New Zealand – Permaculture and the Environment – by Delaney Babich. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at and

New Zealand – Permaculture and the Environment – by Delaney Babich. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at and


One of the most intriguing lessons I learned while studying abroad was the idea of permaculture, and its impressive success rate on the environment and the lives of the people who practice it. I wanted to share a couple of my favorite aspects, along with examples to further explain the ideas. Here are three of my favorites!

Use and Value Renewable Resources & Services

“Make the best use of nature’s abundance to reduce our consumptive behavior and dependence on non-renewable resources.” This is a photo of the papercrete used at Solscape. At this point in the tour, our guide was talking us through all of the sustainable practices they had and the principles of permaculture that they use. Papercrete is an innovative and splendid way to use the materials you have around you. By taking paper and re-pulping it and then mixing it with clay or cement, you come up with a sturdy, recycled, insulating and cheap building block for any new project. It costs less than regular building materials, teaches you to become a maker of things, lets you create your own design for any building and helps the environment because it doesn’t give off any toxins or emissions in the process of making it. This type of material was a theme throughout the trip, as we met many new age thinkers who were adamant about living sustain-ably. In a book called “The Good Life Lab” talks about living a de-commodified life, the author and her partner used the papercrete technique to build their house, shed and outdoor patio. She says it is so fulfilling to look at a structure and know you made it with your own two hands. That’s how I felt while looking at the two domes that Solscape had built. I tried to put myself in their shoes, and I was proud of what they had accomplished. Making a home out of the earth connects you back to where you come from, helps you appreciate your surroundings and gives you a sense of pride knowing that you are living in a home made from your own two hands.


Produce No Waste

“By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste.” This is the most intriguing and important principle of permaculture to me. The world is coming to a point where we are producing more than we have room to dispose of. This is true especially true in the US. We are home to 4% of the population, but contribute 30% of the worlds waste. What kind of numbers logic is that? Our group visited a non-profit called Extreme waste, a recycle and upcycle facility in Raglan. They are committed to the idea that nothing should go to waste, and that every item we believe is useless, really is not. They employ locals and accept volunteers, and open their doors to anyone who wants to learn more about upcycling. . The only problem is that many people have a stigma about used items. I don’t understand why, since all of the items I bought from Extreme Waste were in great shape and put a smile on my face. I believe we need to shift from being buyers of things, to makers of things. If we refurbish a chair or put two scraps of fabric together to make a shirt, we are happier with the result because of the hard work done, and by spending little to no money! I have so much respect for the owners Rick and Liz, because they saw a problem and they fixed it. They seem like gurus of the permaculture world, because their entire livelihood is based on the permaculture principles. All things have multiple purposes, we just need to get creative and dig into our minds to find out the endless possibilities for every object!


Creatively Use and Respond to Change

“We can have a positive impact on inevitable change by carefully observing, and then intervening at the right time.” Our visit to the Maungatautari Ecological Reserve is the perfect example for this permaculture principle. The environmentalists in New Zealand saw what negative change the introduced mammals brought to the native forests and put their minds together to come up with an extremely creative fence to regenerate the land and birds. I was impressed with the design; I have not seen anything like that before! They thought of every way a pest could get in and then blocked it. Having vision is not seeing things how they are, but how they will be in the future. The director Tom and his colleagues knew that if they didn’t do something soon, the land and rare birds would be gone forever. I admire their persistence and admiration for the land and their dedication to its preservation. This idea also ties back to what Keith, our host on the Marae, said about looking out for our future generations. The native forest is special and one of a kind in this world, and everyone should have a chance to visit. With practices like this, it is possible!


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The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy ( is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In five semesters we have published 200 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors ( This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. We are sponsored by St. Scholastica’s Department of History and Politics and by the scholarly Middle Ground Journal: World History and Global Studies (

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Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica.

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(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at)


Filed under Delaney Babich, North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

42 responses to “New Zealand – Permaculture and the Environment – by Delaney Babich. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at and

  1. Elisabeth Bergstedt

    What a great summary and look into Permaculture. The best part is, your audience is the 4% of population that is creating 30% of the worlds waste…so your words are being heard by the ones that need to! Your travels and studies into these new innovative ideas and ways of living could be of great use to our country, so I have the utmost respect for you and your team. Great job and keep up the good work by spreading the news!

  2. Matt Breeze

    This is fascinating and I cannot wait to see it when I go to New Zealand in the fall. The use of renewables should be something that we all try and do more in our lives. I appreciate you bringing this example from somewhere else in the world because I feel we in America often only want to get new ideas from ourselves. There is so much that Americans can learn from other nations and other people. Thank you for providing an example that can be emulated and copied here in the U.S.

  3. Molly Enich

    This is a wonderful piece! This past winter, I travelled to Costa Rica, a carbon neutral country. The country actually produces so much “green” power, such as wind, hydroelectric, and solar, that Costa Rica actually exports power to nearby countries. In hotels, they had signs next to the light switch asking to turn off power to the room to save energy. It is steps such as these that will help mend the damage done to our planet. Countries such as New Zealand and Costa Rica are steps ahead of the US, a country that produces so much waste. Thanks for the information!

  4. Sofia Pineda

    Permaculture is a new concept for me and it is quite fascinating. I think that this practice allows individuals to explore and understand their relationship with nature on a deeper level. It is great to see that people are using the natural resources available to them to create a better and more sustainable environment.
    I am wondering however, what is the life span of these projects. Yes, building a house with materials you have created may be great , but what happens when an earthquake hits? Will the house be able to stand?

  5. Emily Ciernia

    Thank you for sharing, Delaney! i thought it was crazy that the US produces 30% of waste around the world, while only accounting for 4% of the population. That is an absolutely crazy statistic. I love how the people that you met in New Zealand are taking steps to reduce the amount of waste and environmental damage to the ecosystems. Like you said, it is important to care about these now, so that future generations are able to enjoy nature as well. I think that US needs to step up their “reduce, recycle, and reuse” game, and can certainly learn a thing or two from countries like New Zealand.

  6. This was an extremely informative article! I also appreciated the statistic you included on how the U.S. accounts for only 4% of the population yet we produce 30% of it’s waste. I feel as though in this generation in the U.S. especially, people tend to throw things out instead of attempt to fix or reuse them. I know I have learned a lot about fixing and reusing things just from simply working at the costume shop in the theatre at CSS. When I first started working there my boss said to me “It is very rare we will throw things away, because chances are we will need to use them for something in the future.” We even keep the lint and dryer sheets from the laundry. I definitely agree with you that the stigma surrounding used items is a problem that should be tackled. And now, from your article, I feel significantly more informed about permaculture and it’s implementation and importance around the globe.

  7. Holly Kampa

    Delaney, thank you for sharing your experiences in New Zealand! New Zealand is on my list of places to travel to because of all its natural beauty! I was fascinated at all the recycling and measures they take to create a better environment. It saddens me about all the waste in the US. As the snow is melting it is shocking to see all of the litter along side of our roads. I love to refebish different things, and I agree that there is such a sense of accomplishment and pride in doing that because you made it with your own hands. Thanks again for sharing!

  8. Jacob Carson

    I think the idea that most people can’t get a grasp of is that we can have a positive footprint on this earth. Everyone talks about reducing their negative impact on the world around them, but not enough is said about the fact that we can actually focus on making a positive footprint that will leave a world even more beneficial for generations to come. Permaculture is about creating a positive footprint, in every way possible, and through the lens of treating the earth right, many creative ideas and innovations have been created to ensure that goal.

  9. Rachel Reicher

    This was one of my favorite article to read. It is hard to avoid the waste I produce in this country because of the consumer I am, but I strongly believe in recycling and the use of resources. We are constantly talking about poverty and I believe that this article provides a great source for which we should be following. If the United States were to use the resource like New Zealand does, we would be far better off and the poverty levels would decrease, There would be more resources for the less fortunate and for those who do not need those resources, they can provide for those who do. I think the U.S. should be following New Zealand’s way of permaculture.

  10. Jodi Moran

    Wow this story is very interesting Delaney! How sad is it that the U.S. produces that must waste, and what makes it worse is that many people are unaware of this. I love that idea of reusing almost everything, just because something is slightly used, doesn’t mean that it is useless. I have always been interested in visiting New Zealand because of the beautiful landscapes that I have seen on Google, but knowing that they are conscientious of waste is something that speaks volumes. This effort of preserving the beautiful land will sustain many generations to come.

  11. Connor

    Before reading your article I had never heard the term “permaculture,” though the idea isn’t new to me. Personally I think the general public in the US is very well informed of issues of sustainability, but doesn’t care. How do you reach out to people who fail to see how wasteful living affects them? I feel some individuals shrug off environmental concerns and consider them issues of the future.

  12. Thomas Landgren

    This was a wonderful article! It really hits you when you see that 4% of the world creates 30% of the worlds waste. I agree that nothing should go to waste and that we as humans should start going back to the idea of making things out of leftover scraps and other things that we now look at as garbage. Also the idea of using recycled and environmentally friendly materials for buildings seems like it could gain headway in the coming years. Great Article!

  13. Jena O'Byrne

    Thank you for sharing your experiences, this is definitely something many and all of us need to be reminded on. The idea that many of the things we see as disposable can be reused. New Zealand is definitely setting the tone for other countries to follow in their lead to reduce wasteful practices. I also liked that this is a topic we touched on in class, about the way our society views everything as disposable. Purchasing items for their popularity rather than practicality. Thanks for sharing and I hope more areas and people will pick up New Zealand lead and me more conscious of preservation.

  14. This is awesome! I love that New Zealand reuses almost everything. New Zealand is a place that I’ve always wanted to visit because of my interest in environmental sustainability (and LOTR). This article really solidified my want to go because of your mentioning of their conciseness of waste and their beautiful countries well being.

  15. Roman Schnobrich

    Your second point really stuck with me; it’s so difficult to track down the creator of any known stigma, and often it’s not just one people but a group of people, or an entire society. Perhaps the American stigma around buying used things (which is profoundly negative right now) was introduced by the companies eager to sell as many new things as possible. This reminds me how capitalistic our country has become; so many Americans spend their life chasing the dollar. Hopefully you can bring back some of that permaculture back to the States with you!

  16. Jessica Richart

    Thank you for your summary, knowledge and experience with permaculture. This is something that I am not extremely knowledgeable on, but I am learning! One of my friends teaches me everyday what things I have from lunch that can be recycled or composted. I think it is a very important thing that more people should try to understand, clearly if we are the 4% as you mentioned. The interventions and ideas that you explained are very cool ideas and I think that we could really learn from them. Thank you again!

  17. Sarah Burton

    How amazing that all of these people are making efforts to live more sustainable! I wish that there were more people that were making these efforts because there is too much waste in the world. I always try to make sure that I recycle and live in a sustainable way. I hope that one day I can visit New Zealand and see there various efforts to change the world for the better!

  18. Donovan Blatz

    This is a very interesting story. I’m wondering if those building blocks have a chance of coming apart after a few years of weathering since they have paper in them. But I find it awesome that they are using whatever they can to help recycle materials and use them in every day life. It is cool that people are putting so much effort into protecting rare birds. I also think the Upcycling is a very interesting idea that I hope takes off because the numbers you stated were horrifying to see.

  19. Andrea Ramler

    This is an awesome article. It really sets things in perspective for other countries and how they can be resourceful. Hopefully some day New Zealand’s way of doing things will impact other countries enough to make a change for the better. I think it would benefit not only us as people but also our world. It would be a better healthier place for living. What really impacted me from this article was the fact that the US produces the most waste. This makes me feel like we are so wasteful and think that everything is disposable. That is a horrible mind set to have and it is something that we need to realize as a society and fix it.

  20. Meghan Lozinski

    I really enjoyed this article, especially reading it on Earth Day. What you said about people needing to become makers and not buyers is so relevant today, when consumerism seems never ending. Hopefully some of these practices can become more widespread and help other places deal with their environmental issues as well.

  21. Nancy Thao

    I have never heard of permaculture before, so I am learning a lot from your article. The idea upcycle is very unique and I think it will be a great experience to see how the process goes. We do not think about how much waste we are accumulating all together in the US, since it will no longer be our problem after it is taken away by the trucks. After seeing the percentage as to how much waste we are contributing, I think it should be a concern and we as consumers should really think about the things we are purchasing and throwing away.

  22. Mike Zupfer

    Great article this week! It is great that New Zealand is coming up with ways to reduce waste. I remember reading about what of the Nordic countries that actually buys and imports waste into their country because there waste management and recycling program is so good. It would be cool if our country strove to set those standards and our 30% of the worlds trash rate reduced to below 10%. Hope you find more interesting aspects of New Zealand that the US can possibly use!

  23. I am often disgusted and saddened by the amount of waste my peers and even friends create. Many of my American friends don’t think twice about using disposable.. anything. They buy something such as a pre-packaged meal just to throw away a large amount of cardboard or plastic. I think by showing others what small changes are needed to be more sustainable you are lending to the change that needs to come. I took an environmental science class that focused on personal habits that are eco-friendly. I think if each individual made small efforts, the tide would turn. Thank you for this overview on permaculture.

  24. Martti Maunula

    Upcycling is something that I have heard and seen more about for projects this semester here at St. Scholastica. I was interested in all the ways doing things that can seem so minor can have such large effects, especially when done on an extreme scale. The idea that we can appreciate something so much more if we’ve worked for it and also recycled it as compared to just buying something new but contributing more waste is very interesting and something I hope to look more into. I also hope we as a country get our waste under control as those statistics were frightening, if not all that surprising.

  25. Gina Palmi

    I picked up on the part where you said buying used things has a stigma around it. It really does! I love buying used things because first off all its cheaper for me, and secondly I’m giving something old new purpose. I take pride in that and if the object could take pride in it too, I think it would. I try my best to reduce waste and reuse when I can.

  26. Nick Campbell

    What a great article to read on Earth Day. These three methods of conservation were all methods I’d never heard of, so reading this was very important. The amount of waste we produce is a huge problem, so finding a way to reuse things is very important. I believe that as science continues to improve and this issue becomes more known than it already is, we will be able to find more ways to reuse things to help protect our environment.

  27. Sandy Davidson-Hunt

    This is one of the most interesting articles I have read thus far, so thank you very much for sharing! The point you made about the satisfaction of building something with your own hands is so true, yet it is something many people never experience. Because of consumers ability to literally buy anything they want there is so much waste in the world. An alternative option is creating something homemade, which is not only environmentally friendly and cost-saving. Not only can this have a positive environmental effect, but also a positive personal effect for doing a good deed.

  28. Kyle Dosan

    Great article, and very interesting to read about especially since the U.S. makes up 30% of the total pollution. It really goes to show how reusing certain items benefits the environment greatly. Sure in America many recycle, but you do not hear about many people that reuse items like in New Zealand. Once again thank you for sharing your story and experiences with us.

  29. This was an extremely informative article. From talking with my brother who lives in New Zealand, he agrees how many in the country are reducing the amount of waste and environmental damage they make on the ecosystems. The numbers are startling about the US’ production of waste. My brother also told me that nationwide education about sustainment and environmental issues is very important. This must be where other nations can take the example from!

  30. Catherine McConnell

    What a great article to read on Earth Day! I am so glad you shared these ideas of Permaculture to enlighten me on things being done in other parts of the world to protect the environment. I believe if we all took little steps to reduce waste or our energy footprint we would be in a lot better shape. Things that I do to be more earth-concious is ride my bike whenever possible and take very quick showers (lathering only with the water off). I very like the idea of the recycled building material. How cool would it be if you not only built your house but you also created the materials used to build it.

  31. Sara Desrocher

    What a great article! Perfect for Earth Day. I really liked reading this because I think that we could all use a reminder of the impact of our lifestyle on the planet. I hope to focus more on limiting the amount of resources I use on a daily basis. It may not be a lot compared to the amount produced by the entire world, but this is one thing that I can do to make a difference!

  32. Samantha Wollin

    What a coincidence with it being earth day today! Recycling is super important with today’s earth health. I fear for the future when it comes to the well-being of our planet and we may even have to find a new planet, hopefully in the far distant future. Your story is great! I hope people get more involved with reducing, reusing and recycling!

  33. It is Earth Day as I write this — how fitting! I think people in the U.S. could really benefit from trying a few of these out in their own lives. While it might sound cliche, I think that enough consumers demanded that products become eco-friendly (i.e. less packaging), companies might start to take notice and change their practice. That being said, there are plenty of things that the average person could do that would simply reduce waste without having to wait for companies to react.

  34. This gives me so much hope for the future. The amount of waste we create is absolutely deplorable, but this shows that when people realize how big the problem is, there’s something that can be done about it. Granted our population is much bigger, but all the more reason to take a leaf out of their book. This has honestly made my Earth day so much better! Thank you!

  35. I have heard of papercrete once before but it was interesting to see it in this context. I love how you said we should become “makers of things, not buyers of things;” that really needs to be on a t-shirt. Rather then the enormous amount of shopping many of us do we could reuse and repurpose items. This is also the perfect post during earth week. Because of people sharing their stories and passion for the planet I really have changed the way I view the subject.

  36. Kyle Hellmann

    As someone who feels very strongly for the Environment, this article made me a happy person! I knew New Zealand had some great practices, but these are much more in depth and have given me a different view. The problem is to transfer these ideas to other people, such as Americans. I do like the idea of producing no waste, but it provides a difficult challenge. Can anyone truly live with no waste? What waste am I producing by having a cellphone, or even just typing this out? We can get rid of direct waste, but the waste we don’t know that we produce is the biggest challenge yet. Thanks for sharing!

  37. Before reading your article, I had never even heard of the idea of “permaculture.” It’s awesome! Also, being earth day today, I thought it was the perfect article to read. 🙂 I also think the idea of upcycling is very unique but makes a lot of sense and is something that will probably be seen more and more over time. I only hope that more countries will follow in the footsteps of New Zealand and focus more on reusing resources and doing more for the environment. Great article and thank you for sharing!

  38. Sabrina Allison

    The article’s content really resonated with me because environmental topics are an area of interest that I’ve been learning about lately. I had the chance to build a house in Honduras with Habitat for Humanity International. It had been a rewarding experience because I got the chance to incorporate permaculture in order to build a house. It gave me such pride to know that I could build a house from materials found in nature. It did not surprise me to read that there is a stigma about buying used goods, and it’s probably attributed to the concept of wealth in regards to consumerism. In the near future it would be nice to see the United States normalize the act of permaculture to ensure the preservation of the environment for centuries to come. Such a great article and thank you for sharing.

  39. Sabrina Allison

    This article really resonated with me because I have become quite interested in environmental topics. I actually had the opportunity to work with Habitat for Humanity International in Honduras. It had been a rewarding experience because I had the chance to incorporate permaculture in the process of building a house. It gave me such pride to be able to acquire a new skill set and using nature resources from the environment to create something. It’s not surprising that there is a stigma about buying used goods because brand new is taught to have more worth than something that is formerly used. It all leads back to consumerism in the end. In the near future it would be nice to see the United States participate in permaculture and preserve the environment for future generations.

  40. This article really resonated with me because I have become quite interested in environmental topics. I actually had the opportunity to work with Habitat for Humanity International in Honduras. It had been a rewarding experience because I had the chance to incorporate permaculture in the process of building a house. It gave me such pride to be able to acquire a new skill set and using nature resources from the environment to create something. It’s not surprising that there is a stigma about buying used goods because brand new is taught to have more worth than something that is formerly used. It all leads back to consumerism in the end. In the near future it would be nice to see the United States participate in permaculture and preserve the environment for future generations.

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