Launching into summer plastic free
By Julia Wade
With the holiday season set to swell Mangawhai’s population over the next two months, a local environmental movement have launched a summer campaign, aiming to inspire visitors and more residents, to support the initiative.
Plastic-free Mangawhai (PFM), whose purpose is to discourage the use of single-use plastic in the area, invited the 100 strong crowd packed into Wood Street’s Freehouse on November 19, to share thoughts on the movement’s development so far and ideas for the future. A chance to sign up to a ‘Plastic-free Summer Pledge’ was also on offer as well as the unveiling of the organisations new logo, created by ‘Oh Gosh’ graphic designer Jessica Whiting.
Founder and lead coordinator of the movement, Kate Matheson, says she was ‘really happy’ that the intentions of the event were achieved.
“We had two main goals, to celebrate the progress so far and to inspire a groundswell of action going into summer… to energise and inspire the community and individual actions,” she says. “I believe we achieved that.”
Facilitated by Fit 365 fitness instructor Aaron McIIwee, discussion was stimulated through two different panels: Mangawhai Beach School (MBS) teacher and manager of the school’s Environmental Unit Jackie Fanning, local artist Mary Kelleher who uses recycled materials in her murals, Mark Reason co-owner of Fresh, the first retailer to get behind the movement, Love Kaipara’s educator Margaret Baker and environmental scientist Sarah Bray who was involved with Australia’s Plastic-free campaign in Manly sitting on one panel, and six MBS students offering a child’s perspective, on another.
Questions included what they thought was the biggest challenge about shifting the community’s mindset to stop using single use plastic, how they would approach ‘plastic stalwarts’ (those that claim the plastic bag issue is not that bad) and changes they have noticed locally since the movement began.
The Year 6 students were also asked what message they would like to give to adults today about looking after the planet, and impressed the audience with fresh ideas and well-thought answers Matheson says.
“The kids were so amazing, inspiring and articulate, they were such superstars… and showed critical thinking.”
Other talking points included the pros and cons of paper bags, being a savvy consumer and biodegradable versus compostable plastic items.
Matheson says having people with a high level of expertise speak about the expectation for shops to stock eco-packaging, when options are not that straight forward, proved productive.
“The message that we can’t just expect retailers to find magical packaging solutions, that the community actually has to help themselves, really came through,” she says. “What products to choose can be a minefield but until innovation catches up and we know something is safe, BYO bags, cups, straws is the only answer.”
PFM member Sian Brennan says the meeting also enhanced the message of passing the plastic-free message on.
“People who go to these meetings are generally the ones who are already making changes and it was a reminder that if we want to see this happen we need to spread the word,” she says. “It was a positive message – which is what Kate has always wanted – do what you can, educate yourself and others.”
A number of local accommodation businesses are intending to highlight the initiative by giving their guests information packs, including free shopping bags, stating Mangawhai’s goal of becoming plastic-free and ways they can contribute during their stay.
Wood Street Freehouse have declared themselves straw-free with Fresh and two other local restaurants going the same way once stocks are used. MAZ cafe, Cool Beans, already uses only re-usable straws.
“When you get people to agree to the easy stuff, refusing items like plastic bags and one-use things like straws and takeaway cups, I think it just sets a wheel in motion,” Matheson says. “If we want to see Mangawhai plastic-free we need to spread a positive message, offering suggestions to visitors in Mangawhai about this is what we’re working towards… positive action. And the community will be what makes this happen.”
-- The plastic-free pledge
Our future is in good green hands with (from left) Hamish Strong, Maz Blacker, Daniel Lee, Akira Manwaring, Livana Brown and Ruby Judson, passionate about the plastic-free movement.