My journey from Queenstown led me to Waiheke Island, just a 30 minute ferry ride from Auckland’s busy center. The Community Recycling Network of New Zealand invited me to build a website and would be hosting me on the island. My new project for the “Auckland Community Resource Recovery Network”, in short ACoRRN, shouldn’t only unite Auckland’s various resource recovery projects and initiatives but also provide access to resources and display news about events. Ah, and they also needed a logo…
“Resource recovery?”, you may ask. By definition its the “selective extraction of disposed materials for a specific next use, such as recycling, composting or energy generation” (Wikipedia). We’re talking about activities that try to give disposed things a new use, ranging from recycling plastic bottles, reducing food-waste, collecting and reusing cups at a festival, promoting composting, recycling paper from offices or refurbishment of old computers. So it’s essentially about using the stuff we already have, instead of extracting more resources or using more energy to make new stuff. I was very happy to be involved and keen on working for CRN since I felt I could grow and learn a lot about the different areas.
The waste of resources is one of the big problems of our time. We’re using our planets finite resources in an insatiable hunger, a never-ending growth spiral, often with little awareness about the consequences. On top, a lot of the resources go to waste because of supply chains, consumer behaviour and during manufacturing. Highly developed countries like New Zealand are getting there though, with low rates of poverty and good education, there’s room for awareness and a lot of motivation in communities to start and support different initiatives from what I could see. There’s also a fair amount of funding and support for resource recovery projects.
Waiheke is a beautiful place and on sunny weekends couples get married on the white sandy beaches, tourists tour through wineries and relax on beaches, while the many locals, visitors and expats stroll Oneroa’s center. It’s a great place to escape the city, enjoy some uncrowded beaches and beautiful views. I always think islands are special places with a very unique vibe and Waiheke was no exception.
I stayed in Rocky Bay in a beautiful sun-flooded little house in the middle of a huge garden, that reminded me of my childhood in Portugal. The invite for the project came from Dorte, who found me online through the Good Network and we had been bouncing ideas back and forth before my arrival. She coordinates most of CRN’s activities and is like that super woman you always wanted to meet. While launching a pilot-project about food waste on Waiheke, she runs from meeting to meeting, fills her house with her own beautiful paintings, cooks amazing meals and looks after her garden where she’s growing all kinds of healthy things. It’s an interesting process to finally meet someone you just had a Skype meeting and email communication with, specially because we’d be going to live together in her house for the duration of the project. Dorte was very welcoming, nothing short of amazing and we clicked instantly.
Many are probably curious how I know or make sure that the amount of work I invest balances out with what I get. Well, I don’t. I just give my very best and don’t send a list with things I want or expect a special treatment. Dorte took things very seriously though, from writing me shopping lists to making me amazing lunch while I was deep in my code. I almost stayed on Waiheke, that’s how good it was.
More resource recovery
Back to resource recovery before we get into the project. Auckland Council has an aspirational goal of Zero Waste by 2040 and the platform I built aims to support this. I stayed on Waiheke for 3 weeks, loaded with work but with enough time to discover more about a few things.
I learned about “Crade-to-Cradle” or regenerative design, a “holistic economic, industrial and social framework that seeks to create systems that are not only efficient but also essentially waste free” (Wikipedia). Most of our industrial processes don’t work with this principle, although they should. Costs could be cut, the need for waste disposal eliminated. There’s often no holisitic approach and all heads are pointed towards efficiency and productivity. Many native tribes figured it out – how to live sustainably and to give back to mother earth what we take, to create closed cycles like Nature demonstrates. Obviously our modern world is by far more complex and we’re not a native tribe living from the land and the practicability is unclear in many fields, but we should start working on it. There’s a great resource on the web focussing on this problem (make sure to watch some videos and get inspired): storyofstuff.org.
I also visited a composting workshop at a Waiheke community event (organised by Dorte) and learned about Bokashi composting bins and worm farms. And as mentioned, Dorte runs a food waste reduction pilot called Kai Conscious Waiheke, providing educational resources and a kit to measure and reduce the amount of food waste generated by households in Blackpool on Waiheke. I was happy to help with photography at a community meeting promoting the project and learned more about the challenges and how to work through them.
One of the resource recovery projects that’s going to be featured on the platform I built is Lovenotes – a project collecting one-sided waste paper from companies, producing neat stationery and delivering it back to the company for reuse. They invited us to a “paper jam”, where volunteers sort out the paper they receive from participating companies.
I also found out about Sustainable Coastlines, a project started by a bunch of surfers, coordinating and supporting “large-scale coastal clean-up events, educational programs, public awareness campaigns and riparian planting projects”. They came through Waiheke during my stay and had lots of locals and entire schools coming from Auckland to help.
While working on the website I witnessed Dorte’s daily work for CRN (she works from home), so overall I learned a lot and wrapped my head around a few things. Resource recovery is essential and we (specially the ones reading this living in developed countries) should all think about it, try to implement it in our businesses and daily lives, think about the amount of food we waste, the paper we use, the amount of things we buy, avoid plastic bags in supermarkets, reuse and recycle, etc. It’s not a massive effort and small individual actions can create great change. Travelling in southeast Asia reminds of how far many countries are from what some projects in New Zealand are achieving and how little awareness there is. When you swim in an ocean full of plastic is when you realise where this is going. There’s a lot that can be done, so get in there!
A logo and a website for ACoRRN
The project for the Auckland Community Resource Recovery Network started from scratch and we didn’t have much time. It made it super convenient that Dorte also worked from home and we could meet and talk whenever necessary.
When I arrived we had a few content meetings and soon after I started thinking about the logo and colours. There was a main theme, a name and content, enough to start sketching. It had been a while since I last opened Illustrator but I got back in to it quickly. After a few rough ideas on paper and some digital sketches we had a direction we liked. Soon after, ACoRRN had a logo.
The screendesign was next. I went through a few different layout ideas and consolidated one after checking back with Dorte. The logo colours defined the colour-world of the site and the photos I took of the community meeting on Waiheke gave me good imagery to work with. There was no time to design subpages, so we only defined a general style for the landing page. I would have to design all the other pages during the production phase, while I coded the site.
Programming the site was the biggest chunk. I started a new WordPress install and built the ACoRRN Theme from scratch with my favourite starter theme (roots). The site needed to enable different people to submit their projects through a complex form, pre-generating a project post that could be reviewed in the backend along with a map populating with drop-off points, projects and partners. Plenty to do. This project was built using a responsive framework, so it adapts to different screen sizes and mobile devices.
I have to admit, it was a bit of a race to finish a project of this scale in just 3 weeks, including a logo, the interface design and the actual coding (plus sightseeing on the island). It wouldn’t have worked without a few late nights, but we did it!
I proudly present: http://acorrn.org.nz
Congrats if you made it until here in the article, it became longer than expected. Below are some shots from Waiheke and around Auckland, as usual. Although I worked a lot, we visited most of the island, went out in Auckland a few times (including to the great Pasifika Festival) and visited Piha north of the city. There would be plenty more to write about Auckland, Māori culture and Waiheke but I guess it is beyond the scope of this article. Looking forward to your thoughts in the comments.