Waste Free in Wellington

You may have noticed I have been absent from my blog this last month. I decided to have a bit of down time and have spent my evenings going to yoga classes, swimming and reading. June was a busy month for me, it was my birthday, I got a nasty cold and I spent most weekends catching up with my friends, the best kind of ‘busy.’ I also took a short trip down to Wellington with the BF and our friends and have finally gotten around to sharing my time and learnings with you all. 
Firstly, we chose to fly…
View of the Marlborough Sounds
While this is one of the least environmentally friendly options it happened to be the most practical. I weighed up other modes of transport (my ancient car, an expensive train, a long bus ride) and decided flying was the cheapest and quickest. Earlier in the year I had contacted a WWOOF (Willing Workers On Organic Farms) about the possibility of my BF and I volunteering there, just out of Wellington. The WWOOF opportunity was ideal for our combined interests and so I eagerly sent them a personal message about why we would like to volunteer our time. I was really taken aback when they replied with a curt response critiquing our chosen mode of transport;
“Thanks for contacting us.
Hmmmn…reducing waste …flying to Wellington? check this out
Travel down by bicycle, boat or train.” 
It was very disheartening, as yes I am very aware of the environmental impact flying has on the planet. I did wonder how their WWOOFers ever got to Wellington from overseas. I find that people who are trying to live a sustainable lifestyle often find themselves in this conndrum, and are constantly having to justify their choices. I found this great article “How I deal with the unbearble hypocrisy of being an environmentalist” which I will leave this tangent on.
We took carry on luggage only so there were no baggage tags, we were only going for a few days anyway. The BF and I had chosen to stay at an Airbnb while I friend’s stayed in their sister’s flat. I was interested in Airbnb because of the sharing economy concept, which I had read in ‘What’s Mine is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption‘, so I was really intrigued to see how it worked and pick the brains of our host. Our host was not a local himself, but was an American who was living in Wellington for a year. It was great to fill our downtime in Wellington having conversations about tramping, traveling, the (un)affordability of housing in Auckland and organizing a pop up sauna in a shipping container. (Update: Our host totally got the sauna up and running!)
On our first night in Wellington, after wandering the city we headed down to the Noodle Night Market, happening over that weekend. The lines for some of the places were huge and it took a while to decide where we wanted to eat. It needed to be vegetarian and have friendly staff who were willing to use my reusable plate and container. During the trip I carried a collapsible plate that I originally was given for tramping, a tramping knife, fork and spoon set, chopsticks, a reusable sandwich wrap, large container, a napkin, a keep cup and my water bottle. I didn’t always have all of those items on me, especially if I wasn’t planning on eating, but having a container at all  times was reassuring especially when eating in, and not having to worry about finishing it all. We finally decided on Tuk Tuk Thai Kitchen which is a food truck, the line wasn’t very big when

we first got there, but filled up not long after. My friend and I shared a large vegetarian Pad Thai which was put straight on to my plate. The staff loved using my plate and made sure I took a photo as the meal looked more appetizing. A few of the customers actually asked if their meal came on a plate too, and I could see the crowd hungrily eyeing up our plate as they waited. The BF ordered his Pad Thai in our container, and he got some curry puffs on the side in a paper bag. We requested no utensils either, as we had our own chopsticks. The lime from our Pad Thai ended up in my drink bottle after being squeezed on our meal, and we rinsed our dishware using my water bottle and dried them with the cloth napkin.

The following day we wandered down to New World near the waterfront and awed at the impressive craft beer and bakery selections. As Wellington is the craft beer capital of NZ we definitely did not miss any opportunity to have beer, I’d say a large portion of our trip was spent trying different craft beers! I bought some baked goodies in my own container (self serve bakery section) and also grabbed a loaf of rye sourdough in a paper bag. Unfortunately, when I handed it over to the staff in the bakery section to slice they tossed the paper bag and passed my bread back in plastic! I was not expecting that or I would have asked for it to go back in to the paper bag I had. I resolved to ensure I take the plastic bag back to Auckland to put in the soft plastic recycling.
Plastic bag & stickers, d’oh!
We often ate in to ensure we weren’t given single use plastic items. When at bars I always ordered beer (craft beer capital remember!) which meant I wasn’t going to have to battle avoiding straws. The few times we took our food away we used our reusable items I mentioned, including a few Keep Cup coffees. On one of the nights we ate in, the place we were at (The Ramen Shop) only offered disposable chopsticks. Luckily I had reusable ones in my bag, so we used these. They also served us mulled Sake with an entire cinnamon stick on the side, wanting to combat waste (this time food waste), I carried these out with us in my Keep Cup. I bought them back home to Auckland where I intend on making mulled wine with them. I thought it to be very wasteful to throw out two barely touched cinnamon sticks!
BYO Chopsticks
As the weather was really mild (still windy though!) we spent one of the days going for a drive and hike. We hiked the coastline of Makara Beach which is a wild gravel beach on the West Coast. Climbing up along the ridgeline of the cliff tops gave stunning views out the the South Island, and a large wind farm not far from us. We actually got to go right up to one of the wind turbines, something I had never done before. It was quite something to look out in one direction and see the western edge of the country and the top of the South Island and then looking back inland at a sea of wind turbines.
Makara Beach with wind turbines in the distance
We had stopped at the supermarket on the way for our walk to get snacks, choosing fruit, baked goods and bulk bin scroggin mixes. I simply put my baked goods in my own bread bags and the scroggin mix in a lightweight mesh bag, unfortunately I did end up with a sticker on my bulk goods. After our hike we were all wanting nachos, I have mentioned previously that I have weak spot for nachos. So on this particular night as I was hungry and on holiday I decided to let my guard down, but with the self resolution that I would recycle everything. The sour cream container and bean tins went in the recycling at our friend’s place and I packed up the empty chip bags to take back to Auckland to recycle the soft plastic (alongside that pesky bread bag). We also picked up some beer which was sold package free! The liquor store (Regional Wines & Spirits) near where we were staying had craft beer on tap. Unfortunately we hadn’t thought to bring our stainless steel beer growler, so we got 1 plastic bottle to fill, which our friends who lived in Welly said they will reuse.  
Fill your own beer!
Another thing I had no access to was a compost bin. We fortunately didn’t have too many food scraps, mainly fruit peels and cores, which I buried in appropriate places. Food scraps do not break down in landfill due to the lack of air flow. I actually ended up bringing my mandarin peels home to use in citrus vinegar as I had bought the ‘easy peel’ mandarins and thought it wasteful to throw away so much peel! (Yes my bag was full of random things on the way back)
Alongside the standard Wellington things to do; Te Papa Museum, Botanic Gardens, drinking beer etc one of the other things I had wanted to do in Wellington was donate my menstrual product stash. Since switching last year to a menstrual cup I no longer needed tampons. I was really surprised how many I found floating around my house- in my bathroom, my bedroom, bags, random nooks and crannies, I am sure most women know what I am talking about. I had discovered  Go With The Flow the month previous, however there was no Auckland drop off point so I collected up my stash in an old ziplock bag to take with me to Wellington. Go With The Flow collect menstrual products to give to women who are living in poverty, it is a wonderful initiative as menstrual products are often pricey and difficult to access, which makes no sense whatsoever.  The drop off point was in a random place in the city but wasn’t too far of a walk, the guy at the reception took them on behalf and was really positive about the whole initiate.
I know there is a decent Eco community in Wellington and I am definitely keen to explore more when I have the chance to go down again! I will leave you with a few snapshots of our trip.
Green Wall by the Council office
An information display at Te Papa in the kids section all about living sustainably!
Makara Windfarm
Keeping warm against the wind chill!
Makara Beach
Found a shipping container turned “Free Store”

Yarn bombing outside the knitting shop
Free Store

Botanic Gardens


  1. Anonymous   •  

    Poooo those WWOOFer's sound so unreasonable and undoubtedly use products of mass consumption to get through everyday life (clothes, furniture, housing materials, ovens etc etc etc.)! They missed out on your talents/wisdom/help!!!

  2. thegreenlips   •  

    Sounds like an awesome trip! It's a shame the WWOOF response was so negative. Flying is often the only option, especially in a remote, sparsely populated country like New Zealand.

    I'm also intrigued about the sharing economy concept, although I often feel cynical about how widely the term is applied – large companies like Uber seem to use it as a marketing gimmick to increase their profits…

  3. stevenjared0853   •  

    You have shared a great blog about this waste free place. I am planning for a charitable event for orphans who were affected during natural calamities. I am in search of local venues in Houston to host the event affordably.

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