Kiwi lifestyles take toll on environment

Twenty-three percent stems from consumer goods and far lower figures to travel, overseas holidays, household energy use and other activity.

The research measures the resource use of Kiwi lifestyles and environmental consumption against the internationally recognised ‘fair earth share’ which divides the number of people in the world by figures for productive land and water. 

The fair earth share is 1.2 New Zealand-equivalent hectares per person. The average New Zealand lifestyle currently uses 2.5 New Zealand hectares per person.

Scientist and project manager Ella Lawton says addressing high resource consumption in food processes would be the simplest way to begin reducing the nation’s undesirably high ecological footprint.

“We were surprised at the food impacts given New Zealand’s easy access to arable land and that the land is very productive,” she says. 

“Some foods such as fish, red meat and dairy have high footprints due to the amount of productive sea area and land they require to grow them. 

“Reducing resource use through localising food systems, using backyards and community-owned land would be the most effective way to reduce the national ecological footprint.”

The New Zealand Footprint Project is funded by the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology and developed in collaboration with Victoria University, the Auckland Council and Otago Polytechnic’s Centre for Sustainable Practice. 

Researched over three years, it compares several typical New Zealand lifestyles as it seeks to find how lifestyles could provide basis for living within ‘fair earth share’ of 1.2 New Zealand-equivalent hectares per person. 

The research also found that New Zealanders spend 14 percent of their waking hours watching TV, nearly 20 percent in paid employment, 13 percent eating and drinking, seven percent socialising and conversing and five percent preparing food and drink.

For the report: The New Zealand Footprint Project

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