Sustainability in New Zealand

Wed, Oct 14, 2009

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New Zealand is moving towards a more sustainable way of life. The government, business owners, and ordinary citizens are all doing their part to promote eco-friendly business tactics.

What is the government doing?

The Ministry for the Environment set the ambitious goal to lower greenhouse gas emissions to 10 to 20% of 1990 levels by the year 2020. This is part of a larger goal to reduce them to half of 1990 levels by 2050. Compared to other countries who have set 2020 emissions standards, New Zealand is near the top of the list with its forward-thinking approach. Many citizens supported an even more ambitious reduction policy, proving their commitment to preserving New Zealand’s green image.

Several key steps are in place to reach the target. The government launched a $323 million ($235 million USD) home insulation and clean heating fund that will insulate 180,000 houses. The new Centre for Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research provides support and analysis. There is a renewed commitment to researching and developing sustainable alternative fuels, electric cars and solar water systems.

The waste disposal levy of $10 ($7.30 USD) per ton is another government program encouraging sustainability. Any waste that is disposed of at a waste disposal facility as defined under the Waste Minimisation Act 2008 (for example, a landfill) is subject to the levy. Profits from the tax will be diverted to initiatives promoting recycling.

What are businesses doing?

Every year, the National Sustainable Business Network recognizes companies that have achieved excellence in sustainability. Kate Sylvester a fashion design company, won the Emerging Small and Medium Business award in 2008. The Network recognized the company for its concentrated efforts to reduce waste and energy and monitor lower carbon emissions. It created a uniform sustainability policy and communicated it to its staff across headquarters, factories, and stores. Kate Sylvester manufactures all of its garments in New Zealand, giving it a smaller carbon footprint then some of its competitors.

YHA Wellington City won the 2008 Trailblazer Not for Profit award. Recognized as a sustainable living center for 15 years, this youth hostel is a 3-time winner. It was given recognition because of the influence it holds over young people to adopt sustainable practices.

YHA Wellington City was the first business in the country to participate in the Love NZ recycling in public places program.

Paraoa Bakehouse won the 2008 Sustainable Business of the Year honor. They produce a variety of both organic and gluten free breads that are sold across the country. From its grains, which are grown organically, to biodegradable packaging, the company is sustainable across the board. Even though Paraoa produces 4,000 kilograms of food per week (more then they sell), impressive waste reduction policies means less then 1 kg ends up in landfills.

What are people doing?

Business owners aren’t the only ones involved in green efforts. The Sustainable Living Education Trust offers classes for adult learners interested in the environment. Topics include:

  • energy efficiency
  • eco-building design and insulation
  • water use and protection
  • gardening with nature
  • waste reduction, including composting
  • shopping with the planet in mind
  • travel options and carbon impacts

New Zealanders are generally positive about their country’s green efforts. According to a Research NZ report on “The General Public’s View on Sustainability,” 83% of citizens see sustainability as important. Almost half were aware of or had participated in conversations involving sustainability. 72% of respondents believe the government is in the best position to impact sustainability.

Hopefully, other countries can learn from New Zealand’s efforts to become more environmentally conscious in its business practices.

By Danielle Bullen. Danielle can be reached at DanielleBullen@comcast.net.

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