It is Conservation Week!
For some this is an opportunity to express concern at the decline of our native species, or to worry about funding levels for the Department of Conservation. For many it is an opportunity to savour some of the progress we seen this year like the Million Dollar Mouse project (to clear mice off the Antipodes Island), the launch of the Predator Free 2050 vision, or all the talk about creating a tourist levy to provide a much needed boost to conservation spending.
All these things are worth talking about this Conservation Week, but taking action is even more important. DOC has provided a calendar of Conservation Week events near you here, but you shouldn’t be limited by that list. Here are three things you can do all by yourself to make a difference this Conservation Week.
1. Plant a tree
Trees are awesome. They soak up nutrients, stabilise soil, provide shade, shelter and food for native creatures, and store carbon dioxide. Plus, they look good.
There is a saying that the best time to plant a tree is yesterday, and the second best time is today. The same goes for place; the best places to plant trees are next to rivers (riparian planting) and on erosion prone slopes. The second best place to plant a tree is anywhere. Except next to your foundations, that probably isn’t a good idea.
If you want to know how many trees you need to plant to make yourself carbon neutral, a lot depends on how much you emit and what kind of trees you want to plant. The average carbon dioxide (i.e. excluding our agricultural emissions) emissions per person in Aotearoa New Zealand are 7.2 tonnes per year. That amount would eventually be soaked up by planting 2 decent sized trees (i.e. bigger than shrubs). But the more trees you plant in a space, the less carbon they all soak up, so it can be better to think of it in terms of hectares over a lifetime. Over a lifetime (80 years) around half a hectare of kauri trees would make you carbon neutral. If you are getting on and want to soak up the carbon quicker, pine will do the same job in half the time.
Of course if you don’t have time to plant a tree you could just donate to someone else who will. Million Metre Streams uses crowd funding to plant riverbanks here in Aotearoa New Zealand, while EKOS helps people do real (i.e. not dodgy) offsets of their carbon footprint in forests around the world.
2. Kill a rat
We all know the devastating impact that rats, stoats and possums have on our native wildlife. Conservation in New Zealand has long been commensurate with killing stuff, because without control these predators kill 25 million of our native birds every year.
So get yourself a rat trap for your house and get trapping. You could also join a group that is trapping in a park or reserve; this link will help you find a group nearby. If you are really keen the Predator Free Community collaboration with Kiwibank was launched last week; this is an opportunity to get some neighbours together and make your neighbourhood predator free!
Of course, our beloved moggies are an issue too, so make sure you are a responsible pet owner by microchipping and neutering it and preventing it from wandering as much as possible.
3. Reduce food waste
The food we eat is a massive environmental issue. Food consumes 70% of the world’s water used by humans, has caused 70% of the biodiversity loss and 1/3 of the greenhouse gas emissions. Of course, we can question how the greenhouse gases are measured (methane is very different to CO2), but we can’t deny the impact of food on the world. In the process of growing food, we have lost ½ the world’s available topsoil.
The startling thing is that as a nation we throw away 123,000 tonnes of food each year. That is $563 worth per family each year. When we add in commercial waste, such as supermarkets rejecting produce, international estimates are that 1/3 of the food in developed countries is wasted. Any food going to landfill is not only a waste, it will ultimately create methane – a powerful greenhouse gas.
So do the planet a favour and buy that ugly apple. If you have some limp celery in the fridge, try making a soup, or even a stock. You could even get a worm farm for the scraps!
Another option would be to have a meat free or car free day. According to the MOTU online calculator, the average Kiwi emits 1.6 tonnes of greenhouse gases (CO2 equivalent) each year by eating meat, and 0.9 tonnes from our dairy intake. We also emit 2.2 tonnes of carbon dioxide from using cars.
Enjoy Conservation Week!