Most people have probably heard of Christchurch, New Zealand, but likely only a few have thought of it as an internationally renowned green city that is setting a new standard for sustainability. For an avid traveler who is visiting New Zealand, Christchurch is a must. Small but growing, this city has something to offer for all ages. If you are looking for an artsy place, with lots of outdoor activities (including Instagrammable swings for kids and adults), delicious plant-based food and a great sense of community, Christchurch should be at the top of your to-visit list.
So what would your eco-friendly trip to Christchurch look like? I highly recommend a bed-and-breakfast called Eco Villa. You would perhaps not pay too much attention to it when walking past it, but the light-blue, seemingly new house close to the city center actually makes up a fascinating piece of local history. Built in 1910 and owned by the same family for 90 years, a Kiwi couple returning from Australia bought the historic house in 2015 to turn it into an up-cycled boutique eco-hotel and retreat center. Owners Nisha and Evan, their daughter, and their two constant helpers Anna and Sharon, have worked hard to make this eco-hotel a cozy and affordable place for Kiwi and international tourists. The team’s effort has definitely paid off because the Eco Villa was recently voted top bed and breakfast place in New Zealand by Lonely Planet.
If staying at the Eco Villa, you will be greeted by an almost fully plant-based and zero-waste breakfast, which includes homemade plant-based milks and yogurts. Your kiwi fruit skin will go straight to the compost and the byproducts from the milk production is used to make other treats. Fueled for the day, you start your city tour. First, you visit the Cardboard Cathedral, which is right across Eco Villa. You then continue either on foot, by bike (available from the Eco Villa) or on e-scooter to the Canterbury Museum and the Botanical Garden, both of which are conveniently located next to each other.
If you still have some energy left before lunch, you might want to check out the Arts Center to peek into a pop-up shop or a temporary exhibition or perhaps even join a spoon-carving or rope-making workshop. Now it is definitely lunch time, though, so you make your way to Grater Goods, vegan cafe and deli store, to enjoy a “salmon” bagel or “cheese” ravioli with a glass of wine. You might even get a chance to meet the founders, Flip Grater and her husband Youssef Iskrane. Flip is a Kiwi singer/songwriter and Youseff is a French-Moroccan wine expert who has worked with various top chefs and hence also came up with the idea of adding a wine bar to the Grater Goods cafe.
After lunch, you return to the Eco Villa to sit in the guest lounge and flip through a book from the book exchange library or strum the guitar on the outdoor patio. To watch the sunset in nature, you go for a short walk along the Avon River and then return to the Eco Villa to prepare dinner with veggies from the garden and pasta and tomato sauce left behind by previous guests in the shared kitchen cupboards. Eco Villa is not the only place with a backyard veggie garden; there is a whole urban garden movement happening all over the city. If you stay a bit longer in Christchurch (or on your next visit) you can buy some produce from Cultivate Christchurch, the Richmond Community Garden or the Otakaro Orchard. These urban gardens are all led by proactive individuals who also host workshops or volunteer days for the greater community of all ages.
After dinner, you still have some energy left to go out one last time and join a nearby community event. Conveniently, Nisha has put together a calendar of events—many of which are around sustainability and conservation—happening all over Christchurch. This way you can attend local happenings and really immerse yourself in the quite international community. Perhaps you get to meet an ocean scientist during a round table at the alternative Exchange Cafe or a landscape architect during a lecture at the modern Turanga library.
Finally, you head back to the Eco Villa, but you still cannot go to bed because an outdoor bath under a tree canopy and candlelight awaits you. And then, after a fairly active day, it is at last time for a good night sleep in a warm, soft bed. Hopefully, you will dream about how you are going to take all you have learned today to make your city at home more sustainable and more community-oriented, putting the people that inhabit it and the environment that surrounds it at its heart.
Also by Tati: Will Cell-Based Horns Save Rhinos From Poaching?
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Photo: Tatiana von Rheinbaben; Eco Villa; Grater Goods