Environment Sustainability – What we can learn from New Zealand


I’ve been staying in this beautiful country for more than three months and I am really impressed with the amount of effort put in to protect the environment. To be honest, I haven’t been a very environmentally conscious person back in my home country cause its just too convenient to be otherwise and I did struggle quite a bit when I first arrive.

These are some pointers that I have ‘realised’ and feel free to add on to my list!

1. Old is Gold; and cheap too!

Back in my home country, I’m not really a fan of secondhand items. Well, I wouldn’t mind taking pre-loved items for free but asking me to pay for them? Not really. However, here in New Zealand, the secondhand market is very healthy and the people I’ve met usually go to thrift shops to look for what they want before heading out to the stores to buy them. In every town, there’s usually a salvation army store + couple of other thrift shops which re-sells secondhand items. Also, there’s an app ‘TradeMe’ which is somewhat similar to our local Carousell app whereby you can upload the photos of things that you intend to sell and other people can search for the items and contact you if they are keen. In recent years, NZ people have also started using Facebook marketplace as a platform to sell their items. Oh, the best thing about ‘TradeMe’ is that it has an auction function as well. Sometimes, I browse and place low-baller bids but I haven’t been lucky enough to win anything yet.

The most popular secondhand items that people buy here are.. cars. Well, that’s the first secondhand item I have bought here. The cars here are pretty long-lasting and you don’t need to buy any Certificate of Entitlement (COE) which has a lifeline of 10 years. Instead, you just have to send your car for regular half a year check (cars before 2000) yearly checks (car after 2000) where they will warrant your car to be fit enough for the roads. It is predominantly a safety check to make sure your breaks, engine, wheels and safety belts are in good condition. After which, you will need to buy for your vehicle’s registration which is about $100+ for 12 months. Anyway, car prices start from $800 and most backpackers I know buy one that’s between $2-3k, 15 to 19 years old with a mileage of more than 150,000.

Also, there are many short-term stayers (aka immigrants) here in New Zealand and most of us don’t see the need to buy something for long term. There are many buy/sell communities (especially on Facebook) and each caters to a certain neighbourhood so it’s really pretty cool.

Anyway, shopping ain’t cheap in New Zealand (and things can be really hard to find) so looking for secondhand items is pretty common. It may not be too good for the economy and there’s a drop in consumerism but this is definitely good for the environment as there will be less waste. When you’re thinking of throwing something away, most likely, you will first have the urge to donate them to thrift stores.

2. Recycling your Trash

Remember the agony of having to separate your rubbish when you’re in Japan? It’s the same here – and its even more complicated. Depending on the neighbourhood you stay, the recycling bins may vary.

In Christchurch (Canterbury), they have Green, Yellow and Red Bins.

Here in Wanaka (Otago), the bins are Blue, Yellow and Red.

    • The Blue Bin: known as the glass bin; where you throw glass jars and bottles (without the lids)
    • The Yellow Bin: for the recyclables like plastic, cardboard/paper, metal/tins
    • The Red Bin: everything else (including food waste)

The rubbish collection is done weekly or bi-monthly and its pretty cool because everyone will line their bins by the edge of the roadside and this truck will come and pick it up. Managed to capture a video of it:


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Using technology and innovation to remove the shortage of labour for the less popular jobs.. #flyhoneystarsNZ

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Hopefully this recycling movement will eventually become a good habit of mine.

3. Single-use shopping Plastic Bags banned in New Zealand from July 2019

Getting free plastic bags from the grocery store or whenever you buy something is something so familiar and ordinary. So much so that I realised how much plastic I’ve probably wasted my whole life. In Singapore, they tried so hard to promote this movement by getting supermarket chains to charge for plastic bag usage but it didn’t get any traction at all so the movement was kind of scrapped. The only company that succeeded was IKEA; where shoppers had to pay for their bags but then again, this was not a solution to the environment so.. the New Zealand government decide to ban it completely. It was a bold, big move; but then again, their people are ready.

Grocery chains started selling reusable shopping bags and also provided their leftover cardboard boxes to customers. There are signages everywhere reminding you to bring your shopping bag along and.. this was it. A whole nation halted the use of single-use shopping bags. I’m pretty sure it saved the company quite a bit of money but the contribution to the environment sustainability is to be applauded for.

Thankfully, I did bring along a shopping bag with me (from Singapore) and it was a bag that I had with me since 2011 where I bought off gmarket.

As a result of the lack of single use plastic made readily available, I have become more conscious about the remaining plastic(s) around me. Right now, the ‘bin’ I have in my room is lined using the plastic used to wrap my kitchen towel/toilet paper. I also adopted a ‘Lotte Duty Free’ plastic shopping bag from a friend and I’ve been using it extensively cause paper bags not very useful =/

Oh one more thing, the bags that the grocery shop provides for you to pack your fruits/vegetables/nuts are still available. Then again, my friend bought her own netted bags for such scenarios but I won’t be surprised if they ban such bags next.

4. Electricity is expensive so.. you got to be conscious

As I type this (on a sudden day off as the ski fields are closed due to high winds and low visibility), I am somewhat freezing in my own room as I’m questioning myself if I really needed to turn on the heater.. right.

Electricity is super expensive. Bills average around $160 to $200 per month for a household or $0.29 per kWH. In Singapore, the prices can go down to $0.17-19 depending on the price plan. Even with the exchange rate, it’s still like 30 to 50% more expensive?

Oh well, as a result of the expensive pricing, the people here are very thrifty when it comes to saving energy. The street lamps are very limited (especially in the more rural areas) and you’re dependent on your high beam and poles reflection to show you the way.

People usually turn off the lights whenever they exit from a room and.. I was even advised to turn my heater off before I sleep! My host provided really thick blankets and it was really warm underneath. The only downside was that your face may feel cold.

For some houses, they have electricity plans that gave them unlimited electricity for one hour. I have no idea how it works but basically for that one hour, they turn up all the heaters and charge every single shit at home and after that hour they turn everything off. I think it’s pretty cool way to make more people conscious about their energy usage. Some houses also use firewood for their fireplace but to be honest, my host said that it is more expensive to buy firewood than to pay for electricity. Oh wells.

5. Reduction of single-use cutlery 

Slowly but surely. Companies are now reversing back to reduce the usage of single-use plates and cutlery which means increase in manpower (for dishwashing) and electricity for the dishwasher. To be honest, I’m still not certain which is better than the other but I have yet to see plastic straws in a while. Then again, the place is so cold that I just end up ordering hot drinks. People are encouraged to use their own stylish eco-mug when buying coffee (I haven’t bought mine yet; still yet to find a design I love) and more and more cafes do not give take-out cups anymore. It’s kind of like a too bad thing but this is life. If you don’t bring your own cup, you’ll just got to sit down and finish your cup of coffee. I’ve also seen metal straws quite a bit so these are all small steps that help to save the environment.


That’s all I have for now! Anything else to contribute? Feel free to comment 😀

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