Being Green In Aotearoa

Since we’ve arrived in New Zealand, we have been conscientious about conservation and environmental issues here. While we do many things at home as well (solar water heating and heater on a timer, recycling, etc.), it is easy to see how government policy here in NZ also works to benefit the environment.

Rubbish Day In DunedinAs I have mentioned in a previous post, in order to have your refuse picked up on the side of the street, it must be in a bag that is approved by the Dunedin City Council. They run $6-8 per bag depending on size, and also have a weight limit. When we first arrived we used up the two small bags which were gratefully left behind by the previous tenant. This was due to the amount of items we needed to purchase to set up our flat, and some rubbish that was apparently left behind by the company or individual(s) who cleaned the flat prior to our arrival. Our second week saw a single, small bag of rubbish left for the collectors (see picture at right), along with our recycled items. This is a significant reduction from our waste generation in Hawai‘i. With five of us in Hilo (only three here) we sometimes generate three or four 40 gallon bags of rubbish per week. While I doubt the rubbish collectors search your bags to make sure that you’ve recycled bottles, cans and cardboard, the price of the approved garbage bags certainly encourage you to not include them with the non-recyclable items.

We’ve also been watching our electrical use. Light bulbs in the rooms we use most frequently have been converted to CFLs. I don’t know if we?ll actually see an overall cost savings ourselves when taking in the cost of the CFLs into account since we’re only here for five and a half more months. We do turn off the water heater when it’s not needed as there is no solar heating and no timer on it. In just less than two weeks here, we’ve consumed about 120 kilowatt hours of electricity. I don’t recall how that compares to our consumption in Hilo – I only watched to cost and not the actual use of electricity. I’ll pay closer attention when we return home. Of course, having no TV probably reduces our electricity use significantly. I’m sure that will go up when the cold weather rolls in and we need to use the room heaters since there is no central heating in our flat, and apparently central heating is rare here in Dunedin anyway.

I’ve noticed an incredible amount of glass shards from broken beer bottles on the sidewalks and streets all throughout the area near our flat. Either NZ drinkers – locals, students and vistors – are among the most inconsiderate I’ve ever seen, or the folks that pick up the recyclables drop a lot of the bottles. Regardless, this is not a town to go barefoot in, even in the great weather we’ve been experiencing.

I’m hoping that this experience will help us tighten up our ways when we return to Hawai‘i and reduce our impact on the environment.

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