Less television, more gardening suggested

Spending more time gardening, and a little less time watching television would help New Zealanders reduce their ecological footprint, Otago Polytechnic manager Ella Lawton suggests.

Ms Lawton, research manager at the polytechnic's Centre for Sustainable Practice at Wanaka, was selected from more than 50 applicants to become one of three guest speakers at a national sustainability forum in Wellington late last week.

Organised by the Royal Society of New Zealand, the forum focused on the ''Sustainable Carrying Capacity of New Zealand'', and the society launched two sustainability-related discussion papers during the event.

The papers noted New Zealand had continued to achieve economic growth but the environmental impact had been heavy.

Ms Lawton, who is also an Otago Polytechnic doctoral candidate, had discussed her main research project, the New Zealand Footprint Project, and ''achieved what I wanted to achieve'' in the talk, she said later.

Over the past three years, she has been working in collaboration with Victoria University of Wellington and the Auckland Council on the Government-funded footprint project.

In her talk, she highlighted Statistics New Zealand figures that showed New Zealanders spent an average of 19.6% of their waking life working and another 14% watching television.

She emphasised that she was not opposed to television and did not begrudge hard-working people the chance to relax by watching television programmes.

But New Zealanders had produced an excessively large ecological footprint, and more ''available time'' had to be found in order to reduce the impact on the environment.

And some of the time spent watching television could be used for other things, including gardening.

She had highlighted ''localisation'' and pointed to the benefits of using our backyards and parks to grow food more sustainably.

john.gibb@odt.co.nz

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