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War, what is it good for?

3 October 2011
Vision Manawatu

War, what is it good for?

Absolutely nothing is normally an appropriate reply. But not in the case of the Eco Wars that have been raging for the past few weeks in Palmerston North. Now they’re over, the environment has emerged as the victor and it will soon be time to reward the troops.

For 5 weeks, seven platoons of students from the city have ditched their old ways to help save the environment, and their wallets, by completing basic training in the ways of sustainability.

The lure of prizes valued at around $15,000 has led to some stiff competition between the teams. Every week, each has had to solve a riddle to find out the location, time and subject for a workshop. Each workshop is designed to teach the warriors how the Manawatu region is contributing to environmental sustainability and how they, as individuals, can change their ways to reduce, re-use and recycle. The students take what they have learned and apply it to their daily lives, often assisted by equipment supplied by local sponsors.

The Eco Wars initiative was proposed by Palmerston North City Council in association with Student City Palmerston North to raise awareness of environmental issues among students, who represent a large section of the city’s population.

The teams have learned about power, growing their own food, dealing with their waste, and making their own bread, beer and household cleaners. In their final session the platoons conducted a reconnaissance mission of Awapuni Sustainable Development Centre, which is where the city’s recycled rubbish is processed. It was a fitting end to the boot camp. Presentations about what happens to the world’s consumer goods shocked the groups and spurred them into changing their own ways.

Experts from around the region have assisted the council’s environmental educator, Pip Chrystal to train each of the teams. "Seeing the passion, commitment and change of attitudes is awesome. Its easy, cheaper and a lot more practical to make green choices, we all should be doing it," she said.

Now all that remains is the judging. Every flat was audited prior to the wars for its sustainability efforts (or lack thereof). Judges will once again visit the homes and mark them for their improvement against strict criteria. Then it’s over to the popularity vote. Each team has been making video blogs of their escapades and they’re available on-line for the public to vote.

The platoons have to wait for the 12 October awards night to see who takes the prize of $15,000 of white wear. And some of the teams’ landlords have also taken part. For them, there’s the chance to win a heat pump and insulation package for their rental property.

Mark Maxwell from Student City Palmerston North was delighted with the outcome of Eco Wars, “We based this on an idea first trialed by Canterbury University. This inaugural programme has been an excellent way to work alongside the region’s sustainability strategy to involve local businesses in educating a large sector of our community about the environment and their personal impact upon it. The support has been awesome and we’re already looking at running and expanded programme in 2012” To vote for your favourite team or try your hand at the workshop riddles, visit: http://www.studentcity.net.nz/ecowars.html


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