Contrary to popular belief, zero waste living is not all about shopping at hipster packaging-free stores. Yes, packaging-free stores can be pretty exciting when you’ve gone several months without something like ground turmeric, and yes, when we do go grocery shopping we certainly go to stores with bulk bins (whether that’s an old-school Bin Inn, an organic shop that smells a bit like incense, or a slightly austere but oh-so-hip zero waste store). However, for us, the backbone of low-waste living is about going back to basics and tapping into many of the resourcefulness skills that previous generations have honed over centuries (which sometimes we worry we’re in danger of losing…)
As we travel around the country we’re often in parts of NZ that don’t have packaging-free stores (and in fact, for our first 2.5 years of rubbish-free living we were in Wellington where it’s also pretty slim pickings in the central city). Now we’re travelling we also no longer have access to our own veggie garden. When we arrive in places with low-waste/bulk bin stores (which actually is most places in NZ), we do stock up on certain staples (especially grains, seeds and legumes), but on a budget of $20 a day, we’re quite limited in how much we can splash out!
We’re currently on Stewart Island for a week (where there is no packaging-free store). We came to the island with very few supplies (apart from some staples that we’ll use for our zero waste snacks at our talk on Thursday). However, coming over with only a fraction of the ‘mobile zero waste pantry’ that we usually have with us didn’t concern us. We were confident that we wouldn’t need to resort to buying anything in a packet. Please note that we aren’t tramping the Rakiura track. If we were, we’d certainly approach the situation differently (see our post on zero waste camping/tramping).
Indeed, as we walked around the island yesterday morning, we picked up food we found along the way. We came back with onion weed, chickweed, puha, lemon balm, rosemary and potatoes (and there’s plenty more where that came from!) We brought it back and sat it next to some of the food that we got at the awesome Invercargill Crop Swap on Saturday – Māori potatoes, chillis and apples (which we swapped for a large amount of walnuts that we foraged in Mackenzie and Central Otago), and some thyme we foraged on the mainland too. All this beautiful food was not only packaging-free and locally-grown, it was also free.
After last night’s dinner success, today we looked to Rakiura’s bountiful shorelines instead (though of course NO foraging in marine reserves!!) where we found both mussels and bull kelp – woo! So this evening we’ll be having mussels with kelp fettuccine and a cauliflower and onion weed “cheesy” sauce (we”ll be using some white wine vinegar we got on tap from The Pantry in Invercargill, and the cauliflower is store bought not foraged – though without packaging of course). Bring on dinner time!
IMPORTANT: we have done research on foraging and we’ve also attended a couple of workshops with people in the know (not to mention spent a lot of time learning from older individuals with bucket loads of knowledge!). We only pick things when we know for sure what they are. We would recommend that if you are just starting out with foraging, do some research before just going for it because there are poisonous plants in NZ (i.e. trial and error is not a good approach as you can get seriously unwell if you pick the wrong thing). For many people, looking at a picture in a book will not be enough (for us, we needed to physically see the plant the first time in order to be able to identify it again on our own).
Some great resources to look out for in New Zealand to help you forage are: