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Compost on campus
Kaitlyn and Jessica Lamb want more students to turn food scraps into fresh food through the art of composting.
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If you’re keen to reduce your climate impact, diverting food waste from landfill is one of the easiest steps you can take, according to compost queens Kaitlyn and Jessica Lamb. The twin sisters are second-year students at the University of Canterbury, where they’ve established a new offering on the campus clubs list: the UC Compost Club. The pair, originally from Rotorua, first got into composting when they realised the considerable climate impact of rotting food in landfills, which releases the greenhouse gas methane.
Spreading the good word about compost
Now, through the Compost Club, Kaitlyn and Jessica are teaching their fellow students how to make the most of their waste – because despite having “green” organic bins across campus, food scraps make up 41% of the “red” landfill bin contents. The club is still in its infancy, but Kaitlyn says she was surprised by how many like-minded students they’ve united: “We’ve got like 30 sign ups, which is amazing.” Education is a key goal of the group – they’re offering mini-tutorials, where students can book a visit to their flat and for help setting up a compost pile in their backyard.
Top tips for composting
Kaitlyn and Jessica also run workshops, complete with live compost pile construction, with three tiers of compost commitment to suit different lifestyles: time-poor composter, good citizen composter, and compost fanatic. They cover different types: cold, hot and worm-based systems. Most backyard set-ups are cold compost, where material is added slowly, meaning the microbes eat slowly, says Kaitlyn. Then, there are the four essential compost components: browns (leaves, hay, wood chips, etc.), greens (food scraps), moisture and oxygen. “Normally we try to explain it like a cake: you have to have all the right ingredients so that it tastes good – or it tastes good for the microbes,” says Kaitlyn.
When it comes to barriers, one of the biggest is that “people think it’s smelly,” says Kaitlyn. Or it attracts flies, or doesn’t break down. These can easily be overcome if you keep a good brown-green balance and add water if the mixture is too dry. And if you’re a vermicomposter (aka worm farmer), you might’ve heard it’s a no-no to add citrus peel and onion skins into your system – “but we do it,” says Jessica. “You just have to check the pH balance – if it’s too acidic, the worms will want to escape.” But you definitely shouldn’t put meat or dairy into your backyard compost, as there won’t be enough heat in the pile to kill off nasty pathogens. That can only be achieved in very large compost piles, which can reach the hot composting threshold of around 60 degrees, says Kaitlyn.
On a Friday afternoon, Jessica and Kaitlyn can often be found at the Waiutuutu Community Garden, tucked away in a lush corner of the UC campus. Here, students gather for a working bee, with compost one of the tasks on offer. Large receptacles are set up along the garden edge. “When people get the composting job, they’re often really into it,” says Kaitlyn. “There’s usually some students who really do like worms as well.” Last year, Kaitlyn and Jessica collected food scraps from the halls of residence to top up the community compost heaps. It takes about a year for the heaps to fully turn over into rich “black gold”, which is then applied to the garden’s raised beds of vegetables. Working bee participants get to take home fresh produce grown here. It’s a chance not only for some fresh kai, but to switch off from screens and soak in the surrounding greenery. “Some people think living sustainably is more expensive, that you have to buy all this stuff like bamboo toothbrushes,” says Kaitlyn. “But if you break it down, it’s not really. It’s just living with what you have and just living more simply.”
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Car-lite inspo from the world’s biggest city
Arrive in Tokyo, Japan, and you might expect a noisy soundscape of tyres on asphalt and honking horns – but this mega-city is surprisingly light on car traffic. In this excerpt from his book Carmageddon: How Cars Make Life Worse and What to Do About It, Daniel Knowles explains how and why Tokyo became an anti-car paradise. Among rich cities, Tokyo has the lowest car use in the world, with just 12% of trips made by private vehicle. Seventeen percent of trips are by bicycle, with public transport and walking coming out as the preferred modes of transport for Tokyo residents. In closer-to-home car reckons, Henry Cooke wonders if driving on the left is stymieing New Zealand’s climate progress.
‘Why wouldn't you make one of the most famous streets in Auckland actually look better and attract more people?’
It’s a great question from Auckland Transport’s head of cycling Adrian Lord, who spoke to The Detail podcast about the co-benefits of cycle lane transformations for busy roads. Here, he’s talking about the swish new separated cycle lanes on Karangahape Road. It’s exactly these kinds of projects we’ll need to achieve Auckland’s “mode shift” away from cars and towards cycling, walking and public transport. Stuff’s Todd Niall checks in on the status of the city’s Transport Emissions Reduction Pathway and finds “urgent and innovative change” stalled. Decision makers better get a move on, especially as Aucklanders’ climate footprint is 15% higher than households elsewhere in the country, according to a new report.
New Zealand’s water far from fresh
It was a one-two punch for freshwater last week, with the Our Freshwater 2023 report painting a bleak picture of 45% of our total river length deemed unswimmable and research from the Lakes 380 project revealing that nearly half of our lakes are in poor health – or worse. Marnie Prickett from the University of Otago commented that, “Much of the report reads as a list of poor decision-making and its consequences.” She says, “It is time to consider how such reporting could support national restoration efforts, rather than document decline of the natural environment we love and rely on.” Meanwhile, Ngāpuhi are appealing for help to reverse the ailing health of polluted Lake Ōmāpere in Northland. The water body has deep cultural significance to Ngāpuhi hapū, and was once a reliable source of kaimoana, Karanama Ruru reports for Stuff.
Our award nominations are a win for us and our supporters
Our editorial work is made possible by Spinoff members. Last Friday, The Spinoff was nominated in 14 categories at the Voyager Media Awards. These nominations represent a fraction of the work published on our reader-supported website. If you're a member already, thanks so much from all of us at The Spinoff — the award nominations are a genuine win for those nominated but also for everybody who contributes to making The Spinoff what it is and that includes you. If you appreciate the work we do and want support us become a member or donate to The Spinoff today.
How a Tairāwhiti community united to speak up for Papatūānuku in the wake of Cyclone Gabrielle, wonderfully told by Nadine Anne Hura for The Spinoff
Researchers are investigating how seaweed might help mussel spat (babies) grow as part of efforts to restore the shellfish to the Hauraki Gulf, Michael Morrah reports for Newshub
In the last three months of 2022, New Zealand’s coal use dropped to its lowest level in 32 years
In 1856, an American woman discovered that higher carbon dioxide levels would warm the planet. But credit for the discovery of global warming went to a man who made the same finding a few years later. BBC’s The Climate Question tells the story of Eunice Foote
Alex Casey wants you to know her inside cat is doing just fine
Governments have promised to reforest 633 million hectares while corporations have signed up to “trillion tree” planting pledges – but are these goals remotely plausible?
More on numbers and climate: Bill McKibben outlines “a few new numbers — wild cards, really — that could yet rewrite the end of this story” in this piece for Rolling Stone
Self-proclaimed Twitter “ninjas” are fighting climate disinformation by targeted reporting of accounts repeatedly promoting climate denial
Image credit: Bryce McQuillan Photography.
To finish this issue, self-taught macro-photographer Bryce McQuillan captured these stunning images of the endemic cicada Kikihia ochrina. We usually associate cicadas with summer, but this April green cicada emerges in autumn and is most commonly seen in the month of April. Keep an eye out for these gorgeous green insects, which are only found in New Zealand, or listen for their “very quick and shrill” song.
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