News from the UC Sustainability Office

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2017 Sustainability Awards Ceremony

The 2017 Sustainability Awards kicked off yesterday, providing us with a chance to share the achievements of our campus sustainability heroes! Thank you to those who came along and celebrated excellence in sustainability amongst our university community. These awards recognise student and staff efforts to improve the world around us, and make UC more sustainable. It is a truly special occasion when we can all gather together in one place and share our stories, and have a chance to celebrate the incredible work that is being done on campus, and beyond.


A huge thank you to our awesome sponsors – we couldn’t do it without your support!

Holding these awards are incredibly  important because not only does it recognise people for work that often otherwise goes unnoticed, but it also raises the profile of sustainability activities in our community and demonstrates just how much of this great work is happening here. This can be through research projects, community initiatives, departmental resource efficiency leadership, or anything else that demonstrates a willingness and ability to make our place just that bit greener… and for that, we thank you! 

A massive congratulations to all those nominated in this years Sustainability Awards – you should all be truly proud of the work you have achieved, and the changes that you have made. We are lucky to have you!


So, lets kick off with a brief run down of this years winners – and the prizes from our awesome sponsors!

SILVER – STAFF (General) 

Mark Homewood, RRSIC Stormwater Treatment

Academic staff from the Sciences and Engineering departments had a lot of input into the design work for the new RRSIC building, and one of the stand our results from this process is ideas around how stormwater is treated before being discharged into the Okeover / Waiutuutu stream. Projects of this scale are always hugely collaborative, and Mark wins this Silver Staff award as Project Manager for his work in this project.

This piece of work, which creates a new learning environment for students and staff, builds upon the notion of campus as a Stormwater Research Park and 20 years of stream rehabilitation on campus. Mark and his team have not only created learning opportunities on campus, but also have become an example of best practice construction regarding urban waterways for the wider Christchurch rebuild.


Jackson White, The Solar Project 

The idea of getting solar panels on campus buildings seemed like a far off dream, and it was unanticipated that this challenge would be answered by a student… But, that is exactly what happened! Jackson made it his business as sustainability champion on the UC exec to get solar panels on a building here on campus, and achieved this within only a couple of months – an extraordinary achievement.  The judges were hugely impressed with this outcome (as we all were), which has now meant an early learning centre is completely solar powered… an incredible achievement not to be taken lightly. Jackson’s dedication to this project, and the impact that his work has had both within and outside of the the university community, deserves to be recognised as something special.

GOLD – STAFF (Academic)


The judging panel was stunned by the nomination for the CAREX project led by Professor Angus McIntosh and Jon Harding. It was noted that this work is of national importance and is complex, current, and critical. The Canterbury Waterway Rehabilitation Experiment is focussed on improving freshwater sustainability through development and evaluation of restoration solutions for agricultural streams, which as we all know, is surely a massively current issue for Canterbury and NZ at large.

CAREX works with over 20 landowners and farm managers and more than 60 other stakeholders from local government, to NGOs to industry, and their plan is to continue their project and extend their learnings to catchments across the North and South Islands in efforts to address the stressors responsible for declines in freshwater. An incredible initiative that is truly deserving of this award to recognise the hard work, and all that they have achieved.

GOLD – STAFF (General)

Rob Oudshoorn and Engineering Services, Energy Efficiency and Carbon Reduction Initiatives

The Gold Award for General Staff this year went to Rob Oudshoorn and his team in Engineering Services for their work in quietly retrofitting the campus with literally hundreds of interventions that have collectively begun to drive down our carbon profile. Many of these interventions have been around a range of energy efficiency measures which are already in place, as well as the construction which is currently underway for the new Wellness Precinct, which will be low carbon, heated via a ground source heat pump, and a very significant step in shifting away from non renewables. This award goes to Rob and his team for their commitment to the vision of a low carbon future for the University – huge congratulations to you.


Shell Eco Marathon Team

This group of students, with the help of Bruce Robertson, took on a massive challenge to  put in an entry into the Shell Eco Marathon Design Challenge, which was held in Singapore in March.

As the nominator for this entry explained: “Typically teams focus only on the amount of fuel the vehicles uses, but this team took a wider perspective and explored options for whole product life cycle energy use. The result of this was the design and build of a small car that is the first in the world to be made entirely from recyclable thermoformed plastic sheets. Selection of this material supports reduction in energy consumption at three stages, those being the initial manufacture, service life, and end of life.”  The judges were very impressed by the huge challenge of pulling the project together in a short space of time, and also by the outcome: a working model that could improve sustainability outcomes for transport internationally. An innovative and inspiring entry into this years Awards Ceremony, and very deserving of the Gold Student Award for 2017.


Selva Ganapathy and Joyce Chen, The Fog Water Harvesting Project 

This year’s Fair Trade Diamond Award goes to Selva and Joyce for their extraordinary vision and commitment in solving an urgent problem in many impoverished communities throughout the developing world: access to clean drinking water. They have undertaken social and environmental development work, with a low environmental impact.

Inspired by the Warka Water Tower project, Selva began to explore the possibilities of fog harvesting in Tamilnadu, India. Stories about the farmers’ suicide in the drought-hit regions were the motive behind beginning to research about water conservation and water-related work.

The project is still in the implementation stage in India. They will be presenting their idea at Schneider Electrical’s Go Green in the City 2017 competition global finals in Paris next month.

The judges found this an incredible proposition, and felt it fitting that this year’s Fair Trade Diamond award be given to Selva and Joyce as their work will directly benefit communities in the developing world, and potentially those least able to deal with the coming effects of catastrophic climate change.

And finally… the SUPREME AWARD goes to:

Glynne Mackey, Sustainability and Social Justice 

Glynne Mackey is a lecturer in teacher education, and from 2004 to present day, has been developing courses for early childhood (EC) and primary teachers on sustainability, social justice and ecojustice. From 2004 all EC students have had a compulsory Year 3 course in sustainability and now this is open to primary students. In the sustainability course, students are challenged in their personal attitudes around sustainability and environmental behaviour as well as what this means for the professional teacher.

Students are encouraged to be sustainability leaders in their school or centre and ensure children have opportunities to realise their own competence and agency in making a difference for a better future. The course has evolved, beginning as more of a focus on environmental education in 2004, and as worldwide understandings towards environmental issues have changed, it has become more integrated with understandings of social justice and eco justice.

The judges were acutely aware of the drive, determination and dedication Glynne has demonstrated for well over a decade in this area, which has shaped the face of education for sustainability in Aotearoa. The impact this has had on sustainability literacy amongst our children and young adults is hard to quantify, but undoubtedly huge. With this, the judges agreed that she is worthy of this award, and so much more.


This was a simply fantastic event celebrating the work that is being done both within our University community, and outside of it. At the sustainability office, we are already looking forward to 2018! A huge congratulations to this years winners and nominees from everyone at the Sustainability Office.

Of course, we couldn’t have done this without our awesome and generous sponsors… our sustainability heroes this year went home with their hands full of some epic prizes!



So, a massive shout out to this years 2017 Sustainability Awards sponsors – 

Trade Aid

Alice Cinematheque

The Lotus Heart 


Arahura Greenstone Tours 

Piko Wholefoods 

New Zealand Kiwi Centre

Dux Central

Cassel and Son Brewery

Hokitika Regent Theatre 

The Urban Monk


Karma Cola 

Hokitika Holiday Park


Office Max

Little High Eatery 

Scenic Waterways 

And all the fantastic nominees, and those that nominated our deserving sustainability heroes – we thank you!

See you all next year, for another celebration of all things sustainable here at UC.

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Love Food Hate Waste –

Every year kiwis send 122, 547kg of food to landfill – this is food that could have been eaten, not to mention that which could have been composted. You can test your own food waste here.

One of the participants in this week’s Sustainapalooza  activities was Christchurch City Council’s own Love Food Hate Waste team (seen at Monday’s Eco Market and before the cycle-powered movie on Tuesday). LFHW is a national campaign dedicated to ending food waste in New Zealand through education and action! On their website they offer recipes and tips for using leftovers and minimising food waste.

We talked to Sarah about LFHW and this is what she had to say:

My name is Sarah Pritchett and for most of 2017 I had a contract role at the Christchurch City Council as the Love Food Hate Waste coordinator. I am now at UC in the sustainability office in a casual role, which is kind of full circle for me as my first degree was a BA in psychology from the University of Canterbury. This degree gave me a solid understanding of behaviour change theory which, combined with my passion for environmental sustainability, laid the foundations for my eventual career in environmental behaviour change.

60 councils throughout New Zealand are taking part in the Love Food Hate Waste campaign, which was brought to New Zealand from the UK by the Waste Management Institute. I first became aware of this campaign when I travelled to the UK on a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship in 2010 to undertake research into waste minimisation strategies. The Love Food Hate Waste campaign was undoubtedly the highlight of the campaigns I researched so I feel fortunate to have been part of the team delivering this campaign.

So, you may be thinking, how is this campaign relevant to you? The answer is simple: Households with people aged between 16 – 24yrs who are responsible or jointly responsible for food shopping and preparation are among the worst offenders when it comes to wasting edible food. How do we know this? As you will know, any good campaign needs baseline data to ascertain the extent of a problem and the underlying causes of the problem. So before Love Food Hate Waste was launched in NZ Wasteminz undertook research via bin audits, an online survey, food diaries and indepth interviews. And the recent UC waste audit showed a huge amount of food waste is being produced here on campus.

The results? Approximately $872,000 worth of avoidable food waste is thrown out by New Zealand households every year. This averages out to $563 per household. I can think of lots of things I would spend an extra $563 on! That’s the bad news. The good news is that all it takes to reduce your household food waste is a bit of planning and thought.

Here are some simple tips to introduce to your household:
• Plan your meals for 5 out of 7 nights of the week and make a shopping list for these meals.
• Don’t be sucked into 2 for $5 deals! If you only need 1 capsicum you are actually losing $2.50 rather than saving money, especially if that extra capsicum ends up rotting away in a lonely corner of your fridge.
• The University of Otago has just released the results of some research they did on best ways to store vegetables. The general rule seems to be keep vegetables you have started using covered or in airtight containers.
• Keep a “smoothie bag” in the freezer and when you have bananas that no one wants to eat because they are too brown take off the skin, chop them up and place them in the smoothie bag to pop into the blender at a later date. You can also add other types of fruit past their best such as apples, summer fruit, or even wilted carrots.
• Be inventive! I recently discovered (via google) that you can use carrot tops to make a pesto. We combined them with walnuts, parsley (because this grows wild in my neighbourhood), parmesan cheese and olive oil and served it with the roast carrots.

For more tips and loads of recipes go to

If you’d like to get hands on in helping to minimise food waste, Christchurch has two organisations that are always keen for new volunteers: 0800 HUNGRY and City Harvest. You can find their details here.

LFHW and the UCVegSoc handed out tastings of a couple of delicious dishes that you can make with leftover fruit and vegetables  – Love your Leftovers, before the Cycle Cinema at Sustainapalooza on Tuesday prior to the screening of the award winning food waste documentary ‘Just Eat it’.

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Okeover Community Gardens are 15 and we’re celebrating!

Okeover’s beginnings in 2002

This year, Okeover Community Gardens turns 15. Over this time, the gardens have evolved to the peaceful, enjoyable space they are today.

In 2000, Kākāriki Environment Club first proposed establishing a community garden at UC, and in 2002 a suitable site was found. The gardens were based on permaculture and organic principles, with the idea of opening them up to staff, students and the wider community.

An orchard and annual vegetable garden beds were established, along with a pizza oven used for garden celebrations and events, a herb spiral and perennial vegetable beds.

2015-16 saw a redesign of the original garden beds, with the UC carpenters installing a mandala of macrocarpa raised beds. The previous Garden Coordinator, Jane Aistrope, designed the new set up. They allow for a crop rotation of four different groups of vegetables.

Future plans for the gardens include establishing a food forest in the orchard area – with edible and beneficial plants providing an understorey for the fruit and nut trees.

The gardens exist with the help of our wonderful cast of volunteer gardeners who put in their time at our Friday afternoon working bees. Over the years, we have had hundreds of keen beans weed, plant, compost and sow in the gardens.

To celebrate this landmark date, and the spring equinox (Sept 23), DigSoc will be hosting a gala, with pizza and cake, on Friday 22nd Sept from 3-7pm. Do come along and celebrate with us! Bookings are essential as space is limited; email

Here is a montage of some of the many garden photos from over the years. It has changed such a lot! Click to enlarge the image.

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Donna’s Garden Update: Spring ahead

It’s great to know we’re past the Winter Solstice (June 21) and heading for spring and warmer soil.

Turning the compost

The year has been a busy one so far. Semester 1 began with loads of volunteers attending our Friday afternoon working bees – up to 35 at one session! This meant that we were able to do plenty of planting, harvesting and general sorting of the gardens. Spring cleaning the shed and tidying the back shed were two great achievements.

In June we had a pizza party to celebrate the Winter Solstice and the end of Semester 1. We bid farewell to some of our international gardeners who had helped to make the garden a lovely place to be over the semester.

Our compost area had been rather neglected most of the year, while the garage at the back of one of UC’s properties, directly behind the bins, was being rebuilt. In June our bins were back and we were able to build a compost heap – a great workout for everyone – which heated up very nicely. We’ve just turned it again and it’s breaking down nicely.


In terms of growing, we’ve been harvesting tatsoi, a very attractive leafy green veg, loads of delicious yams, kohlrabi, mini-caulis, garlic, surprise Urenika potatoes – the biggest once was about 15cm long – perpetual spinach and Florence fennel, Jerusalem artichokes and much more. The purple sprouting broccoli is still going strong (I’ve heard that plants can live for up to 5 years is you keep harvesting the florets!). We’ve got enough leeks and parsnips to see us through to the end of winter. The broadbeans we planted back in May are doing well, and we’ve sown some red-flowering ones to add a bit more colour to the gardens. Our garlic went in in May, and is doing well; we’ve got a couple of different types, Prinatour and Southern Softneck, and courtesy of Bridget, one of our volunteers, we’ve got some elephant garlic. The quince tree outdid itself again this year with more than 30kg of fruit which volunteers made into quince paste and jelly.

Some more garden highlights:

  • A garden angel who delivered Welsh tea cakes for afternoon tea
  • Revamping the herb spiral and establishing two herb baths. We’re slowly increasing the number of herbs we have in the gardens and will hopefully manage to keep our lemon verbena seedling going over winter!
  • The procrastabaking of some of our volunteers meant goodies for afternoon tea
  • Pineapple sage tea! A very refreshing and relaxing brew. Luckily we harvested and dried some leaves to see us through until next season
  • The huge puffballs popping up in the orchard – the largest weighed over 2kg!
  • The revival of DigSoc, the student gardening club, thanks to the lovely Ailsa and Alice

Tending the herb bath

In the next month or so, we’ll be working on the hugelkultur bed, planting NZ Cranberries/Chilean guava and creeping fuchsia, generously donated to the gardens by UC Grounds. We’ll also be putting in a selection of other perennial plants, including herbs. We’re coming up to the busy seed sowing and planting time of year, so that will be a big focus for the next few months.

The Gardens are involved in the Poroporo for the Port Hills project, organised by the Port Hill Rangers. The project aims to germinate thousands of poroporo seedlings to help revegetate the Port Hills following February’s fires. Our seedlings are up and hopefully by mid-August we’ll be potting them into recycled coffee cups ready for growing on a bit and then planting out. If you’d like to be involved in this, just let us know.

UC Sustainability will be holding Sustainapalooza in September (18-22nd), a week of sustainability-related events. On Friday the 22nd Sept, DigSoc will be hosting a Spring Equinox Gala at the gardens with pizza and cake. This will also be a celebration of 15 years of Okeover Community Gardens. If you’d like to come along, please book in, as spaces are limited. See the Sustainapalooza page for details.

For other information about the community gardens, check here. For information on becoming a volunteer and attending working bees on Friday (12-4pm), check here. The community gardens also have a dedicated Facebook Page.

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UC Student Flo Hinder takes on Plastic Free July challenge

Fourth-year Civil Eng student Flo is one of the UC students who is going plastic free during Plastic Free July. Plastic Free July aims to raise awareness of the amount of single-use disposable plastic in our lives and challenges people to do something about it. Flo shared some of her plastic free tips with us, and why she is doing it.  

What will you try to do during July?

To cut out all waste actually, not just plastic! This means not purchasing single use items, no wastage (not even recycling!). However, I will use the organics collection bin because it’s a super system in Christchurch for making compost.

Why are you doing the challenge?

I think waste and consumerism have become two really big problems in today’s society. So many items are being created just for convenience, driven by purely short-term thinking and yet this will ruin us in the long term. I also think the University should really try cut down its waste more, with so many (food) places having only the option of single use items. By doing this challenge I want to show people that it is possible to live without creating as much waste!

What do you think is going to be hard?

I think going out for dinner, and going for drinks/social occasions will be challenging as it’s not a social norm to carry around your own container or glass to drink from! I also think being able to resists bargains when I am shopping will be hard, even when they are wrapped in single use plastic.

What are some of your favourite waste-free items?

I have a little wee cup set that I keep in my bag 24/7 just in case I want a beverage on the go, and there are only plastic cups. I am also pretty passionate about waste-free bathroom products. I have a safety razor that is not made of plastic and can be reused. The one I have cost about $13 and came in only cardboard packaging with tonnes of little refill blades and it works a treat! I also love my trusty bamboo toothbrush, just google ‘bamboo toothbrush’ and you’ll find heaps of options. Instead of bottled shampoo or soap, I use shampoo bars and soaps. I order mine locally from Ethique, which is run by a UC alumni! I recommend trying out the starter packs. I use a menstrual cup for that time of the month, the UC pharmacy stocks them or you can find them (cheaper) online, and I honestly think it was the best purchase I have ever made!

Want more info on plastic free bathroom products? Check out

How to get an eco-friendly beauty routine:

Zero waste bathroom essentials: watch QMAo9O40zp0

How to have a zero waste period:

Are you keen to take on the Plastic Free July challenge too? You don’t have to go all out! You can choose to do it for a week or the whole month and you can either refuse ALL single-use plastic or the TOP 4: plastic bags, water bottles, takeaway coffee cups and straws. Have a look on the website for ideas on how to get started (and no, you don’t need to sign up)!

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Emergency preparedness: Build your own emergency kit

Photo credit: Consumer NZ

The consumer organisation Consumer NZ has labelled many of the pre-made emergency kits sold in New Zealand a ‘disaster’. A recent test by Consumer NZ showed that off-the-shelf emergency kits either lacked key items or performed poorly in tests. Their main finding was that people are better off building their own ‘getaway kit’ rather than buying a commercial one.

Putting together your own survival gear not only offers better value for money but also provides a good starting point for a discussion with your family or flatmates about what your plan will be in an emergency. The Ministry of Defence offers an easy-to-use PDF that guides you through a few things to consider in an emergency plan.

Emergency preparedness. Despite being faced with a number of natural disasters in the last decade, the emergency-preparedness of New Zealanders is still poor. A report last year by the Royal Society of New Zealand on the implications of climate change, suggests that in particular floods are likely to become more common in the future, further highlighting the importance of being emergency prepared. This means being prepared to survive for a few days at home when the lights go out and the water stops running but it is also crucial to have an emergency grab bag for when you need to leave quickly.

Build your own emergency grab bag.  Consumer NZ suggest the following items for an ideal emergency grab bag:

  • Backpack
  • Torch: Consumer NZ testing showed that radios and torches powered by disposable batteries were a better option than their wind-up counterparts
  • Radio
  • Spare batteries
  • Hygiene items: Anti-bacterial wetwipes/Tissues/toothbrush and paste/hand sanitiser/female hygiene products/etc.
  • Cash
  • Photo ID and important documents (Could be put on USB)
  • Walking shoes
  • Warm clothes and hat
  • Raincoat and emergency rain poncho
  • Water and drinkbottle
  • Water purification tablets ($13, Life Pharmacy)
  • First aid kit (e.g. Protec first aid kit handy pack) and prescription medication
  • Dust mask (e.g. Rivet Filter Mask Set 2 Piece,$6, the Warehouse)
  • Thick gloves (e.g.ardwell Work Gloves)
  • Snack food
  • Emergency food 3-day ration ($20, Survive-it)
  • Pocket Survival bag ($7, New Zealand Mountain Safety Council)
  • Duct tape
  • Rubbish/plastic bags

Surviving at home. In addition to a grab bag, the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management (MCDEM) recommends having the following basic supplies at home:

  • At least 3 days of water (9L for each person)
  • Long-lasting food that doesn’t need cooking, at least enough to sustain each member of the household for 72 hours. Also include food for babies and pets
  • Toilet paper and large plastic buckets to fashion an emergency toilet
  • Dust masks and work gloves

Further information:

Thanks to Consumer NZ and Radio New Zealand National for the content.

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Donna and Chloe taking over the UC Community Garden reigns

UC has two community gardens on campus: Okeover (off Engineering road) and Dovedale, where you can go to rest and revive, or to volunteer (Okeover, every Friday 12-4 pm). A few months ago we said goodbye to Jane Aistrope, UC’s former community gardens coordinator, who made a huge contribution to how the gardens look and are being run. And we welcomed Donna and Chloe, the lovey, capable women who are taking over the garden reigns.

Donna Lusby

Kia ora, my name is Donna Lusby. I’m the Community Gardener at Okeover. I am originally from Paeroa in the North Island, and came via Wellington and Wanaka to Christchurch! In the past I studied languages (French, Spanish, Japanese) and was involved in English language teaching in NZ and overseas for a number of years. I’ve also spent time working in student accommodation in Wellington and Christchurch. I’m currently finishing the second year of a course in organics at the Biological Husbandry Unit at Lincoln University. I’ve always had a passion for growing, and am excited to be able to share that with students and the community at Okeover gardens. I also enjoy tramping, biking and the outdoors in general.

Chloe Wium

Hi there! My name is Chloe Wium. I’m working part-time for the UC Sustainability Office, helping to co-ordinate the community gardens on Friday afternoons. I did a BA at the University of Otago, majoring in Geography and Environmental Management. When I’m not gardening, I’m riding my horses, playing with my dogs, dreaming of travel, and hanging out at Addington Coffee Co-op.  I love being part of connected communities, and the UC garden is a pretty special place to be.

For more information about the community gardens, check here. For information on becoming a volunteer and attending working bees on Friday (12-4), check here. The community gardens also have a dedicated Facebook Page.

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