Greenest Street 2010/11 Final Report: Rainbow Court, Raumati South

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1 176 Appendix 22: Rainbow Court s final summary, 2011 Greenest Street 2010/11 Final Report: Rainbow Court, Raumati South Where we began At the outset of this competition we gathered as a street to meet each other, most for the first time. None of us felt like we had particularly green credentials, and many were dubious about the time they d be able to commit to anything extra on top of our busy lives. When we took stock almost every household had at least one and in some cases both adults commuting into the city to work, taking them away from the street for ten or more hours a day, three households were heavily invested in starting up businesses, numbers of residents were studying on top of their already busy lives and few adults were actually at home during the week. Our street has lots of kids, and most of them are either preschoolers/ in their first years of school, or teenagers all high maintenance age groups! In other words, we were pretty much a typical suburban kiwi street. This was borne out in our initial ecofootprint which indicated that our green score was 3.7 earths exactly the same as New Zealand s national average. The key challenge for us then was how to incorporate green initiatives into lives that were already too busy, in a community of individuals for whom ecological awareness is still of marginal though growing importance. One thing that all of us were overwhelmingly supportive of was our desire for greater connection as a street community. The Greenest Street competition provided a framework for our self styled quest to build a sustainable street community. For us this meant forging connections that would: be sustainable within each household s limitations, such as time, energy and money encourage each other to value and actively promote environmentally friendly ways of living be sustainable beyond the scope of the competition, hopefully even becoming a legacy for the children of the street be inclusive of our wider community and flexible enough to allow residents of the street to be more or less involved at different times as they felt able provide lots of varied opportunities for different individuals and organisations to contribute their unique skills and resources, and for the community to value those contributions Initiatives Some of the ways in which we have pursued, and are pursuing these goals are listed below. 1) Recycling a. We set a goal of keeping all our organic waste on the street. Since many of our households did not have organic recycling systems at home we applied for a Waste Fund Levy grant to purchase either a bokashi, worm farm or composting system for each household. We have received this funding in the past week and are in the process of ordering these.

2 177 b. Two households bought chickens from a local farm and collaborated as they built appropriate housing and feeding systems for them. Neighbours contribute food for the chooks from their vege gardens and eggs are traded. We also worked together to buy bulk feed and shared ideas on making feeders and waterers from recycled materials. One household recycles paper by shredding it for chickens. Another two households will have chook runs by the end of the year. c. When we built our community garden we called on local businesses for recyclable materials including 40 pallets, four trailerloads of carpet, large quantities of horse manure from the stables at QE Park, hair from the local hair salon, coffee grounds from the local café, seaweed and fish scraps from the beach and numerous truckloads of prunings and waste mulch dropped off by local landscaping contractors. d. We have an ongoing arrangement with two local landscaping contractors to leave organic waste that they would otherwise have dumped on our community garden site. Street residents use this in their own gardens/compost heaps and we use it in our beds as well as a groundcover for the carpeted areas where we are trying to suppress rampant blackberries. e. In order to reduce the use of wheelie bins on our street some residents are sharing use of these. We are also currently negotiating with the different waste management companies that service our street in an attempt to consolidate so that all residents use the same wheelie bin company, and therefore avoid having numbers of different trucks rumbling down our street on rubbish day. f. In the next month we will be building compost bins, a worm farm, and large storage bays on our community garden where locals can leave prunings and garden waste, and where street residents who don t have gardens can recycle their organic waste. In the interim we have encouraged people to put their organic waste directly into the garden beds, and we have a stack of tyres where people who use the accessway from our street to QE2 Park can leave household waste which is then mixed in with mulch to make compost. 2) The community garden a. There was unanimous support among residents for the idea of a community garden. With permission from the owner of a plot of vacant land on our street we worked together to make the community garden a reality. We applied for support from the BNZ Closed for Good campaign in order to get labour to build the beds, and sponsorship from local businesses provided the materials that we were unable to obtain for free by recycling. b. Over a series of Saturday and Sunday afternoon working bees, residents finished building the raised beds, laid carpet to suppress weeds, covered the carpets with a thick layer of mulch, filled the beds, dug a swale for kumara, built raised mounds for potatoes, planted green crops and seedlings, and erected a notice board for listing tasks so that any resident with some spare time can get involved. c. Already the community garden supplies us with salad greens as well as an opportunity to meet and work together on a shared project. As we thin seedlings, these are sent back to residents for use in their home gardens. d. A small committee manages the community garden, meeting one evening a month to plan and discuss the direction of the garden and then letting residents know what needs to be done and any re

3 178 sources or skills that are needed. On the third Sunday of each month an open working bee is held where residents work together in the garden. e. Since there is no water supply for the garden, we have obtained funding to build storage bays which will be roofed to provide a rainwater catchment area and this water will be channeled into rainwater barrels to water the gardens. We are also experimenting with water retention systems like mulching and building swales on the slopes of the community garden site. f. We expect the community garden to provide a focus for on going interaction as a street, through working together, sharing the produce, fund raising, demonstrating what we are doing to the many people who visit our street and who use our street s accessway to QE2 Park. We also hope that our experience will be able to provide a model for turning vacant residential sections into productive land with minimal expense, and an organizational model which is sustainable for average suburban streets like ours where many residents do not have large blocks of time to devote to a community garden and may lack confidence in their shared gardening expertise. 3) Travel a. One of our initial goals as a street was to establish a walking school bus. However here again we ran into issues with a shortage of home based adults who were able to escort the bus since many parents were dropping kids on the way to catching trains or taking other children on to schools or preschools beyond walking distance. Although this looked like a lost cause, the discussion process itself provided connections and two families with similar aged children began to take turns escorting the kids on bikes. Another family joined this, then another, and soon we had kids from up to five households biking to school where previously they would have been dropped off by car. Another household found an older child in an adjacent street to walk their children to school. Kids and parents on bikes are a much more frequent site on our street these days. b. With our newfound sense of community, parents of preschoolers are a lot more confident taking their kids out to learn to ride bikes in the cul de sac. This is an important step in building a culture on our street of bike use. c. Since meeting each other through the competition, commuting residents have found it much easier to contact each other to share lifts where convenient, or to share childminding so that parents can get out to do errands without having to make trips elsewhere to drop off kids. d. Recognising the costs of commuting has encouraged some residents to work from home more, and other talk about how they now try to use bike, bus or foot transport for local trips. 4) Gardening a. Encouraged by a similar initiative on Kakariki Street we arranged a day when residents could do a walking tour of each other s veggie gardens. This not only developed relationships by bringing us into each other s homes but it also provided huge inspiration and most households can now boast at least some sort of veggie patch, with plans for fruit tree planting during the current planting season. b. One resident s adult son converted her backyard to an extensive series of raised beds built from pallets. This garden is providing for a vegetarian household as well as supplying a local friend who is us

4 179 ing a juice and vegetable diet as part of a battle against cancer. When neighbours admired the gardens, he went on to build similar beds for two other households. c. Using free mulch supplied by local landscaping contractors, residents and other locals were able to mulch their gardens extensively throughout the summer months. 5) Community spirit a. In addition to numbers of shared afternoon teas and suppers, we held a street Christmas party with a green Santa sack for which residents contributed recycled items from their homes. b. A street contact list has been distributed to all residents and an list enables us to share surplus items, recycle unwanted goods, share skills and tools, and let each other know about relevant local events and initiatives. c. Without exception, residents have commented on how good it is to know everyone on the street beyond just waving at each other. We know each other s names, something of our circumstances and have been able to support each other through life events like providing meals after the birth of a baby, caring for each other s children, checking mail and watering gardens for absent neighbours, making a joint response to an attempt by vandals to break into cars on the street, and even finding a toddler who wandered away from home. d. A number of the men got together to do their gun licenses. The plan (although we re still waiting, guys!) is that they will bond on useful missions to eradicate pests like rabbits, goats and deer on local farmland and forests and also provide us with meat. In the interim the families with boats have shared resources on boating trips and brought back fish for neighbours. e. A resident who makes eco friendly household cleaners ran a workshop at the Sustainable Home and Garden show sharing recipes and tips on how to source ingredients and make your own dishwasher, laundry, cleaning products and shampoo. 6) Food a. In addition to sharing veggies, herbs, preserves, eggs, fish, venison and meals with each other we have also begun to harvest salad greens from our community garden. b. Three households have joined a local organic fruit and vegetable co op. c. A resident with contacts at an organic feijoa orchard provided the opportunity for residents to access the orchard to pick the end of season fruit. Shared recipes enabled us to make the most of this windfall. d. During the blackberry season our street was a hive of activity from early in the day with the young children picking piles of blackberries and peddling them up and down the street. This fuelled a spurt of home grown entrepreneurial ventures by the kids on the street, including making and selling fridge magnets from recycled bottle tops, and selling homemade cookies. 7) Energy savings initiatives a. Many of the new houses on our street already have the benefits of high spec insulation, water tanks, gas and solar heating, and energy saving devices. Beyond this we have taken advantage of the Coun

5 180 cil s offer of free eco bulbs, and will also be getting electricity usage monitors for those who have not had them. b. We are fortunate to have a household who own a business providing eco efficient home solutions. This couple have been instrumental in supplying and promoting the use of electricity monitors, retrofitting double glazing in some of the older homes, providing recycled building materials sourced from some of their installation sites, and providing discounted solar panels to three households. Three other households have invested in solar panels. c. The geography of the older part of our street, where many of the productive gardens are set on higher ground than the homes, has made the prospect of gravity fed watering systems based on rainwater barrels a slightly more complicated issue. However, as mentioned earlier, we are in the process of building a rainwater catchment roof on our community garden. Once this is in place we will get rainwater barrels set up and hold a workshop so that those residents without built in tanks can brainstorm ways to harness rainwater for their own properties. For more personal stories about what s happening on our street, please read our blog at