Welcome to another two weekly review of energy and environmental events and developments from both here in New Zealand and around the world. As always we hope you find our collection of stories to be of interest in what continues to be a rapidly evolving area.

This week we start with a worrying headline ‘World on track to lose two-thirds of wild animals by 2020, major report warns’. The Living Planet Index shows vertebrate populations are set to decline by 67% on 1970 levels unless urgent action is taken to reduce humanity’s impact!

Our quest to expand farming and commercial based operations into what were once wilderness areas is having a dire impact on the areas’ wildlife. Unbridled growth is impacting air, water and quality of life for everything on this planet. Humans, being at the ‘top of the food chain’, are bringing unwanted changes to this planet for every living creature, seemingly forgetting there are more inhabitants than us living here! [1]

New Zealand’s current economic model, of greater output, larger herds and more intensive farming, conceals the real costs of agriculture to New Zealand. In this opinion piece by Mike Joy, both sides are discussed. The positive side: Earnings to NZ of $18.1 billion dollars, or 37% of NZ exports. The down side: intensive dairying contributes about one-quarter of New Zealand's total greenhouse gas emissions through belched methane, dung/urine and urea fertiliser. An average herd of 413 cows excretes around 3,719 tonnes of waste per year so some of this is relocated downstream into rivers and aquifers. This is having a negative impact on the things Kiwi’s value: the clean green image, clean waterways, and a benchmark of “wade-able for water quality. Some other external costs are also not considered e.g. forests converted to palm oil plantations and contaminated drinking water. The environmental costs could far outweigh the earnings returned to NZ in the long run![2]

“New Zealand’s Water Woes” goes further into how the quality of New Zealand’s water is deteriorating, what is causing this and how the huge NZ cow herd is having a very undesirable environmental impact. The total bacteria excreted from our cows, is equivalent to that from 90 million people every day! The bugs don’t usually go to a treatment plant, thus causing water problems. There are ways to stop excrement and fertiliser reaching the water, but more needs to be done in the area of protecting our waterways.[3]

And not only do cows cause problems with our water, they are also big gas emitters! The greenhouse gases New Zealand needs to minimise come 43% from methane from livestock, and 11% from nitrous oxide created when cows urinate… farmers need to understand the need for change, and to maximise production from fewer animals by working smarter. [4]

Fortunately, a recent Australian study has found that adding very small quantities of particular kelp to bovine diets can minimise these methane emissions by up to 99%. As this study is still in the experimental stage we shouldn’t hold our breath, but if it works when trialled in the field, what a discovery! [5]

With all the issues surrounding farming in New Zealand, perhaps it time think about repurposing a small portion towards mini-farming. Research has shown that mini-farms, or bio-intensive farms, use about 50-75 percent less land and 50 to 100 percent less fertilizer whilst being energy efficient and extremely conservative with water. This efficient use of land in New Zealand is something that should be looked at. Not only is it incredibly efficient, the bio-intensive farms could help pave a way forward towards a world with a secure food supply. [6]

As organisations are becoming more aware of the need to cut their environmental costs, either for ethical or even monetary reasons, it makes sense that organisations begin to evaluate the entire cost of ownership of the good and services they purchase. This may not be easy, as it involves delving deep into the supply chain of that product, however, the results can be rewarding. By incorporating the entire life cycle cost of the good, organisations are better able to evaluate and decide on products to purchase, as well and record and report on their environmental impact. Something investors are looking for. We think this is applicable to farms as well.[7]

One company is working to help organisations achieve just this. The Real Co is an organisation with a very exciting goal. The Real Co buy directly from local producers of salt, rice and sugar, and add the names of the producers to their label. By doing so, they hope to achieve a new level of transparency and traceability of their products. The idea of a product label displaying the direct origin of a product is a relatively new one, only currently seen in the coffee industry. The idea that this could be used on every day products is an exciting thought. [8]

To finish this week, you may have seen a new “soft plastic” recycling bin in your local Supermarket or Warehouse. These have recently been rolled out in Wellington, but are already operating in Auckland, Hamilton and Christchurch, with useful products being made from the recycled soft plastic. Finally, a great way to recycle those plastic bags, and any clean dry plastic that can be scrunched easily into a small ball! [9]

Thanks for taking the time to read this issue and we look forward to catching up with you again. If you have any items of interest you would like to submit, then please feel free to forward them.


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