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Posts Tagged ‘recycling’

Sustainablity is more than just recycling and planting trees

Friday, November 13th, 2009

Just Focus

What is sustainable development?ourworld
Well let’s take a step back and first ask - what is development? It is a pretty difficult term to define because no one really agrees exactly what it is. For many people development simply refers to reducing poverty and improving living condition in poor countries. Others believe that poor countries should pursue the development path that richer countries have followed. For the purposes of this article, lets think about it is as “growth and change that creates a world where more and more people can enjoy a good quality of life and reach their potential”. Sounds pretty good right?!

So then sustainable development would be growth and change that helps us all enjoy a good quality of life, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Even better! I think almost all of us can agree that sustainable development is a good thing. But how do we achieve it? For many of us when we hear the word ‘sustainability’ we think immediately of the natural environment, but sustainability is not just about protecting Mother Earth. A truly sustainable world requires us to look after the people too!  The Just Focus crew like to use the Four Pillars of Sustainability, which are; Environmental responsibility, Economic health, Social equity and Cultural vitality.

Four Pillars of Sustainability

4pillars2This helps us to look at sustainability a bit differently and make connections between happy healthy people and a happy healthy planet.

Over the next few months Just Focus is going to look at each pillar and explore ways each of us can help contribute to creating a sustainable world. In this article we look at a HEALTHY ECONOMY.

To create an economy that is both sustainable and healthy, we need to do things a little differently than we are now. Looking after the environment and our workers has to be held in balance with business development and making a profit. Sounds hard, but we don’t have to choose one over the other. Here are some of the things we could work on…

Energy is a necessity. We use it for heating, cooking, manufacturing, construction and transportation. It’s hard to imagine life without it. But the way we use it needs to change. And fast! We are currently consuming non-renewable resources, such as oil and gas, faster than they can be produced, creating harmful environment effects and creating a global dependency on a resource that will one day run out. We must preserve some non-renewable resources for use in the future and focus on developing renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and hydro power.

Personal Action: We are pretty lucky in New Zealand because 70 % of our power is from renewable sources, but it is still good to try and conserve power. Check out for some games and activities.

bike-and-busOur transport system help us to move people, food and other goods around cities, countries and the world. But the recent growth in the transport sector is damaging the environment, and many believe it is contributing to climate change The volume of traffic and increased congestion in the big cities also has an economic cost, with loss of work hours and slower delivery services. Transport is an essential part of life, but it is also harmful to the economy and the planet. What do we do!? A good place to start is reducing our dependency on cars. We also need new technology to improve vehicle efficiency and more investment in public transport systems.

Personal Action: Petition your local council to provide incentives for car pooling and using public transport, so more people will be encouraged to do it. You can save money and the planet!

Education and Employment
Without adequate investment in education and training our economy couldn’t grow. Economic prosperity relies on on-to-it people and businesses who provide high quality products and services that others want and are prepared to pay for. Education and training creates skilled workers who are able to meet this need. Helping people improve their skill level and find jobs is also the best way to reduce poverty. To be truly sustainable, work needs to be valued and workers treated fairly and we need regular opportunities to update our skills and knowledge, so that we can adapt to our rapidly changing world.

Personal Action: Make the most of your education and training and never stop learning! Be aware of your rights as a worker

skyscrapers_of_shinjukuBusiness and industry
The business and industry sector has a HUGE role to play in achieving sustainable development around the world. Although many big corporations are accused of causing environmental damage and undermining workers human rights they also have the potential to make a huge contribution, by creating jobs and business opportunities, and using resources more efficiently. Also, by improving their environmental practices, producing less waste, and raising labour standards and valuing their workers, they can set an example to other businesses (try googling ‘Interface Inc’ for an example of a company doing exactly that!).

Personal Action: Check out and join campaigns that challenge irresponsible and dangerous corporate actions around the world


International trade isn’t new, people began trading silk and spices thousands of years ago, but the volume of world trade today and the rules that control it have increased the impact it has our everyday lives. Trade has lots of positives but it also contributes to rising pollution levels and has reduced biodiversity (that is the number of living species on the planet). On top of this, the gap between the world’s richest and poorest people has widened, partly due to unfair trade rules created by the World Trade Organisation. How we trade and invest around the world is going to have significant impact on the planet’s future. We need trade rules that benefit people AND the planet.


Personal Action: Purchase products that are Fair Trade and/or Organic certified, which means that the environment and the workers who made these products are getting a better deal. Go one step further and get involved with an NGO like Oxfam and work towards reforming the World Trade Organisation

Good time for change
We need to make quite a lot of changes if we want to create a healthy sustainable economy.  You may be thinking that this is not really the best time, what with most of the world in an economic recession. But rather than let all the statistics and media hype get us down this could be the perfect time to take stock. Why did this happen? What are we doing wrong? What would be the impact if we continue to do things like this? This is a great time to think about how we could do better! How could we organise the global economy so that as many people as possible benefit and so that we use the world’s resources sustainability? For our sake, and the sake of those to come, this is a question we cannot ignore any longer.

WORLDCHANGING - A user’s guide for the 21’st century

Friday, September 25th, 2009

Edited by Alex Steffen; Forward by Al Gore.

This book is a ground breaking compendium of the most innovative solutions, ideas and inventions emerging today for building a sustainable, livable, prosperous future.

ecohouse_photoSections on Power, Shelter, Business, Community and just Stuff are divided into short, easy to read explanations of a few hundred of the best solutions out there. The guide is put together by a team of people who invite us to join their conversation on the best tools we can use to improve our lives.

You can join our library and get books and DVDs out for Free!

The Post-Petroleum Survival Guide and Cookbook: Recipes for Changing Times

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

By Richard Heinberg

swissarmyknifeThis book is like a Swiss army knife. Sharp. Simple. Very practical. Extremely useful. From Solar Heating to Sweet Potato Soup,  water-readiness to worms, and lollies made out of flowers. You can learn how to create walkable communities and/or become a medic-in-a hurry treating accidental electrocution. There is even a glossary of Surfspeak (useful I suppose for a beach disaster) and advice on how to loaf around more creatively. This book is especially designed to stand the test of time, and points out that the stone age didn’t come to an end through a lack of stones - that instead we moved on to a better, more creative, use of new technologies.

You can join our library and get books and DVDs out for Free!

You Can Save the Planet

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

by Jacquie Wines and Sarah Horne

This book introduces and explains massive global problems that need to be addressed now. It’s packed full of useful things you can do to make your homes, schools, and neighbourhoods more environmentally friendly. Including:planet_photo1

  • How to save water around your house.
  • How to persuade your local supermarket to reduce the number of plastic bags used.
  • Ways to organise your household recycling that really work.
  • How to spread the word on saving the planet.

You can join our library and get books and DVDs out for Free!

Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Saturday, February 7th, 2009

Go to the GREENGORILLA website to check out other episodes and activities

Feast or Famine?

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

Food for thought… burger Food is an integral part of human existence — we need it to survive. It is part burgerof a global system linked to issues like trade, genetic modification famine, slavery, health, food miles and sustainability. Sounds complicated huh? It gets even more complicated when you consider the huge number of media messages and images we are bombarded with every day, telling us what to eat, how to look and what is beautiful. Basically, food corporations want us to eat cheaply produced food lacking in nutrition and stuffed with chemicals, harvested by poorly-paid labour and flown half way across the world, while advertisers and the media place unrealistic expectations on us to be thin and beautiful. An exaggeration? You decide.

Stuffed or starved? child with foodThere are 800 million people in the world who go hungry every day and there are over a BILLION people who are obese. There is enough food in the world for everyone, but the systems in place mean that some people don’t get enough food and others have access to lots of unnutritious food. Fast food outlets and supermarkets have made food convenient and easy… you don’t have to think, just eat! Un-conscious eating is making us unhealthy and a lot of us obese. But as we keep over-consuming in the developed world, many people in the developing work — including those who pick our cocoa beans, coffee beans, bananas and tomatoes — are struggling because they don’t have access to affordable food. More info: Killing us softly mannequinsFiji, a country that traditionally valued the fuller figure’, was affected by an outbreak of eating disorders three year after television arrived in 1995. A study by Harvard Medical School found that 74% if teenage girls surveyed felt they were “too big or fat” and 15% of the girls reported they had vomited to control weight. The introduction of western values and (unrealistic) images of beauty was seen as the likely cause of the increase in eating disorders. More info: Borrow the movie Killing Us Softly 3: Advertising Images of Women (DVD) from the Global Education Centre library Freeganomics dumpsterIn the US it is estimated that half of the food produced each year is thrown away. You probably know about vegans but have you heard about Freegans? Freegans are a group of people who live solely off the waste of others and distance themselves from big corporations and consumerism. They go through dumpsters outside supermarkets and other shops (known as dumpster diving’) and pick out the unspoiled food that has been thrown away. They also grow their own food or contribute to community gardens. They are not poor or homeless, they do this in an attempt to minimise their impact on the planet. More info: When cows lay eggs?! cowNot sure where your food comes from? You’re not the only one. A recent survey of 1,000 British kids aged eight to fifteen revealed some strange ideas. In answer to the question: If cows ate grass, what colour would their milk be?’, eight percent answered brown, green or not sure. Ten percent of the city kids in the survey (the country kids did a little better) didn’t know where yoghurt came from and eight percent were unable to say which animal beef comes from. Of the same group, two percent thought that bacon might be from cows or sheep, and that eggs come from cows. More info: Are biofuels worth it? cropAlthough recently highlighted as a key solution to another pressing global issue — climate change — the production of biofuels may actually be causing more harm than good, particularly when it comes to food. Biofuels need a large amount of water and fertile land — land often found in developing countries which could otherwise be used to grow food crops. The UK government’s Chief Scientific Adviser recently described the global rush to grow biofuels as “profoundly stupid”, pointing out that a global food crisis is going to hit before some of the more serious impacts of climate change. More info here. LEARN MORE: Find out about food production and distribution at Food First or Global Issues TAKE ACTION! It can seem too big and complicated to do anything about, but taking action is the ONLY way things change, so here are a few suggestions to get you started. Get reconnected with your food by growing your own veggies. Check out the action section on for some great tips on organic gardening. Watch these DVDs, all available to hire FOR FREE at the Global Education Centre: Media that Matters — Good Food A Selection of Short Films on Food and Sustainability What’s Really In Our Food? InsideNew Zealand SuperSizeMe The Future of Food This article originally appeared in Tearaway magazine as part of the Global Focus project.

XMAS - Treasure or trash?

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

By Elisabeth Perham

baubleChristmas should be a time for celebration, a time for sharing, being with family, celebrating all that is good. While this may be the case, the unfortunate truth, like the Climate Change movie says the inconvenient truth, is that the annual Christmas craze is one which is seriously damaging the health of the Earth.

Funny how Christmas now starts in October. The mall decorations go up, ads encourage you to start your shopping and catalogues arrive in the mail. Nearly three months away and already we can’t escape it. Not that I’m a scrooge, far from it! In fact, I love the holiday season. Yet I find myself becoming more and more concerned about the festival of consumerism that modern-day Christmas is.

rubbishAnd not just consumerism at Christmas, but throughout the whole year. Landfills swell, temperatures rise, neighbourhoods flood and hurricanes devastate cities. You already know all this, we all do, but do you care enough to do anything about it? In the most recent statistics available (ie. 1997: so archaic that it’s shameful) New Zealanders disposed of 3.4 million tonnes of waste into landfills. That’s almost a tonne each! What’s worse is that this is so much more than we used to dispose of. In the Auckland region, this was an increase of 73% per person of rubbish from 1983. Imagine what the figure is now — and what it will be like in ten years’ time.

It may seem rather macabre to be bringing this up when this season should be festive, but it is in fact the perfect time. At Christmas our already ludicrous consumption goes up a further 25%, and as about 80% of goods made for consumption are thrown away within six months of production, this means a whole lot more waste.

Fact: in the UK alone, at least 1 billion Christmas cards will find their way to the bin by the endwheelie bin of this holiday season. Although similar figures are not available here in New Zealand, if we sent cards at the same voracious rate as our British counterparts (which is unfortunately quite likely), this would mean we send a whopping 66.5 million a year. With one tree required for the production of 3000 cards, we could unwittingly be sending 22000 trees through our postal system.

But the news isn’t all bad. If we all make just a little bit of effort, the bad we are doing CAN be reversed. Ladies and gentlemen, the Earth can be saved! For every tonne of paper we manage to recycle, 13 trees, 31780 litres of water and 2.5 barrels of oil are conserved. For every one tonne of aluminium recycled: 13,300 kWh of electricity is saved, 95% less air pollution is produced and 4 tonnes of chemical product are conserved.

So this Christmas, do give thanks: give thanks for the Earth being the one planet in the entire universe that can sustain your life. Give thanks for the generations that will follow you. Make it a Merry Pollution-Free Christmas for all your grandchildren and great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren.


Zero Waste
Waste Online


It’s easy to make Christmas less wasteful, and just a little effort from all of us will make a big difference. You’ll be helping save the Earth and, who knows, you could even save some money! It’s a simple matter thinking about the three R’s:

Top ways to Reduce Christmas waste…

  • Think carefully about the gifts you buy.
  • Buy Fair Trade if possible and look for environmentally-responsible producers.
  • If you’re not sure what to buy, give money or vouchers. That way the gift is less likely to be thrown out.Be imaginative with presents.
  • Buy a couple of chickens for a family living in poverty on your mate’s behalf (Oxfam:Unwrapped )
  • Make vouchers with promises to cook tea one night or do the vacuuming for a month. A spot of baking never goes amiss either, and it can be really fun!!!
    xmas treeChristmas Trees:

  • Use an artificial tree, much more environmentally friendly than a real one.
  • Better still, decorate a living tree in a pot and let it live! Both these options can be reused every year without the need to chop down yet another tree…

    Christmas Cards

  • Send e-greetings instead of cards. Try for a range of awesome cards (cheaper too).


  • Buy food in recyclable packaging… and recycle it!!! (Especially don’t buy things in Styrofoam packaging. It never decomposes… ever!!!)
  • Things you can Re-use…


  • Use string, not tape. That way it’s easier for others to recycle it too.
  • Remove your Christmas wrap carefully and tuck it away to wrap next year’s presents.Make tags/cards
  • If you’re into saving money and like to be creative, use the pictures off the front of received cards to handcraft your own highly personalised cards and gift tags.
  • Re-Gifting - If you are given a gift you don’t like, don’t throw it out!!! Donate anything in good condition to a charity shop or pass it on to someone else. Or jump on Trade Me: one man’s trash is another man’s treasure after all. Or give it as a gift next year — just be careful you don’t return it to the same person.
  • crushed cansAnd don’t forget to Recycle…

  • Put all those bottles, cans, cards and packets in the recycling bin. Most cities now have street collection, but if this isn’t available, it’s only one trip to the recycling depot. It’s really not that difficult. To find out what the deal is in your area check out this link.

A version of this article was originally published in JET magazine.

Branded Identity

Thursday, March 3rd, 2005

Jenah Shaw

Hoodies or miniskirts, ugg boots or sport shoes — whatever your wardrobe looks like, there’s no denying that we carry a sense of self-expression in our clothes, something to give the world a sense of “us”.

If you’re looking for that defining look you can find it in any number of retail clothes shops, and in the world of branded clothing.

Brands and labels are no longer just a name to accompany a purchase, but are an integral part of identity. Which ones you associate with (or don’t for the non-conformists out there), which are the trendiest as of five minutes ago, and the kind of status they represent — it’s all part of the image.

It can seem somewhat fake to just ride the trends — to buy pre-ripped clothes for that vintage look, or to dress punk with no understanding of the culture or music — but in a generation dominated by image and appearance, imitating what is seen in magazines and on TV has become second nature.

With so much importance placed on looks and style, it’s hardly surprising corporations and their market researchers have latched onto the connection between image and identity. And are milking it for all it’s worth.

“Yeah, but is it me’?”
Today’s marketers and retailers are selling ideas, subcultures and attitudes as much as they are selling products. The reality is: these subcultures, ideas and attitudes are invented in boardrooms. And once created, we’ll happily pay huge prices to become part of them.

We aren’t so naive that we don’t know this, but we still buy into it. Why? It might be to flaunt how much we can afford to pay for a single item of clothing, but much more likely is the comfort of associating with a brand, and what’s essentially a pre-packaged identity.

They’re identities which have been created by marketers, who, through various advertising techniques, try to capture that identity people will want to buy into.

Anti-cool is the new cool
Slogans and brand identities capture feelings and attitudes, wants and desires — the sort of thing (they hope) will be desirable among their target audiences. The fact is, in many cases, the target audience in the crosshairs is us — that 12-19 year old consumer group with all the disposable cash.
Glassons has “Wear It Your Way”, suggesting control is with the buyer, who wears it “their way”, thus creating their own identity and gaining self-empowerment — with a little help from their friends at the local Glassons outlet that is (who, by the by, are happily making the profit).

Nike has “Just Do It”, encouraging ideas of independence and spontaneity, and Adidas’s “All Day I Dream about Sport” is all about passion and athleticism.

Then there’s the suburban princess of darkness, Emily Strange, whose character has spawned a line of clothing and merchandise ranging from t-shirts to Thin Lizzy dolls. She is “anti-cool” her website claims, “a subculture of one, and a follower of no-one but herself. She is the anti-hero for the Do It Yourself movement!”

Yeah, and you can be a part of it by buying one of a million or so mass-produced t-shirts. Every slogan and brand identity — with the help of advertising and merchandising — creates a look and attitude that we’re encouraged to be part of.

Take your Mum’s advice — be yourself.
So much more is being sold than just a product, and brands of increasing expense (although not necessarily quality) come with increasing exclusiveness and reputation.

It’s easy to see how brands and labels can become status symbols for whoever wears them, indications of wealth and style — something, society tells us, we all want. So they’re attractive, these carefully planned and strategised illusions, but real identity is much, much more.

Whatever feeling is created, the important thing to remember is brands are in it for the money.
Besides, style is not what you wear, but how you wear it.



  • Go op shopping. Ah, the thrill of the find and the pride of a bargain. Because a lot of op shop items have been sitting in grandpa’s wardrobe for forty years, much of it precedes the move toward cheap and nasty labour. And more often than not, it’s one of a kind. Cheap too!
  • Make your own stuff. Who knows, it could be the beginning of a career in fashion design. Not only do you have complete control over what goes on your t-shirts/pants/hoodies, you know exactly who was exploited in the making. And I hear knitting is hip again.
  • Go Black Spot. This is a new anti-brand movement started by US magazine and anti-The Man force Adbusters. Their mission appears to be to take down Converse founder Phil Knight, and their first action is their Black Spot sneakers. They look just like Converse sneakers, but instead of the Converse symbol have a black spot representing their rejection of brands. SEE:
  • Seek out fresh talent. If the sewing machine is a bit intimidating for ya, try hunting down an up and coming designer. There are heaps of new boutique fashion stores opening up in the cities with young designers begging to see their work on the frames of hip young things like yerselves. The clothing is generally made in bedrooms and home workshops for the love of it.

This article was written as part of Global Focus a collaborative project of Tearaway Magazine and the Global Education Centre. It was first published in Tearaway magazine and is reprinted here with their permission

Illustrator; Rebecca ter Borg