Aotearoa New Zealand Ecochallenge

International Education Week

November 14-18, 2022

263 participants across 32 teams joined us in celebrating Aotearoa New Zealand during International Education Week! Inspired by cultural practices and traditions unique to Aotearoa New Zealand, particpants selected individual actions to promote conservation and biodiversity, waste reduction, health and wellbeing, sustainable food, and community and justice. Participants also learned about sustainability in Aoteaora New Zealand through daily emails for each category.

Together, we had a big impact!

- 1,662 gallons of water saved
- 2,660 minutes being mindful
- 440 meatless or vegan meals consumed
- 12,015 minutes spent outdoors
- 647 plastic containers not sent to the landfill

The annual Ecochallenge is a great opportunity for learning, engagement, and partnership. The Office for Sustainability is very grateful for the participation of so many people across campus and for the chance to collaborate with the Office of International Education.

Challenge Winners

1st Place: Lola Dragosavac
Class of 2024
Prize: Whole Pie from Proper Pie and a Copy of Braiding Sweetgrass

2nd Place: Halle Zweibel
Class of 2025
Prize: Handcrafted Sweetgrass Soap Bar and a Copy of Braiding Sweetgrass

3rd Place: Sydney Thomas 
Class of 2023
Prize: Fitness Class Pass or a Copy of Braiding Sweetgrass

Overall Winning Team: Environment Baddies
Prize: Sample Honey Jar and Wooden Dipper

Per Capita Winning Team: Student Involvement
Prize: New Zealand Wool Dryer Balls

Expand All
  • Monday: Caring for Ourselves & Each Other

    Health and Wellbeing in Aotearoa New Zealand

    Health and wellbeing lay at the heart of sustainable living. In 2019, the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network named New Zealand one of the happiest countries in its World Happiness Report, with social wellbeing listed as a critical element. Driving happiness in New Zealand is a Wellbeing Budget, introduced by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in 2019. This initiative prioritizes things like mental health support, supporting indigenous peoples, child wellbeing. 

    The Māori people have a comprehensive understanding of health, called te whare tapa whā. The model, which is shaped in the form of a house - or a wharenui - champions the upkeep of four walls: 
    taha tinana (physical wellbeing), taha hinengaro (mental wellbeing), taha wairua (spiritual wellbeing), and taha whānau (family wellbeing). The wharenui’s connection with the land, or the whenua, forms the foundation for the other four dimensions. The whenua is a vital part of Māori identity. Overall health is enhanced by nurturing and strengthening all five dimensions. When one dimension falters, you can draw on the foundation or other walls until you can fortify it once again.

    Living Well in Richmond

    There are a lot of great resources on campus for health and wellbeing. The Weinstein Center for Recreation, which is free to staff, faculty, and students, offers a number of fitness classes, exercise and weight equipment, a swimming pool, and multipurpose rooms for exercise. Three saunas offer relaxing experiences after your workout.

    Looking to get outside? There are four walking trails on campus. The Eco-Corridor is a multi-use recreational trail alongside Little Westham Creek and native pollinator meadows. If you would like to get off campus, the trail leads all the way to the James River by way of the Huguenot Memorial Bridge. The other three trails on campus include the loop around Westhampton Lake, the loop bordering the Greek Theater, and a loop through the heavily wooded portion of campus.

    Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) offers a variety of short-term services to UR students, such as group counseling and skill-building programs, to UR students. Peer Education and Advocacy Student Groups, like Peer Sexual Misconduct Advisors and Disability Student Ambassadors, support students through health and wellbeing programming and advocacy. For UR staff and faculty, the Employee Assistance Program offers a number of free services, like counseling and legal support. 

    Sources for Today’s Email and Further Reading

    New Zealand’s resilience and social connection makes it one of the happiest countries
    Read the full article

    Wellbeing Budget 2021: Securing Our Recovery
    Read the full article

    New Zealand 2022 Wellbeing Budget
    Read the full article

    Te whare tapa whā and wellbeing
    Read the full article

    New Zealand Ditches GDP for Happiness and Wellbeing
    Read the full article

    My Summer on the Frontlines of Remaking the New Zealand Health System
    Read the full article

    New Zealand announces radical shake-up of health system
    Read the full article

    New Zealand: #20 in the 2020 World Index of Healthcare Innovation
    Read the full article

  • Tuesday: Protecting Our Planet

    Conservation & Biodiversity in Aotearoa New Zealand

    Biodiversity is a term that refers to the variety of living organisms in all ecosystems. New Zealand is internationally recognized as a biodiversity "hotspot," with an estimated 80,000 species of native animals, plants, and fungi. However, the country’s biodiversity is threatened in the face of invasive species, land and sea use, direct exploitation of species, climate change, and pollution.

    The people of New Zealand recognize that their prosperity is built upon natural resources. They also recognize that Papatūānuku (Earth mother) and Ranginui (sky father) are struggling, and that saving them requires a renewed, unwavering collective stewardship. 

    Launched in August 2020, Te Mana o te Taiao is a national initiative that outlines a 30-year framework for the protection, restoration, and sustainable use of biodiversity. The objective is consistent with Māori understanding that we, and the living and non-living things around us, are all inextricably linked. The plan is projected to yield several benefits for New Zealanders, including increased climate resilience, eco-tourism, agricultural productivity, and jobs. 

    Enhancing Conservation & Biodiversity Efforts in Richmond

    If you aren’t already familiar with the Eco-Corridor, we highly suggest you give it a visit. The Eco-Corridor is an 18-square acre section of campus that includes pollinator meadows with native plantings, a restored stream, and wooded areas. It is also home to a variety of animals, such as deer, fox, pollinators, a wide variety of birds, and mice.

    There are a number of classes involved in research projects on conservation and biodiversity. For the UR Campus Tree Inventory, students have recorded over 2,000 trees on campus, with roughly 77% being native tree species. Another project examines turtle species in Westhampton Lake. A few faculty are also involved in global efforts to protect biodiversity. For example, Dr. Jennifer Sevin works to combat the illegal collection and selling of exotic wildlife.

    Want to get involved in the greater Richmond area? Here are some great places to get started.

    James River Association - The James River Association (JRA) helps to keep the James River thriving and healthy. The James River is the largest tributary to the Chesapeake Bay, therefore, how we care for our local River can have an effect on an entire watershed.

    Chesapeake Climate Action Network - This organization organizes campaigns in DC, Maryland, and Virginia, and advocates for the preservation of the entire Chesapeake watershed.

    The Virginia Conservation Network - The Virginia Conservation Network represents 150+ regional environmental organizations that protect Virginia’s wildlife, habitats, and food sources from human encroachment. The organization participates in a wide range of initiatives, such as building wildlife crossings and restoring Virginia’s mussel populations.

    Sources for Today’s Email and Further Reading

    New Zealand is reviewing its outdated conservation laws. Here’s why we must find better ways of getting people on board
    Read the full article

    In New Zealand, conservation is buoyed by Indigenous knowledge
    Read the full article

    Te Mana o te Taiao – Aotearoa New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy summary
    Read the full article

    Māori and Biodiversity
    Read the full article

    Why biodiversity matters 
    Read the full article

    Community fund to support vital work in biodiversity battle
    Read the full article

    Secretive squirrels and cold-blooded turtles: A guide to UR critters
    Read the full article

  • Wednesday: Nourishment for All

    Nourishment for All Aotearoa New Zealanders

    The Māori people have been cooking with ingredients from New Zealand’s waters and forests for thousands of years. Māori delicacies use both kai moana (food from the sea) and kai whenua (food from the land). According to Māori chef Joe McLeod, who grew up in a traditional Māori household, "The bush was our pantry - we ate fish, birds, rats, possums, pork, venison - the only ingredients we ever got from a store were things like flour, butter, and sugar." 

    Hāngī is a unique, traditional way of preparing and cooking food in Māori culture. Meats and vegetables are wrapped in flax leaves and put into baskets placed on top of hot stones in the ground. The food is then covered with a wet cloth that traps the heat and is left to cook for three to four hours. The experience entailed in building the hāngī (earth oven) is central to the Māori manaakitanga (hospitality). This centuries-old cooking method is ideal for bringing a community together to feast upon large amounts of food.

    Wellington’s City Council is working on building sustainable food systems in Te Whanganui-a-Tara (Wellington Harbor). Equity and resiliency are centered in their work. A number of community gardens across Wellington are funded by the City Council or operate on Council-owned land. There are also funds and grants that gardeners can apply for to obtain additional funding for community garden maintenance.

    Sustainable Dining in Richmond

    How can you eat sustainably at campus dining locations? UR Dining is passionate about sustainable food and is a huge proponent of the University’s sustainability efforts. For more information, check out our food fact sheet and UR Dining’s sustainability page.

    Food access greatly affects the Richmond area. 60,545 Richmond residents lived in a food desert in 2015, and that number has likely grown significantly as more people have since moved to Richmond. If you are interested in getting involved in improving food access in Richmond, check out the resources below.

    Shalom Farms - Shalom Farms is working to help improve healthy food access in Richmond by growing their own produce and distributing it to people in the Richmond area who would not have access to fresh produce otherwise.

    GrowRVA - GrowRVA hosts farmers markets that allow local farmers an opportunity to sell their produce without going through a third party, and allows citizens to purchase sustainable and locally grown produce from small businesses.

    RVA Community Fridges - RVA Community Fridges is a mutual aid group aimed at solving food security throughout and around Richmond, Virginia. Ten fridges around Richmond provide free food to anyone.

    Feed More - Feed More is working to lessen the impact of hunger by collecting, preparing, and distributing food to those struggling with hunger through its programs and agency network.

    Sources for Today’s Email and Further Reading

    New Zealand’s overlooked indigenous cuisine
    Read the full article

    Māori hāngī
    Read the full article

    New Zealand’s Food System Pathway
    Read the full article

    Community gardens in Wellington
    Read the full article

    New Zealand Grass-fed Beef and Lamb Carbon Footprint Among Lowest in the World
    Read the full article

    New Zealand leads new global sustainable agriculture declaration
    Read the full article

    Govt invests in sustainable food producer
    Read the full article 

    Combating Food Deserts in Richmond, VA
    Read the storymap

  • Thursday: Community & Justice

    Community and Justice in Aotearoa New Zealand

    New Zealand prides itself on its high caliber of diversity and inclusion. Immigration New Zealand (INZ), the Ministry of Ethnic Communities, and the Human Rights Commission have joined forces to create a robust and inclusive program called Welcoming Communities. Welcoming Week (Te Wiki o Manaaki)—administered by 26 local governments across 12 regions—is an annual campaign that aims to "showcase and celebrate how communities across Aotearoa and the globe are working to be more welcoming places for all, including migrants." Migrants, refugees, and international students are introduced to Kiwi hospitality as they participate in this internationally recognized community development initiative.

    The Government of New Zealand sees that making intentional connections between different cultural backgrounds has tangible effects on social, civil, and economic life. Queenstown Lakes District Council Senior Community Liaison and Policy Advisor Marie Day boasted that “many people living in Queenstown Lakes are from somewhere else in New Zealand or the world, and have chosen to make this special place their home. We want to help everyone not only settle here, but to really thrive and feel embedded in our wider community.” It is clear that this unique approach to community engagement has strongly enhanced connectivity in participating regions.

    Strengthening Communities and Addressing Environmental Justice in Richmond

    Climate change is making Richmond hotter and stormier, but the impacts are hitting our historically underrepresented and economically disadvantaged communities the hardest. RVAgreen 2050—the City of Richmond’s equity-centered climate action and resilience plan—is working with communities throughout Richmond to find solutions that will make us all climate-ready and resilient.

    At University of Richmond, there are a number of Spiders working to address climate issues in the region. A student group called GreenUR has weekly Friday protests that mobilize students to take action against climate change. SEEDS (Students Engaging in and Enacting a Dialogue on Service) is an alternative spring break organization that engages students in meaningful service projects in communities faced by environmental and social justice issues. Faculty are also involved in climate justice in the community through heat-mapping studies to understand where local residents are at most risk during heat waves.

    Looking to get connected to environmental justice work in Richmond? Check out this list! 

    Southside ReLeaf - Volunteer-run organization committed to building a healthy, equitable and sustainable environment for all residents in South Richmond.

    Groundwork RVA - Groundwork RVA programs work with youth to occupy a hands-on role in creating positive changes to enhance green spaces in Richmond communities.

    Reforest Richmond - A collaborative campaign to rebuild Richmond’s urban tree canopy.

    Storefront for Community Design - A non-profit design center in Richmond that inspires equitable community-driven design in the build environment through innovative programs and resources that engage the next generation of designers.

    Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities - Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities works with schools, businesses, and communities to achieve success by addressing prejudices, in all forms, in order to improve academic achievement, increase workplace productivity, and enhance local trust.

    Sources for Today’s Email and Further Reading

    Welcoming Week | Te Wiki o Manaaki
    Read the full article

    Climate justice: What is it and why does it matter?
    Read the full article

    Environment Network Manawatu
    Learn more

    Thousands of students take part in school strike for climate: ’We want a future on the planet’
    Read the full article 

    University of Richmond Geography Faculty and Students Participate in Statewide Heat Watch Project
    Read the full article

    Richmond to participate in nation’s largest heat-mapping effort
    Read the full article

  • Friday: Living With Less

    Living With Less in Aotearoa New Zealand

    The problem of waste is overwhelming communities globally. New Zealand is no stranger to this challenge, sending around 2.5 million tons of waste to the landfill each year. Several organizations throughout New Zealand are responding to the waste crisis and its impact on people. One group, Kaibosh Food Rescue, collects surplus food from producers and stores in Wellington to make meals that feed the community. Since 2008, they have provided over eight million meals with food that was bound for the landfill.     

    It is important to work together in order to make meaningful change. Parakore is a concept in Māori culture that means "reducing waste that goes into Papatūānuku (Mother Earth) for the health and wellbeing of the whenua (land) and for the people." ME Family Services in Māngere, Aukland is a social services organization that provides support, education, and skill-building for young children and families. One of their programs—Talking Rubbish—offers resources for waste education to regional schools, along with educational sessions for families on how to recycle, compost, and repurpose.

    Living with Less in Richmond

    The University of Richmond is committed to diverting 75% of our waste from the landfills by 2025. How will the University of Richmond reach such an ambitious goal? It starts with you! Check out the University’s Rethink Wastepage to learn about the University’s strategy for reducing waste, and to learn more about how you can properly compost and recycle. 

    Did you know that University of Richmond also has a "free store" where you can donate gently used, unwanted items and shop for free? Spider Exchange, located at the end of New Fraternity Row, is open Monday through Thursdayfrom 2:00pm-5:00pm and Friday from 11:00am-5:00pm. 

    There are 20 composting drop-off locations across the City of Richmond that are free for Richmond residents to use. If you are not already doing so, consider collecting your scraps at home to drop off at a location near you. This is a great way to give back to the community! 

    If you are interested in getting involved in the greater Richmond area, check out the organizations below.

    Keep Virginia Cozy — Keep Virginia Cozy is committed to helping preserve the beauty in Virginia’s beautiful outdoor spaces. They host organized litter clean ups and have removed thousands of pounds of trash from local landscapes. 

    HandsOn Greater Richmond — HandsOn Greater Richmond connects volunteers with opportunities to support community initiatives throughout the Richmond area. They also host trash pick ups to preserve the health and beauty of outdoor spaces. 

    Sources for Today’s Email and Further Reading

    Waste not, want not 
    Read the full article

    Parakore: how Māori business is embracing the zero waste movement
    Read the full article

    Leading New Zealand to a more sustainable future
    Read the full article

    The importance of recycling and repurposing all products (@ Zero Waste Zone Waitakere)
    Watch the full video

    Kaibosh Food Rescue Group Founder’s Story
    Read the full article

    Community composting program to start in Richmond, funded by $90k grant
    Read the full article