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Recently I launched my new children’s book Wiremu Weka Treks the Alps in the Tauranga Art Society rooms. Being an artist as well as a writer, and seeing I had to have a themed cake and no time, I asked the award-winning bakery at New World Brookfield to make a large rectangular one, in chocolate. Then I iced it with cream cheese icing and let my creative talents have play.

I found a 3-pronged stick from a pruned shrub, sterilised it with boiling water and dipped it in cocoa. After a couple of practice prints in a saucer of extra icing, I got the hang of it. I felt like a child, making weka footprints, dirty footprints at that, all over my cake. ‘Oh, bugs’n’beetles’, as Wiremu Weka would say. ‘It does look good’.

As weka make little collections of things they fancy, I had a little collection of taonga (treasures) on one corner, the brightest of my co-resident’s own collection of semi-precious stones. And did that cake taste good! Thanks, New World.

This week I had two opportunities to consider my own environmental footprint as well. I had a baby car seat to dispose of. My granddaughter had grown out of it. Nearby was a business that dealt with products like these, but no, it was too close to the use-by date, but they could recycle it for me.

‘Great,’ I said as we took it inside the shop.

‘It cost $25,’ said the assistant.

‘What?!’ I squeaked, then ashamed I couldn’t afford to do the job properly, I took it back, bought two rubbish bags and put the seat in one and the back in another. It will end up in the landfill. Another example of how we are behind the world in proper methods and places for recycling our resources.

The next story I read in Noted, the digital side of North & South magazine, great to read in the bus or train on the way home from work or shopping. My co-resident and I have a lawn issue – it’s costing too much to mow every two weeks. The headline that grabbed me:

Why you should mow your lawn less often to help the planet

This weekend, every weekend over summer, the hum of insects will be drowned out by the roar of thousands of lawnmowers. Our obsession with manicured, herbicide- and pesticide-controlled lawns has created green spaces “barren of beetle and bee” that contaminate groundwater and create more greenhouse gases than they soak up.

Read it here:

When I read this part of the long but interesting story, I totally accepted one mow a month. I’m a writer for the environment and species that have no voice. I’m especially concerned at the devastation that is likely to happen without our bees.

Bee motivated

‘Just mowing grass every three to four weeks rather than every fortnightly, Burns says, will encourage more diversity and allow lawns to produce flowers that attract more pollinators and support bee populations.

“People think of lawn as an unchanging green tablecloth, but there’s enormous biodiversity associated with lawns – a whole range of flowers that attract birds and insects that live in our lawns and, underground, all the fungi and the whole biota associated with those ecosystems. So, the idea is to maintain the lawns but reduce the costs and increase the benefits.” Intensely managed short-cropped lawns are still the best option for such large areas as sports fields, “but there are edges of our parks and golf courses that could be less managed or managed for other values. We have enough grassland to try to manage different areas in different ways.”

Where lawns have been left to their own devices, the ecological changes are dramatic.

Last year, artist and environmentalist Adrienne Grant teamed up with the Hamilton City Council to mark out 13 large circles of grass across five of the city’s public parks that were not to be mown or tended in any way. Five months later, the inverted crop circles were bursting with grasses, clover, chamomile, wildflowers, bees and other insects.

“I had no idea what was going to grow there, but just letting the grass do its thing, giving the plants the ability to flourish – it was outstandingly beautiful,” says Grant.’

My friend Noel Peterson, the Green Wizard of Bluff lets his lawn grow but does mow the berm for his neighbour’s sake.

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