Why I got involved
I first heard of the circular economy and regenerative system from Kate Raworth's Doughnut Economics - its idea of metamorphosing from the cradle-to-grave mentality of the linear economy to regenerative design captivated me. From there, I founded the local chapter of Rethinking Economics here in Aotearoa NZ to promote economic pluralism and accessibility. I learnt about cradle-to-cradle, the performance economy, biomimicry and many other ideas born out of the rethinking process.
After hearing Juhi at a social innovation speakers panel, I reached out to learn more about her Project Moonshot initiatives. I resonated with their vision of mapping regenerative projects across NZ to help leverage synergies across sectors and organizations - and it was a great way for me to contextualize my learning and gain insights from the stories of the projects I researched and curated.
My five favs
Hūnua Ranges Restoration Project - one of NZ's largest restoration projects without herbicide use
I consider myself water-conscious, but I've never considered where the water in our house in Auckland comes from. The Hūnua Ranges are home to Auckland's four largest water supply dams - commercial forestry activities in catchment areas surrounding the dam have destroyed the native ecosystems and polluted our precious water sources. Since 2017, this project has been replanting native forest with seeds eco-sourced from existing vegetation in the area. To date, they have planted 400,000 trees.
To me, ecological restoration highlights an interesting dynamic - repairing ecosystems disturbed by human activities through human intervention, and it goes to illustrate human symbiosis and mutual interdependence. It paints an optimistic vision of us going forward to re-establish an ecological healthy relationship between nature and culture and improving our resilience in a changing world.
GoodFor - the rise of the plastic-free retailer
One of the prime examples of the zero-waste revolution, GoodFor is a chain of plastic-free wholefoods refillery stores in NZ, which also look local to cut waste in supply chains. The concept of zero-waste shopping goes back to 2017, and zero waste lifestyles have been gaining momentum locally and globally - despite COVID's hygiene-induced fear. The ripple effect is that large supermarket chains have also explored plastic-free options.
One of my perceptions is that we can't shop at plastic-free places without breaking the bank, but these retailers offer affordable products. Although I occasionally shop at these retailers, supermarkets are still my go-to - I definitely hope to integrate more eco-friendly products into my lifestyle, though not just in terms of food packaging.
Tahi - private conservation retreat in Northland that works to facilitate ecosystem health and community wellbeing by creating a nature sanctuary, running an eco-retreat, and growing a global honey business where all profits are reinvested into conservation and cultural projects.
With its purpose before profit model, Tahi grows honey and runs an eco-retreat in Northland where all profits are invested into their conservation and cultural projects that facilitate ecosystem health and community wellbeing. "More than just honey, it's a philosophy" - they illustrated to me the transformative power of sustainable business and an innovative approach to sustainable ecosystem management. They are now 100% full circle, with all profits nurturing their 4Cs - community, culture, conservation, and commerce.
Visiting Tahi is now sitting at the top of my wishlists! I'm inspired by their work as the Kaitiaki of Tahi (contrary to the all-too-familiar concept of land ownership), conserving biodiversity and driving sustainable wellbeing for the benefits of all.
Scion's Hemp R&D - Scion's Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) lab developed technology that optimize hemp harvest by screening samples of hemp for the chemical signature of selected phytochemicals, and Scion facilities can test biodegradability, compostability and mechanical properties of hemp for organizations to assess whether their products are eco-friendly.
I discovered the NMR Lab while researching Scion's R&D projects. The lab utilizes nuclear magnetic resonance technology that optimizes hemp harvest by screening samples of hemp for the chemical signature of selected phytochemicals. This way, the facility can test biodegradability, compostability and mechanical properties of hemp for organizations to assess whether their products are eco-friendly. I thought it would look great on the map for businesses to better understand their ecological footprint. The project also demonstrates how technology could contribute to a sustainable world, but it often may not be realized due to the knowledge gap between the research community and practitioners.
Fuji Film NZ - previously Fuji Xerox NZ - a New Zealand print company whose equipment is designed for disassembly. It entitles all customers to free product recycling, achieving a reuse and recycling rate of 99.5%+ [Editor's note: Disclosure - Juhi used to lead the sustainability team at Fuji Xerox NZ but we don't think Stella knows this! Juhi's kids are in the (now out of date) film about their product stewardship system below. To download their free Product Stewardship Guide click here and for the latest film see here]
As one of the NZ market leaders in sustainable business practices in its sector, Fuji Film NZ is a print company whose equipment is designed for disassembly, recovery, reuse and recycle. Their Product Stewardship Scheme enables them to divert more than 700 tonnes of E-waste from landfill annually. It sets a great example for other businesses to contribute to the growing circular economy in NZ through closed loop production, waste minimisation and other approaches.
Due to the troubling evolution of greenwashing, I'm often skeptical of big corporations, thinking that profit is and always will be their main priority. But learning more about schemes such as this one led me to a more optimistic mindset of how business can commit and invest in sustainability and advance environmental responsibility. Although there's still a long journey towards becoming fully regenerative, there are now many businesses with SDGs in mind, leveraging their synergies to create greater social goods. I'm really keen to be part of this in my future endeavours.