How to live

Decreasing consumption is paramount.

We humans have spent too long thinking of Earth as an infinite resource we can take from without giving back. We’ve forgotten about connection and balance.

We talk about nurture and nature when it comes to our children, but keep dismissing the support network under our feet. If we disconnect from who we are and the environment that nurtures us – if we don’t have our feet on the ground – how we live will be out of sync with our planet.  Who we are, our future, our earth are profoundly intertwined.

It’s time to reconsider our identities not as defined by material things, but in relationship with the planet that sustains us.
Are we exploiters who don’t care or procrastinators who’ll think about it ‘later’?
Are we survivalists, hunkering down and resigned to suffering through ‘it’?
Or are we nurturers – prioritising wellbeing, care and purpose for ourselves and the planet?

Our earth is a reflection of us. The decisions we make in our daily lives and the action we take in the next 10 years will be critical.  Nurture + nature = future.

Ko au te Awa, ko te Awa ko au.
(Māori saying) I am the River, the River is me.

We all have the capacity to reconnect with our earth and live better. To rediscover slower, more conscious ways of living that restore both our mental and physical health, and the condition of our planet. And it begins with learning to live with less.

What does this mean in practice?   Explore the sections below for some guiding thoughts to start you off…

At this time in your life

No matter whether you are young or young at heart, your life stage will influence what your contribution can be.  Our home circumstances and the capacity for us to make changes will differ depending on multiple factors, e.g. whether you own your home, share your home, live in the middle of a city or in the country, are working long hours, have young children, have disposable income.  Factors such as these will likely change over time.

Embrace who you are now and what you can do best.  Know that it will be unique for you and where you are at  – comparing to others is not helpful. However, you can get ideas about what your contribution could be from action others are taking – be inspired by possibility. Who knows where it could take you?

Feel good about doing your best to help this earth.

Before working out what action to take, consider:

  • Where am I at – how me do I feel?
  • What capacity do I have to change my life at home?
  • How influenced am I by those around me?
  • If I put my mind to it, what capacity to change my behaviour do I have?
  • How committed can I be at this time to take action for my planet?
  • What will it mean if I do nothing? How will I feel about that?

We all have challenges in our lives, however, we’ll have even more if we take no action for our planet.

So rather than thinking I’ll do something tomorrow, or when I have more resources, or once I’ve done ‘that’ – instead, look at your life and think, “What can I do?”  What am I really good at; what capacity/resources do I have – and take action. If you’re struggling, make an action ‘wish list’ and work out what you need to do to achieve it.

Critically review where you are at and take the best action you can.

It can help to seek out supportive peers who will champion the changes you want to make.  And of course, we are here to help – ask us questions, read our content, support our action – connect with us.

In your home

Your home is your shelter.  It is where you need to feel safe and secure, a place of nurture.  It needs to be warm, dry and stable.  If your home doesn’t provide you with this, it is very difficult for you to feel connected, as you’ll be constantly trying to compensate for what is missing.  If you’re in this situation, we understand your priority will be in addressing this.
If you’re not, you have capacity – you’re not in survival mode and can take steps to be aligned with your planet. Take a home audit – determine:

  • What in your home helps to address your essential needs?
  • What in your home is to address your wants?
  • For each item, do you know what it is made of and how far away it was made?
  • Do you also know how it was made? In what conditions? With what power?

Commit to yourself – the next time you go to buy something for your home, think – do I need it?  (Really?) The biggest contribution you can make to this planet is to avoid buying ‘stuff’ you don’t need. If you’re buying to replace a broken item, can it be repaired instead? If not, are you replacing with quality, or something else that will need to be replaced again before too long?
If you decide to buy/trade/exchange, only get the item if you can answer the what, where and how questions above and feel good about the answers.

We will regularly publish information to help you make choices on a range of home essentials e.g. furniture, home appliances, soft furnishings, to make your decisions easier. (We’re also currently working on a downloadable audit sheet to help with this audit.)

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Food and Water

Food and water are fundamental to our survival.  However, what food we eat, what water we drink can have a wide range of impacts on our planet, depending on how it was made, where it was made, who it was made by.  Unfortunately, when we buy food in a supermarket it is likely we cannot answer any of these.

In the move to make food accessible, appealing and profitable, we’ve allowed ourselves to become ignorant.  Big problem.  By disconnecting from the knowledge of how, where, and who made our food, we have allowed the exploitation of people and planet.  And we’ve become incredibly tolerant of food and water that is of poor quality and in some cases toxic to both our bodies and our earth.

We can make significant improvements to the health of ourselves and our planet by reconnecting ourselves with our water and food.

We’ll add articles to this site over time on some of the key issues with specific foods and water sources.  However, the most significant action you can take right now is to:

  • Start asking questions about the food you eat and the water you drink. Is it local? Is it seasonal? How processed and packaged is it? Were chemicals used in its production? Is its production carbon-intensive?
  • Buy only when you know it comes from a source that nurtures people and planet

Finding the answers can sometimes take considerable effort as companies don’t always make it easy for you to find out.  Seek out companies that do make it easy.  Be aware that it may not be possible to have the ‘perfect’ food and that in some instances you may have to pay a little more. If your budget doesn’t allow for paying more, consider applying the changes to more impactful areas – buying organic in just a few areas, and eating less of foods that cost more.

Consider:

Food from your backyard – it’s easy to answer the how, where and who questions, it’s cheaper than buying, encourages us to connect with the earth and is good for our health in more ways than one. If you don’t have space at your place, is there a local community garden you could join?

The plant-based revolution – there’s a good reason for this. The 2021 Credit Suisse Treeprint Report estimated one serving of (100g) steak and chips per week was equal to 20% of one person’s weekly carbon emissions to reach the Paris Agreement target (2.9 tonnes per year/person). Lamb was around 14%, while a chicken meal was around 4%. 100g of cheese was also 4%. Meanwhile, a plant-based meal was estimated to be less than 1%. Note: these figures are based on European urban consumption and it’s likely that if you live rurally and grow your own meat on a small scale, your figures will be less. However, for anyone not producing their own meat and dairy, the figures are clear. Eating less meat and dairy has a significant impact.

Water out of your tap – is likely to be monitored for quality, managed to ensure supply, is cheaper and has a much less negative impact than any bottle you can buy.  However, it is often not well known what is added to it, how polluted it is – and how it is managed to produce goods.  Be vigilant – ask questions of your water supplier, demand monitoring information – and if that’s not available, find a way to generate independent information so you can be assured. Water is critical to our health and the health of our planet.

 

Clothes

There are a range of key issues affecting the impact that our clothes make.  These include:

  • Not knowing/ignoring where fabrics come from – plant or animal sources
  • Not knowing/ignoring what chemicals are added fabrics or what fabrics are subjected to
  • Not knowing/ignoring what happens to the by-products from making the fabrics and/or not stopping toxic/polluting processes
  • The production of poor-quality, ‘throwaway’ fabrics
  • Replacement of clothes before they are worn out or because they are simply ‘not wanted’ (fast-fashion) by consumers
  • Production of fabrics made from plastics that harm the health of people and/or planet, often for periods beyond the lifetime of the buyer
  • The conditions and exploitation of people making the clothes
  • Purchasers’ disinclination to act on issues around production, despite having some insight
  • The insatiable desire of people to buy clothes

Our biggest contribution to the planet for clothes is first, to drastically reduce how many we buy and second, to only buy clothes where there are clear source-to-shelf processes that do not harm people or planet.

We need to connect to our clothes.  Love them as treasures of our existence.  Respect those who have made them well.  Support those who nurture the people and planet from which they come.  Critically, we need to significantly curb our desires, our wants; avoid constantly buying with the season or fashion trends.  We need to stop being ok with not knowing the impact our purchases are making on people or planet.  We need to embrace making our own clothes from fabrics we know have been nurtured.

We are so far away from being aligned with the planet, that action taken in regard to clothes needs to be significant. 

We’re working on articles on some of the specific issues set out above and to help navigate how to purchase clothes that are affordable and lovable – that nurture people and planet.

 

Getting around

How we move on this planet has become one of the most negative impacts humans can have on this earth.  Our insatiable desire to go where we want, whenever we want, and to satisfy our wants, has seen a pollution frenzy on our planet.  There are many issues with the vehicles we use, how we use these vehicles, and for what.  There’s also a tendency for us to focus on very specific issues around the vehicles themselves, and not step back and look at our behaviour.

The greatest difference we can make is to curb our desire to travel, be fully aware of the impact created by each journey, and take the most environmentally friendly journeys we can.  Being willfully ignorant or nonchalant about our travel is not an option if we care about our planet and our future survival.

Walking, running, biking and skateboarding are examples of some of the most beneficial ways we can move for both our health and the health of our planet.  Of course, this may not be possible for many different reasons.  Shared vehicles that are made, run and last with little impact on the planet, such as some makes of trains, can be great alternatives, particularly in cities and to connect towns to cities.

It’s not rocket science.  We need to reduce our travel.  We need to move away from travel for travel’s sake and find the best travel we can for our needs and the needs of our planet.

Money

Money is the elephant in the room. We need it to purchase almost everything else on our action list. But what you may not have considered is that where you invest and borrow your finances from can have major implications for the climate.  This is an action point with huge impacts.

Yes, we know that for many people, dealing with money matters is akin to visiting the dentist. Uncomfortable. Frustrating. A chore. But it’s time to confront this head-on.  We can’t afford not to.

Everyday Banking

Some of the largest banks are heavy funders of organisations with poor environmental records, making them some of our biggest drivers of climate change.  According to an international BankTrack March 2022 report, US$ 4.6 trillion (4,600,000,000,000) globally was funnelled into fossil fuel companies and projects by the world’s largest 60 private sector banks between 2016 and 2021.

A shift is coming (very slowly), but overwhelmingly banks still exist for the purpose of maintaining and growing finance at the expense of our planet and people.

What can you do?

Take a good look at your bank. In Aotearoa NZ, this site can help you compare banks’ fossil fuel lending. Then either move your banking to a climate-friendlier bank or, if you’re locked in for now with a ‘dirty’ bank, question them about their climate intentions. (Watch out for ‘greenwashed’ answers.)

Cryptocurrencies

Cryptocurrency has a serious carbon problem. Transactions are validated through vast numbers of supercomputer ‘miners’ in a highly energy-intensive process, usually in countries powered by fossil fuels.

In 2018, a Guardian newspaper article calculated the annual emissions of Bitcoin alone as one megaton of carbon – equal to one million people taking transatlantic flights. By 2021, Bitcoin’s emissions jumped to 37 megatons.

This means investment in NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) bears a similar climate load; each transaction produces as much carbon as a one-hour flight.
‘Greener’ cryptocurrencies are on their way but are in their infancy.

Pensions, Kiwisaver and Superannuation

If you’re in a position to move your superannuation, this is one of the easiest and most impactful personal fixes you can make. In fact, a 2015 Swedish study found that moving your money to sustainable investments can have 27 times more impact on your carbon footprint than all your other lifestyle choices combined.

It’s getting easier to assess and then move funds. In Aotearoa New Zealand, the not-for-profit Mindful Money provides tools to help you assess your current investments and evaluate alternatives. Or you may be locked into a fund with your employer – in that case, engage with your fund (and your employer’s pension decision-maker), to impress upon them the need for change.

Last But Not Least

It’s time to change the way we use the word ‘investing’.

We’re used to investing our money to safeguard our own future. We even buy insurance ‘just in case’ our house burns down, an investment in our peace of mind. We don’t think of environmental donations the same way – but we should.
Here at Terra Nova, we’d like to see a shift in perspective – one that sees us talk about investing in environmental charities and not-for-profits. Apart from the really big organisations (you know who they are), they lack the budget to do mass appeals, and there is no public funding for the work they (we) do. Yet the payback is huge – restoring health to Earth.

It’s vitally important that we continue to give to our grassroots community charities, but if we also invested the cost of a weekly coffee into environmental causes, we could really create change for the better.

Every time you make a contribution to an environmental charity, you’re investing in the future of our planet.

Step by step, change the world.

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