Zero-waste blogger Amanda Chapman on the future of the community fridge
Zero-waste blogger Amanda Chapman discusses the community fridge project and her eco heroes.
Last year, zero-waste lifestyler Amanda Chapman opened New Zealand’s first community fridge in Auckland city to feed people in need and reduce food waste. Cafes, bakeries, businesses and individuals were invited to stock the fridge, at the corner of Mayoral Drive and Wellesley St West, with their excess and unsold food. Chapman ran the fridge with volunteers as a trial in conjunction with Auckland City Council.
The Fridge closed in December but reopened this February thanks to popular demand. The council provided the fridge, which was salvaged from an inorganic waste collection, the city site, and funding through their ‘Love Food Hate Waste’ fund. It is open 24 hours a day to anyone in need.
The project sparked a groundswell of interest in the city and around the country, with fellow New Zealanders contacting Chapman to find out how they could set up a fridge in their own communities.
Chapman, who is 25, has a Bachelor of Science in Geography & Environmental Science and a Postgraduate Diploma in Environmental Science, writes about her zero-waste lifestyle at wastefreeadventures.blogspot.co.nz.
With New Zealand throwing away more than an estimated $900 million worth of food annually, the community fridge is one approach to reducing the problem.
How did you find the community fridge experience?
The community fridge was incredibly successful; I had no idea it would be so huge. I was, and am still, constantly being contacted by people wanting to be involved or start their own fridge. The coverage and positive feedback was rewarding but overwhelming. I thought the hardest part would be setting up the fridge, but it was actually trying to keep up with the fridge, while working full time and trying to juggle everything else. I had a lot of help from friends and would not have been able to do it alone.
The community fridge reopened in February, how is the project running second time around?
The fridge re-opened in mid February, thanks to the efforts of Council and volunteers. The fridge is being maintained by volunteers in conjunction with myself and Council’s waste team. We Compost now also provide our composting services free of charge, and New World Metro donate daily, we have volunteers who pick up these donations.
What are your thoughts about the amount of waste New Zealanders generate?
It can be hard to see people being wasteful, but I think a lot of it comes down to personal circumstances and lack of awareness. I try to lead by example and educate people on how they can reduce their waste, both food and landfill. It really comes down to big business and government, though, they should be doing more to protect the environment and minimise large-scale waste and packaging.
Is waste a cultural construction?
There are some small local businesses that are doing what they can to reduce waste from their products – this is a good place for people to start with their waste reduction. Consumer pressure is needed to help sway the larger businesses. I find the current consumer culture we are in terrifying. The waste issue won’t go away quickly; plastic is a lasting legacy. I won’t step foot in a mall unless I absolutely have to… there are already so many products that many people don’t need
Who are your eco heroes and why?
Bea Johnson [a Frenchwoman who lives in California] started the blog Zero Waste Home and wrote the book of the same name. The family of four produces one small Mason jar of waste each year.
Rob Greenfield is an extreme minimalist and environmentalist. He has cycled across the USA twice, donated most of his money to charity, he dumpster dives, has lived in a tiny house and wore all of the trash he made for a whole month. I recommend his blog and book Dude Making a Difference and his TED talk on food waste. Candace Weir is a fellow New Zealander who I met after reading her blog, Waste-less Living. As a mum of three, her waste-less journey is pretty impressive.