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Community group hopes to slash emissions with e-trikes

Tuesday 12 Apr 22 11:00am

Toha Kai kaitiaki Michael Reynolds. Photo: Neil Macbeth

By Liz Kivi

A CHRISTCHURCH community organisation supplying organic veggies to low-income households is crowdfunding for cargo e-trikes to cut carbon emissions from their deliveries.

Toha Kai launched the givealittle campaign on March 29 to raise $35,000 for two fully kitted out cargo e-trikes, to replace the courier vans they currently use. The campaign has already raised over $10,000 and they have until Friday to reach the $35,000 goal.

Toha Kai kaitiaki (steward) Michael Reynolds says a trial they did in September with Action Bicycle Club showed switching to e-trike delivery had the potential to save more than 4 tonnes of carbon annually, as well as completing the deliveries faster and providing local employment.

Reynolds says although 4 tonnes seems like a small amount, it could lead the way for bigger reductions. “It does give us a starting point to figuring out how small freight can be moved around this city without emissions.”

He says Simon Kingham, Canterbury University Professor of Human Geography, is interested in running a viability and impacts study on Toha Kai’s switch to cargo e-trikes, so the low-emissions deliveries could become a model for other businesses.

With recent overseas studies showing that deliveries by cargo bike are faster in city centres, and that up to 51% of freight in cities could be replaced by this method, Reynolds says that’s what New Zealand should be aiming for. “If we could achieve the same thing here, then we should - we should do that!”

Reducing carbon a logical step

Reynolds says reducing carbon is a logical step in line with the community organisation’s kaupapa. “Toha Kai is already focusing on many elements of the kai supply chain to seek out and implement the most environmentally and socially responsible practices, so this is a move that makes a lot of sense for us.”

He says Toha Kai has already taken steps to lower its carbon footprint by working with “the most environmentally responsible growers” in Canterbury, sourcing produce almost exclusively within New Zealand, shortening the time between harvest and delivery to reduce refrigeration energy costs, and reducing plastic.

Their packaging is supplied by Innocent Packaging. “Since we’ve started using their services we’ve saved over 26,000 pieces of plastic,” Reynolds says.

Toha Kai grew out of Reynold’s work with Woolston community garden Roimata Commons, and the realisation that organic produce was out of reach for people in the lower socio-economic communities of Christchurch’s east, both in terms of affordability and accessibility. “The supermarkets just don’t sell local organic produce.”

The boxes range from $25 for single people or couples, to $70 for up to 8 people, and prices include delivery. Reynolds says Toha Kai is run with “super-low-margins” to keep the produce affordable for families on tight budgets.

They are currently delivering between 45 and 55 boxes a week, and are aiming to grow to 100 deliveries by the end of 2022, while keeping their deliveries local to Woolston and neighbouring suburbs Linwood and New Brighton. “If we can get 2 e-trikes we’d be in a position to move almost all our deliveries away from fossil fuels.”

Scaling up to be fossil fuel-free

Toha Kai started in June 2021 and Reynolds is proud that they could be nearly fossil fuel-free in their first year. “It wasn’t a box I thought we’d be able to tick. I’m chuffed with the amount of growth that we’ve had. We started at 20 boxes a week and we’ve just really organically let it grow to a scale that requires us to look at some of these other aspects.”

Reynolds says last week’s IPCC report hammered home the need for easily implemented solutions to climate change. “This is one of those. It’s not a huge amount of money at all. Although the bikes are expensive at $17,000 kitted out, we looked into a delivery van that would be a hybrid-electric situation - that was going to be $90,000 plus on-road costs and insurance. And we’d still probably be using some fossil fuels to move it around as well. That’s a lot less achievable for us as a small not-for-profit organisation.”

He says his daughters, aged nine and 12, are part of his motivation for trying to find solutions to climate change. “I think it’s really, really unfair for the generations that now have the ability to choose to do things differently to not do it. There is generation after generation of passing the buck and it’s not good enough any more, especially when the solutions exist.”

Reynolds is hoping everyone can be part of the solution. “It’s just a mindset switch, that’s all it is. It’s not hard, it’s just doing things differently, which is obviously the problem with climate change all over. It’s just too easy to keep doing things the same way.”

Story copyright © Carbon News 2022
Related Topics: Agriculture | Clean tech | Low carbon


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