Holly Bagwell knows the best way to encourage people to live more sustainably is to lead by example. “I can never change people by telling them what to do,” she says. “I just do it and they’re like, ‘Oh hey, I’ll do that too.’” The 18-year-old has been showing her family, friends and peers how to enjoy a more sustainable lifestyle since she started a regenerative garden at Long Bay College in 2020.
From starting a worm farm to eating plant-based meals and joining a community group, Holly shares her sustainable choices to inspire you to give it a go.
Learn about regenerative gardening
Regenerative gardening—a method that uses plants and compost to improve soil quality, improve water resilience, and improve the nutrient density of food. In the process, it also minimises emissions and waste. “You build up soil health and that increases food security, because it makes gardens more drought-resistant,” Holly says. “It also makes it less susceptible to damage from floods.”
Not only can regenerative gardening help you grow your own food, it can also give you a deeper appreciation for food systems while also helping the planet.
Holly attended an Earthworkers regenerative gardening course run by environmental organisation For The Love of Bees. “I’m not a gardener,” she explains, “but I am really passionate about climate change. I use the garden as a tool to introduce people to solutions for climate change.”
Start a worm farm
“Worm farming is similar to the regenerative farming concept,” says Holly, who set up a worm farm at her family home. “It’s about getting rid of your food scraps and making some nice nutrients for the soil.”
When food scraps end up in landfill, their valuable nutrients are lost. Plus, organic waste produces methane gas as it rots, which contributes to climate change. Worm farms, however, can turn food scraps and garden waste into fertiliser, which you can use in the garden and helps to improve and maintain a healthy soil system.
Eat more plant-based meals
By reducing the amount of meat and dairy she eats, Holly has also reduced her carbon footprint. Agriculture is New Zealand’s biggest carbon emitter, so having a vegetarian meal once a week can save 73kg of CO2e emissions per year, according to Auckland Council’s website Live Lightly.
For delicious and easy recipes for plant-based meals, download the Different Dinners recipe booklet [PDF].
Pick up rubbish
Cleaning up litter is an easy action anyone can take. “When you go out, don’t just walk straight past bits of rubbish,” says Holly, who often collects rubbish at Long Bay Beach and other places where she walks her dog.
Plan your lunches
“I’ve started being more intentional about my lunch for the next day,” Holly says. “So I’ll plan ahead or take leftovers, instead of getting hungry and needing to go out and buy something in packaging.”
Having leftovers for lunch can also save you time and money. Keep your leftovers covered or in a sealed container in the fridge and eat them within two days.
Get involved in the community
Holly recommends surrounding yourself with others on a similar sustainability journey. “Go to community events and find like-minded people,” she says. “That’s where you keep hope going, otherwise it can feel quite isolating.”
Eco-Neighbourhoods, funded by local-boards, help to connect neighbours who want to learn about and take climate action, and have fun while doing it. Through activities and workshops you can learn how to grow food, cook more healthy, plant-based meals, make more climate-friendly transport choices, compost, minimise waste, set up pest control, and improve your home’s energy efficiency – all while getting support from your local community.
Holly’s final advice to anyone looking to live more sustainably is to start small.
“Find one thing, take the first step and make that change,” she says. “The more you start to live it, the more things you find to do.”
For more sustainable living inspiration and to find out more about Eco-Neighbourhoods, check out the Live Lightly website.