Monday, August 15, 2011

Te Roto Road - Kapiti's Greenest Street!

We are immensely proud to be the ultimate winners of the Kapiti Coast District Council's inaugural Greenest Street Competition for 2010-2011.  This has definitely been more about the journey than the competition itself although having a common goal was the ideal catalyst to put some sustainable living concepts into action.  It also gave us permission to break down some social barriers and before we knew it we were welcoming one another into our kitchens (and toolsheds) and the momentum gathered from there!

Over the course of nine months we reduced our environmental footprint by one whole Earth and in the process learned to live together more as a community.  We introduced some sustainable living practices that are now firm habits and we've got a lot more projects planned.  Our environmental footprint is currently 2.6 Earths and we'd like to see that get even lower!

It's been amazing to find what a big difference the little, everyday, things make - and just how easy it is to get started and to get hooked!  Our early ideas seemed too simple to have any real impact - use energy saving light bulbs, recycle, buy local, drive less, take the small car, swap produce, share knowledge - but what a huge difference it made.  It was also very satisfying and great fun to talk to neighbours about our virtuous new habits.  So starting out with these simple concepts was a great way to begin.

This gave us the encouragement to take on the more ambitious projects and we quickly found that by sharing ideas and working together we could achieve more than we could as individuals.  Macadamia nut harvesting for example, planting native seedlings, stacking firewood - how fantastic to share the workload!!

We soon found that we had a lot more in common than simply living in the same street and this resulted in some friendships and bonds that most likely would not have occurred in our previous "busy lives".

We discovered a wealth of knowledge and skills that could be shared and learned and so began a series of workshops for bottling and preserving fruit, chutney and jam making, limoncello making, composting, pruning and tree care - it just went on and on - and the biggest challenge was literally finding more time for all the new projects and social activities. 

We began doing spontaneous favours for one another: a half a dozen eggs for a jar of tomato passata, a sack of pinecones for mowing the lawn, baking a cake, sharing a casserole, a handpicked bunch of flowers, plants for the garden - on and on it went - each act of kindness seeming more extravagant than the last! 

We were constantly thinking about the next favour we could do in return and this gave us the motivation and enthusiasm to push boundaries as each generous gesture spurred ideas for other projects.  "Hey, let's knit hot water bottle covers?" (okay so that's a project we haven't started - but only because we ran out of time!). 

The Frasers lovely glass driveway is testament to the commitment and number of meetings we've had just so we can recycle glass to fill those potholes.  What dedication to the cause!

The Greenest Street Competition has changed the way we live.  We had a Royal Wedding Party and that really showed how far we had come as a community.  Who would have thought you could have so much fun with your neighbours!  The friendships we now share are an unexpected bonus.

This blogsite has been a lot of fun too.  It was a novel experience for us all and it's been read by people around the world.  And there's been no shortage of people making contributions.  I've rushed home from an evening with my neighbours to write it on the blogsite only to find someone else has beaten me to it!  It's been a great way to document our journey and share our experiences.  And we've enjoyed reading the other Greenest Street blogs too.

Being a Greenest Street competitor is a constant topic of conversation and I'm often asked: "What are the Te Roto people up to this week?" and I am very happy to tell them - and pick up tips from them too which I then pass on to my neighbours.  (Did you know that if you freeze the fruit first, it's much easier to pulp for wine making?)  There's a lot of interest and no shortage of people who care about the Kapiti region - and the planet - and are already doing amazing things.  This is a fantastic initiative and we encourage people to get involved. 

KCDC has provided fantastic support and we are so appreciative of their help and encouragement.  They've created a high profile for the Greenest Street Competition and they've supplied some fabulous support and resources.  Jake and Stacey have been outstanding, attending our meetings and helping us along the way.  It's been an absolute privilege to be part of this initiative (I was going to say "social experiment" because it has been fascinating process to be part of) and we will continue to support it in any way we can.

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