Working for a better planet

22:32, May 07 2012
tdn radar
Take one step at a time, says Te Radar

After 30 minutes with Te Radar, you want to head home, stick your hands in the soil and feel worms squirm over your fingers.

His enthusiasm for getting people to do their bit for the world is so compelling, so convincing, so damn infectious that you can't help but be influenced.

Just for a second, it's easy to understand the power of evangelists. But Te Radar's just a regular guy, albeit with ginger mutton-chop sideburns, unruly matching hair and black-rimmed glasses.

Also, his voice doesn't have the resonance of a classic pulpit preacher. There's just no fire and brimstone, no "I've been to the mountain top" power in its pitch.

It's higher, has a strong Kiwi twang and comes out at speed. He's on deadline you see - it is Saturday afternoon and he is in New Plymouth to host a panel discussion at Puke Ariki about who is hero or villain - Titokowaru or von Tempsky. Right now, Te Radar, aka Andrew Lumsden, is the hero of sustainability, calling for us all to cut down our consumption.

"A simple thing is having a meatless day," he says. "Not everyone wants to do it and it can be hard. Sometimes I eat meat three times a day. You have something at breakfast and a bit of ham in your lunch."


Your World has learnt there is a global movement called Meatless Mondays, which will need to be explored in a future story. Back to Te Radar, who has moved on to outputs.

"The first thing I would do would be to get the organics out of the rubbish and stop it leaving my property. Worm farms don't tend to smell. I know people who are in apartments and have got them under their benches, so you can keep them there.

For people in houses with backyards, worm farms are definitely an option.

"Lots of people don't want to have a compost bin because they think the rats might get in or it will bring in nasty things. But the worms will take care of that. If there are a few mice in your worm bin, well that all helps with your biodiversity anyway. They can be cute or buy a cat, although they do eat birds."

Swiftly - he is a fast talker this man - he moves on to growing things. "You don't need to have any land to have a garden." People can plant tomatoes, lettuces, any vegetables in cheap pots, buckets, any type of containers and have them on verandas, decks and in courtyards.

"Not everyone has the time or the energy or desire to have a garden, but you can have a range of little herbs. You don't need to keep going to the supermarket and keep buying those little pottles of fresh herbs," he says.

"Get a little area. It can be a small box or crate, just a little sunny nook somewhere and those are all there." Now comes Te Radar's No 1 piece of advice: "My big thing is small achievable steps.

"If you want to go the whole way and you want to plant a really big garden, that's a really great goal. But, if you attempt to do it all immediately and it becomes daunting you have less desire to do it.

"I always tell people to choose an easily achievable goal and get that one right and get it finished and then move on to something else.

"The other thing is you may not necessarily want to grow vegetables. Currently, I'm growing an enormous amount of flowers because they are relatively low maintenance and I'm away all the time." Te Radar says he has returned home to swathes of colour. "They're really pretty - I like looking at flowers." Also, the flowers bring bees, which are needed for his fruit trees.

"I have a dwarfchid." A what?

"It's a mini orchid. So I've got mini apple trees, mini lemon trees, mini lime trees," he says. "I've got a dozen or so trees on a small section and they are prolific fruiters. They aren't that expensive, so for the price of a few bags of apples you can have your own apple tree." He says to walk around your section and see if you have a sunny wall to plant a passionfruit vine and if you are looking at putting in a hedge, choose something that produces fruit like feijoas.

Te Radar says it's important to share produce with friends and workmates; not let it go to waste. If you know of an elderly relative or friend who has fruit trees, go and pick their fruit for them and see if the excess can be given to those in need like the Salvation Army.

"One of the best things you can do is meet your neighbours. You might have something they want and vice versa."

Keep chickens to get fresh eggs, but check the bylaws with your local council first.

Insulate your house, lag your hot-water pipes and cylinder and carefully look into what government assistance there is for this.

Turn off lights in all rooms and then Te Radar heads to the bathroom. Not literally.

"Heated towel rails, they're the thing, they use a lot of power. What's wrong with just a towel rail? They are a luxury. I don't have one. I am often jealous of people who do have one on a cold morning."

Te Radar is also a fan of supporting small local businesses, like micro-breweries, green- grocers, butchers and farmers' markets. "It gets people talking within their communities, so if issues come up you already know the people, you are not having to create a relationship about something, there's already a dialogue already happening there," he says.

"And I think it's more fun. Why would you want to buy some mass- produced product if you could go to a school fair and buy some marmalade or honey that someone has gone to the effort of making?" His big thing is talking to people at places like the farmers' market, seeing new produce and finding out what to do with it.

People need to agitate for change too he says. Ring up your local supermarket and ask why it doesn't have fair trade bananas or free-range chicken. Or if a shop is serving food in containers that can't be recycled ask them to change or offer them alternatives.

He's huge on communication.

"Sit down and have dinner with members of your household. We don't often have conversations any more."

Turn off the TV, don't have cellphones or laptops at the table and ask each other about their day and their week, because this improves people's sense of wellbeing.

In the same breath he says: "The internet is really good for ideas, particularly if you have got kids. I don't have any, but they look useful."

Let them take the lead to find projects on the internet, like planting tyre potato gardens. This will help them connect with where the food comes from.

"Living is supposed to be fun as much as possible, otherwise it would be a bit dull with a lot of drudgery and nobody wants that - masochists maybe. A lot of that goes back to not biting off too much in the beginning."

When starting out, make a list and break things down to easily achievable steps.

"Because what happens is when you look at something as a whole, even if it's getting a worm farm, it can all seem too daunting. But if you say to yourself all I'm going to do today is go on to the internet and find about worm farms."

Make sure when you do order your worms that you have a home for them to live in. "It's a great moment liberating your worms, but remember to feed them."

His other big tip is: Don't be afraid to fail. "If your potatoes die, don't despair, that's gardening. Give it a go next season."

Taranaki Daily News