Vava’u, Tonga

In December 2017 I traveled with my parents and two youngest children to Vava’u. Vava’u is a group of islands in The Kingdom of Tonga. It is also where my Tongan family descend from on my mothers side. A family reunion was the main reason for going, and although the reunion was cancelled a month out we still decided to go for a holiday.

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Marcy and I at sunset on the wharf

I did my best to pack for a zero waste holiday or as close to zero waste as possible for myself and the kids. Cloth nappies, reusable coffee cups, stainless steel drink bottles, reusable produce bags and shopping bags, activity bags, containers and a cutlery kit was all packed. Unfortunately both of the kids got sick, one after the other, nothing too bad but enough to keep me from being in control of some things that led to waste. But I didn’t fret over it as the kids health was most important.

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Cloth nappies drying on the deck

In the breaks I did get from the kids getting sick what I did see was an amazing lush green landscape growing fruits and staple crops at every turn surrounded by emerald green water. We also visited a family cemetery and houses and land where relatives used to live. I imagined what the life was like back then and how different it is now on the island. The view at the top of Mt Talau was breathtaking, swimming at a seaside village and watching Marcy in her element with the village kids was also a highlight and experiencing a Sunday church service was good for the soul.

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Sanft, Guttenbeil and Shumarkel cemetery.

Planning my zero waste trip I came across Vava’u Protection Association VEPA. I was interested to hear what they got up to so I visited the centre and had a chat to Karen Stone – an educator at VEPA. I learnt that recycling is available but not economically viable (sent to China), especially plastic recycling. Disposable nappies are subsidised by the government to encourage women to return to the workforce (perhaps giving women one less washing load?), the outcome being disposable nappies make up a large percentage of landfill or unfortunately, end up being dumped in other areas. (Cultural beliefs forego disposable nappies being incinerated- which is a viable option according to Karen). Another effect of disposable nappies is that the water quality has been affected, which could account for bottled water sold and discarded everywhere and even locals stocking up. However it was great to see the locals harvesting and using rainwater which made me think I need to get a rainwater tank set up at home ASAP!

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VEPA office near the wharf in Neiafu

VEPA do an array of work and one of their projects was working with retailers at the local marketi to forego plastic bags. I also learnt that plastic bags were taxed for a time but it didn’t work out so plastic bags are now back 😦 however food waste is not high on the waste scale which was encouraging to hear 🙂 Recycling bins are scattered all over the island and I noticed that in small villages they looked good – uncontaminated and used well compared to the ones in the main town.

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A small recycling station that I found near where I was staying. Here I dropped off some cans and bottles.

I noticed a lot of litter around, plastic and glass bottles, food packets, plastic bags, and others who I traveled with and met up with noticed it too, so it wasn’t me with my waste cap on! It was a little depressing to be honest and it made me sad for the island and the people living there and also made me think about my ancestors who worked and lived on the land and what they would think. Vava’u is a small place but the waste issues seemed so big. It made me think of all the initiatives and services that are available in NZ and how grateful I am for them but also it made me think that there are so many meaning we consume and make a lot of waste!

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Local marketi, VEPA are working with retailers to forego plastic bags.

Chatting to some family who joined us in Vava’u and who had been to Vava’u 10 years previous, they talked about how litter wasn’t what it is now and that burning waste (mainly stuff that was swept up around their property, I would imagine dried leaves and garden waste) was common but now not common at all, because according to a local – “you can’t burn plastic” which seemed to be the most common waste. (Here is a video clip made in the Tongan language that talks about the risks and harm that burning plastic has on the environment).

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Plastic bag floating in the sea 😦

Doing a bit of research before and after the trip I came across this report. Although it centres on Tongatapu it would appear the challenges are the same on other islands including Vava’u. The report mentions how abandoned cars are a growing waste problem, this I certainly noticed, especially when our driver pointed out his home above a car wreck site and it looked as though the cars had been there for many many years with the rusty cars blending into clay coloured land that had been hollowed out for the site. I do hope to visit Tonga again in the future, I hope that things are better environmentally. At the moment I feel there is a long way to go.

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A kava crop near Mt Talau. At $150 a kilo for kava powder this is a precious crop!

The bigger picture – we stopped by Queen brand vanilla farm and talking to the farmer he told us that the last two seasons of vanilla had failed. Not just in Tonga but globally, he put the failure down to “two words – climate change”. So expect to be paying $$$$$ for vanilla if you are not already. Hearing about failing crops really freaks me out, I would hate to see my kids or grandchildren go hungry.

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Veimumuni Caves

Perhaps it is because I have’t traveled overseas to a developing country for some time, the effect of our disposable life seemed so obvious and catastrophic when there is limited to no infrastructure to deal with the issues associated.  I am still reflecting on this trip and I am not sure where my experiences will take me. For now goodbye Vava’u, I’ll be back some day.

 

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View from the top of Mt Talau
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Relax & Recycle

 

Oh wow! My second post for 2017 is at the end of the year. What a bad blogger I am! I have been so time poor this year meaning I had to drop a few things I do on the side of normal life. So to end the year here is a post to sign off 2017 and hopefully I can find time in 2018 for a bit of me time that includes writing! Happy New Year to everyone that follows this neglected but well meaning blog. x Candace

I have been sitting on this post for a while now and it has gone through many changes during this time. I started this post sharing apologetically how my zero waste journey had taken a wee detour because we are recycling more due to our busy family life of 3 kids, full time and part time jobs plus other responsibilities.

Our enthusiasm for zero waste has not subsided but our windows of time for going the extra zero waste mile has subsided. We are hoping that it is just a wee detour and we will back on track soon.

However I started to ponder was this confession encouraging to other families? Our family has definitely been the high scale of zero waste – avoiding waste from the outset : see post A month in, lessons learnt.

Now with two toddlers on the go and a social butterfly tween, myself picking up some more part time work, a husband who works full time and studies part time, life is busier then ever.

So rather apologizing for recycling more –  at the moment it is what is keeping us sane and zero waste – (depending on your definition). So this post is to highlight some recycling options that you may or may not know about that we have tried and tested.

 

Kerbside Recycling:

These items make up the most of our kerbside recycling:

Tetra packs (plant milk)

Cans

Bottles

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Recycling tip: put metal bottle caps into a can with a lid to contain before putting into recycling bin.

 

Soft plastic Recycling

Available at most supermarkets where I live. They are located near the entrance of the stores.

Polystyrene Recycling

We bought new appliances. It felt weird to buy new but time and money over -ruled! We recycled the polystyrene at Ecomatters which is a great place to visit. There is a bike kitchen there on Saturdays and a garden across the road which is nice to take the kids through.

 

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Nena at Ecomatters recycling our polystyrene from some new appliances, the lovely Barb in the background.

Toothbrush Recycling

We go back and forth between plastic toothbrushes and bamboo ones, (we gave miswak sticks a go but not really suitable for the kids!). When we use plastic toothbrushes we use Preserve toothbrushes bought from Huckleberry Farms. We have a bag in the bathroom for old toothbrushes and tubes that we take to a nearby drop off, last time we did it at Ecomatters when we did the polystyrene recycling.

 

 

 

E-Waste Recycling

A local op shop recycles old mobile phones or else we keep a look out for the E-Waste recycling service that pops up every now and then at a nearby suburb.

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Salvation Army Store Panmure

Recycling Food Waste aka Composting

Composting diverts around 5-10kg of kitchen scraps from landfill at our place. Kitchen scraps such as fruit and vegetable peelings, coffee and tea grinds. They are recycled into compost for my garden! The best type of recycling in my opinion! And the easiest!

 

If you are a busy family like us and the most convenient time for grocery shopping is a Saturday night then relax and recycle. Recycling is not perfect but sometimes convenience is just what a busy family needs sometimes to keep things flowing.

Useful Links:

Making The Most of Waste  (Auckland kerbside recycling checklist)

Ecomatters

Preserve

Toothbrush & toothpaste tube collection

Recycle Auckland App

Compost Collective

E-Waste

Soft Plastic Recycling

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2017 begins

Happy new year everyone!

Thanks for following my waste-less journey if you are a regular reader or if you are a first time visitor thanks for stopping by!

I have begun 2017 with a bit of  a switch around of inside and outside of the house. Our new year was spent changing the kids rooms around and everything that goes with that – cleaning, sorting, paring down and arranging. The two little ones are now sharing a room so the nine year old can be left in tween peace.

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Nena getting her things sorted thanks to a little upcycling!

A friend who has many years experience in horticulture was kind enough to assess my property and advise on planting that has spurred me into action. Our to do list for outside involved putting together raised beds in an area that is better suited to our outdoor living as well as being in a better position to the kitchen and sun. A productive garden not only provides a source of food but also provides a ‘waste’ solution by the means of a compost for our kitchen and garden waste.

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Max picked up a wooden box on the side of the road that he sawed into 3 that I am using for my raised beds. I have begun to layer the beds with cardboard, lucerne straw, bokashi, compost, comfrey leaves and coffee grounds that will hopefully all break down into some great soil ready for planting in autumn. I also picked up two steel gates from the side of the road that I will attach to one of the beds and the deck to serve as a trellis. The side of the road has served me well!

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I will mulch around the beds to keep the weeds out and to cut down on overall maintenance of the grass. I also have do some work to do in the periphery garden that I haven’t paid much attention to over the years. I will start with mulching and adding compost once I have some to help bring the soil quality up then begin to add native plants to achieve a lush border.

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Sandwich garden -Pictured is the start of the one of the raised beds: thick layer of cardboard followed by a layer of lucerne straw

My lovely husband built me a two bay compost from pallets that has replaced my circular wire compost which did the job but was a bit of a challenge to turn. I love my new compost and it will be integral to providing nutrients back into the garden. From experience, talking to others and reading, compost – made on site is vital to a garden succeeding. I guess it has something to do with the microbes all working together in an ecosystem – like familiar friends kicking off where they left off.

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So this is the last season my vegetable garden that has served me for 4 years will exist. Once the summer crops are over I will take the edging away and let the grass grow over. I am now in the process of planting fruit trees down the back of our property. It will be a little sad to say goodbye to this patch however the soil has never been that great and it is  a struggle to keep the kikuyu at bay.

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A braebaurn apple tree (next to the bamboo trellis) that I grafted is the first to go in to my soon to be backyard orchard

I will you keep you updated on my new garden and fruit forest. As always waste reduction continues to underpin my day to day life and I try best to share my experiences on this blog. However I am much more active on my instagram account so you may want to check it out and hit the follow button.

Happy new year everyone!

3 gift-y things

Here are three things that you can easily make yourself to give away as gifts that will make you look a bit awesome.

Skin Balm

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Here’s a post I wrote a while back that has step by step instructions.

I have friends and family who save small jars for me that I use for my balms, I also keep a look out for them at op shops. Recently I have been drying flowers and using them to seep in the carrier oil- an extra step but I like to make use of the calendula flowers at the community garden.

Rosemary Hair Rinse

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Super duper easy. You’ll need a couple of sprigs of fresh rosemary. Take off the leaves and put them into a plunger, teapot or jug, pour over boiling water. Leave overnight, or until  water is cool. Pour and strain into bottles.

Garden Hand Scrub

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This is a nice gift to give to your garden friends.

1 cup granulated sugar

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 sprigs of rosemary chopped

zest of 1 lemon / (or grapefruit/lime)

juice of 1/2 lemon (or grapefruit/lime)

Put all ingredients into bowl and mix together. Put in jars/containers.

Happy DIY gifting!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The tide is turning

I have been a bit neglectful of my blog due to life however something quite radical has occurred recently that I felt I had to share. My mum started composting! At her request! She has gone for the bokashi method which is really simple to do and easy to DIY your own. I am excited for my mum as bokashi composting was my family’s first step in significantly reducing our waste.

You can buy bokashi buckets systems from hardware stores or you can make your own. To make bokashi bins you will need two buckets the same size and one will require an airtight lid. Drill holes evenly dispersed at the base of one bucket. The bucket with holes will sit inside the other bucket with the airtight lid. For instructions on how to use here is a good link. Or if you live in Auckland The Compost Collective have great workshops that are free to attend and offer a discount upon attending a workshop to purchase a commercially available compost system.

Whether you choose traditional composting / worm farm / bokashi you have made the first step in reducing landfill and use of resources, as well as creating your own eco-system – your garden will love the benefits of composting.

Update on mum – she is now composting all her food waste! I help her out by taking her full bucket to the community garden where I either bury it in the soil or add it to the compost bins. And as you can see from the picture below her many pot plants are reaping the rewards from the bokashi juice that is collected.

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A small portion of her pot plants on the deck aka ‘the jungle’

Composting is the right thing to do with organic waste and even ladies who like to grow flowers and enjoy a bit of retail therapy every now and then are getting on board.

 

Wood Spirits Are Calling

Hand me downs in the form of clothes, toys and books is common in our household with three small children, and recently there has been a re-hashing of movies from the now nine year old’s collection. One in particular has taken the toddler’s fancy and also mine.

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My Neighbour Totoro is a Japanese animation from 1988 created by Studio Ghibli that tells the story of two sisters who have friendly interactions with wood spirits upon their move to rural Japan. It’s a sweet story that shows the bond between two sisters and childhood imagination that is enchanted and enriched by the natural world.

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Mei chasing the wood spirits

 

 

 

The simplicity of the home and lifestyle in the film is very appealing to me at a time when I am questioning all the ‘stuff’ in my own home and life. The endless washing, cleaning, driving, working and entertaining of modern family life is constant and draining. In the film the family’s possessions are sparse and their home life is fairly subdued. Aside from the practical appeal of this (less stuff = less mess = more time) the aesthetic is also appealing.

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Another aspect of the film I like is the village community that is multi-generational and has a garden at the heart. Belonging to a community garden somewhat full fills this role for me but I would love to live closer and for it to be a hub for the community to share and look after eachother (work in progress!).

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Mei and Satsuki eating some cooking made by a neighbour they call ‘granny’

The film is also a reminder of a child’s prerogative to be amongst nature and learn and grow alongside it and for me as a parent to encourage and provide the opportunity. I hope my children encounter their own wood spirits whilst out in nature.

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Marcy found a baby hedgehog at the community garden

 

 

Waste comes to life

Since my journey into waste reduction began in 2014 there have been some uncanny instances where bits and pieces from my past experiences and memories have surfaced in relation to waste. Here are three examples:

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Te Rau Puriri Regional Park

1.

One of the beaches that I spent some time at during my childhood was Karekare. I have a clear recollection of looking out of the car window on the way to the beach at the trees alongside the windy roads. I remember being fascinated when someone told me that you can use the leaves to make tea. During the summer of  2014/2015 we walked the track at Te Rau Puriri Regional Park. We stopped and swam at the beach and marvelled at how lucky we are in New Zealand to have such a beautiful landscape. I also noticed the trees near the beach that had fascinated me as a child. I took a few leaves home and found out that they are Kanuka, from here I began making my own creams and balms as a waste reduction measure as well as a renewed fascination with nature’s ability to provide.

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Jacques-Louis David. The Death of Marat 1793 Oil on canvas. Royal Museums of Fine Arts Belgium

Image from Google Art Project

2.

In high school one subject I was particularly fond of was art history. When studying the Neo-Classical period we of course looked at the work of Jacques-Louis David. The above painting was shown on a slide and I remember looking at it for a long time and it having an impact on me. I went on to study art history at university, and throughout my studies I didn’t come across this painting and to be honest had forgotten about it. Last year during a waste documentary watching-athon we watched Waste Land. I watched it without any prior knowledge, (yep didn’t even look closely at the poster). The painting that moved me over 15 years ago features in the documentary and plays an important role in the film literally and symbolically. Not only did the imagery move me again, but equally moving was how waste was infiltrating into my forgotten joys.

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3.

Recently I made a display at my local library to promote a waste free parenting workshop that the waste reduction group I belong to was hosting. Whilst I was putting up the display I saw my science teacher from high school. Let’s just say I wasn’t the best student and didn’t and still don’t have a science-y bone in my body. She commented to say that it was good to see I was putting science towards something worth while. It felt good to redeem my lack of enthusiasm for science class with the work I am now involved with.

People often ask how did I come into waste. I tend to say it was and continues to be a gradual process of education and experience. However, it’s hard to ignore these signs. I think the waste reduction ethos has always been in my veins and connecting past experiences is one way to know I’m on the right path and to listen to what the world is telling me.