About The Sustainable Living Programme

Learning future living skills

This Aotearoa-NZ-based community education programme is a practical, fun way to learn and try out actions that reduce your environmental impact at home or in a small business.  It provides an opportunity to 'make a difference for the planet', probably save on some living costs and stay healthy too. Think of it as learning future living skills, which are relevant at any stage in life.

The charitable trust is managed from Canterbury for 11 partner unitary, city and district councils across NZ. Current trustees include: Tony Moore from Christchurch City Council (Principal Advisor- Sustainability), Kitty Waghorn from Waimakariri District (Solid Waste Asset Manager), freelancer Natalie Hormann who has tutored for Upper Hutt City and Masterton,  and Eion Scott who is a former Eco Design Advisor for Auckland Council, now working for the Green Building Council. We will soon recruit an additional trustee. The National Coordinator, Rhys Taylor, is an experienced Future Living Skills tutor based in Canterbury. He's a UK-qualified community educator with a Lincoln University Masters degree in natural resource management, who also works part-time for Environment Canterbury regional council.

From the Learning Guides, (or by attending a one-term tutored series or intensive weekend), you will find out what could make your house a healthier, warmer place, and how you can grow food at home and reduce your weekly waste output. Other topics are: travel options to trim your carbon emissions, water demand-saving and storm water protection, smart food shopping options, eco-building design and community resilience to help you weather emergencies: from current pandemic to floods or earthquakes. 

The learning guides are published in PDF format, ready to print or to view on a computer screen. All the topics have a practical focus, and are independent of commercial bias as there's no advertising within the materials. Local and central government support makes this possible.

Interested?  Register your email address now on this site, to get download access (free in NZ).  We suggest you visit our districts page too, to check if your local council is taking part and see local information available on most of our 8 topics.  The  cumulative registration numbers by district and city appear on our map page

The programme has been devised and supported by a consortium of local councils, to share costs and knowledge. Further councils can join from each July to expand our coverage:  Established members include: Christchurch, Waimakariri, Timaru, Dunedin and Marlborough, joined more recently by Tasman, Masterton, Kapiti Coast, Wellington, Hauraki and the Chatham Isles. We are in discussion with six more, mostly in the North Island (autumn 2020).

Council and media enquiries welcomed - background information for the media is here . You can contact Rhys, the National Coordinator, on 03 6938726  email: rhys (at) sustainableliving.org.nz or could approach the Trust chair: Tony Moore, based at Christchurch City Council (Principal Sustainability Advisor).

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Programme delivery

The Sustainable Living programme originally ran as an evening class series or single-topic workshops - thousands have taken part across NZ in the past decade. Whilst these classes and public workshops still run in some areas (for example in Christchurch, Dunedin, Timaru and Masterton Districts) we find likely users are increasingly web-savvy and like to download learning materials for use in their household, or to share with friends, neighbours or workmates in a learning group.   Transition Town groups and Environment Centres have been early users of this approach. 

By 2018 the Trust's experts had re-written our education materials ready for this group learning approach to 'future living skills', so thanks to suppport in 2019 from the Waste Minimisation Fund at Ministry for the Environment plus continuing Council membership subscriptions, we can offer the learning guides free via a downloads area on this website. In 2020 the website was updated to suit more user platforms and to make free registration faster/easier, separating the learning guides from a large body of other materials used by facilitators which still require password access.

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The learning makes a difference, research has confirmed

Our evening course participant questionnaires showed that adults learning in a group and the original 'Sustainable Living' evening course content made a difference in their lives. The programme also compares well with international good practice. Peer-reviewed research papers are published on the web, in Innovation Journal 2008 and NZSSES Conference Proceedings 2007 (papers co-authored by Taylor & Allen) and summarised in an independent NZ Landcare Research publication Hatched (see Chapter 16)

New brochure available as print-quality PDF from the National Coordinator.  I can be produced in district-branded editions for member councils. The second side describes the programme, summarising info from the website. Make contact if you'd like to republish it locally.

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The programme partners and supporters - a brief history

This charitable  'education for action' programme has been developed across New Zealand since 2001 by local Councils. It was thought up by staff from Marlborough District and Christchurch City, developed with six others, backed originally by a Ministry for the Environment three year development grant. As popularity of the high school evening class delivery method spread, it reached 25 council areas. Nine years after its inception, central Government cut funding to most school-based community education and subsequently cut non-vocational courses at polytechnics and Universities, which made the community education course delivery route for Sustainable Living unviable at many high schools and colleges. The Trust had to re-invent its programme, and looked internationally for relevant experience. The new method chosen is web-delivered, supporting self-help learning groups at low cost.

The current partner councils are listed, along with their area's most useful web links, on our local pages, where you will find a gateway into the Learning Guide download area: or simply register once to get free access.  More council partners are welcome, to extend our coverage.  Contact the National Coordinator Rhys Taylor on 03 6938726 to discuss this, especially if you are a councillor or council staff member keen to see your Council get involved. Annual subscription cost for councils is modest and is related to population size, to keep it affordable in rural areas.

Why is getting involved important?  A major change in gobal energy sources, reduction of pollution impacts and zero waste of non-renewable resources is essential in the near future to live within global temperature-rise limits (as agreed at the Paris UN Climate Summit) and to not wreck the planet's life support systems with our wastes and damage to natural habitats. For a thoughtful NZ view on this, listen to the Wise Response team speaking on Radio NZ, calling for a 'risk assessment'. In 2020 the New Zealand Government responded with a Climate Act and is taking initiatives on waste minimisation. The recent droughts and 2020 Covid-19 virus pandemic also reminds us that sustainability is a great platform for resilience - households that know how to grow and store food, conserve water, stay warm in winter and travel fuel-efficiently are better set up for crisis of any kind, as well as reducing their living costs. We are happy to help!

Sustainable Living Education Trust, NZ registered charity CC37224, manages the programme for the partner councils.

If you'd like to support our work as an individual, note that donations over $5 are tax deductable, can be receipted (unless anonymous) and always welcome. If using a cheque, write to SLET at PO Box 58 Geraldine 7956.  We have a Give-a-Little website page for donation by credit card. The Trust would also be interested in receiving bequests and legacies as sources of strong, independent core funding, longer-term. We do not however accept commercial advertising or sponsiorhip, in order to remain independent.

Access the Learning Materials

Click here to access our online learning materials.


Become a Course Facilitator

Click here to apply to become a Sustainable Living course facilitator.

Existing course facilitators, log in here

Tip: Power bills out of control?
Actions and equipment that can reduce electricity costs at home are the focus of our Energy guide.

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