The Social Enterprise World Forum is coming to Christchurch and with it brings opportunity to improve our city.
What Is Social Enterprise?
The case for local and sustainable food
It’s essential to life. But where does it come from and what are we doing with the excess?
Jade Temepara heads up Kākano in urban Christchurch, New Zealand. “Kākano” means seed in Māori and giving people an experience of food from seed to plate is what Jade is passionate about.
“Food is food… We’re conditioned to think a carrot has to be orange – there’s 25 different ways that a carrot can look.”
Jade and her team stock the Kākano Café from their gardens right out the door, where they’re continually sowing heritage seed passed down for generations: planting, harvesting, composting and re-sowing. She believes education and conversation around where food comes from and the waste of it is critical for there to be a change in our commercialised view of food.
“It starts from those little babies that walk through the doors and get to experience things and talking to their parents.”
There isn’t too much information about food waste or food miles floating around New Zealand websites. But in a recent survey, it was discovered New Zealanders chuck out 122,547 tonnes of food a year, an amount that could feed Dunedin residents for 2 years.
Bailey Peryman of Cultivate, Christchurch believes Kiwis need to experience food growing first hand to form a deeper appreciation of it, rather than just chucking excess out.
“If we’re going to reduce waste, we need to connect people with the source of where food comes from.”
At Cultivate, they’re certainly connecting people with the cycle of food. Bailey and others grow produce for inner city restaurants, pedalling the produce from garden to plate - sometimes within half an hour. The leftovers from those same restaurants are then bicycled back to the Cultivate gardens and composted, going back into the soil and repeating the circle of local goodness.
They’re also drastically reducing food miles, which is a measure of the distance that food travels from field to plate. Today, much of our food travels a huge distance: tinned tomatoes from Italy, oranges from the USA, peanut butter from China – the list is almost inexhaustible.
“We’re hyper local, not even local… In two hours, food can go from growing on the farm to being in your gut,” Bailey says.
Around the corner from Cultivate is the Ōtākaro Orchard. One of their aims is to help locals be more food resilient, that in time of disaster, people won’t go hungry and more than that – be able to afford or grow their own fruit and veggies on an everyday basis.
“We want to show the full journey of food in a concise space,” says Peter Wells, their project leader.
As well as a soon-to-be garden and café hub in the city, with some “pick your own fruit for free”, Ōtākaro Orchard are looking at ways to produce food in the city’s earthquake damaged red zone, and also support the 30 plus community gardens across the city.
“It’s easy and inexpensive to grow thousands of kilos of food for free,” Peter says.
Everyone seems to agree: creating a space for people to experience food at its roots will hopefully inspire living and eating more sustainably, healthily and enjoyably.
If you are interested in making more local and sustainable choices in your everyday life, here are some suggestions for getting started:
• Give up the plastic: single-use plastic bags, cling-film, etc – that stuff never breaks down.
• Buy local and seasonal food: local farmers markets, fruit and veggie co-ops – they’re fresher, healthier for you and better for the environment.
• Try Piko Wholefoods.
• Test out Ethique body care products: made in Christchurch, biodegradable packaging and you’re not shipping in 80% of water in your shampoo bottle from another country.
• Avoid disposable coffee cups and disposable water bottles.
• Look out for third party accreditations: e.g. an SPCA tick on your carton of eggs, the Fairtrade logo, etc.
• Download the Conscious Consumers phone app.
• Buy fair trade.
• Check out B Corps.
If you’re ever in doubt about where something comes from – ask!
Check out the Social Enterprise World Forum and related events at: transitionalcity.org
New city, new opportunity
As the city of Christchurch is rebuilt post-earthquakes, social enterprise principles could also be interwoven into the new Garden City.
Christchurch City Councillor Raf Manji explains the potential for the city as it continues to develop and change.
“Christchurch is in a way shaking off its slightly old fashioned image and becoming a diverse, thriving, metropolitan area. Smaller than Auckland but in a different way and with our own personality.”
Manji sees the opportunity in a much clearer light than most and has put his hand up for central government, in hope to make sure Christchurch’s great future is not left to chance.
Jane Cowan-Harris from Be. Accessible was the coach for the Social Enterprise World Forum accessibility plan. She made sure all of the venues hosting the event are accessible to everybody.
She explains there is more to accessibility than most people realise, a lot of factors need to be taken into consideration. Ramps, doors, handrails, signs and even floor surfaces are looked at.
“Accessibility isn’t just people in wheelchairs. There are people with babies in strollers, people with fractured legs for example, people with vision issues and also hearing impairment as well,” she says.
Jane hopes that as Christchurch rebuilds, accessibility becomes an important aspect when it comes to building codes, footpaths and more.
Kilmarnock CEO Michelle Sharp helps adults with a range of abilities gain the skills needed to transition into open employment. Many of them have difficulties getting around, so accessibility throughout Christchurch is key.
After moving sites for the first time in 40 years, they realised the nearest bus stop was a 10 to 15 minute walk away. For a while the Kilmarnock team struggled getting their employees to and from work, until recently when the City Council altered an existing bus route so it could go past the new site on Lodestar Ave.
“They’ve basically created a loop off another road in order to have it go past twice a day, morning and afternoon to co ordinate with the start finish times of our work and it’s literally right outside our door which is amazing,” Michelle says.
Although that’s such a positive outcome, transport services are an issue which many people believe need to be addressed all around Christchurch.
Michelle is a person in the community who strongly believes in a greater, more accessible city.
“Clearly Christchurch is still mending after the earthquakes and that’s a problem, but it’s a big opportunity I think. How often does a whole city have a chance to redesign itself from an accessibility perspective?” she says.
With new buildings opening up around Christchurch all the time, there is potential for all of them to be accessible to everyone.
A lead contractor has been appointed to start working on the new Convention Centre, one of the City Council’s main anchor projects for Christchurch. While it’s behind schedule, Councillor Raf Manji says we should see it open in 2020.
He explains the building and running of the Convention Centre could be something completely new, by making it accessible to everyone as well as allowing social enterprises to be heavily involved.
“If we have an operating model which is based around social enterprise principles, on one level that will be a huge draw card but it will also be the most supportive of the local economy and local community.”
It’s clear the key players want to see a bright future for Christchurch and many see huge potential for the city to be better than ever. With big decisions to come, hopefully there are exciting times ahead.
If you want to hear or learn more about the subjects mentioned above, see: www.transitionalcity.org