That sort of re-thinking is nothing new at the ReMakery, an upcycle store and community space in Fairfield leading the way on reducing waste. Operations Manager Lisa Matthews says most people know they should try to reduce, re-use and recycle, but we’ve developed some bad habits.
“Most of us are pretty good at putting things in the recycling bin at home, but we could do a lot more to reduce what we buy, and re-use what we have,” she says.
“Our café is making soup over winter and if people want to take it away we’re putting it into a sterilized jar. I’ve started carrying a fork in my handbag so I never need plastic cutlery. They’re little things, but they add up. The plastic bag ban has been a great example of how quickly you can change behaviour.”
Many of the initiatives based at the ReMakery are leading by example. The Common Grocer is a plastic-free grocery co-operative run by 340 members where goods can be taken away in beeswax wraps or recycled bags.
ReCycled Rides rescue and fix up bikes, many of which were destined for the landfill, and then loan them out. People are encouraged to `pay` for their bike hire with time instead of money, via a Timebank.
The Sew Good Cooperative turns old fabrics and textiles into brand new, useful things like bags and re-usable bin liners, as well as teaching people how to sew.
And at Urban Kai Farms, most of the seedlings start life in recycled coffee cups and milk cartons, and they run education programmes on how to reduce food waste.
The ReMakery is part of the Common Unity Project Aotearoa which was founded in 2012 by Julia Milne, based on her philosophy that people should look to each other to strengthen the community from the inside out. From the start, everything they’ve done has been based on waste reincarnation and re-making what they have around them.
The first project was growing vegetables on an unused field at Epuni School to feed school families. Now, as the Urban Kai Project, they’re transforming backyards and school grounds across Hutt Valley into intensely productive gardens, which have yielded 5.75 tonnes of fruit and veg in the last 18 months.
The solar-powered Unity Kitchen – Mai te ihi o te ra-, which is based at the ReMakery, turns some of that produce into meals for hungry children at local schools. They do catering as well and for every meal purchased, another is gifted to local school children.
“We started with feeding kids, making sure tummies were filled, and it was a natural extension to making a positive contribution to a world they can continue to live in.”
“It’s so easy to go the supermarket and buy something to eat that’s covered in plastic, that’s been flown in from somewhere, possibly covered in chemicals, when Lower Hutt is such a great place to grow food. We just have to think differently.”
Find out more:
Visit the ReMakery at 310 Waiwhetu Road, Fairfield, Lower Hutt or commonunityproject.org.nz