The first place we stayed during our amazing study abroad program was a small, connected, and beautiful surfer town called Raglan. I have been looking for a town like this for twelve years. First off, it is the greenest place I have ever seen. It has the most inclusive and loving culture that everybody partakes in. People wave hi and start a conversation with any random person (exactly like how my grandma (Yaya) does… 24/7). They love and include everybody no matter their background or their presentation, and are incredibly sustainable in all that they do-nobody rushes in anything. The first comment we were told when we arrived in New Zealand was the fact that “nobody runs in New Zealand. If you run, everybody will know you’re American,” from one of the airport helper guides. That is still a “running” joke (pun intended) in this group, especially when we decide to go workout in the mornings. Amongst all of the amazing qualities Raglan has to offer, one of the most important ones is the fact that they are one of the leading towns that focus on sustainability. Raglan is not only environmentally sustainable but also creates sustainable relationships and a creative economic system.
Environmentally, they have seen and worked hard to reduce and recycle garbage, eliminate the sewage that runs off into the water that eradicates ecosystems, and regenerate this beautiful planet. In order to do this, Raglan has many programs and practices that have taken off the past few years. The programs include: Plastic Bag Free Raglan, XTREME ZERO WASTE, KASM, Bag It, Whaingaroa Environmental Center and the practices include: a plethora of permaculture farms and Conservation programs.
Plastic Bag Free Raglan deals with the fact that plastic is a man-made creation that is incredibly toxic and has caused numerous problems with the earth. Did you know that plastic takes approximately 1,000 years to “go away.” Plastic is the number one single-use consumer product in the world. 40% of plastic bags don’t make it to landfills. Plastic already has a huge health threat to everybody and everything in this world, but the fact that garbage is disposed into landfills and then ends up getting into the earth where we get our water and grow our food out of has exponentially increased the threat because it is affecting us right now. There are so many tons of plastic in the ocean that scientists have found micro-plastics in the digestive system of phytoplankton all the way up to the Blue Whale. Every time a sea creature devours another, this multiplies the amount of plastic that is in each creature all the way up to when we consume them. Imagine how much plastic is in our bodies. The principles of Plastic Bag Free Raglan deal with the combination of convincing every store to sell sustainable bags of cloth, jute, or any other reusable material that will not be trashed after reaching one’s home. XTREME ZERO WASTE focuses on composting, reselling clothes and furniture that have been tossed out, and recycling plastic. KASM stands for: Kiwis Against Seabed Mining. This organization fights against Seabed Mining as it destroys and displaces the habitats of the seabed creatures and creates noise pollution, among many other problems. Bag It creates bags for people to use instead of plastic bags with tossed aside fabric made from clothes, blankets, curtains, etc. The Whaingaroa Environmental Center backs up all of the sustainable and conservation organizations. Permaculture regenerates the land while the conservation programs protects native wildlife by trapping for non-indigenous predators.
Raglan was the most hospitable, welcoming, and loving community that I have ever experienced. Anybody will say hello and start a conversation with everybody. The community completely supports local events, businesses, and teams. They also don’t care about surface level aspects of life. They treat each other so well and always increase their strong connections with others.
Another sustainable practice that they incorporate into their lives is this addition to the economic system where they have multiple banks that do not include cash. They created a Time Bank, which calculates the time that someone spends volunteering and helping an organization and then they can use that built up time to spend it somewhere else. For example, if someone spent an hour making bags for Bag It to give out to people, they can use that allotted time to get a massage by the local masseuse. People get something in return for doing something good for the community which is a win-win situation for everybody. They have multiple “banks and pools” that help out the community but the Time Bank caught my attention the most.
Overall, Raglan has been the most memorable town on this trip. Everything that this town focuses on helps the environment and builds connection with every person. Raglan is just simply sustainable.