Tiaki te taiao // caring for our environment

"We do not inherit the land from our tīpuna; we borrow it from our tamariki."


it starts in the mind

You know that moment when the light switches on in your head? Where perspective-shifting leads to energy uplifting this want to act, your ignorance attacked but your humanity intact, in fact potentially reawakened from a slumber we all fell into, finally hearing our taiao's call to renew our maanakitanga towards her. That was me, just now. On December 24th at 12:33pm, inspiration for this piece — which had been sitting as a title with no words for the last three months — appeared in the form of a Netlfix doco, Chasing Coral.

A ridiculously epic masterpiece of visual art, Chasing Coral follows marine biologists as they try to stop the 3rd and largest mass extinction of coral reefs across the world. I didn't realise it before I saw this doco, but corals are such cool animals (āe, they are animals) who although may seem fairly simple on the outside, are so incredibly detailed and awesome on the inside. They're a lot like Te Ao Māori in that while we're all individuals, our collective comes first. Corals are collectives made up of all these individual lil suction-cup like creatures called Polyps and millions can inhabit a single coral structure, kinda like an oceanic iwi. Attached to the skeleton of the coral, the Polyps' tissue houses millions upon millions of micro-algae (the stuff giving the coral its vibrant colour) that photosynthesise to create food for the Polyps. Essentially, coral have their own inbuilt food factory. How cool right? Imagine never needing to eat again...

The sad thing for these guys is that they're dying out faster than ever and if we don't do something, all of the world's coral will be dead before some of us reach 40, others before 35. Warmer waters from climate change mean the micro-algae in the Polyps are unable to photosynthesise properly, making the coral sick. Reacting to sickness just like our bodies do, coral go through this process called bleaching where they essentially throw up all of the micro-algae that aren't working as they should, turning the coral white. Just like how not eating after a severe flu isn't good for us, coral that go without micro-algae for too long eventually die. Given 25% of ocean life rely on coral to survive, that's frighteningly scary. Even more so was that I didn't know about the predicament facing coral, or what coral actually were let alone care about them. After that doco though, I was thinking, how could I save the coral? How could I get others to care about this too? And as my mind was racing with ideas, I realised that the first step in caring for our taiao — or caring about anything for that matter — is simply caring in itself.

That may seem easy enough, and it is, but we need to clarify the kind of caring we’re talking about. Have you ever noticed that there's a slight difference between caring, and caring to the point where we do something? For most of 2017, I wrestled with the idea of becoming vego; I cared to the point where I was aware of the need to change, but not enough to where I was willing to create that change my own life. A lot of that had to do with my complete ignorance as to what these poor creatures often go through (which I’m now a lot more glued up on). The suicide stats among our rangatahi Māori on the other hand, that has had my full care and attention; it was the reason I started FFTV and it's the reason I'm so determined to make sure our rangatahi have the media representation they deserve. We all have those passions, people or kaupapa we would do anything or give anything for. When it comes to our taiao, knowledge really is power — it's the power to motivate and transform passive caring into active, doing-something-about-it caring. If you're not in that active-caring space yet but you want to be, surround yourself with a couple of others who actively care for the taiao, which was how I started out, or watch a doco or two. Think of the most environmental person you know and ask them why they care so much. If you've got Netflix, watch Chasing Coral or if you don't, watch Nat Geo's Before The Flood with Leonardo DiCaprio (links to both are at the bottom). Any of these will encourage you towards that space where caring becomes action, and if this piece caught your attention in the first place, you're already on your way e hoa! Karawhiua!



from mindset to mahi

Action or inaction flows out from the mindsets or perspectives we have on different kaupapa. Once we have our mindset where we want it to be, all that's left is sussing out practical ways that allow our mahi to line up with it. Below are some awesome spaces that help people to reduce their daily plastic usage. Hai whakamōhio noa (just so you know), all of these I've either checked out myself, made myself or had recommended to me by friends; none of the businesses have sponsored me to promote them. That being said, I am really stoked to be able to point you in their direction because they're doing awesome mahi and at the end of the day, buying their products is literally saving our taiao one less piece of plastic at a time.

Also before you get started, a heads up e hoa: the process of reducing your plastic consumption will be inconvenient and hōhā at times, there will be moments you just want to choose the easier option. Acknowledge it, decide what's more important to you in that moment and keep going. Inconvenience comes with the kaupapa — either we feel it or the taiao does — and for so long it's been what's easiest for us. Let's be the ones who change that.

If you're stumped on where to start, the essentials are always a good go to — a solid shampoo, conditioner, body wash bar or deodorant can instantly shave off up to four plastic items right there. Also a keep cup, bamboo toothbrush or tooth powder which last FOREVER (I got mine in May and I'm still only half way through). Being a minimalistic gal my whakaaro is always go for the essentials first, see how you like them and then branch out from there. 


Eco friendly cosmetics and self care stuff:

If it's a treat yo self kind of day 
Ethique - this was recommended to by a mate who LOVES their products and what they're about. The only reason I haven't tried them is because of the price; Ethique's shampoo and conditioner bars go for $22-$25 for 60g, but you can get Dirty Hippie's shampoo bars for $8 and they're 80g. Easy decision for me but I've heard rave reviews about the product itself so if you think it's worth the pūtea, kai a koe!
Lush - I've just started actually getting into their products. I've used their conditioner bars ever since I switched to bars, but their soaps and scrubs are legit too. Definitely a bit more pūtea for these, but they smell incredible and are a great alternative.

When you want to save the taiao but have a student budget
Dirty Hippie - I'm slowly working my way through their entire product range and I've loved everything except their stick deodorant (it didn't work for me, but then no natural deodorants have yet either — if you have any recommendations pā mai!). These guys are my mains for toothbrushes, tooth powder, shampoo and body bars, steel straws, steel razors, pretty much everything. Recommend x1000. 


Eco friendly packaging:
LilyBee Wrap - I've made beeswax wraps before and they are way better than gladwrap. It's literally cotton material soaked in melted beeswax that you leave to dry for five minutes and then wullah. Done. To be fair my ones were pretty rough around the edges (literally - the beeswax dried around the edges of the cloth haha) so if you don’t want to do it DIY but are after some alternative packaging, something from these guys will do the trick. 
Make your own beeswax wraps - if you want to try your hand at making some DIY style, here's a recipe that's pretty close to the one I did. It's also great to do with some mates so that you can all encourage each other to keep reducing plastic use while having a fun time and getting some practical stuff out of it too.


Eco-friendly menstrual products:
My Cup - a friend and I had a really in depth kōrero about how she used these and for her they worked easy as once you got used to it after a few times. I myself haven't tried them but many mates have echoed the same whakaaro that these are a really good alternative.
Whatakrakka Fancy Pads - As soon as these guys are back in stock, I’ll be giving their products a go. A friend who uses them gave her recommendation after she made the switch and while I definitely have reservations, the fact that pads create so much extra waste each month on top of costing an extra $5+ for what’s still unbelievably called a ‘luxury item’ is what’s getting me to try them.


Kia ora for taking the time to read this! I hope it's helped you reflect on your mindset towards our taiao and given you ways to better care for her in your day to day living.

Got any whakaaro or other mahi you do to help care for our taiao? Tag Fruit From The Vine in your socials or with the hashtags #kiatiakitetaiao 🌱


Ngā mihi e hoa mā,



Watch Chasing Coral here (if you have Netflix)
Watch Before The Flood here