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Kāpiti Coast’s Greenest Street: Finding Her Green Roots

Submitted by on May 21, 2011 – 8:30 pm

Blog 10: By Stacey Gasson

With admirable honesty Terena confesses that, until she joined Kapiti Coast’s Greenest Street competition, the abundant resources available to her often went to waste. Blessed with a vegetable garden, orchard and berry house, produce was plentiful, but the problem was finding the time and knowing what to do with it all.

It wasn’t through lack of interest though: one of her first purchases when she started working was a gardening book, despite living in a flat in the middle of town. She laughs at the memory of a barrel of herbs that had to lugged every time she shifted. And there were ventures into making crabapple and quince jelly – “I did that and thought I was Mother Earth!”. The problem, in her words, was a love of the concept but a lack of follow-through. Serious gardening was another thing on hold for when she wasn’t so busy.

But in Te Roto Rd Terena has neighbours like Pat and Sheila who, she says, “have always had productive gardens and lived off their land”. A large part of the competition has been the act of “welcoming each other into our homes and kitchens”, so when the Road had a pear-bottling day in January she figured that going along would at least give her something to blog about. Not only were pears preserved but, after the work was done, they sat with cups of tea and chatted for hours.

For Terena, collective activities like these mean “experience is being passed on, not just the recipes”, and the chance to learn by observing has been inspiring and confidence-boosting.

It was beginning of a habit-changing journey. Several months later she says, “We’ve been changing the way we live for the competition, but I won’t go back now that I have this awareness”. A good example is the redcurrants: having let them go to waste for the previous three years, this year she decided it was a good rainy day job. Starting with four tiny jars of jam, she was so impressed by their sensational colour, she picked and bottled the whole crop. Other successes to date have been tomato passata, stewed rhubarb, limoncello, and harvesting raspberries and macadamias.

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Another example is her bore water. The water is filtered twice before it comes out of the tap, but she wasn’t drinking it. Instead she was buying bottled water – an old habit from living in the city. Pat’s bemusement led her to try the bore water and she hasn’t gone back. Cutting out the bottled water has also severely reduced her recycling.

I should point out now that the benefit hasn’t been all one way. Aside from the jars of passata given in thanks for eggs, Terena has added a certain element of style and local pride to her neighbourhood’s activities. Her desire to make her produce look good means she carefully removes the labels on her recycled jars, replacing them with a personalized Te Roto Road logo she had designed. Sheets of stickers have been given to the women in the street, adding a special element to their handiwork. The design also made an appearance on attendees’ t-shirts at the Sustainable Home & Garden Show.

Terena’s organising skills were also behind the popular limoncello evening. Prior to the collective making session, she created a document explaining what limoncello is, its uses, recipes, and instructions for zesting. Residents came prepared and primed for what was a highly successful evening and are planning a future group tasting to test their success.

For Terena today,

‘Green’ is “going back our roots, doing the natural simple things with the resources we’ve got. Our message regarding Greenest Street is that it’s easy – it’s about simple everyday things you can do and have fun doing them”.

Having said that, she admits it takes hours picking berries, washing crabapples and getting the skins off tomatoes – not helped by the fact that she’s a self-confessed perfectionist who wants her preserves to be like those in the shops. But the time-consuming aspect of getting greener has been “countered by the satisfaction”.

Downsizing her business last year eliminated a commute and gained her time to potter while she works from home, a balance she clearly relishes. When Terena started playing bridge a few months ago, other participants openly wondered what she’d got herself into with Greenest Street. Over time, and no doubt encouraged by Terena’s enthusiasm, they’ve become keen to find out what she’s been up to lately. Some have even been inspired to start planting things!

Stacey Gasson is the Sustainable Communities Coordinator with Kpiti Coast District Council and one of the organisers of the ‘Greenest Street’ competition. This blog is part of series profiling participating households and their projects

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