Potato plates, office bikes, wormfarms

Helen —  15/12/2009
At the start of 2009, I knew next to nothing about office greening. Almost 12 months on, as part of DOC’s sustainability team, it’s surprising what I’ve learnt.

I believe that sustainability can, and should, reach into every aspect of DOC’s business. And gradually, sometimes without staff even being aware that it is happening, DOC’s turning a darker shade of green. This departmental greening reaches from the paper we use everyday (now 80% recycled) to the lighting levels in our workplaces; includes foodscraps from people’s lunches ending up fattening the staff pig  or in the office wormfarm, and compostable picnic plates made from potato chip waste being used at community events.

But we are not stopping there. DOC looks after many islands and remote bits of New Zealand. Up until recently power to these places came courtesy of a diesel generator. These noisy, smelly, expensive-to-run machines are now thankfully part of DOC’s past. Solar panels and wind generators are providing silent sustainable power from as far south as Stewart Island to Mimiwhangata in the mid-North.

Powered by the sun – ranger’s house at Mimiwhangata. Photo by Righthouse

Chatham Islanders can now say “Goodbye” to noisy expensive diesel generators and “Hello” to silent sustainable solar power. Photo by Righthouse.

How have we managed to move so far so fast? Sustainability Champions in every DOC office throughout the country are part of the secret. Local folk acting sustainably locally. And their reward? Feeling they are making a difference, acknowledgement and prizes through our bi-annual DOC sustainability awards and the occasional Tradeaid chocolate bar!

But what about the office bike – surely this blog title isn’t serious? Well, yes, it is. Office bicycles are being ridden throughout the country – in Auckland allowing staff to commute between offices and out in rural areas for track inspections.

So, next time you see a DOC ranger on a bike, cheer him or her on. They’re doing their little bit to reduce carbon emissions and keeping fit at the same time – not a bad combo really!

Helen Ough Dealy



I've been a 'greenie' since I was 13 and tried, unsuccessfully, to save a local stream from being turned into concrete slipway. I love working alongside people of all ages, backgrounds and interests and in my DOC role as a biosecurity advocate - I get to talk with just about everyone about how they can help keep the islands of the eastern Bay of Islands pest-free.

11 responses to Potato plates, office bikes, wormfarms


    Nice article 🙂 Actually been wanting to switch to a bicycle as my main means of transport but I never learnt how to ride haha, second attempt time I think.


    Hey hunnie, nice website! I really appreciate this post.. I was wondering about this for a long time now. This cleared a lot up for me! Do you have a rss feed that I can add?

    Roger Fraile 28/01/2010 at 8:22 am

    Yeah you’re right! I’m looking forward to more of such discussions on your blog. Thanks. Regards, Roger


    Hi Helen
    As far as batteries are concerned – Interwaste will recycle those that can be recycled, and dispose of the otehrs safely. They can be contacted on http://www.interwaste.co.nz


    I’m trying to figure out how to connect the flickr photos to this website, any clues?


    Thank you for your complex answer. I realise I was asking a tricky question, now I know for sure! Paper seemed a good option, as everyone has plenty of it and there is an overseas market. But the paper needs to be sorted.
    Does anyone know if there is anything that can be done with batteries, both rechargables and ordinary alkaline etc? We all throw so many out and they all go to landfill. Is there anything that can be done with old batteries?
    Glass jars have become quite a sort after item in our shop The Green Hub. People preserving are looking for good-sized jars with lids, or no lids. Also home brewers are looking for bottles. Maybe there is a market for certain sized jars and bottles?
    The reason I am keen to sort this is:
    a. We have a shop
    b. We sell the perfect recycling bin made from cardboard, with a fitted lid. The recycling symbols go on them and help sort the recycling at source. They also make fabulous storage bins for clothes and toys.. They are custom-made and 250x250x600 tall. I will add some photos to the flickr board if I can, to show what I have done with them from an art point-of-view. They are a blank canvas. More importantly, they are a billboard for messages and information or advertising. The Green Hub would like to make these a standard sale item, but also use them for collecting whatever has the most value, hence my question, what is the most valuable thing we could collect?
    Cheers and please post me anything you think of.. Helen


    Hi Helen
    Lincoln from Interwaste sent the following information to me:
    Unfortunately there is no simple answer to the question of which recyclables to target as most recyclable products are essentially commodities and their values can vary greatly based on market demand etc. Paper and plastics can range up to a couple of hundred dollars a tonne for high grade product, metals can be anything up to a couple of thousand dollars a tonne but it depends on the specific metals and many have very little value. Things like batteries, fluoro lights and computers, i.e. those with hazardous components generally have a cost to dispose/recycle properly which is why there is usually a charge associated with their disposal. They often contain a mix of valuable components and hazardous components and the two can often offset each other, but you need to understand exactly what you are collecting and what they contain or you can get caught out with large disposal liabilities.

    Values for the commodities such as paper and plastic are also impacted by volumes and the manner in which they can be delivered to the recyclers. Lincoln suggests that it would be useful to do some investigation with the end purchasers of the products before jumping into it.

    Some other comments from Cait at Interwaste are: Batteries have to go offshore for recycling, the same with some of the components for computers. There are several places that take your computer for no charge – especially if you are doing a re-fit. You would need to collect a lot of paper to make it work and you couldn’t take sensitive data. It’s amazing the number of customers who want their records destroyed –even home users clearing out bank statements etc.

    A lot of people don’t expect to pay if you are recycling – they realize recycling is a good thing, but aren’t too keen to flash the cash. We have found this with home users especially with fluorescent lights and batteries.

    Hope that helps – keep up the good work! Helen (DOC sustainability team)


    Interesting to hear about the deeper green of DOC. We have just recently opened a resource recovery centre in Palmerston North called the Green Hub. We sell recycled and new bikes, electric bikes, recycled furniture and organic products,plants, makeup etc.
    The hardest process has been getting everyone to walk the walk and talk the talk. The skip bin out the back is all too tempting when you reach a recycling impasse.
    Our biggest problems have been broken plastic items and polystyrene.
    I would like to know, can anyone tell me, what do you think is the singlest most valuable item we can retrieve from the waste stream to recycle? We have a collection method, just don’t know what the best items to ask for for a good cash flow.Is it batteries, computers, paper, books, metal or what? we can gather volume, just need to know what to ask for.
    I would appreciate any suggestions.


      Thanks for your feedback Helen it sounds like you are doing a great job walking the walk and talking the talk. I can’t answer your question about the top things to recycle, but will make sure that Helen or one of the other members of the sustainability team do, I’m not sure who is back from leave yet. Keep up the great work. Cheers Ligs (DOC website team)


      Hi Helen Great to get your post. I will do some asking around for you and post my findings as soon as possible. Helen