Where there is a will there is a way

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Ginger Pye Reusable Sandwich Wraps - Lunch with Style

My friend Carol bought a few of these for her kids. Then I thought I would be clever and go to Spotlight and buy the plastic to make my own. I couldn't find the right food-safe plastic though! I bought some toxic table plastic covering in desperation but have given up on the idea since then. Why make them when someone has dedicated themselves to a small, local (NZ) business of figuring it out, and they are made with great craftsmanship?

I was thinking of getting the 4MyEarth ones that I saw advertised in Good magazine - but these aren't that much more if you buy 3 - even with postage considered (Ginger Pye per wrap -$16.35 NZ , 4MyEarth $16 NZ) and they are definitely far cooler. Meaning they are colourful, well made, and you can choose from various prints. There is velcro to close the wrap - 1 side is food-safe plastic, and the other is a cotton print. You wipe the plastic off to clean them usually - but can wash them as well (by hand - even just throw them in along with your dishes and set to dry).

Coolness matters - you don't want to "go eco" and end up sending your kids to school always with crappy lunches with sandwiches wrapped up in tin foil like I've been doing (at least it wasn't plastic) - and all kinds of messy inferior shenanigans. If you are on a plastic diet like I am, and you're being "different", it is really important to do it well and with style as you are showing an example to others. Then you are showing a truly better way, not just a skimping way.

Enter, Ginger Pye lunch wraps! I got Luke (soon to be 5) a dinosaur wrap, Troy (soon to be 7) a farmland one, Savannah (soon to be 18) a black stars wrap - and Shane 3 plain blue denim ones (professional at work).

They're beautiful and functional. Shane said it best when he saw Savannah's smart-looking lunch set on the benchtop. He made gestures as if to wrap a sandwich over and over again. "I can't believe how we get stuck in our ways. Cling wrap - cling wrap - cling wrap..."

Now, the sandwiches are sorted - but what should I use now to contain the wrapped sandwich and fruit?


Ideal Cup - like KeepCup but made in New Zealand

I was looking for a coffee cup that didn't suck.

I was willing to use large, awkward and embarrassing reusable coffee cups in public at every turn - but I needed to find something my husband was actually willing to use. Something with style! But, most importantly - enjoyable to drink from.

I had heard of KeepCup, and I loved the idea. For a Christmas present, I found and ordered from Ideal Cup.

You can choose your colours for the lid, the inside, the outside and so on, like KeepCup, but it's actually made here in New Zealand!

Both are "barista grade" (they look just like the takeaway cups you get, and so also fit under espresso machines). The removable top lid insert swivels with a small plug that can cork up the drinking hole if you don't want it to spill out for a moment, or swivel out of the way.

Ideal Cup costs $15 ordered online, or you can buy them wholesale and get your coffee shop's logo printed on it and sell them (Sierra Coffee at the Albany Pak'NSave had them with their logo on it for sale for $14 - and also proudly told me they were made in NZ. I was impressed.)

Shane - my husband - actually drinks from one. Now that's high praise.

Forest and Bird post about problems of EEZ bill (to replace RMA) and sharky oil companies with plans to drill thousands of wells on East Coast of NZ

January 27 is the deadline for submissions on a sneaky bill that would allow environmental considerations to be outweighed by economic gain - the 100 km of sea floor from NZ on East Coast of NZ would be ripe for oil wells

I am so disgusted. I am glad I was alerted to this posting by Claire Browning (Forest & Bird) - which can be found here (but re-posted below for safekeeping).

Basically, the East Coast of NZ is rich in oil. A very aggressive oil company in particular called TAG Oil(with expanding operations currently in Taranaki), is appealing to investors to turn the East Coast of NZ into the "Texas of the south", and drill thousands of oil wells. (And there are many other oil sharks circling as well - trying to secure exploration consents. Reference: Fairfax News, article here.)

At the same time - there is a bill currently being considered by the government called the "Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Bill" or EEZ which may actually allow this to happen. It is to the sea floor off NZ's coast what the Resource Management Act is on land. However, where the RMA's purpose is to “promote the sustainable management of natural and physical resources” (and section 8 of the Fisheries Act says that “The purpose of this Act is to provide for the utilisation of fisheries resources while ensuring sustainability”), the EEZ Bill is meant to balance protection with “economic wellbeing" . Clause 61, for example - states that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) may grant an application for marine consent “if the activity’s contribution to New Zealand’s economic development outweighs the activity’s adverse effects on the environment”.

That is screwed up.

Apparently we have until 27 January to make a submission on the bill. You can make a submission online here (scroll down to the button at the bottom of the page!) or in writing (2 written copies needed!).

Forest & Bird's submission on the EEZ bill is here.

"Without sustainability, we are lost. "
- Claire Browning

"How does destruction of the natural environment benefit New Zealand economically?"
- Myself

Claire's article on the bill (and sharky oil companies) follows, from http://blog.forestandbird.org.nz/the-exclusive-economic-zone-for-sale/comment-page-1/#comment-88244:

The Exclusive Economic Zone: for sale
Tue, 17 Jan 2012 9:28 am – Posted by Mandy No Comments

Blogger: Forest & Bird's Conservation Advocate, Claire Browning

TAG Oil is very excited. It wants to turn the East Coast of the North Island – “literally leaking oil and gas”!! – into the “Texas of the south”, hosting thousands of oil wells.

If you thought that the EEZ Bill, currently before select committee, would be a major weapon in the government’s armoury to protect this unique and extensive environment – if you believed what responsible Minister Dr Nick Smith has said – you were wrong.

Each country’s EEZ stretches from its coast to out to 200 nautical miles. New Zealand’s marine environment, which also includes the continental shelf, is 23 times bigger than our land environment.

The EEZ Bill is supposed to protect it. However, it has what, according to the very charitable interpretation of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (PCE), can only be a “serious error”.

The Bill is, all on its own, an environmental risk.

New Zealand is a party to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). It is from UNCLOS that our right to use the EEZ for economic purposes comes. It is this that gives us the authority and the exclusive privilege. It does that on condition of a requirement to “protect and preserve” this environment.

New Zealand waters are a breeding ground and transit route for many marine and seabird species, including threatened and endangered species. There are risks for them, and marine conservation, from accidents that may result from activities in the EEZ, particularly offshore oil activities.

Despite encouragement to comply with UNCLOS (“protect and preserve”), the Marine Reserves Bill has been stuck in Parliament since 2002. A woeful 0.4 percent of the EEZ is protected in marine reserves.

By contrast, around one-third of our land is public conservation land.

Dr Smith has promised to prioritise the Marine Reserves Bill and get it passed in the next three years. It will be reported back from select committee on February 29, with the EEZ Bill. This is good. It is an important part of the protection package.

But it is not, on its own, good enough. No less important is managing the competing uses of the parts of the marine environment that we do not set aside in reserves. It is all the same environment.

The MV Rena’s grounding on the Astrolabe Reef, and oil spill, has taught us about the importance of prevention. Forest & Bird is among those calling for an independent inquiry into the circumstances of this accident – into New Zealand’s oil spill response capacity, but more importantly, stopping accidents in the first place.

That means making good judgements about what activities are allowed offshore, by whom, and on what conditions.

The EEZ Bill is one tool for doing this. It establishes a decision-making process to manage activities in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and on the continental shelf beyond 12 nautical miles.

It has the same job as the RMA, which applies on land, and to 12 nautical miles offshore.

Beyond 12 nautical miles, out to 200 miles, the law is complicated and has gaps. To all intents and purposes, it is currently unregulated. In this sense, the EEZ Bill is a good and a necessary thing.

The Bill is modelled on the Resource Management Act (RMA). And it should be: there is no reason, in principle, for the philosophies of the two Acts to differ. If anything, UNCLOS requires a higher, not a lesser, standard of protection.

However, the Bill does differ from the RMA in some important, and quite malign, ways.

The purpose of the RMA is to “promote the sustainable management of natural and physical resources”. It says this in section 5. Similarly, section 8 of the Fisheries Act says that “The purpose of this Act is to provide for the utilisation of fisheries resources while ensuring sustainability”.

The EEZ Bill is concerned with “economic wellbeing”.

It “seeks to achieve a balance between the protection of the environment and economic development”: the purpose clause in section 10. It does not talk about sustainability, at all. It directs decision-makers to consider the “efficient” use of resources, not their sustainable use.

Responsible Minister Hon Nick Smith has said that for the small number of decisions under the EEZ Bill (around 10-20 consents per year), the level of complexity in the RMA is not justified. Also, that the RMA requires consideration of some factors, such as social and cultural factors, which are not applicable offshore; therefore, the focus needs to be on economic and environmental factors.

We agree. However, we think that the Minister’s logic is still wrong.

The Bill can be more simply and appropriately drafted. But its basic purpose and philosophy still apply. Without sustainability, we are lost. No environmental protection, no long-term economic wellbeing – so that, in fact, the current drafting of the Bill inadvertently undermines its own stated goal.

We support the Minister’s desire to “simplify and streamline”, provided it can be achieved without doing damage to our own goals of properly protecting the environment. We think that it can.

For example, it would be more “simplified and streamlined” to have at least approximately the same law on both sides of the 12 nautical mile line. At the margins (ie, in cases that cross or are close to the 12 mile limit), and when talking about species that migrate between the two, totally different philosophies makes no sense.

Beneath this is a more fundamental, non-negotiable point. New Zealand is already party to another law, UNCLOS, that requires it.

Beyond the purpose clause, the EEZ Bill differs from the RMA in other ways. The RMA prioritises decision-making factors, into “matters of national importance” (which are about environmental preservation and protection), and “other matters”.

The EEZ Bill lists them all together, with no indication about relative weight, except that on the list of eight items, the conservation ones come last. This is backed up by clause 61, which provides that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) may grant an application for marine consent “if the activity’s contribution to New Zealand’s economic development outweighs the activity’s adverse effects on the environment” or “may refuse the application if the adverse effects of the activity on the environment outweigh the activity’s contribution to New Zealand’s economic development”.

This is a direct trade off of economic benefits against environmental costs. In effect, it says that provided the economic rewards are sufficiently high, any lesser amount of environmental destruction or damage may be consented to by the EPA.

It fails to recognise that there are environmental limits which should not be breached irrespective of the economic benefits. And in many cases it is neither possible nor appropriate to try to put a monetary value on environmental damage, such as the irreversible loss of a species or unique habitat.

It is this, concluded the PCE, which must be a “serious error”.

It says that if what you find out there in the EEZ is worth enough, it’s all for sale. What the Bill does is state its price. It does not set in place any bottom line – any fence, if you like, against risk of environmental destruction.

It is the Schedule 4 policy leftovers warmed up, in a more remote place, where the government hopes we will neither notice nor care.

Do you?

If so, please speak for the blue whales and their calves, the wandering albatross who died cloaked in tar from the Rena, the many, many other less charismatic megafauna out there in the EEZ, and those who are not charismatic at all – but important, and with whom we are privileged to share this environment.

It’s not too late to make a submission to the Local Government and Environment select committee which is dealing with this Bill. They close on 27 January. Forest & Bird’s submission is here.

Friday, January 13, 2012

"She's Alive... Beautiful... Finite... Hurting... Worth Dying for" movie

About 5 minutes - watch the whole thing. Says alot in 5 minutes.

Put together by Vivek Chauhan, with the Sanctuary Asia network (www.sanctuaryasia.com), using footage from Yann Arthus-Bertrand's film Home.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Xanthe White's Organic Vegetable Gardening book (NZ)

I first saw this book reviewed in Good magazine. I really wanted it but hadn't mentioned it to my husband. He surprised me with it as a gift for my birthday! It must have been featured as a new book on the shelves - but still, how's that for connection?

I am sharing Xanthe White's Organic Vegetable Gardening book (NZ) as I've been using it for a year now - and it really is an awesome book, long term. At first I loved tips such as, if there is a place in your garden, perhaps even in cracks where you are always pulling up weeds, why not use that place to plant something you would like instead, as it obviously is a good place to grow something? Marigolds to discourage pests, the importance of mulching and not leaving soil naked, especially the older your plants get (nature keeps soil covered), not using plastic weed mat (because it would be like wrapping clingwrap over your skin) also come to mind.

Xanthe documented her garden for 1 year (it's a month by month guide), planning and building it at the beginning - 4 square brick raised garden beds with gravel between (discourages snails from walking on it, and creates a clean area to work from). She wanted to have nasturtiums growing along the edges of the paths as her mother did. I still want to put gravel between my raised beds!

There are many great ideas and thoughts about gardening in the book, but also a guide for each vegetable, and guides for various pest control issues and so on. I always refer to it. Just yesterday I discovered the idea of keeping seedlings safe from pests by placing plastic milk or drink bottles with the bottom cut off over them like a mini greenhouse. (Very important, as I have now found.) Also full of lovely rich and earthy gardening photos.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Rabbit Stew and a Penny or Two: A Gypsy Family's Hard Times and Happy Times on the Road in the 1950s by Maggie Smith-Bendell (Review)

(Originally published in England as Our Forgotten Years.)

After watching My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding (reality TV show documenting the current descendents of gypsies and their culture), I really wanted to know about the original gypsy culture I had always heard about. I always loved the idea of living in a caravan in a nomadic life, around a fire at night. I yearned for this, especially I think growing up in the modern Canadian city of Calgary. Although I was lucky enough to go on camping trips, and even driving holidays with my family where we slept and drove in our large van - I know there was something in my blood that yearned for what was out there in the world beyond my own settlement.

This book is awesome. Maggie grew up living the old "gypsy" life (but they called themselves Travellers - only house dwellers called them Gypsies), travelling in a horse-drawn caravan with her family.

Note: There are 3 groups Maggie identifies - her own was the Travellers of Romanic origin, Irish Travellers, and New Age Travellers (people who no longer want to be house-bound). Her family picked hops and peas for farms with other Travellers during those seasons. It wasn't an idyllic life, it was a rough life with lots of hard work - but they got to live in nature, and although they were often given a hard time by the house dwellers and police they were free to roam as they wished. They had different ways of making a living depending on the season, others were making pegs or selling flowers. They carried their Romany culture with them. They were often unjustly discriminated against - although knowledgeable about many things, most could not read or write so their story has not been heard until now.

Here is the description from the back of Rabbit Stew and a Penny or Two, and I really can't improve on it:

Born in a Somerset pea-field in 1941, the second of eight children in a Romani family, Maggie Smith-Bendell has lived through the years of greatest change in the travelling community's long history. As a child, Maggie road and slept in a horse-drawn wagon, picked hops and flowers, and sat beside her father's campfire on ancient verges, poor but free to roam. As the twentieth century progressed, common land was fenced off and the traditional Gypsy ways disappeared. Eventually Maggie married a house-dweller and tried to settle for bricks and mortar, but she never lost the restless spirit, the deep love of the land and the gift for storytelling that were her Romani inheritance.

Maggies story is one of hardship and prejudice, but also, unforgettably, it recalls the glories of the travelling life in the absolute safety of a loyal and loving family.

I like this photo of Maggie best for how it shows her character in her features. At married age - the two biggest boys are hers - sitting with her sister Holly and her two young children.Maggie is currently a tireless advocate for Romany Gypsy families, helping them get planning permission to live in their own way on private sites. Before this, they owned their own land but were unable to stay on it due to planning permission - or they lived on poor, unhealthy government sites built over landfills, or cemeteries (unthinkable to the deeply spiritually connected Travellers). There is now a network of people devoted to their cause, slowly improving slowly to reflect the needs of those who live in houses that move, as well as those that don't.

Maggie in one of the traditional caravans she keeps on her property in Somerset. Photo: David Mansell (http://www.guardian.co.uk/

I feel that Traveller people - similar the situation of native North American peoples - have something essential to pass on to us that we now desperately need; something they have retained that we have lost. Are our lives better now in a world where machines do the work of people? We - as in our parents, grandparents and great great grandparents - have exchanged our lives outside with the birds and animals and trees (and hedges and mist) in the natural world for a life of greater ease. We were fleeing the hardship and roughness of living on the land - a life I will never fully know the reality of, it's true. But at the same time, what have we lost? I can only imagine - but Maggie knows.

And why were gypsies socially stigmatized? Was it because they still wanted to live on the land, when the rest of society was leaving it?

Rabbit Stew and a Penny or Two is available as a paperback, but also an e-book (Kindle), and even as an audio book. It's published by Hachette Littlehampton (littlebrown.co.uk).

"Like the old song says: if I can help somebody with a word or a song, then my living will not be in vain." -Maggie Smith-Bendell

Gypsy Videos

Real footage of Travellers in the 1930s:

A kushti video made by some young Travellers(kushti means good):

An old Traveller song: