Christchurch is simply amazing for zero waste living. We have dubbed it the Zero Waste Capital of New Zealand. Apart from the impressive array of stores and businesses offering consumers low-waste options for food, drink, bathroom and cleaning products, there are just so many community organisations and initiatives supporting the people of Christchurch to reduce waste through projects that focus on resourcefulness, resilience and creativity. We were thoroughly impressed and inspired and believe that all cities in New Zealand should have a look at what’s going on in Christchurch!
As there are just so many low-waste shopping options in Christchurch, we’ve divided the shopping sections of this guide into FIVE geographical parts. However, on this page (scroll down), we’ve pulled together several council and community organisations and initiatives that span across the whole city, as well as some Christchurch-wide shopping ideas (like local producers who mostly sell online). You can also find Rekindle’s Zero Waste in Ōtautahi Map below.
Shop-by-shop guide for each section of Christchurch City
Christchurch-wide shopping, community initiatives and waste reducing services
Reuse and Recycle
- Second-hand shopping in Christchurch – there’s no two ways about it – buying things that you need secondhand instead of brand new reduces waste. First, because you save something that might have otherwise been sent to landfill from such a tragic fate. Second, by using something that’s already in existence, you save on the waste and energy that is necessary to manufacture a brand new item. Luckily for you, Anthea Madill of Eco Oikos has created A Secondhand Shopping Guide and Map for Christchurch – yay!
- Food waste and composting
- Household food waste: food waste and scraps going to landfill not only produces methane, but also represents the loss of an excellent resource that could be turned into compost to enrich our soil, or, if the discarded food was still edible, the loss of perfectly good food that could go to someone that wants to eat it! In Christchurch you are very fortunate that the City Council runs a green bin system, so please use this for your food scraps. Remember though that when you give your food scraps to the council, you are giving away a valuable resource. If you are interested in starting up gardening, you might consider setting up a home compost so that you can nourish your own garden and avoid having to buy compost in plastic bags.
- Edible business food waste: If you are a Christchurch business chucking out food that is still edible but not saleable, you can get in touch with City Harvest – an excellent initiative that takes from businesses edible food that would otherwise go to waste, and redistributes it to people who need it.
- Compostable packaging: You cannot put compostable packaging in your green bin, so we recommend avoiding it where possible. Some packaging, like that made by Econic is home compostable, so if you set up a home compost then you can buy products packaged in this packaging and it’ll be ‘zero waste’! For packaging that needs to be commercially composted (like “compostable” takeaway coffee cups) – there aren’t many options for actually composting it. Project Lyttelton’s Waste Matters team is worm farming the compostable coffee cups sold at the Lyttelton Farmers’ Market. You may also be aware that Cultivate Christchurch is currently working on breaking down compostable coffee cups in their compost, and they are working with roughly 14 cafes around town. However they aren’t big enough to offer a city-wide commercial compost (though they’ll be expanding to more businesses soon). We would recommend not accepting compostable coffee cups and using a reusable instead.
- E-waste – electronic waste is the world’s fastest growing waste stream, with huge environmental implications because of the toxins that can be leached from this waste, but also the loss of precious resources embedded in these items that are not recovered when the waste is dumped in landfill. Rather than throwing your broken electronics out – have you considered trying to get them repaired first? You could pay someone to do it, or look out for Repair or Fix-it Cafes where experts donate their time to fix people’s broken items for free at a designated repair event (usually run by community centres, churches or councils – Project Lyttelton and Linwood Resource Centre are two such examples). If your electronics really have given up the ghost, rather than chucking them out, take them to one of the three EcoDrops around town to see if they’ll accept for recycling the particular electronic you have (there may be a small fee), or else get in touch with E-Cycle, which operates in Christchurch.
- EcoCentral – For all your recycling and reusing needs, look out for EcoCentral’s EcoShop, 191 Blenheim Road, and the three EcoDrops around the city. If you’ve got a hard-to-recycle item you no longer want, rather than chucking it out, perhaps it can be reused or recycled – check out the range of items that EcoDrop will accept to see if what you’ve got is on the list. Or, if you ever need a household appliance, crockery, cutlery, furniture or other knick-knack, we recommend going to the EcoDrop (or, for that matter, any other secondhand store) to see if you can find it there first. We were very blown away by the range of goods at the EcoShop.
Local Packaging-Free Produce and Creations
- Markets and Farmers’ Markets – there’s nothing like going along to your local market to find packaging-free treasures – be it food (including bread, produce, dairy products, meat and seafood, deli food and preserves), cosmetics, household products or arts and crafts. Shopping local is a great way to reduce waste because the food and goods don’t have to travel long distances and because you can have direct one-on-one conversations with the grower or producer, explaining that you don’t want their beautiful product in a packet, and brainstorming alternatives together (a kind of conversation/collaboration that is very difficult to have with a supermarket!!) For example, even if the seller has already packaged-up the goods, often you can ask to have them transferred to your own bag/container and have the seller keep their bag/container for reuse. Or ask the seller if they ever take back returned empties (whether glass jars for preserves or glass pottles for cosmetics/beauty products) for sterilisation and refill. Often the answer is yes! There are some splendid markets in Christchurch and we weren’t able to visit all of them to see what low-waste goodies were on offer – but we encourage you to find your local market (if you haven’t already) and have a hunt around for what you can get without waste!
- Veggie boxes/co-ops – there are lots of fruit and veg co-ops around town from whom you can order your veggies each week. Around the country we’ve found that unless these co-ops have a zero waste policy, the fruit and veg will usually be pre-packed, so it’s essential to contact them before ordering and have a conversation about whether the co-op is willing to use reusable bags for your box, or to leave things unpackaged (you may be the first person who’s ever asked, so always good to plant the seed!). Generally, if it’s a local operation, it should be possible to arrange this. If it’s not possible to arrange, we recommend looking elsewhere or simply getting unpackaged fruit and vege from markets or supermarkets. Some veggie box schemes to look at are the Affordable Fruit and Vege Group (which many community organisations are linked into, so there’ll likely be a local pick-up in your area), Veggie Co-op New Brighton, Lyttelton Fruit and Vege Collective, Christchurch South Fruit and Vegetable Collective, Ooooby, and Lucy’s Growers Market.
Christchurch Zero Waste Vendors with Mainly Online Presence
- The Rubbish Whisperer is a legendary Christchurch local (Helen Rupp) who is advocating for low-waste living and helping other New Zealanders to do so too by selling items online that help with low-waste living on her website, including alternatives to plastic straws and disposable produce bags. The Rubbish Whisperer also supplies fundraising packs so that schools and scouts can sell items like reusable produce bags for fundraising, rather than chocolate bars and biscuits, which we think is an excellent idea!
- The Green Housewife is based in Christchurch and makes a huge range of eco friendly cleaning products. Though it’s all packaged on the online shop, given that she’s based in Christchurch and seems really approachable, you may be able to contact her and ask whether you could get cleaning products from her in person, without the packaging, into your own bottles and containers. She has a stall at the monthly Halswell Farmers Market, so you could ask her there!
- Reused – a great initiative by a small group of Christchurch locals who rescue waste fabric and turn it into beautiful reusable produce bags. Yay! You can buy directly from them on their online shop. To save on the postage waste, you may well be able to arrange a pick up from them.
Zero Waste Information and Support Networks
- Our Daily Waste – a Christchurch-based recycling and waste prevention consultancy run by Dr Sharon McIver. Our Daily Waste supports businesses to reduce waste, runs waste audits and waste education, and helps those who are running events to turn them into zero waste events.
- Low-waste living advocates – there are lots of experts in household waste reduction in Christchurch, all contributing their insights in different and exciting ways. Apart from Helen Rupp (AKA The Rubbish Whisperer, mentioned above), check out Anthea Madill (AKA Eco Oikos) who blogs about her zero waste life, supporting others to try out low-waste living too. Her blog is full of useful tips, tricks and insights (like her secondhand shopping guides) and we totally recommend you check it out! Also on the scene is Tess McKay with her Facebook page TrashLess which is bursting at the seams with tips and food for thought on low-waste living.
- Sustainable Living Christchurch – A Facebook group that people in Christchurch can join to ask advice on sustainable living and where to buy eco products, share their services, and general discussion about all topics eco friendly. The group also organises regular Zero Waste meet-ups (check the event section on the group page) to share ideas, learn about what’s happening already in the Christchurch area, and create initiatives around zero waste where there might currently be gaps.
Skills, Resilience and Resourcefulness in Communities
- Rekindle – we can’t speak highly enough about Rekindle, founded by the absolutely visionary Juliet Arnott. Rekindle is an organisation focused on reducing waste through building community resourcefulness (as Rekindle notes, resourcefulness is the flipside of wastefulness). Rekindle has run many projects since its birth in 2011, including Whole House Reuse, which involved saving all the materials from a house that was to be demolished and redesigning them into beautiful artifacts (thus saving the materials from landfill). The organisation also runs regular free Resourceful Skills Workshops every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 12-4pm at 100 Peterborough Street, and has recently launched The Journal of Resourcefulness that features contributions by experts on all aspects of resourcefulness. ALSO, Rekindle has produced their own Zero Waste in Ōtautahi Map! It includes some of the places listed in our guide, as well as secondhand stores, and it’s in a beautiful, user-friendly format. Check it out (click on the pictures to enlarge):
- Project Lyttelton – This amazing community organisation runs a range of projects that touch on waste reduction and which, even if you don’t live in Lyttelton, are well worth consideration! They run the oldest Timebank in the country. Through timebanking you can share skills and services without the exchange of money, making it a great way to reduce waste on a budget because you can harness skills of creating and repairing that exist in your community (repairing broken clothes or electronics, for example), or having someone pass these skills on to you (how to garden, how to build). Perhaps you have some of these skills already that you could pass on to someone else for time credits? Project Lyttelton is also in the process of setting up a Library of Tools and Things, which will allow members to borrow items that are useful when you need them, but which you don’t necessarily need to own to get their benefit, such as tools and camping equipment. Systems such as these avoid the wasteful overduplication of these resources that stems from everyone owning their own set of tools or tents. If you would like to donate tools or other items, check this list to see what is currently being sought. Project Lyttelton’s Waste Matters project is also worth a look, providing lots of useful info and services to the Lyttelton community for waste reduction.
- Toy Libraries – reduce the wasteful over-consumption of toys and save money by joining a toy library! Check out this guide to find the nearest Toy Library to you.
- Menzshed – there are Menzsheds throughout Christchurch City. Menzshed provides a great opportunity for men of all ages to share tools and a workspace (reducing the wasteful overduplication of these resources) and to pass on skills of woodworking and other trades. Menzsheds frequently offer communities the service of repairing broken items like furniture (at a small cost), work with upcycled material that might otherwise go to waste, and also create bespoke items for community and charitable purposes. Definitely look up your local!
- Community gardens – community gardens are an excellent way for residents to get kai without packaging, and to learn skills of growing food and setting up composts – both very useful skills for low-waste living. Christchurch has an absolutely incredible network of community gardens, so there’s sure to be one near you (there’s even one at the University of Canterbury – that’s Okeover Community Garden – so students can get amongst it too. In fact, you’re allowed to take from the garden if you participate in the working bees – yus! Just contact UC DigSoc). Community gardens are always looking for volunteers to help out and come along to working bees, so if you are interested in picking up gardening skills, or if you are already a keen gardener and would like to have the opportunity to share your skill with others, consider getting involved with your local community garden. While not strictly a community garden, we also want to give a shout out to Cultivate Christchurch who are a trailblazing organisation rethinking urban food systems in New Zealand through their urban farms and composting in Christchurch – check them out or head over to a working bee. Food resilience is a core component of low-waste living and an organisation like Cultivate that places food resilience at its fore is certainly one to watch.
- Rad Bikes (Repair a Dunger) – got a bike that needs fixing? Found a beat up bike somewhere that looked like it might be get chucked out if not for some TLC? Want to do a bike up to save it from landfill? Have no idea what to do or where to start? Check out RAD Bikes – a not-for-profit bike workshop space. Anyone can come and work on their bike here and learn the essential skills for doing so. Sharing tools and a space reduces waste, and getting up to scratch on bike repair techniques will save you money, and potentially also a bike that would otherwise get biffed. You can also come to the shed to restore bikes to give away. Such a great initiative!
- Sewing, crafts, knitting, crochet – We’re of the view that sewing, crafts, knitting and crochet are all key skills for combating waste in our lives (whether it’s the ability to make your own produce bags and beeswax wraps, knit a dishcloth, or repair broken clothes). In Christchurch you can find great organisations where you can get involved to either learn or pass on those skills, complete community sewing projects, or simply complete your own sewing projects in the company of others. A stand out example is Stitch-o-mat in New Brighton, which runs lots of great events, including Learn to Sew Mondays. Joining a group that is sewing reusable bags to give out to the community is also a great way to learn to sew while helping to reduce plastic bag consumption and these groups are always looking for volunteers (regardless of whether or not you have prior sewing knowledge). For example, check out Plastic Shopping Bag Free Lyttelton, Boomerang Bags Christchurch or Project Lyttelton’s Welcome Bags project.