Sustainable Day

It is so amazing that we are able to have college field trips on the other side of the world to learn about sustainability practices.  It really makes a difference to be able to learn about many methods and regulations for sustainability dealing with energy, waste, food, and diversity.  Learning about the unique systems of Australia and New Zealand forms comparisons in my mind.  Our final paper topic incorporates these observations of sustainability between the countries.  There is no better way of learning by these observations with first hand experiences.

This morning, November 14, we took the bus to the West Wind  Farm.  It a large field in Makara that had open pastures and wind turbines sweeping the land unto the shores of Cook’s Straight.  Off of the bus, we celebrated my roomie, Phil’s 21st birthday, with muffins (birthday drinks to come later).  We then set out to hike around.  The land was so natural and green.  It’s been different seeing so much grass, New Zealand has much more fertile soil and weather to support these growing conditions.  The views of the ocean were also amazing as the land dropped off the edge.  Even more special, was the rare occurrence of a solar eclipse in the southern hemisphere.  From where we were, we were able to a partial eclipse, 75%, at 10:34.  The weather was perfect for supporting our viewing.  We were given two sheets of paper and a pin to make a hole in one to create a pin-hole observation.  The point of this is to allow the sunlight to come through an opening and shine on another surface – so that you don’t look directly at the sun.  Since the moon was passing in front of the sun, it created a shadow on the paper.  We watched as the crest slowly got smaller and smaller.  We played around with different methods – making multiple holes, making words (HWSUC), looking through the large scope, and playing with our hands.  Even cooler were a pair of solar glasses that we borrowed from another group.  With them on, you could look directly at the sun and see where the moon was covering it.  It was really special to observe this phenomenon.

My HWSUC Eclipse

Then came our wind turbine discussion.  We learned lots about this specific site – there are 62 turbines that can potentially generate 142 megawatts, enough to power 70,000 homes.  However, since wind isn’t always present, its expected to reach this capacity 47% of the time.  This rate is still much higher than turbines in the States.  It was also interesting to learn about how they transported the materials there to build such large structures.  We continued the morning by hiking around.  Lauren and I hiked down the steep Makara walkway to Opau Bay, had lunch, and pulled ourselves back up the hill.

Wind Farm

Energy is a large aspect of sustainability and inherently it produces waste.  To learn about the other side of this, we have studied waste systems in Australia.  To compare it to New Zealand, our next stop was to the Wellington area’s landfill.  We unloaded the bus right in front of a Secondhand treasure store.  We quickly made the connection that it was related to the landfill as it was part of a recycling effort.  We toured and learned about the other parts of recycling – plastics, paper, aluminum.  We learned about hazardous waste, compost, methane collection on the rest of the tour around the different stages of the landfill.  It didn’t smell particularly great so I’m excited to go up north to Tongariro tomorrow for some fresh air!

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