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Source: Eastern Institute of Technology – Tairāwhiti

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Over the past four years, Janine Kennedy, better known as Neen, has “grown” into Central Hawke’s Bay’s green guru. In 2016, Neen completed a Certificate in Land Based Sustainable Practice at EIT’s Regional Learning Centre in Waipukurau. This was also the year when the former IT specialist started her journey towards an off-the-grid life.

17 years ago, Neen and her family moved from Wellington to CHB for “a change of lifestyle”. Initially, the new lifestyle didn’t involve zero-waste practices or community work. But then the family started to ponder about going green, eating home grown spray-free veggies and eggs from happy chickens roaming around in their garden – and slowly habits were changed.

“I had to learn a lot and it was quite challenging. However, we have to up our game to give our children and grandchildren a future,” she says.

Neen created a Facebook group and the website The Sustainable Ewe and researched on how to live environmentally friendly. The EIT programme helped her a lot, she says. “Our tutors were awesome and so inspirational. I can only recommend the course as it really arms people for a sustainable life.”

Now, Neen keeps chickens and grows her own fruit and veggies, e.g. apples, peaches, plums, lemons berries, olives and fejioas. She bottles and dehydrates her produce to stock up the jar cupboard, and even built her own solar dehydrator.

One year ago, Neen started a food grade bucket rescue mission. “It’s almost criminal that all these buckets would go to landfill.” Neen uses the buckets to create Bokashi composting kits which she donates to schools, ECEs and marae and sells to the public. “I love Bokashi, it’s the lazy people’s answer to composting. 42% of the stuff going to landfill is food. Thanks to Bokashi nothing is wasted and the Bokashi by-product are a fantastic fertilizer.” 

Her Facebook group shares ideas on how to reduce waste and provide trash with a second life, e.g. zero waste kids’ lunches, making eco-friendly laundry powder and soap, using old pallets to build funky furniture. Neen is also holding workshops on how to make beeswax wraps, bug hotels and use Bokashi bins.

Before the country went it into lockdown, Neen was picking up food from the local supermarkets and the Waipukurau community garden. The food was then distributed among people in need, another way of avoiding that things go to waste. “I was always quite a shy and introverted person,” Neen admits, “but this whole journey really made me break out of my comfort zone.”