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UC student on a mission to make Aotearoa waste-free

02 May 2024

Compost enthusiast and UC Science student Jessica Lamb has sky-high ambitions – she wants to convert Aotearoa New Zealand to a circular economy.


While earning her Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree in Environmental Science and Geography from Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha | University of Canterbury (UC), Jess also aims to increase composting and get more native nature into our cities to help shape a more biodiverse and sustainable Aotearoa. 

Growing up close to a forest in Rotorua, Jess formed a passion for trail running and fell in love with the nature that surrounded her. Her environment inspired Jess to live more sustainably and devote her time to making Aotearoa New Zealand a better place. It was through her first job in sustainability at the Rotorua Lakes Council and through volunteering with the Rotorua branch of Forest & Bird that Jess began her waste-reduction journey.  

“One day I was wondering where all my waste was going, and I realised it was all just going into this hole in the ground and that was just not acceptable.”  

Jess started to reduce her waste one thing at a time, starting with phasing out plastic foodwrap.  

“A lot of people think it doesn’t matter but it does,” she says. “Even if it feels like you’re not making a difference going to a refillery like Bin Inn and filling up one jar of peanut butter and refraining from using plastic, it all adds up. It’s not just about the action that you're diverting plastic from the landfill but about the ripple effects of others seeing what you’re doing and inspiring them, too.”  

Since then, Jess has done a lot of mahi to make Aotearoa more sustainable, including her current internship at Without Waste.  She says one of her favourite aspects of her internship is managing the social media accounts, which means she gets to make content based on the environmental issues and solutions that she is learning about in her degree.

Already part of UC’s Sustainability team assisting with composting, Jess and her twin sister Kaitlyn Lamb – who is also studying for her BSc at UC – started the UC Compost Club for other students to join and learn together. The Compost Club’s mission is making composting more accessible and commonplace for students both on campus and at their flats. 

Jess, who is also the co-president of the Compost Club, says, “Composting, especially localised decentralised composting, is super important in terms of creating sustainable cities.” 

“Composting is a circular system because nothing goes to waste, and it regenerates te taiao (nature) rather than degenerates her. The whole circular economy is based on this model where resources are shared, reused, and recycled so that materials stay within the production system for as long as possible – as a result creating minimal to zero waste. 

“If we had a distribution system of decentralised and centralised composting hubs around the motu, it would mean that all food scraps would be composted and used in growing food, rather than ending up in a landfill as ‘waste’ where it's not only a wasted resource but contributes to environmental degradation and the climate crisis,” Jess says. 

With International Compost Awareness Week approaching, the Club is busy hosting multiple events in addition to their Backyard Flat Composting scheme and the Container Return Scheme, such as a film night and a sustainability quiz event. Check their socials for more here.

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