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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Thoughts on our Enviornment

New Zealand is a beautiful country of rolling hills and mountains, fields and forests, rivers and waterfalls, lakes and oceans. It is an invaluable gem in a world that is loosing its precious wilderness to meet the needs of a growing population.

Some may wonder why we should be concerned with the environment. Past generations acted on a lack of knowledge thus disturbing the world we now live in. As we look to the future we need to decide what type of a world we wish to leave those generations after us.

It is easy to look to others to take responsibility for us. New Zealand has the Green Party in government, a political party focused on environmentalism, working towards a healthy environment to sustain healthy humanity. Yet government can’t fix all the problems in society. So it is up to the individual to claim responsibility and make changes.

In the past few years I have taken a closer look at how I live my daily life and how my actions are in turn affecting the world around me. In moving to New Zealand I have taken an even greater step in that direction. The first step in change is to realize the need for change. There is so much about our daily lives that we don’t think about. What will happen to this article after I am done using it? What is left in the air after a drive to town? How is heating my house affecting the air I breathe? A trip to the local dump was an experience that left me thinking. Where does my daily rubbish go? How many years until this dump is full and then where does the rubbish go? Is there a way I can reduce the amount that I am contributing to this each week?

New Zealand is miles ahead of America in the average person’s care of the environment. Here in Wairoa, prior to the recycling push several years ago, 6 tons of rubbish were collected per week. Now around ½ ton is collected each week with a large increase in the recycling. At home on rubbish collection day, each house would have a 96-gallon cart in front of their home overflowing with rubbish. Two additional large black bags of rubbish were allowed as well. Recycling is only collected every two weeks, and I only knew of only one other house on our street that went the extra mile to separate recycling. Here I have reduced my waste to one small bag a week with my recycling container overflowing. I have found that most packaging contains the recycling symbol. Yet there is still room for improvement. New Zealanders currently recycle 70% of their aluminium, 50% of their paper, 45% of their glass, 30% of their steel and only18 % of their plastics.

We have made it a practice to compost our vegetation scraps. Again, I knew of only one other family that composted back in America. Residents of Wairoa have shown me many ways to compost including worm farms and compost bins. The city dump now even has a compost system available that also produces a liquid fertilizer for your garden as well.

Conscious living can be fun and rewarding as well. I was recently at a party here in town and the host had 100% compostable plates and wooden silverware. Everyone had fun standing in line tasting their plates! The kids at school are often doing projects as well with the concept of reusing something old to create something new. I even know someone here who makes their own petrol for their car by recycling vegetable oil.On a business scale I have discovered that businesses displaying the black square with the white fern have achieved the “Qualmark”. This is New Zealand’s official mark of quality for tourism. Businesses are assessed on their environmental performance in areas of energy efficiency, conservation initiatives, waste management, community activities, and water conservation. I have seen these principles in practice as we have traveled: garbage separation and composting in hotels; light switches that are activated with room entrance keys; energy efficient light bulbs; and recycling containers at campgrounds.

To care about the future of the earth, one does not need to carry a picket sign in a demonstration march or wear a t-shirt proclaiming “save the whales”. Each person has the power to make a difference. I urge you to stop, think about, consider and evaluate. It is the small choices each of us makes on a daily basis. Through all of us making those conscious decisions, we will leave a gift to the future generations.

No Worries - Kris

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