There’s a new movement growing in backyards across Taranaki – a movement that’s green, creative, and innovative.

We’re talking sustainability, and now dozens of individuals, families, organisations and schools are working away to scratch out a more sustainable lifestyle from their patch of Aotearoa.

Celebrating that shift is the annual Taranaki Sustainable Backyards Trail – a 10-day festival during which sustainable backyards across Taranaki are opened to the public to educate and inspire.

“Every garden is unique,” says Taranaki Sustainable Backyards Trail co-ordinator Erin Strampel.

“There are a real range of sustainable practices, such as composting, organic gardening, riparian planting, the use of recycled materials, chicken and beekeeping, worm-farming, and seed saving.”

Not to mention the various liquid plant food concoctions that are keeping gardens green and thriving – brews of horse manure, seaweed, and comfrey, among others.

“There’s also overall sustainable living systems, such as water collection and grey water systems, and renewable energy and different ways of being off the grid, including a passive solar house and a hemp house,” says Erin.

“The trail offers a wide range of examples, talks and demonstrations of what everyday people can do to reduce their impact on the environment and, collectively, contribute to a more resilient Taranaki.”

The Taranaki Sustainable Backyards Trail is the highest profile of the many programmes the hard-working team has under way at Sustainable Taranaki, a not-for-profit community organisation.

In existence for almost 30 years, the organisation was known for many years as the Taranaki Environmental Education Trust. It took on its new name and established a new vision in 2018.

“We’re really focusing on getting out there and working face-to-face to inspire and support people, businesses and communities to value the environment and act to prioritise sustainability,” says Erin.

“Every small, positive action is an action in the right direction.”

Like the plants in the sustainable backyards, staff numbers at Sustainable Taranaki have grown rapidly, from four to 12, as the organisation broadens its reach and establishes more programmes.

Among its long list of programmes is Impact, which facilitates youth-led environmental projects, and Sustainable Taranaki Workshops, which provide practical know-how for all sustainable living topics.

The organisation has also been at the forefront of establishing community gardens, the latest in New Plymouth’s Marfell suburb, works with schools through the Curious Minds projects, is partnering with the Department of Conservation and hapū on conservation projects, and is targeting behavioural change through surveys, social media campaigns, and positive change initiatives.

Erin is also the community education co-ordinator for The Junction - Zero Waste Hub. The Junction is designed to be a community destination for waste reduction through recycling, a place to donate unwanted goods for resale, and a space for educational tours and workshops. It is a key part of the New Plymouth District Council’s goal of becoming a Zero Waste region.

“It’s a really exciting time for Taranaki,” says Erin. “There’s a real connection between people wanting to enjoy the environment and, at the same time, wanting to look after the environment.”