TUCKED away in the old Bon Bon Factory building on Merritt Street, HeART Space Studio is a colourful, open-plan workspace that runs art classes and hosts community events.
With its upcycled furniture and eclectic display of local art, Sustainable Backyards co-ordinator Becs Mackay knew it was the perfect spot to host the Sustain-a-Ball later this month.
The Sustain-a-Ball will be a celebration of pre-loved fashion, rescued food, and the ongoing sustainability efforts by those in the community. Guests can expect a range of music from live DJs and the opportunity to mingle with other amazing locals.
Keeping sustainable fashion at the forefront, they will also be holding a frock and clothes swap a week before the event.
“One of the greatest things we can do for our planet is to make intentional decisions about the clothes we purchase and to wear our clothes for longer,” Becs says.
“As well as being a reason to go out and get glammed up in Whakatane, Sustain-a-Ball is about slow fashion education and getting extra wear out of those gorgeous frocks you get for one-off occasions and often never wear again.”
Putting this event together has been a team effort and Becs has been grateful to work with a core group of women to make their vision come to life.
“Sustain-a-Ball has become a collaboration between an amazing group of wahine,” Becs says. “Including Whakatane’s op shop queen Kristen Stasiewicz, Corrine Lynskey of online plus-sized pre-loved clothing store Curated Curves, and Jade Brown of HeART Space Studio, where the event will be hosted.”
Public support has been crucial for the Sustainable Backyards initiative, which has been held month-long every March for the past 15 years. Working closely with Envirohub, Becs was tasked with creating the events calendar for the Eastern Bay. Amazingly, the Sustain-a-Ball is just one of over 90 different events taking place this month in the Eastern Bay, with a total of 230 events throughout the entire Bay region.
“Sustainable Backyards is about mobilising communities towards action on climate change and community resilience,” she says. “It’s about connecting people to each other and to a kaupapa around sustainability.”
Becs, who was previously the strategic coordinator for Ki Mua, a community development project at the Whakatane District Council, found the process of putting these events together exciting.
“Because of my previous work and my circles, I know that there are so many awesome things happening on the ground,” she says. “So, it was really awesome to connect with all the great people and groups and get them excited and be able to support them in this initiative.”
Sustainable Backyards brings visibility to environmental issues and also demystifies a lot of the confusion and concerns surrounding this conversation.
“I know for a lot of young people, there’s a lot of eco-anxiety that us adults are not acting fast enough when they think about the world they’re inheriting,” she says. “I think that’s the beauty of Sustainable Backyards: connecting people to each other and also to all these different avenues, whatever your interest is and whatever time you can give, to a cause.
And we know with anxiety [that] when we have a plan and when we’re taking steps in the right direction, we feel better. “
The different events being offered this month are wide-ranging and family-friendly. Some of these include Zero Waste Camping, Build a Plastic Bottle Greenhouse, and Resoursonance, a musical upcycling workshop taking place at this Saturday’s Zero Waste Re-Market at the Whakatane War Memorial Hall.
Becs believes these community events will show people just how easy it is to start living more sustainably.
“[People] will realise it’s easier than they thought, and that there’s support locally that is readily given,” she says. “This community is so generous with their time and expertise.
With climate change and extreme weather events, I think it’s important that we band together as a community.”
The Sustain-a-Ball will be held Saturday, March 28 from 7 pm to midnight at 8B Merritt Street. Additional information, and links to purchase tickets, can be found on the Sustainable Backyards Bay of Plenty Facebook page.
You can find out more about the other events though their page or by picking up an information booklet from Sustainable Backyards HQ, located at Wharaurangi, which is open Monday through Saturday, 10 am to 2 pm every week in March.
This community-led initiative allows locals to come together for a common cause, finding ways to make meaningful changes while also supporting each other through the frustrations and celebrations that come with it.
But for Becs, and many others, this is just one step in the journey to living more “green.”
“It doesn’t end here,” Becs says. “Sustainable Backyards Month is an awesome opportunity to showcase, and I’ve been really determined to do that, because that’s what I’ve learned — our community is amazing.”
“But this work is just starting. This work is all year round for most of these groups, and for us on our zero waste journey. This is just to kickstart, refresh, and we can go from there.”