Connect with freshwater habitats | Sustainable Coastlines

Freshwater homes

We can’t live without fresh water, and neither can the plants and animals in our environment. Water is in a constant cycle: it evaporates into the atmosphere and returns to the land as snow and rain. 

Aotearoa has a range of freshwater environments. Ice and snow in the mountains give way to rivers and streams, which eventually flow into the ocean. There’s also water deep underground, and freshwater wetlands that act as filters. Our native animals live in all of these places.

Sacred awa, invaluable habitat

Horizonal image_rivers

On the land’s surface, lakes, rivers / awa and ponds are the most common freshwater environments. Tangata whenua have strong connections to their awa as part of their genealogy because fresh water sustains the taniwha and protects wāhi tapu (sacred areas).

Many of our native freshwater fauna live in rivers and streams, and may separate themselves into slow-flowing water, pools or rapids depending on the oxygen levels, nutrients, temperatures and sedimentation. One way scientists can assess stream water quality is by looking at which faunal communities are present! Here are some of our lake and river dwellers.

Credit Flickr : epitree

Kōura / crayfish

Image: Flickr/epitree

Did you know that we have native crayfish in our fresh water? Our little kōura grow up to 80mm long and do most of their movement at night. When frightened, they flick their tail forward violently, shooting themselves back into their shelter.

pomahaka-rankle-burn-1200_Daniel Jack DOC

Galaxiids

Image: Pomahaka galaxias, Daniel Jack, Department of Conservation

These scaleless fish are named for their galaxy-like gold flecks and patterns. Some of our galaxiid species migrate to sea to breed, but others live their entire lives where they hatch. We have 25 species of galaxiids here, including the īnanga and kōkopu. Some species, such as the banded, giant and shortjaw kōkopu, are found nowhere but Aotearoa. Others, such as the clutha galaxiid, are only found in a single catchment!

Did you know juvenile galaxiids are what we call ‘whitebait’?

Torrentfish - Stella McQueen

Panoko / torrentfish

Image: Stella McQueen, Creative Commons

The English name, torrentfish, says it all. These fish live in white rapids and use their flat head and pectoral fins to anchor to the riverbed. Panoko are part of the family ‘Cheimarrichthyidae’, but are its only known species!

Water underground

Horizonal image_underground water

Groundwater and cave habitats are valuable underground water stores, and may support the water table even when rivers run dry over summer. They are very dark, so they can’t support plant life. Despite this, animals survive here, relying on food that comes from outside the system.

PhreatogammarusFragilis

Sygofauna

Image: Phreatogammarus fragilis, ‘fragile well shrimp’, Sciblogs, Nelson Boustead

We don’t give much thought to our underground waters, but stygofauna spend their entire lives there! The term ‘stygofauna’ collectively refers to fauna that live in groundwater systems.

In Aotearoa, these range from crustaceans and gastropod snails to flatworms and beetles. Some even live 20 metres below ground level. We have a huge diversity of species in Aotearoa: there are 130 known, but experts think there could be as many as 450 species here.

More than swamps

Horizonal image_wetland

Wetlands are areas where the water table is at or near the land surface, making it permanently or temporarily covered in either fresh water or salt water. These habitats are important for preventing floods, catching sediment, supporting nutrient cycles and supporting native species like tuna / eels. Sadly, Aotearoa has lost more than 90 percent of its wetlands to make way for farms and houses.

Longfin eel _ tuna

Tuna / eels

At up to two metres long, the longfin tuna is one of the largest eels in the world. They live only in Aotearoa, except for a trip to somewhere near Tonga or east of New Caledonia for breeding — amazingly, the exact location is still unknown!

Find out more from our sources

Freshwater habitats
Department of Conservation

Groundwater habitats
NIWA

Wetlands
Department of Conservation

Wetland Trust

Kōura / freshwater crayfish
Department of Conservation

Stygofauna
NIWA

Panoko / torrentfish
Science Learning Hub
NIWA

Tuna / longfin eel
Manaaki Tuna

Galaxiids
Department of Conservation
Te Ara

Regenerative practice

A connection to nature can be as simple as appreciating the tree by the roadside. But to fully appreciate our connection to nature, we can look at what nature gives us and what we give back in return. For most urban environments, this relationship can look a little like a one-way street.

That’s where regenerative practices in our urban environments come in. ‘Regenerative’ means to improve rather than merely sustain, so regenerative practices are those that give more than they take.

We thought we would connect you with some of the ways in which our urban environments can live more harmoniously with nature, using our friends at For The Love of Bees and our very own Flagship Education Centre (a contender for the Living Building Challenge) as examples.

Key regenerative practices to implement in our cities

Energy

Nature provides us with various ways of powering our buildings and infrastructure. As we know, some of these ways are more damaging than others. That’s why The Flagship uses solar power — we aim to generate 105 percent of our energy needs. That way, we’re not only powering ourselves, but also contributing environmentally friendly power back to the grid.

Water

Nature provides us with fresh water and too often we repay it with polluted water. At The Flagship, we collect and filter rainwater for drinking. And rather than giving back dirty water, we treat it on site in the same way nature treats water, through a wetland! Our above-ground wetland sends water back into the municipal system with as little contamination as possible. 

We also have fantastic composting toilets to treat our black water on site.

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Materials

New buildings can put a lot of strain on nature in the demand for new resources and through the creation of construction waste. One regenerative practice is ‘recycling’ land and buildings.

Eighty-five percent of the materials used in The Flagship are recycled. Used shipping containers make up the main structure and we reverse-engineered the design around specific beams, giving old steel a new life.

While it opened in 2017, most of The Flagship’s core structure is more than 60 years old! It also occupies a space that was once 18 car parks.

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Connecting people

Part of being regenerative is to foster harmony in our urban spaces and inspire people to look after our natural world. 

At The Flagship, an abundance of plants and natural materials make it a beautiful place to occupy. We are also located on reclaimed land that was once ocean, so through our educational signage, we aim to reconnect people to the area’s origins. 

Through their many projects, workshops, community gardens, and collaborations with local businesses and groups, For the Love of Bees do an amazing job at connecting people with nature itself and solutions to some of the problems it’s facing.

Food waste

Composting your food waste is a fantastic regenerative practice. What could have been releasing harmful methane in landfill is turned into an invaluable resource for growing food.

As an awesome example of making a regenerative practice more accessible, For the Love of Bees set up a ‘community composting hub’ for use by the Wynyard Quarter restaurants, one of many they have set up. This type of community engagement and outreach is what can make regenerative practices widespread.

Growing food

Making use of our urban spaces to grow food is a great way to reduce the impact of the supply chain on nature. Store-bought food involves packaging and multiple means of transportation, so growing locally can skip all that.

For the Love of Bees have a goal to have an urban farm every 1km. They have several already, which follow regenerative agriculture techniques — see the video below for an explanation of what regenerative agriculture involves.

How can I get involved?

  • If you’re building or renovating, consider what practices you can use to make your new build as nature friendly as possible. Visit us down at The Flagship for inspiration if you’re nearby! Visit us down at The Flagship for inspiration if you’re nearby! Check out the companies that helped us out in our build at the bottom of this page.
  • Most of the practices listed above are best done as a community, so get together with your local community group or community garden. 
  • Spread awareness of and support groups and businesses that aim for regenerative goals. 
  • Plant a garden! Even if you only grow a fraction of your own food to start with. Community gardens will often have workshops to help you get started.

Learn more

The film 2040 looks towards a positive future with regenerative solutions that improve the wellbeing of the planet, all people and all living systems. Watch the trailer below.

The Living Building Challenge asks the question, what if every single act of design and construction made the world a better place? The challenge sets building standards in seven categories: place, water, energy, health and happiness, materials, equity, and beauty.

This Guardian article looks at  regenerative urban development as a prerequisite for the future of cities. “The solution lies in thinking beyond the vague and rather unambitious notion of sustainability and, instead, actively working towards regenerating soils, forests and watercourses. The aim is to improve rather than merely sustain their currently degraded condition.”

To learn about regenerative practice in a rural environment, take a look at New Zealand Geographic’s article on regenerative agriculture. It looks at different ways farmers are adopting regenerative practices here in Aotearoa.

Our marine animals

While Aotearoa’s land is relatively small, we make up for it with the size of our waters. At around 430 million hectares, our ocean territory is 15 times the size of our land mass! That being the case, we’re lucky to have a diversity of marine animals enter our waters. 

We’re constantly inspired by these beautiful animals, and endeavour to protect them through tackling the plastic pollution problem here in Aotearoa. 

Here are just some of the amazing creatures we hope to protect.

Honu / sea turtle

Despite the fact they do not breed in Aotearoa, we encounter five species of honu, or sea turtle, in our waters. The green and leatherback turtles are the species most commonly found in Aotearoa.

What makes honu special?

  • Honu are reptiles, so are cold-blooded. Our waters are usually too cold for them, but in recent years we have had more sightings due to warming temperatures.
  • Honu can maintain body temperatures 5˚C above the sea, which may be why they are more likely to be found in Aotearoa’s cool waters.
  • Leatherback turtles have been clocked as swimming up to 40 kilometres per hour when travelling long distance.
  • Adult green turtles are the only herbivorous sea turtle in the world. However, before they grow up, one of their favourite things to eat is the jellyfish! This can make them particularly vulnerable to ingesting plastics, especially plastic bags.

Māui dolphin / popoto

Image: Department of Conservation and Auckland University.

Māui dolphins, or popoto, are endemic to Aotearoa and are the rarest dolphins in the world, with only around 63 individuals remaining. All of them can be found on the west coast of Te Ika-a-Māui / the North Island, most commonly between Manukau Harbour and Port Waikato.

What makes Māui dolphins special?

  • Out of all dolphin species in the world, Māui dolphins are the smallest. They grow up to 1.7 metres long and weigh 50kg at most! 
  • They are the only dolphins to have a black, rounded dorsal fin. Most other dolphin dorsal fins are sickle-shaped.
  •  Māui dolphins communicate with clicks at a frequency too high for human ears. We have to slow these sounds down 20 times to hear them! Listen below.

 

  • They also use sound to find their food. Known as ‘echolocation’, and used by other dolphins, they produce high-frequency clicks that bounce off fish and surrounding objects so they can ‘see’ in murky water.
  • Hector’s dolphins look almost identical to Māui dolphins, but are actually genetically and physically distinct.

Toroa / royal albatross

Toroa, or royal albatross, are the largest seabirds in the world, and endemic to Aotearoa. There are two subspecies: Northern and Southern toroa. Of Northern toroa, 99 percent breed on the predator-free Chatham Islands, while the other 1 percent (around 30 pairs) breed at Dunedin’s Taiaroa Head. Meanwhile, Southern toroa only breed on the Subantarctic Campbell and Auckland Islands, with the former hosting 99 percent of breeding pairs!

What makes toroa special?

  • Toroa are Southern Ocean wanderers, spending approximately 85 percent of their lives at sea and only returning to land to breed! Young toroa may spend up to five years at sea before breeding for the first time.
  • Toroa can circumnavigate the globe in just 46 days using a gliding technique called ‘dynamic soaring’. This technique means they don’t have to beat their wings, so they can save their energy.
  • The widest recorded wingspan of the toroa is 3.7 metres.
  • When left undisturbed, toroa can live to be more than 60 years old.

Rako / Buller's shearwater

Rako, or Buller’s shearwater, can be seen across Aotearoa, especially in the Hauraki Gulf and Bay of Plenty. However, due to their vulnerability to humans and other predators they now only breed at Tawhitirahi and Aorangi (Poor Knights) Islands near Whāngārei. There are now fewer than 100,000 breeding pairs left — down from an estimated 2.5 million during the 1980s.

What makes rako special?

  • Rako, like many of New Zealand’s petrels, breed in burrows instead of trees or bushes! This trait makes them vulnerable to introduced predators.
  • Rako are protective of their breeding grounds, crowding out most other petrel species and preventing them from breeding in these areas.
  • Rako are nocturnally active during the breeding season. At night, nesting grounds come alive with the rako’s cooing and groaning calls. Listen here.

 

  • Though they only breed in Aotearoa, rako can be found moulting and feeding around Japan and off the North American coast during our autumn and winter.

Oceanic manta rays

Oceanic manta rays are the largest of all manta rays. They frequent Aotearoa’s waters, but we know very little about the rays that come here. Manta Watch New Zealand was set up to find out more, specifically, whether the mantas seen here are seasonal visitors, or a distinct population.

What makes manta rays special?

  • They’re also known as the ‘giant manta ray’ for a reason. They grow up to seven metres across and weigh up to 3,000kg! 
  • A manta ray stranded on the Far North’s Rarawa Beach in early 2020, the first time on record — they normally sink to the ocean floor.
  • Manta rays also have the largest brain of any cold-blooded fish.
  • Manta rays are filter feeders, and cruise the open ocean, straining the water from plankton/krill. This filter-feeding strategy makes them vulnerable to ingesting small pieces of plastic.
  • Manta ray mouths are like a sieve, but they never get clogged by large particles due to a ricochet mechanism.
  • Manta rays do not have a poisonous spine in their tail like other stingray species. 

Our native birds

Our native birds are a huge part of what makes Aotearoa special. While we don’t have a huge number of species, what we lack in quantity we more than make up for in distinctiveness.

These wonderful creatures are vulnerable to introduced pests as well as habitat loss. Creating new habitats for these birds is a big motivation for people who take part in our Love Your Water tree-planting events.

 Here are just a few of our remarkable birds.

Pīwakawaka

The pīwakawaka, or fantail, is a little songbird that is widespread throughout Aotearoa’s mainland. Also known as tīrairaka, pīwakawaka are a relatively successful species compared to other natives. The reason for this is their ability to produce lots of young and having a broad diet of small insects, making their diet resilient to environmental changes.

What makes pīwakawaka special?

  • You can recognise a pīwakawaka by its impressive black and white tail, which it uses to change direction quickly while hunting for insects.
  • Most pīwakawaka are grey in colour; however, about 5% of the South Island populations are black, with no white feathers in their tail. Occasionally, a pīwakawaka without a tail can be seen!
  • Pīwakawaka love singing, but only when it’s warm. They will cheep when they’re catching insects (listen below) or when they are alarmed. During the breeding season (August–March), they sing extra loud.

 

Kea

As the only alpine parrots in the world, kea are pretty special birds!

The kea owes its name to its call, which, most commonly, is a long, loud, high-pitched descending cry which may be a broken “kee-ee-aa-aa”, or unbroken “keeeeeaaaa”. 

 

What makes kea special?

  • Kea are very curious. They are naturally attracted to people that enter their alpine environments, which has led to some funny situations! One kea learnt to turn on the water tap at Aspiring Hut campground. Another locked a mountaineer inside the toilet at Mueller Hut!
  • Like most native birds, kea are vulnerable to introduced pest species, but we humans also cause a problem. Where kea are fed regularly, they are more at risk from pest control and accidents with man-made objects such as cars. So, if you’re lucky enough to see a kea, avoid feeding it!
  • Kea are also known to be one of the most intelligent birds. Recent research has shown that they understand probability, a trait only seen previously in humans and apes. Watch below.

Ruru

Ruru, or morepork, are often heard in the forest at dusk and throughout the night. You can also sometimes hear them in urban areas. Ruru are named for their call both in te reo Māori and in English. Have a listen below.

 

What makes ruru special?

  • In Māori tradition the morepork was seen as a watchful guardian. It belonged to the spirit world as it is a bird of the night.
  • You can recognize a ruru by its speckled brown feathers and yellow eyes.
  • Ruru were our only native owl species until recently, but have now been joined by barn owls.
  • A ruru can turn its head 270 degrees! They are also very sensitive to light, and like most owls, are nocturnal.
  • Ruru aren’t currently threatened, but experts believe that numbers are in gradual decline due to predation and loss of habitat. By avoiding chopping down old trees and planting new trees (preferably native), we can save crucial habitat for ruru.

Kiwi

The famous, flightless kiwi are a cherished national icon. Having evolved in a land with no predators, they are seen as a symbol for the uniqueness of Aotearoa’s wildlife.

Unfortunately, the very attributes that make kiwi unique are those that make them vulnerable. They are unable to easily escape from predators and are susceptible to crushing injuries. A small and playful push from a dog can be deadly.

This is why kiwi are flagship species for Aotearoa’s conservation work. The state of the species gives a good indication of the state of the natural environment.

There are five different species of kiwi:
North Island brown kiwi  ·  Roroa / great spotted kiwi  ·  Kiwi pukupuku / little spotted kiwi  ·  Tokoeka / southern brown kiwi  ·  Rowi / Okarito brown kiwi.

What makes kiwi special?

  • Kiwi are ‘ratites’, a diverse group of flightless birds that includes emus, ostriches, cassowaries, and our now-extinct moa. Of the remaining species, kiwi are the only nocturnal members!
  • It’s believed that ancestors of the kiwi arrived in Aotearoa 60 million years ago when it was part of the Gondwana supercontinent that included South America, Africa, Madagascar, Antarctica, and Australia. The hypothesis is that all ratites shared a common ancestor and evolved into different species after the continent split up.
  • The male kiwi call is different from the female call! Listen to the difference below.
Male North Island Brown kiwi call
Female North Island Brown kiwi call

 

  • Kiwi can sense through their beaks! Recent research found that while kiwi can’t see very well, they make up for it with sensory pits at the tips of their beaks. This allows them to sense prey moving underground.
  • According to Māori mythology, the kiwi lost its wings due to a selfless act to save the forest’s trees. Watch the story here.

Kākāpō

Kākāpō are one of the rarest taonga of Aotearoa. The kākāpō population reached a low point of around 50 birds in the 1990s. Amazing progress has been made by Kākāpō Recovery, increasing the population to 210 today. Because of their vulnerability to humans and other predators, kākāpō now live only on protected islands.  

What makes kākāpō special?

  • Kākāpō are one of the longest living birds in the world, reaching up to 90 years old!
  • Their diet is completely vegetarian, and like kiwi, kākāpō are flightless and nocturnal.
  • They are also the heaviest parrot species in the world, with smaller females weighing on average 1.4 kg, and males 2.2 kg!
  • Kākāpō are the only lek-breeding parrots species in the world. Males use their unique ‘booming’ and ‘chinging’ sounds to attract females.
A male ‘boom’ used to attract females. 
A male ‘ching’ used to attract females.

Hihi

The hihi, or stitchbird, is one of New Zealand’s rarest birds. Before the arrival of Europeans and the mammalian predators and avian diseases that they brought with them, hihi were found throughout the North Island. The only remaining natural population of hihi is found on Te Hauturu-o-Toi, Little Barrier Island.

Thanks to conservation efforts, there are now small managed populations of hihi in bird sanctuaries such as Tiritiri Matangi and Kapiti Island.

What makes hihi special?

  • Hihi feed on nectar, fruit, and invertebrates. To avoid competition with other honeyeaters, such as tui and korimako / bellbirds, they feed in the understorey and shrub layers of the forest.
  • Hihi are one of only two honeyeaters in the world that nest in tree hollows.
  • Hihi sometimes mate face to face, the only birds known to do so!
  • Like many birds, hihi are sexually dimorphic, meaning that the male and female differ in appearance. The female is olive brown, while the male is bright yellow, black, and white.
  • Both male and female have a noisy call. Listen below.

Sources, with thanks.

New Zealand Birds Online
Kiwi For Kiwis
Department of Conservation
Kākāpō image: Department of Conservation
Sound recordings: Department of Conservation

Connect through citizen science

Actions

  • Find out if you have a local survey area. Search your local beaches here.
  • Get more info about monitoring your local beach here.

Sometimes, connecting with nature is about connecting with the issues our environment is facing. Our Litter Intelligence citizen scientists visit their local beach every three months to collect data on the litter that has accumulated there.

These data contribute to a national litter database that enables Aotearoa’s problem-solvers to understand the issues and design the best solutions.

We love this because citizen scientists are not only connecting with their local beach, but they’re also working to protect it.

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Are your local beaches monitored? 

Type them into the search bar one at a time on the Litter Intelligence website to find out.

  • If one of your local beaches pops up, click through to the most recent survey. Here, you can see the exact stretch of coastline that is monitored on each survey.
  • How clean is your beach? Find out here.
  • What’s the most common piece of litter picked up? Does this ring true when you visit the beach?
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Get involved!

If none of your local beaches is currently monitored, how about starting a survey area yourself? You’ll need at least two other people and be able to commit to a fun training day and to monitor your site every three months. Anyone can get involved — existing community groups, school groups, or you and your kids or friends! Get more info here.

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An awesome way to connect

For us, spending time at the beach and seeing what’s found is an amazing way to connect to them. It reinforces our kaitiakitanga (guardianship) over our coasts and enables us to provide invaluable information to protect them for future generations and the wildlife that inhabits them.

What's the problem?

We all know that smoking is bad for our health, but it’s also bad for our planet. Cigarette butts are the most littered plastic item in the entire world! It’s a common misconception that cigarette butts quickly biodegrade. In reality, the filter is made out of plastic cellulose acetate fibres.

Since cigarettes are so easily littered on the street, they quickly end up in our waterways and eventually, our moana. They leach nicotine and heavy metals into our waters and end up as microplastic pollution.

It is estimated by Keep New Zealand Beautiful that we have about 10 billion cigarette butts strewn across our country. That’s about 2,000 cigarette butts out in our nature per New Zealander! This is despite the fact that New Zealand has one of the lowest tobacco smoking rankings in the entire world, showing that this is a massive issue worldwide!

Small changes for big impact

Change your behaviour

Not smoking is the simple answer, but if you’re not ready to quit, always make sure your cigarette butts are disposed of responsibly. Because there aren’t always dedicated butt bins nearby, we recommend carrying a tin box with you — a repurposed mint tin is perfect!

Spread awareness! Tell others about this issue. It’s a very common belief that cigarette butts are biodegradable; set people straight and help them make an informed decision about what to do with their butts.

Get involved!

Organise your own cigarette butt, coastline or street clean up! Request a Sustainable Coastlines DIY kit and head out to your local park, pub or other area! Count your butts, take some pictures and share them!

Too busy to do a clean-up yourself but still want to help out? Leave a donation!

Want to get more involved with the work we do at Sustainable Coastlines? Become a member!

What is Plastic Free July?

Dive deeper

 

Recommendations

  • Use the Good on You app to check how sustainable a clothing brand is. 
  • Use the RefillNZ app to find a nearby water refill station.
  • Visit The Rubbish Trip for zero-waste shopping tips in your region.

Plastic Free July began as an initiative of the Plastic Free Foundation and is now a worldwide movement that helps millions of people be part of the solution to plastic pollution. Find out more here.

At Sustainable Coastlines we believe that any steps you can take to reduce your plastic is great progress — you don’t need to go 100% zero waste to make a difference! Plastic often has a huge presence in our lives without us even realising it, so we recommend introducing new habits gradually. Aim to stop using single-use coffee cups and bottles, for example, then once you’re comfortable with taking your reusables with you, move on to your next swap. 

Find out more about the problem below and use our simple swaps to introduce some positive changes into your daily routine.

Why Plastic Free July?

Every year, 8 million metric tonnes of plastic end up in our oceans. Plastic wreaks havoc on marine habitats, with animals often mistaking it for food, causing blockages and malnutrition. Plastic also breaks up into much smaller particles, called microplastics. Because they are so tiny, microplastics have been found in seafood, air, rivers, soil, rain, drinking water, table salt and even your Friday night beer!

We can make a difference by reducing our reliance on plastics. Businesses have a big part to play in ensuring that their supply chain is sustainable. As consumers, we can tell companies what we want through our buying habits and ensuring that our personal consumption is as plastic free as possible.

Plastic Free July is a chance to take a step back and look at simple actions we can take to tackle plastic pollution.

 

Did you know?

  • Kiwis consume five million packaged drinks every day.
  • Cigarette butts are the most littered plastic item in the entire world!
  • Food wrappers are one of the most commonly found items on our beach clean-ups.
  • Every time you wash your clothes, they shed plastic microfibers.

Simple swaps

Simple swaps for your laundry

Swap plastic clothes pegs for bamboo or stainless steel.

Instead of buying a new bottle of laundry detergent, refill it!

Swap plastic-packaged powders for cardboard.

Swap your fast spin for a slower one to avoid releasing plastic microfibres

Simple swaps while you’re out and about

Wrap your sandwich in reusable food wrap rather than cling film.

Swap the takeaway shop’s plastic container for one you’ve brought from home.

Feeling snacky? Head to a cafe or bakery — it’s easy to avoid plastic-wrapped snacks.

Know where to refill next and skip the single-use water bottle! Visit refillnz.org.nz

Simple swaps for your next road trip

Pack your lunch and snacks before you hit the road to avoid single-use food wrappers.

Buy from road-side stalls. The fruit is normally package-free, cheaper, and delicious!

Swap single-use food containers and cutlery for the ones you packed before leaving home!

Simple swaps for your bathroom

Swap shampoo bottles for shampoo bars! Carry them in a little tin box when travelling.

Switch your plastic cotton buds for compostable ones.

When your nylon dental floss runs out, replace it with the compostable kind.

Plastic toothbrush nearly dead? Get a bamboo one next time!

Simple swaps for your kitchen

Buy in bulk or products packaged in glass or tin for a plastic-free pantry!

Your plastic dish brush is destined for landfill. Replace it with a composable brush.

When your plastic kitchen utensils need a refresh, get stainless steel or wood ones instead.

Swap cling wrap for compostable cling wrap or wax paper.

What's the problem?

Some plastic waste is too small to see with the human eye. These pieces of plastic are tiny, but the impact is huge! About 60% of material used in clothing is plastic. You may be wondering why this is an issue — we don’t normally litter our puffer jackets into our oceans, right?

Here’s the catch: every time you wash clothing fabricated with plastic, it sheds tiny plastic microfibres. These tiny pieces of plastic are up to 5mm in size, so most of the time you can’t even see them! Washing clothes causes half a million tonnes of plastic microfibres to enter our oceans every year. Because they are so tiny, microfibres have been found in the air, rivers, soil, rain, drinking water, table salt and even your Friday night beer!

Small changes for big impact

Change the way you wash

Wash on a lower temperature. This is less aggressive on the fabric and therefore less likely to shake out microfibres.

Use a Guppy Bag or Coraball. They claim to collect microfibres during your washing.

Load up! A full washing machine reduces friction between items.

Use a lower rotation. Faster spins shake up clothes more, risking more shedding.

Wash less. If your clothes aren’t really dirty, hang them out to air, use a refreshment spray and wear an apron when cooking!

Shop different

Your clothes are more likely to shed in the first few washes. So keep your clothes for longer and shop secondhand!

Avoid plastic clothes if possible. Aim for Tencel, hemp, linen, organic cotton or organic wool. Check the label to see if the fabric consists of plastic. The most commonly used plastic fabric is polyester.

If you need a new T-shirt, check out ours here! They’re 100% organic cotton, so microplastic free.

Use the Good On You app to check the sustainability of your clothing brands and the ethics and environmental impact of fabrics! For example, Tencel would be an environmentally friendly fabric to use for your sportswear!

Even though fabric made out of recycled plastic bottles sounds great, they still shed microfibres into our water!

What's the problem?

We might have grown tired of hearing about them, but five million packaged drinks are still consumed by New Zealanders every day. On average, that’s one per person per day! New Zealand’s recycling system isn’t great, meaning that some of those bottles end up in landfills, or escape to our waterways and oceans. We all know what happens then. The plastic breaks down into microplastics, which are then eaten by marine animals.

The facts

Source
  • 181 million plastic containers lack visual information on whether they are recyclable or not.
  • 258 million containers are made from coloured plastic, making it impossible to recycle them into a like-for-like item. Instead, they will be downcycled into bins or pallets, which may not be recycled again.
  • 46 million containers are covered in plastic sleeves, which prevents them from being recycled in the right way.

Small changes for big impact

Change your habits

Single-use plastic bottles are out, but carrying a refillable water bottle is in! Use the Refill NZ app to find a nearby water refill station.

If you need to get yourself a good-quality water bottle, check out our range here.

Keen for something other than water? Try looking for glass bottles or a can first! If a plastic bottle is your only option, make sure you know your recycling labels and only buy bottles that can be recycled! Remember, recycling should always be your last resort!

Get involved!

Could your street or beach use some love? Request a Sustainable Coastlines DIY kit and organise your own beach or street clean up!

Too busy to do a clean-up yourself but still want to help out? Leave a donation!

Want to get more involved with the work we do at Sustainable Coastlines?