In between admiring the view and exploring the cafes I have been considering the relative environmental impact of our new lifestyle here in Queenstown. Many people assume that town life is less eco-friendly than rural life by definition but that often isn’t true.
Croft – Although we were eating a lot from our own garden during the summer at the Croft we were finding that the local climate on the Coast simply can’t be relied upon for many crops (many of our tomatoes and chillies didn’t ripen this year as the summer was so wet). In reality we go to the supermarket once every week or 10 days to get fresh veggies, bread and tins of beans etc. This means making a 15 minute trip by car (each way) and because of the lack of veg producers on the coast we buy food grown elsewhere (could be NZ, could be China – without origin labelling laws who knows?) packed in Christchurch and shipped over by truck. Organic produce is impossible to find in Greymouth.
Queenstown – there is a small supermarket ( the Mediterranean Market ) that specialises in local and organic fruit and veg. Last week I went there on a bus which stops right outside our flat every half hour and takes me right into town. I have started making bread again now that we have a full size oven to bake it in.
I have managed to find a space to squeeze my bean sprouter into so we are still eating fresh home-grown sprouts.
Croft – At the Croft we warm up on sunny days but lose that heat relatively quickly overnight as the workshop has two clearlight panels that break the insulation. We use the combination of an oil filled electric heater with an electric fan heater as a booster. We have a small bench-top oven which uses a lot less power than a full size one while limiting what can be cooked and of course we have our ultra-efficient fridge.
Queenstown – Power use for cooking and heating is one of the hardest things to manage when in temporary accomodation. We get no benefit from sunshine here in Queenstown and have electric underfloor heating (Gulp!) that is surprisingly efficient now that we have heated up the concrete fabric of the building. Power is definately from hydro schemes as generation is nearby.
Our hot water and cook top are run by gas in both locations (bottle at the Croft, pipe in Queenstown) but the shower is certainly used for longer here as it is indoors!
We brought our washing machine with us and have changed light bulbs to energy saver ones so no change there.
Croft – Car is the only option as we’re too far from anywhere to cycle or walk and no public transport.
Queenstown – Local buses galore in both directions – Queenstown and Arrowtown. Walk to town or shopping centre in 40 minutes, bike in 20 minutes.
Croft – Weekly collection of rubbish bags from the end of the road. We minimised our rubbish to a bag every 3 or 4 weeks. No recycling collection but we take paper, cardboard and tins to the tip. Glass and plastic has to be taken to the tip in Hokitika as Grey District don’t have any collection points for these. Organic waste is all composted at the Croft.
Queenstown – Weekly collection of wheelie bins – one for rubbish and one for every kind of recyclable.
Croft – Building is a high impact activity. Most materials are energy intensive and/or produced using noxious chemicals and it makes lots of waste. Minimising this is hard work and you end up compromising all the time in the interests of actually making some progress.
Queenstown – Brendhan flits about town fixing people’s computer networks and wi-fi problems. Uses company van where necessary. At weekend’s he goes snowboarding by bus (from just outside the front door).
On balance I don’t think that our lifestyle in Queenstown is much, if any, less environmentally sound than it would be at the Croft. The main difference is how much more expensive it is. If we are still here in spring though we will have to find somewhere to live with a small garden so that we can grow some of our own food.