The Gibson-McNeill Household

The Kakariki Street Project has been an incredible journey for us which I’m only just beginning to fully appreciate as we put together our lists of achievements over the past 9 months. I am so heartened by everyone’s efforts and it’s really fantastic to hear that for every effort there has been a sense of enjoyment and accomplishment, and for many of us, the desire to keep on going with the next project and the next… I am especially in awe of those in K.St who have really stepped outside of their usual comfort zone to dare something new – like a change in diet, car-sharing, or even asking to borrow something or for help.  At our house, we have experienced a real shift in our lifestyle which somehow we didn’t anticipate. It’s an unexpected bonus and in many ways its one of the best parts.

Reclaiming the original vege plot from the evil clutches of kaikuyu grass was the first step when we moved here in April 2010

A few weeks later, the garden started to take off











So here’s our list:

We have started keeping chickens and built their coop out of recylced materials… still to be completed is their rainwater collecting roof to provide them with drinking water.

We joined Freecycle and have regularly been getting items from there… it’s a bit fab really! Roofing iron for the chicken coop and our woodshed/storage bays, a food processor and an overlocker which both get shared amongst neighbours and friends.

We have started up a ‘Stitchin & Bitchin’ group meeting to get sewing done and it’s a great social occasion as the name might suggest!

We've had several huge crops of beetroot so it seemed like a good time to learn about preserving

We organised a Clothing Swap evening which was really great and several people who missed out have requested we do it again.

We have installed our first two rainwater collection barrels. They are great and we will be putting in several more before next summer.

We have put in a really simple Greywater irrigation system attached to our washing machine, which now means we never need to water one of our vege plots ever again.

To stop any soapy build up in the soil, we have started using soap nuts… These are literally that; nuts. You put a few in a little bag in the machine with your clothes and they work like detergent. After a few washes, you just chuck them into the compost!

This was an area of lawn full of buried rubbish and old tree stumps. Now it's fertile, plentiful and irrigated with our new greywater system

We are members of the Dry-Foods Co-op for all our grains, nuts, dried fruit, and general bulk foods. The Fresh Co-op for all produce that we can’t grow ourselves. The Organic Meat Co-op and we now host the Detergents Co-op for bulk orders of Eco-Store products.

We have expanded our vege garden to over 65 square meters and help me it’s full! We are now in the process of planting up fruit trees everywhere which is exciting. We have so much in abundance, we share and swap a lot of fresh food and seedlings.

All our landscaping is done with locally sourced, found materials such as seaweed, driftwood logs, sea-wrack mulch, horse manure from the paddocks a few meters from our house, secondhand timber from the neighbourhood, old pallets, packing ply, and secondhand roofing iron.

We compost everything, nothing goes to waste, and nothing organic ever goes to the dump.

We have had our house fully insulated top and bottom and upgraded to a thicker R-value. We have begun insulating the walls in one of our bedrooms and will slowly continue to do this throughout the house.

We have put up thermally backed insulating curtains with good over hangs on either side which is best practice for keeping in the warmth. Luckily, we already have pelmets over almost all the windows, so we are really snug now!

The first place we look for all ‘new’ purchases whether it is furniture, appliances, or toys for the kids, is always TradeMe or at other recycled outlets like the Recycled Building supplies or op-shops.

The one new purchase we made was our bed which is made entirely of organic latex, organic bamboo and organic cotton. The frame was made from sustainably harvested NZ timber. We opted to buy the slightly more expensive one (even though we preferred the look and price of a cheaper one), because it did not contain any MDF like the cheaper bed frame by the same company. So for us it was a compromise on style and price, but not on eco-standards.

We preserve as many fruits and veggies as possible including, making jams, chutneys, pickles, dehydrated fruits and sauces.

We have started digging up our berm and replacing lawn grass with native plants and food crops. This is much better for bio-diversity and gets rid of another area that would otherwise require mowing.

Our front garden started out as a grassy waste of space which required lots of mowing and also felt a bit too open and exposed to the street

The space on both sides of our front fence has become a productive and bio-diverse garden of plenty! The trees will eventually provide a soft visual barrier











We have requested that the council do not use Round-Up spray on our street as it is toxic and pollutes the ground where our children play and the ocean which is just a rain shower away from our front gate.

We did not replace our second car when it died in January. We have managed really well with just the one car and some car-sharing with neighbours. Our car is as small as possible for a family of four and very economical too.

When I first met one of my neighbours Torv, the first thing he said to me was: “If you ever need a bike fixed, just bring it around. If it’s your kid’s bike, send them over with it and I’ll teach them how to fix it themselves”. That’s what he said without really having a clue who we were. It was one of the nicest welcomes to the street I can imagine. Another neighbour Holly fed us almost daily whilst we were busy renovating before we’d even moved in. You can’t beat that for good neighbourhood vibes!

We paddle out in a kayak, spend a couple hours at the beach, have a homebrew beer, and pull in the freshest fish you could ever eat. The adults are happy as are kids who have earned their dinner and we go home for a big shared feed and more homebrew!

We only eat fish that we have caught, very occasional organic meat from the co-op and plan to raise our own chickens for meat. All the fish bones get made into stock and the yucky bits left over from our fishing trips get buried in the garden as fertiliser. We invariably go out longline fishing with our neighbour’s kayak and the other half of the kit belongs to us. It’s almost always a social occasion with our neighbours or friends, and then there’s a pack of kids to haul in the line… followed by a shared meal. Heaven really!

We share all our gardening implements and other tools freely. We in turn get to borrow plenty from others. I am yet to think of a tool that no-one has available to lend me! We all seem to feel really comfortable lending and borrowing from one another. I don’t detect any hesitation which you might expect in other places.

We have had a ‘tool burning’ at one of our recent Gardening Bees. No it’s not some wierd ritualistic behavior, but a way to remove broken handle stumps from inside otherwise perfectly good metal tools -in my case two gardening forks. The new wooden handles just need to be fixed in place and they’re as good as new!

When we began rennovating our house, we used only natural products. the floor was sanded and oiled with Osmo-Polyx HardWax -a 100% natural product. Our interior walls were painted with Bio-Paint which is also 100% natural -and not to be confused with the synthetic paints offered by some big name companies as “green” when really they are only VOC free… they are still essentially a plastic based product.

We are long time Meridian Energy customers, opting to go with 100% renewable energy sourced power production over any other considerations. Unfortunately, cheaper is invariably nastier!

We inherently minimise waste creation by being part of the local co-ops, but we also refuse to buy over packaged products. It’s amazing how precious a glass bottle becomes when your supply of them dries up. We refill our oils, vinegars and detergents and I’m often looking for a bottle to put a freshly made sauce into.

Another batch of home-brew on the go

We brew our own beer! YUM! The only trouble is getting enough down so that you can let it mature before it’s all been consumed. We are now looking for some hops plants so we can take it to the next level.

There has been a spot of distilling too… Deliciously turned into limoncello compliments of one of our neighbour’s over abundant lemon tree.

We have installed a hotwater cylinder insulation wrap and pipes lagging.

We converted our ‘high’ flush toilet cistern to a ‘low’ flush one to conserve water.

We use only 100% recyclable products where ever possible like bamboo toothbrushes and a wooden dish-brush.

We own a small business in Wellington and have decided to make it as sustainable as possible and to off-set any unavoidable carbon offending to become ‘neutral’ by the end of this year.

We had a neighbourhood Guy Falks party at our house, which served two purposes: A. It’s really fun and a great way to boost neighbourhoodly goodness! And B. You only need buy a couple of fireworks each and everyone gets to enjoy it… much reducing wasteful consumption.

I am part of the small team starting up the Kapiti Timebank

We have swapped out any incandescent lightbulbs in our house for energy saving ones

We installed a ventilation fan in the bathroom at the recommendation of the KCDC eco-design advisor who came and did a complete assessment of our house.

Torv fixed up my bike and we now ride around the village. Walking, it takes about 25mins each way to get to the local shop, so previously, we would always drive. Not it’s just a few minutes each way by bike!

Conversations about all the things we can change and dream about changing are on going with so many people, many of them not even part of the K.St group. The competition has given us a focus and a reason to talk about these things. It’s very inspiring to hear everyone’s ideas.

Late in 2010 I attended an information seminar by Phillips about intelligent street lighting and have been in discussion with Jake Roos ever since about getting them put in here in Paekakariki. We hope to have street lights installed that can dim and turn and and off appropriately responding to actual conditions.

We’ve been collecting all the coffee grounds waste from the Beach Road Deli to use on our garden. THey go through a lot of coffee each week, so we were ending up with so many plastic rubbish sacks which could really only be reused a couple of times before they go holes in them. So Holly and I designed and made some material rubbish sacks which should last for ages and we can just wash them out every few uses. The Deli owners are wrapped too because we have turned a waste product into nutrients for our garden, and they will save a pile on rubbish bags and disposal.

The new tailor made bags fit the coffee bin much better than the plastic ones making them easier for staff to use. We're all winning!

Holly made a bunch of material bags to replace the use of plastic ones. She's holding a new cloth one and on the ground is a pile of the old plastic variety











So that’s where we’re at… You should see our ‘To Do’ list – It’s even longer!  😉

Kakariki Street has been a really great journey and we’d recommend it to everyone.

Flo, Mike, Milli, & Harley

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2 Responses to The Gibson-McNeill Household

  1. Owen Vinall says:

    It sounds amazing what you are actually doing. To many just talk. You will prob find the new led lights a better solution. The current energy efficient devices are not proving to be a good efficient replacement. Limited life they contain mercury as really they are just a fluro tube in a small package. Im a real greeny for the last 50 + years. Currently 60 years young. Just setting up my chook house making it foxy proof. Great article.

    • sisami says:

      Hi Owen
      Thanks for your encouraging words. Yes greening your lifestyle is certainly an ongoing process that will probably never be perfect and you can always learn something new or improve an aspect somewhere. We are well aware of the issues posed by fluorescent bulbs and will certainly look at other options such as LEDs in the future. I guess our approach has been to start with the easy changes and work our way up to the more complex and expensive ones. We are currently trying to further reduce waste at our business and it’s nice to hear clients responding so positively to our initiatives there. We have even managed to coax others who share the building into recycling!
      Our latest neighborhood initiative is trapping rats on our block… They can be quite a problem here especially because most households have either a compost heap or keep chickens or both. Here in NZ we are especially keen to control rodents as they are so destructive to our native bird and gecko populations. We are fortunate not to have introduced foxes!
      Keep up the good work!

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