Sustainable business & living
Social researcher Kathryn Scott discussing a raingarden with local maintenance staff at Talbot Park, Glen Innes
For more than a decade, Landcare Research has been developing services and technologies to reduce the adverse impacts of urban development and create market advantage for business. Managing impacts on the natural environment represents a substantial economic opportunity (and a strategic and economic threat if managed inappropriately).
Good environmental and social practices are increasingly ‘business as usual’ for overseas companies and several markets now demand the same of New Zealand companies. Since 2003 the Landcare Research programme Building Capacity for Sustainable Development has created a range of approaches for businesses to address this challenge. These include futuring, sustainability appraisal, stakeholder engagement, and environmental footprinting and management systems.
In a world–leading project, we worked with ZESPRI to measure the carbon footprint of New Zealand kiwifruit supplied to EU markets, from ‘production to consumer to disposal’. The measurement methodology was aligned with the UK’s PAS 2050 standard, currently the most widely accepted approach for the measurement of the carbon emissions of products. ZESPRI calculated that the research (a collaboration with Plant & Food Research, Massey University, and AgriLINK NZ, and supported by funding from MAF under the New Zealand GHG Footprinting Strategy) will save the New Zealand kiwifruit industry $17m a year through new production efficiencies.
A similar carbon footprint project for the pipfruit sector covered the entire supply chain through to key export markets in Europe, the USA and Asia. Across the 60 orchards and nine packhouses studied, only 9–14% of emissions came from the growing and packing stages, with the rest attributed to shipping, retailer repacking, distribution, and consumer use and disposal. While this highlights the efficiency of the New Zealand industry, the pipfruit industry is now working with their overseas partners to identify the ‘hotspots’ where further efficiency gains could be achieved. ‘This modelling is one of the most sophisticated studies on apple greenhouse gas emissions completed in the world to date.’ Peter Beaven, Chief Executive of Pipfruit New Zealand.
This year, we also initiated an innovative life–cycle management project for New Zealand manufacturers to help achieve continuous environmental improvement through a ‘cradle to grave’ approach to product design. Resource efficiency and waste reduction can both create significant savings in operational costs and generate staff and consumer goodwill. Six companies are taking part in a pilot project that is funded by MED and MfE.
The FutureMakers project developed a package of deliberately provocative ‘thought–starter’ cards and related workshop process that have been used to stimulate strategic thinking and wide–ranging debate about future issues facing New Zealand. The project, developed collaboratively with Secondary Futures and the Institute of Policy Studies, pulls together people and information to cast some new light on the opportunities, challenges and big questions facing New Zealand over the next 20 years.
A biodiversity edition of the earlier Future Scenarios Game was translated into French and Spanish for an invited workshop at the IUCN2008 World Congress in Barcelona.
Low Impact Urban Development
Conventional urban development practices (e.g. extensive use of impervious surfaces) have a range of adverse environmental and social impacts (e.g. loss of productive land; polluted waterways and coastal areas; loss in social connectivity) and contribute to escalating infrastructure costs (e.g. upgrading hard–engineered systems). An alternative is to use low impact urban design and development (LIUDD) principles – a sustainable living concept that integrates natural features, low–cost environmental technologies, and improved management of urban catchments.
Since 2003 our LIUDD programme has contributed to a paradigm shift in approach by developers and policy agencies to urban planning. LIUDD achievements include improved design specifi cations for stormwater treatment devices to meet New Zealand conditions (with up to 50% cost–savings), a new biofiltration substrate produced from inexpensive local materials, a catchment–based stormwater treatment evaluation model (C–CALM), a life–cycle costing tool (COSTNZ) that enables developers, consultants, and councils to evaluate alternatives to conventional development, accelerated uptake of stormwater technologies (including green roofs) with indigenous biodiversity co–benefits, and the easy–to–use Urban Greening Manual that is being used by developers, planners and home owners to incorporate aesthetic and functional native plants into the urban landscape.
During the year, we organised a series of five well–attended two–day workshops (‘urban safaris’) around New Zealand for developers, engineers, regional and city council practitioners to learn about the LIUDD technologies and see them working.
Māori–driven Urban Design & Devleopement
We have been working with colleagues from Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Whatua o Orakei and the University of Auckland through Ngā Pae o Te Māramatanga to develop urban development strategies that fit values held by Māori. The package includes restoration plans for sites of special value, incorporates traditional community housing concepts, and demonstrates low–impact environmental technologies to manage waste, water and energy. During the year, a number of hui were held with design professionals, researchers, and kaitiaki from various North Island iwi groups. A key aspect of ensuring uptake has been extension work with local government to improve urban design guidelines and district plans.