People's Stories
What am I doing personally about Climate Change?
Meet Felicity from Dunedin, New Zealand  
Recognising Climate Change is a huge issue for us all and deeply caring about the kind of world I want my children, grandchildren, their children, and beyond to live in, I have over the past few years, made changes wherever I can in the way I live to save our planet. 

I am 81 years old and clearly remember the way of life when I was growing up, firstly, in outback Australia with no electricity. We used oil lamps or candles, and kept food cool in a safe or refrigerator run on kerosene. My parents grew most of our fruit and vegetables. We had chickens, a cow (my mother made butter and cheese), and neighbours swapped produce for meat. Later in New Zealand, a small quarter acre section provided for a family of six, a dozen chickens provided eggs and sometimes meat, and fruit and vegetables were nearly all home grown.

As an adult, after experiencing life in North America for 12 years, I was keen to return to New Zealand and a more sustainable way of living. I purchased a five-acre farm and, together with my son, managed 300 olive trees, an orchard, a bee hive, a glasshouse, a berry house, and all the harvesting and preservation of the resulting produce. We also planted over a thousand native trees to sequester carbon dioxide. Heating used firewood off the property, irrigation came from a rainwater tank, garden furniture recycled old timber, organic material was composted or burned and the ash used as fertilizer. We also used coffee grounds, leaf, and fruit waste left after oil extraction from the olive trees.

Since I was doing much of this on my own, I eventually had to give it up and shifted from Christchurch to Dunedin to live near my children and grandchildren in the city of my forebears. Changing to an urban lifestyle again on a quarter acre section, I sought ways to live sustainably on less, mindful of how I might be adding to the problem of climate change. Below are the strategies I use as a single person, not young anymore, and less capable of physical effort. Many of them also save money.

I have planted 25 fruit trees or shrubs and after 3 years have already harvested from some of them. An existing large apple tree, some cranberry bushes, and a wonderful Tamarillo also provide fruit. Other fruit is bought in season when it’s cheaper and made into jam, chutney, etc. or frozen.  I compost, have a worm farm, and recycle wood ash. For heating, I burn wood with some firewood purchased initially, but since then, wood from tree removal and pruning. I grow vegetables and am extending the growing area bit by bit by converting lawn. The resulting garden is no-till, created without digging or weeding, just many layers of organic matter on top of the grass.

Beyond the above, food comes from the Farmer’s Market, vegetable market, family members, and the supermarket. From the latter, I buy staples to make my own bread, cheese, yoghurt, muesli, cakes, cookies, and curries etc.

I do not buy pre-prepared food or food in excess packaging. I avoid plastic bottles where possible, and use my own fabric bags for produce. I seldom eat out or buy take-aways. I aim, but don’t always succeed, in eating 30 different fruit and vegetable types per month for a range of nutrients which includes spices and herbs. I grow all the main herbs in pots by the back door for quick access.

My transport is an old diesel car with 300,000 km on the clock. I service it regularly and aim to keep it until it no longer functions (or I don’t – whichever comes first). I drive it only to places I can’t reach other-wise, and take public transport when possible. I have not taken any flight in the last 4 years, but hope to visit relatives next year. Sightseeing is limited to whatever is around where they live. 

I try to keep energy usage to a minimum (e.g. fuel above). It used to be cheaper to run a diesel than a petrol vehicle – hence my choice. I save electricity where I can, mainly heat the house with a heat pump but burn wood also because I have it. I run the heat pump only when it is very cold and set it at 18C. I turn off lights when not needed, have only the minimum of appliances, only use the dishwasher when I have visitors, and I have only two showers a week (with birdbaths in between). I dry my clothes on a washing line. I use a microwave whenever possible rather than the oven. Cooking is by gas, but again saved by the microwave, and I make a 35 kg cylinder of gas last months by not using much to heat hot water. I don’t run hot water to sites distant from the gas burner, e.g. the kitchen which would take 2 minutes of gas usage for a few seconds of hot water. I use the electric hot water jug instead. Any excess hot water can be stored in a thermos for a later cup of coffee.

To help keep warm in winter, I wear 3 or 4 layers of clothing rather than use a heater. I buy only one item of new clothing per year, something good quality that will last, and the rest is second hand as are also items required in the house or garden, to replace things no long functioning. Most of my furniture has been purchased this way as well. I send items I no longer want or need to recycling or pass them on to family. I don’t wander around shops, so I am not tempted to buy more stuff, and I am actively trying to reduce what I have already.

I babysit for family, do voluntary work once or twice a week, belong to a city amenities group (planting), a writing group, a gardening group, and the Seniors Climate Action Network. I write, paint, garden, visit friends and family, sew and cook for others, help maintain a bee-hive on my daughter’s property, and think about how to do more to save the planet. We can all help.

No-till garden, no digging or weeding. It is quite easy to convert lawn to productive garden with the minimum of effort. It results in healthy, good quality soil as you can see from the plants in the photograph. Thousands of acres of lawn around the country could be converted to fruit and vegetable growing using less energy than maintaining grass which is largely a monoculture and a waste of time and money.