Treading Lightly with How and Why We Farm

Cardboard material is baled and sold to a recycler. 

Cardboard material is baled and sold to a recycler. 

Researching the impacts of social license on farming practices and what growers are doing to better communicate how and why they farm to their communities, Belinda has come across many leading examples of best practice within the New Zealand primary industry sector. One of the key themes identified through her research is that sustainability is increasingly at the forefront of the sector’s mind – not so much in response to pressures coming from communities, but more so from a recognition of the need for stewardship of the land for future generations.

One leading example of sustainability best practice within the New Zealand horticulture industry is Trevelyan – the biggest single site kiwifruit pack house in the Bay of Plenty – who is tackling the issue of waste head on through their Tread Lightly initiative.

Recognising that sustainability is a journey that requires continuous improvement, Trevelyan has maintained a dedicated focus on lowering their environmental impact over the last several years. Having reduced their greenhouse gas emission impact by 62% since 2010, they now recognise that waste production is their next big issue to face. While just over 10% - or 31.4 tonnes – of the waste they produce goes to landfill, Trevelyan recognises that they need to be mindful of their consumption of resources, and do more with less.

So, how are they tackling this? A walk around the facilities on site demonstrated that a number of initiatives are in place to help them achieve their waste goals. One of their key focus areas is reducing waste in the first instance and diverting as many resources from landfill as possible. They recycle all cardboard, plastic wrap, strapping, glass, aluminium cans and mixed plastic. Producing 10 tonnes of non-toxic compostable label backing per year, they send this off to local farmers growers to repurpose it as bedding for their pigs and bobby calves, after which it is composted alongside any rejected fruit.

10 tonnes per annum of compostable label backing is repurposed as pig and bobby calve bedding before being composted. 

10 tonnes per annum of compostable label backing is repurposed as pig and bobby calve bedding before being composted. 

But one of the most noticeable initiatives is their efforts towards changing the mindset of their staff. Informal rules on site encourage staff to pack out what they pack in – outside of food scraps, staff are to take all of their waste home with them. This encourages staff to be both more conscious of the waste they produce, and to take responsibility for it.

Conversely, if staff purchase items from the cafeteria located on site, Trevelyan will actively take responsibility for it, recycling and disposing of it how they deem fit. This was one of the key themes coming from the Tread Lightly Initiative – businesses (not just people) need to take responsibility for the waste that they create.

But if it were not for people actively asking questions about how and why they operate the way they do, how can businesses like Trevelyan demonstrate leadership within both the community and sector, and encourage others to follow in their footsteps? The answer to this question is what Belinda hopes to uncover throughout her research journey. #howandwhywefarm

(Figures taken from the Trevelyan Global Reporting Initiative Report, 2018).