Engaging the community through high school students

In 2012, a Ministry for the Environment Waste Minimisation Fund project was set up called 'Up the Pipe solutions' . This project built on the previous existing partnerships with the Kaikōura District Council, Te Rūnanga ō Kaikōura and wider community from prior biowaste colloborations.

Up the Pipe is designed to raise awareness, characterise behaviours, and provide learning resources that can support behaviour change in the use of household cleaning and personal care products, thinking about the ingredients that go down the drain and ultimately end up in the environment. The project uses children as the ‘investigators” – therefore engaging the school, the families and the students (our future generation). 

First stage of the project:

The students were given a survey to fill in that required them to identify products in their laundry, kitchen or bathroom that had ingredients they did not recognise or were concerned about, and to interview a parent or caregiver who was the primary household shopper about their motivations for purchasing household cleaning or personal care products.

Second stage of the project: 

A short film was produced:


The film is an excellent resource that helped introduce and explain the ‘Up the Pipe’ topic, and give greater grounding and context for the survey exercise. The film, made by young dynamic film maker Andrew Strugnell, involves Tawa College students, a kaumatua from Ngati Toa, and the Porirua City Council’s wastewater management team and is a humorous, but informative look at what goes down your household drain, what happens in an urban waste-water treatment system, and how this can impact on recreational and drinking water quality.

Last stage of the project:

An interactive hui took place at Takahanga Marae in June 2012. The hui was structured into a warm up/icebreaker pot cleaning completion involving all the students. We used pre-prepared “grubby” baking trays where identical food had been burnt on to the tray and scraped off. A variety of natural cleaning product ingredients such as backing soda, vinegar, oil etc were labelled and displayed.

Scientists explained the potential cleaning properties of each of the ‘natural’ products, for example “White vinegar can be used as a household cleanser, effective for killing most mould, bacteria, and germs, due to its level of acidity.”  Students worked in small teams and designed their ultimate cleaning recipe from the ingredients provided; they then nominated a chief scrubber and had a set amount of time and scrub strokes to see if their cleaning product would do the best job. The cleanest tray was judged by a panel of members of community and chefs from the Takahanga kitchen, and prizes were awarded for the cleanest tray. 

ESR scientist Alma Siggins, making eco-friendly cleaners with the students

Through this activity the students learnt about the basic chemistry (i.e. properties of acids and bases) of some of the natural products and how they might be used in cleaning.  Following the ‘ice breaker’ the students then took part in a number of workstations.  They learned how to make eco-friendly body care products such as foot powders and hand scrubs, click here to see our eco-friendly recipes.

The “Becoming a critical consumer” workstation gave feedback to the students from the survey results and then sought to provide tools and ways of thinking for students to become more critical consumers.  A workstation on ‘alternatives for cleaning” involved community members sharing their approaches for natural cleaning and including a mātauranga Māori session led by local kuia Darcy Solomon and Haromi Taylor, Paul Hislop from Hislops café and Ted Howard talked about alternatives to domestic, personal care and industrial cleaning products.  



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