand and powering operations through solar is part of our commitment to a sustainable future, Picot says. The new solar panels will supply at least 20% of Pics annual energy demand, with the summer months providing significantly more power enough energy to roast 3.3 million peanuts on a sunny day, or 124,000 jars per month, he said. Brya Ingram/Stuff Brya Ingram/Stuff A bit of Kiwi ingenuity and some hard yakka has helped a family-run business in Marlborough divert hundreds of thousands of tonnes of toxic waste from the nations landfills in a little over two years. Repost came to life during the 2020 lockdown when viticulturist Stu Dudley and cattle farmer Greg Coppell combined their respective industry experiences to help reduce waste from vineyards, and create sturdy fencing alternatives for farms. Dudley said he saw the need to reduce the use of toxic CCA-treated timber in the wine industry after helping to convert several vineyards to organic status. Broken, toxic treated timber posts used on vineyards are the biggest environmental waste concern for the wine industry with more than 700,000 going to landfill each year. We supply repurposed CCA vineyard posts, and reduce the need for people to buy new ones, Dudley said. The company goes from vineyard to vineyard with specialist machinery that transforms stock piles of CCA-treated timber posts into reusable posts for fencing cattle and sheep farms. Repost has already diverted 720 tonnes of contaminated waste from going to landfill, and has helped fence almost 1000 kilometres of farms across New Zealand in the process. Chris Skelton/Stuff Chris Skelton/Stuff The five brightly-coloured beads on Christchurch ex-lawyer Bridget Williams necklace are more than a bold fashion statement. Each one represents the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals most important to her, whether that be building sustainable communities, or moving to more responsible production. Williams founded Bead and Proceed in 2019, a social enterprise which has helped teach thousands about the 17 goals. She holds workshops where businesses and groups craft and paint five-beaded necklaces with the goals most important to them. Goal number 7 affordable and clean energy is top priority for many. The UN aims to have all 17 goals implemented by 2030, an ambitious timeframe thats inspired the nickname, the moonshot goals. While the Covid-19 pandemic had put a big handbrake on a lot of work, Williams says its not too late to make a difference. Lawrence Smith/Stuff Lawrence Smith/Stuff Nine-year-old Nico Tauri is on a mission to have every school in Aotearoa install compost bins. It comes after he successfully convinced consumer goods giant Unilever to take plastic scoops out of its Surf washing powder across New Zealand and Australia. Unilever said the move, which starts mid-2022, would reduce the amount of plastic in circulation by 14.9 tonnes every year. Now, Nico is asking the Government to help put compost bins in all schools. He says his school alone produces about 400kg of wood waste per year. Kavinda Herath/Stuff Kavinda Herath/Stuff Tim and Helen Gow are leading the charge for rural folk to embrace Electric Vehicles (EV) - proving you can save the climate and thousands of dollars in fuel costs as well. The Southland farmers bought their first partly-electric vehicle - a plug-in hybrid - in 2013 as a punt, and have saved upwards of $80,000 in petrol costs from that purchase alone. Since then, Tim has gone on to replace all his Utility Terrain Vehicles with electric alternatives. The Gow's own Mangipiri Downs Organic Stud Farm, which runs about 4000 stock units of sheep and cattle in Blackmount, Western Southland. They started using regenerative farming techniques in 1988, doing away with fertiliser, and now they are aiming to run the farm using entirely EVs to create a carbon-neutral product. Kavinda Herath/Stuff Kavinda Herath/Stuff Robyn Guyton recalls growing up in central Southland sourcing milk directly from dairy farmers and honey straight from the hives of local beekeepers. As supermarkets grew and farming became more focused on exports the local connection between suppliers and producers disappeared alongside the small Southland towns that used to line trading routes, and the carbon footprint of food on shelves increased exponentially as a result. In response, Robyn developed the Longwood Loop, a mobile farmers market run through an electric van that connects local producers with consumers along a traditional trading route in Western Southland. Using the model, no purchaser or grower has to travel more than 10km to market. It ticks all the boxes, local food, no carbon, low travel, community building and economically viable," she says. It wasn't an easy plight to establish the service, Robyn says, they had to complete feasibility studies and crowdfund for the purchase of the electric van. Robyn Edie/Stuff Robyn Edie/Stuff Trent Yeo believes tourism has the power to transform peoples thinking. In 2009 he started New Zealands first zipline tour, Ziptrek Ecotours in Queenstown, intending it to be fun and educational, but also to be a role model for business success while being sustainably focussed. The idea that tourism businesses can be successful and be good citizens isnt a disconnected thing, he says. To reduce carbon emissions from transport he established Ziptrek in central Queenstown and utilised the existing Skyline gondola for access to the gravity based activity. Treehouses were hand built within the existing wilding pine structures using locally sourced macrocarpa and logs from the site. Solar panels high in the canopy provide the small amount of on-site power required. The companys small number of work vehicles are being replaced with EVs, uniforms are made from organic cotton and stationery includes recycled paper and vegetable-based inks. Three years ago Yeo began annual carbon measurements and Ziptrek became Queenstowns first certified zero-carbon tourism business. In the last year each guest produced an estimated carbon dioxide equivalent of 1.33kg per guest - a minimal amount when you consider a single traveller flying from Auckland to Queenstown produces about 200 times more. The company purchases carbon credits that support the regeneration of native forest in Golden Bay to offset the small amount it does produce. Yeo believes many people feel disempowered by the environmental challenges we face. We want to show people how a zero carbon business can operate within its community and be economically viable. Ziptrek recently produced a six-part video series to demystify its climate action in business and has supported the environment by planting almost 6000 trees so far. Jason Dorday/Stuff Jason Dorday/Stuff Gary Marshall is on a waste mission. Last year he generated only a single half-bag of rubbish. Marshall lives at 26 Aroha - a sustainably designed carless apartment block for long-term tenants in Sandringham, Auckland, which strives to minimise waste. The block has bins for the usual recycling materials, plus soft plastics, batteries and cartridges. Then there is the organic waste disposal system beside the shared vegetable gardens. Marshall says the gardening crew get together once a month. And he is educating his neighbours too: There are 13 flats here and about 30 people, but 95 per cent of them dont know what to do with organic waste," he says, after finding shrimp dropped in the worm farm. Living sustainably is more than just a hobby - the landscape architect is one of two directors of Resilio Studio, a design studio with a focus on building resilience through regenerative design which evolved from the establishment of the Auckland Permaculture Workshop. He says walking the talk is important to him. Doing less harm is no longer good enough, we must do good and leave things better. Jericho Rock-Archer/Stuff Jericho Rock-Archer/Stuff From a backyard to a 400-square-metre warehouse in the heart of Porirua, one free store is changing the way op-shoppers think about waste diversion. The store challenges the retail norm, charging an entry fee of $5 per household to cover running costs and rent, with every item saved from landfill considered a win. Co-founder John Holt says theyve had to push pause on accepting donations of clothes, shoes and linen until the pile was more manageable. They installed a set of scales in November, and since then the store has shifted 50,000kg of goods, from clothing to furniture to electronics they average around 9000kg a week, the weight of seven Toyota Corollas. Free For All, founded six years ago, now has more than 20 volunteers on the roster. And its not all secondhand. One government department donated 10,000 pairs of pantyhose left over from migrant settlement packages, and designer clothes, tags still on. Andy MacDonald/Stuff Andy MacDonald/Stuff Leaving their cars at home and walking or biking to work has an added bonus for staff at a Nelson pharmaceutical company. More than a quarter of the 203 staff at Alaron earn $5 a day by getting on board with the companys no car allowance scheme. To receive the incentive, staff must leave their car at home, carpool or park 1km away from the worksite. Alaron QA document controller Fleur Delugar rides more than 45-minutes to work on her bike and has converted to an e-bike. The totally amazing scheme encourages staff to stay fit and limits fossil fuel output while being a financial perk, Deulgar says. Alaron business development and quality general manager Claire Quin says the incentive scheme was developed to reduce the companys carbon footprint and because of a lack of staff car parking spaces. The scheme's trial period finishes at the end of the month, but Quin says the initiative wont be taken away, well just build on it. The next step is to help staff on to their own e-bikes, using the $5 daily incentive to help pay it off. Robyn Edie/Stuff Robyn Edie/Stuff Behind a garage door in a residential home in Invercargill lies thousands of trays of microgreens, stacked neatly on top of each other under specifically designed low-output LED lights. Its a process termed vertical growing, and Crunchy owner Benji Biswas is passionate about its ability to reduce both the physical and carbon footprint of our food. In 2019, Benji was inspired by a documentary on food wastage and pesticides to begin looking at alternative methods of food production. After surveying local cafes and restaurants and realising the microgreens they had been importing from the North Island were soggy, he decided to start producing his own and Crunchy was born. That video inspired me to actually do my part and have a go and try to do things differently. Using a layering process one square metre of land could produce 15 square metres of food, he says. We can use a small area and produce way more, with a lot less. A commitment to being spray-free adds to the sustainability of his product. Soil naturally captures 40 per cent of carbon dioxide through plants, but continued use of pesticides and fertiliser has damaged soil microbiology and reduced its carbon capturing abilities, he says. Through using nutrient-rich compost and growing indoors, eliminating the need to spray for bugs, Crunchy not only utilises its by-products but also works to repair soil damage. Benji has big plans to reduce his carbon footprint even further. Hes on the hunt for a 300 square metre new premises which will be entirely powered by solar panels. John Bisset/Stuff John Bisset/Stuff Sven Johnston 's reluctance to burn fossil fuels saw him convert his Nissan Safari to run on used vegetable oil. He imported a conversion kit from America in 2004 which has enabled him to keep his car going on recycled oil. Johnston said this alternative fuel minimises the impact he's having on the planet. Over the years he's converted a total of 14 vehicles, including two for his parents who have now moved to an EV. The conversion to used vegetable oil suits older engines best. Sven and his wife Sarah also teach natural building and straw build construction and have built several homes around the Geraldine area. His advice; Johnston said the use of straw, clay and sand is the basis of a sound and environmentally friendly house and the couple are looking forward to running a workshop on straw house building in March. Alden Williams/Stuff Alden Williams/Stuff Ernst Frei says his concern for the environment is natural - he cares about what his 18 grandchildren are going to end up with. Frei , and builder Peter Bielski , are working on Bushland Park - New Zealands first Passive-House certified subdivision in Halswell, Christchurch. The first two three-bedroom, two-storey houses are at gib stopping stage and will be auctioned in April. The homes, the first of 11 planned, are designed to meet the super-strict international Passive House standard for energy efficiency. They will have continuous mechanical ventilation with heat recovery, and 6kW solar power systems, expected to generate as much electricity as the households consume. Chargers for electric vehicles will be installed on each property. The wool for the insulation even comes from sheep grazing in the next door paddock. Frei, alongside his wife Renata, has grown organic vegetables over four decades at the 18 hectare site, after becoming New Zealands first commercial organic poultry and free range egg producer in the 1980s. Hes planted about 5000 natives in the past year, mainly those that would have originally been in the swamp forest; species such as kahikatea, totara, and lancewood. Im just somebody who questions things and looks at why we do what we do, Frei says. If I see a better way, I want to do it. Bielski established his company Ethos Homes in 2016, after learning prefabrication methods and working in Passive House construction in Germany. The reason were so excited, Bielski says, He, his wife and four children are looking forward to joining the community at Bushland Park themselves, planning for early 2023. Martin De Ruyter/Stuff Martin De Ruyter/Stuff For 16-year-old Sophie Weenink , Covid may have thwarted her plans to organise a second mass cleanup at her local beach in Nelson but it has not stopped her making a difference whenever she can. I live on the Maitai River. When Im walking home Ill just try to do some cleaning up. She takes photographs too, documenting what she sees as part of a campaign to get the council to provide better rubbish bins in Nelson. Sophies commitment to improving the environment first gained national attention in 2019 when her call for volunteers to clean up Tahunanui Beach drew 200 willing locals who collected a rubbish pile that weighed 200 kilograms. Organised river cleanups followed and most recently she worked with the charity Giving Aroha to provide support to the citys homeless. She became a youth advocate with The Kamahi Trust and joined the Nelson Youth Council and Nelson Tasman Climate Forum. She is excited about her next big project which is briefly on hold until school exams are over. Im working on a Forest and Bird youth campaign to build sustainable houses - were in the planning stages. And later this month she will find out if she will be representing at the Youth Parliament 2022. Sophie says being encouraged to find solutions to problems from a very early age has given her the motivation to be the change she wants to see in the world. And shes adamant, age is no barrier. Akari and daughters, school commute Akari and daughters, school commute Stephen Sleep - EV driver Stephen Sleep - EV driver Waima kids, walking bus Waima kids, walking bus Genesis team -cycle commute Genesis team -cycle commute Trina Seits, low-emission LED's Trina Seits, low-emission LED's Katy Atkin, working from home Katy Atkin, working from home Cooper Burt - energy efficient home heating Cooper Burt - energy efficient home heating Little River kids, walking bus Little River kids, walking bus Amy Driver rides an e-bike on the Wellington waterfront Amy Driver rides an e-bike on the Wellington waterfront Urgent Couriers replaces cars with e-bike deliveries Urgent Couriers replaces cars with e-bike deliveries Duncan Aitkin farms with a tractor, he's converted from diesel to electric Duncan Aitkin farms with a tractor, he's converted from diesel to electric The Yan family, low-emission LEDs The Yan family, low-emission LEDs Jody and Lucian Pearson, choose to rent an electric car Jody and Lucian Pearson, choose to rent an electric car Chia Sisters - zero carbon drinks Chia Sisters - zero carbon drinks Dunedin North Intermediate - climate education in action Dunedin North Intermediate - climate education in action Electric Air - electrifying flights Electric Air - electrifying flights Tom Petitt - gas free home heating Tom Petitt - gas free home heating NZ's Emma Lewisham has created the world's first certified climate positive beauty brand. NZ's Emma Lewisham has created the world's first certified climate positive beauty brand. Jeremy Ward Managing Director of East by West Ferries looks at his new electric ferry. Jeremy Ward Managing Director of East by West Ferries looks at his new electric ferry. Kiwi motorsport star Hayden Paddon now races in the world's first all-electric rally car. Kiwi motorsport star Hayden Paddon now races in the world's first all-electric rally car. Silver Fern Farms are lowering emissions for climate-positive food production. Silver Fern Farms are lowering emissions for climate-positive food production. Daymond regularly cycles to work in Christchurch. Daymond regularly cycles to work in Christchurch. Isaac Sotello mends a stick-mixer at Repair-ED in Wellington. Isaac Sotello mends a stick-mixer at Repair-ED in Wellington. Finn Ross checks the merino wool at Lake Hawea Station, NZ's first carbon positive certified farm. Finn Ross checks the merino wool at Lake Hawea Station, NZ's first carbon positive certified farm. Akari and daughters, school commute Akari and daughters, school commute Stephen Sleep - EV driver Stephen Sleep - EV driver Waima kids, walking bus Waima kids, walking bus Genesis team -cycle commute Genesis team -cycle commute Trina Seits, low-emission LED's Trina Seits, low-emission LED's Katy Atkin, working from home Katy Atkin, working from home Cooper Burt - energy efficient home heating Cooper Burt - energy efficient home heating Little River kids, walking bus Little River kids, walking bus Amy Driver rides an e-bike on the Wellington waterfront Amy Driver rides an e-bike on the Wellington waterfront Urgent Couriers replaces cars with e-bike deliveries Urgent Couriers replaces cars with e-bike deliveries Duncan Aitkin farms with a tractor, he's converted from diesel to electric Duncan Aitkin farms with a tractor, he's converted from diesel to electric The Yan family, low-emission LEDs The Yan family, low-emission LEDs Jody and Lucian Pearson, choose to rent an electric car Jody and Lucian Pearson, choose to rent an electric car Chia Sisters - zero carbon drinks Chia Sisters - zero carbon drinks Dunedin North Intermediate - climate education in action Dunedin North Intermediate - climate education in action Electric Air - electrifying flights Electric Air - electrifying flights Tom Petitt - gas free home heating Tom Petitt - gas free home heating NZ's Emma Lewisham has created the world's first certified climate positive beauty brand. NZ's Emma Lewisham has created the world's first certified climate positive beauty brand. Jeremy Ward Managing Director of East by West Ferries looks at his new electric ferry. Jeremy Ward Managing Director of East by West Ferries looks at his new electric ferry. Kiwi motorsport star Hayden Paddon now races in the world's first all-electric rally car. Kiwi motorsport star Hayden Paddon now races in the world's first all-electric rally car. Silver Fern Farms are lowering emissions for climate-positive food production. Silver Fern Farms are lowering emissions for climate-positive food production. Daymond regularly cycles to work in Christchurch. Daymond regularly cycles to work in Christchurch. Isaac Sotello mends a stick-mixer at Repair-ED in Wellington. Isaac Sotello mends a stick-mixer at Repair-ED in Wellington. Finn Ross checks the merino wool at Lake Hawea Station, NZ's first carbon positive certified farm. Finn Ross checks the merino wool at Lake Hawea Station, NZ's first carbon positive certified farm. Whatever youre up to, email us now at RightSide@eeca.govt.nz or Direct Message Gen Less on Facebook or Instagram, and it could be you that gets captured on the Right Side. Search #RightSideNZ on social media to see more peoples actions and check out the Gen Less website for inspiration.