Month 1 tally, highlghts, a recipe, and the interconnectivity of capitalist markets, social justice and environmental consciousness

Here ’tis!

My first month’s tally… if I’m looking meh about it that’s just because, well… I’m meh about it.

It wound up being more than I’d hoped for – so some of it is stuff that was actually bought last year but has only been used this year and I’ve not included those things that I did accidentally pick up this month, but am re-using (like the antipodes bottles which are now my reusable water bottle and my vinegar bottle, and the ginger beer that is now my sesame oil bottle). It consists of some cellotape, a sauce sachet, some plastic bags (from last year), some wetwipes packets (shuddup I liked the freshness ok) let’s see what else… oh yes the pill bubbles that Ella’s worm medcation came in,  plastic razor packet (from last year), tampon wrappers,  some plastic wrapping from Ella’s last Chunky dog roll which she finished early Jan, gladwrap from the kaanga waru I had made over Christmas, thermal receipts AND… tin cans that I THOUGHT might just be tin but were lined with plastic inside. Flippin’ stealth plastic grr.

Sorry Toroa. :-/

So my plastic waste weighs in at 45gms. It’s ok, I’m kind of ok with that for my first month, but had better expectations, and I certainly hope that’ll go down in future months.

Overall, you know… it’s not been as hard as I thought it was going to be, and so many people have remarked to me “oh my gosh it must be SO hard!” that it’s making me double check myself to see if I’m cheating… if there’s something else I should be missing out on that other people are factoring in, that I’m missing.

But no, I think in general it’s just a mind shift, and we make it seem harder to ourselves than it is for whatever reasons. In any case – I haven’t found it a major inconvenience at all. When I say I miss wetwipes, well… I DO but I don’t pine for them, I’m fine without them and am happier knowing that I’m not creating unnecessary waste just for the sake of a convenient freshness fix.

So…. tip of the month this month?? Has to go to the cuz Te Hamua Nikora who shared this pic with me on how to repurpose an old tshirt into a bag:

Great way to stop those plastic fibres from entering the waste stream. 🙂 Made me want to rifle through my draws and pull out all my t-shirts to see if they’d make cooler bags than they do shirts. Ok that is what I actually did.

Best recipe? Most definitely, hands down… the almond/banana ice cream. Good Goddess in heavens above and around and all the saints and satyrs and demi gods there ever were…. it. is. YUM.

Like… ‘even-if-I-could-go-back-to-buying-plastic-I’d-still-go-for-this’ yum.
Pic courtesy of “Eat lean, Train mean, Live Green” (I got 2/3 of that equation SUSSED. Well… most of the time)

Extra bonus was making my own almond butter… I LOVE that stuff but it’s soooo expensive and I just knew that the glass jars had plastic in the lids so I haven’t bought any. My almonds only cost me $10 at the Bulk Inn and I only needed like… a cup of them. That made me a decent amount of the icecream and I still had a punnet of the spread left afterwards. SOOOOO GOOOOO ARRRGHH….

You know, by and large, people have been just really lovely. A few of them read the article in the local paper, or heard the radio interview, and have gone out of their way to be supportive. Like Lois at Warehouse Stationery

Who scoured the store for a plasticfree rubber and then got a paper bag especially for me – she was very helpful and incredibly supportive and just all round bubbly and supportive in a way that makes you even happier to be doing what you’re doing.

Similar experience at Bunnings today in the Garden section – even if they don’t stock what I need they’ve still gone looking for an alternative solution in their store, or have tried to figure out with me what an alternative might be at home, or even another supplier that might have plastic free alternatives. People have genuinely wished me well and believed in what I was doing, which made me wonder why more of us aren’t giving it a go, too. Anyways… I guess that’s a whole nother story and a good portion of why I’m doing what I’m doing is to demonstrate it’s achievability and make it even more achievable for others. In any case – all the lovely support made me think there probably is something that we can do, as a community.

So this is Te Tūranganui a Kiwa, Tūranga, Gisborne, or Gizzy. BEAUTIFUL city, gorgeous beaches – and unfortunately produces twice the national average of plastic waste. In this past year Hawaii went plastic-bag free

“Being a marine state, perhaps, we are exposed more directly to the impacts of plastic pollution and the damage it does to our environment,” Robert Harris, director of the Sierra Club’s Hawaii chapter, said in 2012. “People in Hawaii are more likely to be in the water or in the outdoors and see the modern day tumbleweed — plastic bags — in the environment.”

All of which apply to Aotearoa/New Zealand… and in particular to a coastal community, like Gisborne. I can only speculate on what the precise reason is for us having such high plastic waste but it would not surprise me at all if it is linked to the low income stats in our region, and that brings me to another, important point. Our local councillor Manu Caddie is travelling around Asia at the moment and recently posted his observations on the high levels of pollution that is seen there. I recall being appalled at the pollution I witnessed in Indonesia as well… It reminded me of when people say that environmentalism is a luxury for the rich and middle class.

That much is true, to a degree, but I also think it’s a radical over simplification. To commodify environmentalism and say that it’s something you can afford overlooks the fact that OUR hyper-consumerism directly contributes to the pollution in ‘developing’ countries. ‘Developing’ countries who are often the ones mass-producing and packaging the products that we are consuming, and producing high levels of pollution and waste whilst doing so. ‘Developing’ countries who provide incredibly cheap labour to us and unregulated work environments, trapping workers in cycles of poverty and exploitative, toxic work conditions. ‘Developing’ countries like Indonesia which we go to, and revel in their poverty so that we can feel like intrepid travellers, and then add to their pollution, and, having turned our noses up at their waste issues, return home to our tidy high consumption lifestyles. I write ‘Developing’ like that because most if not all of these countries labelled as developing are actually enslaved by debt which hinders their self determined development (but contributes toward the economic development of capital market players in stronger countries) – and it’s unlikely that they will ever ‘develop’ in any fashion other than that determined by their creditors. My point here is that when we frame environmentalism as a “luxury” we evoke guilt for caring about the environment – nobody should feel guilty for caring about the state of the environment. Rather, we should be mindful that our own LACK of environmental consciousness exacerbates environmental issues in other areas of the globe arguably moreso than in our own backyard. We should be mindful that waste production for us AND for overseas countries begins with where we spend our money and what we spend it on, not just what we do with the packaging. We should also be aware that environmental issues are inextricably tied to issues of social justice, which we can also pay better attention to rather than judging the populations, or, even worse, judging environmentalism. The very least we can do is acknowledge the link between our complicitness in an economy that places over 40% of the world’s resources in the hands of 1% of the population, and supports 500 multi billionaires while 3.8billion live on less than $2.50 a day – and the social burdens of these poorer populations that place them in survival mode.


Here’s why the “environmentalism = luxury” line starts to annoy me – because it turns people away from the very measure that could ameliorate that problem in the first place. Living more sustainably, investing in local economies, being more aware of your impact upon the global economy by way of your own expenditure and lifestyle choices… in short, taking measures to divest yourself of the role you play in the global capitalist economy – THAT MATTERS. Understanding that when you ignore social justice issues, there will be a raft of ramifications including environmental ones… THAT MATTERS.

So taking this back to a local context – yes – we have a relatively low income level for our households here on the East Coast – but rather than conceptualising that as simply a short cause and effect relationship between low income and high pollution – we should be viewing both of these factors as being symptomatic of a gravely flawed system that has causes both economic and environmental harm to our community. The economy and the environment exist hand in hand. Economic improvements CAN occur through environmentalism. There are many sustainable practices that actually save us money and so encouraging and promoting these practices CAN lead to economic improvements and lessen social burden. But also, environmentalism can occur through recognition of indigenous rights. Environmentalism can occur through recognition of housing needs. Environmentalism will occur through an improved education system and healthier children. Acknowledging the burden that these issues place upon households IS doing something for the environment, and doing something for the environment IS doing something for these households.

SO ANYWAYS – here’s what I’m doing (apart from the non-plastic path)…

I’m going to make our town plastic-bag free. Well…. me and a good couply thousand friends. We’re all going to do it… and if you want to sign our petition and put a few words in as to WHY going plastic-bag free is such a good idea – then please do – just click on this image:


Don’t be shy just because you’re not from here – like I said – environmentalism has meaning and impacts far beyond local boundaries… not to mention that the more signatures and points made, the better (and we can still see who has signed from Gisborne for the purposes of local numbers anyway). So feel free to share, too. Then we can all say we’ve done something just now, for the environment, and for social burden too.

HAPPY FEBRUARY! Hey like the new look blog? I doooo!! Mauriora everyone!

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20 thoughts on “Month 1 tally, highlghts, a recipe, and the interconnectivity of capitalist markets, social justice and environmental consciousness”

  1. Awesome tally I think! Small steps gets results. Did you include the actual wet wipes in your tally? They are made out of plastic; people think they are paper, but they are not.

    1. Thanks Christopher! I suspected as much, seeing as they don’t tear. The wipes were actually all well gone by January 1 but the packets were still in my bathroom rubbish so I kept the packets but there were no wipes to include. 🙂

  2. Hey Tina, some great thoughts here. I have been formulating a post in my head for a couple of weeks for my blog on a lot of these issues. Plastic-free is a first-world problem. Well, no it’s not, look at any ‘developing’ country (they were called third-world countries when I was a kid, which is pretty dodgy but maybe more accurate) and their plastic pollution is so dire, it’s impacting even further on their quality of life. Manila Harbour, Bali, E-waste in Ghana…. could go on forever.

    LOVE the new website look. I think I need to come over to WordPress!

    Re the wipes, they are made mostly of paper (wood pulp) and reinforced with polyester. You can get biodegradable and compostable ones, which use viscose, bamboo etc, but it doesn’t solve the problem of the packet, no.

    Will sign your petition. I would love to start something like that where I am. I’m in a low socioeconomic area too, and I imagine a lot of people would be really miffed at a plastic bag ban! (who does that upstart think she is… how inconvenient!) That’s a big issue… helping people in low s/e groups to get aware!

    1. Hi Danielle!! Wow I just read through your blog – quite the incident with the wetwipes companies! Yeah there will no doubt be some level of resistance to the change, there always is. Even if what you are doing is planting the seed for the actual change to happen down the line that’s still something though – but I believe you can do it, it’s generally the mindset that’s the hardest thing to change huh. I was heartened by this story on Modbury in the UK:
      Especially the part about how, in such a small time, carrying a plastic bag became conceptualized as anti-social behaviour! haha just goes to show once people get on board with something, amazing things can happen.

      I think it’s an interesting concept that people say it’s a “first world” issue. I think that’s true but mainly in the sense that the “first world” economy is what causes it – certainly not that thats where the problem exists or that we’re the only ones who have the “luxury” of worrying about it. We’re not even the only ones looking to solve it. The plastic bag ban in Bali is driven by Balinese surfers – and there are plastic bag bans in Rwanda, Bangladesh, Burma, Mumbai, Delhi, and Mexico city – all very impoverished populations. As far as plastic bag bans go – The “developed” world is a bit behind (we’re not shy to keep developing the problem though).

      Great blog by the way! Will follow your posts 🙂

    1. Kia Ora!! 🙂 Thanks for that – yessss the tampon wrappers are horrid little things – that’s a great link, thanks! I’ve been looking into the non-plastic options for menstrual products lately and was thinking to have a look at the diva cup at some point, but now I’m thinking I might give a few products a try, like the ones on this page:
      and review them on the blog… will give the homemade version a shot as well, re-using is always my preferred option!

  3. This is such a neat blog – thank you for sharing your journey with us – awesome guidance, observations and advice for us wanting to change. x

  4. Awesome job! Signed your petition. I hope to start a similar initiative in my town one day. Loved the t-shirt into bag without sewing! And I’d highly recommend menstrual cups as an alternative to tampons or pads but will be curious to read about what options you try.

  5. Tina hi had dramas trying to make contact — seems to be no contact form on your site.. I have taken some material you wrote from a petition surrounding Helen Clark be unsuitable for the role of UN Secretary General and used it in a story I have on my site surrounding the same thing..Story here

    I’ve credited your work to you with

    The material (above) surrounding Helen Clark’s lack of respect for the human rights of indigenous people (according to international norms) was originally written by Tina Ngata for an online petition stating:

    “Petitioning United Nations and 3 others

    Helen Clark Is Not a Suitable Candidate for UN Secretary General”

    The petition was removed due to concerns that those “signing it could be placing themselves at risk of surveillance for what may seem to them to be innocuous comments but could be misrepresented by others.” (original statement here in comments at base of page)

    Print media surrounding Tina Ngata speaking before the UN about Helen Clark and indigenous rights here and here

    Tina Ngata speaking before the UN (You Tube)

    Is this okay ??? I don’t like taking others work without asking their permission but it took me some time to find out who originally wrote the material. Once I found out I credited it to the author.

    Kia kaha


  6. Hi Tina,

    I loved seeing you on Seven Sharp last night. And thanks for making a difference to our world.

    I may have a solution for some to an alternative bag. When I was travelling in Germany six years ago I saw supermarket shoppers using these really neat bags which are specifically designed to hook on to the insides of the supermarket trolley (only in Germany – you know how Germans are really into recycling, and organising :). They’re classy polyester bags and come in a range of very cool colours and designs. I loved the look, the idea and so I bought two of these bags. They’ve worked brilliantly, and I’ve had sooo many shoppers in the supermarket who have admired and expressed an interest in buying them. The packers at the supermarket LOVE them too. Unfortunately these bags would be hard to afford for some, but they are so very practical in many ways, and long and hard wearing. I’ve used them for six years now and they’re still in excellent condition. One of these bags fills the equivalent of three plastic bags. I estimate that I’ve saved 1,812 plastic bags over this time!

    Anyway, I just thought I’d touch base with you as I’m investigating the possibility of importing these bags into New Zealand, and would be keen to hear your thoughts on this idea.

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