EIT environmental coordinator wants to build on sustainability successes – Advice Eating

The EIT’s new Environment and Sustainability Coordinator, Mark Caves, plans to maintain and develop the institute’s award-winning outdoor learning project and also to find ways to reduce the EIT’s carbon footprint.

Mark will split his current role as Head Tutor at the School of Tourism and Hospitality with his new role as Coordinator. As a World Chefs Association recognized trainer in sustainable education for culinary professionals, he developed New Zealand’s first course to train chef students in ‘Locavore Food Markets’ (local ‘urban foraging’ and sustainable food production).

The combined role allows him to combine his expertise in sustainable food supply and food waste reduction with sustainable resource use projects and the Learning in Nature (LIN) educational work driven by the Ōtātara Outdoor Learning Center (OOLC).

The LIN project is an innovative collaboration between EIT, Ngāti Pārau (the mana whenua hapū for Ōtātara), Te Papa Atawhai (the Department of Conservation), Hawke’s Bay Regional Council and local environmental groups.

In this role, Mark will work with the EIT’s Environmental Educator Team, including Megan McBride and Robyn McCool, to ensure more schools and community groups have the opportunity to visit and learn from the OOLC, located just below the Ōtātara Pa the Hawke’s Bay campus. The OOLC is a unique outdoor learning space consisting of a sustainably restored log cabin surrounded by local history, an ever-growing biodiversity and a canyon restored with native plants.

“I really enjoy the versatility of the role and there is a lot of synergy between my culinary background and what is happening at the OOLC.

“I want to plant edible native plants there and provide outdoor cooking and eating experiences. We dug a hangi pit and can harvest the food from the edible plants to prepare using traditional methods.”

“I think it’s really important to educate the culinary chefs that come through town about foraging in the city and harvesting wild foods from native bushes, so I’m really looking forward to getting that off the ground. “

Mark will continue the work of his predecessor, Emma Passey, who helped raise the profile of the EIT’s sustainability initiatives. It was recently announced that EIT is a finalist in the Benefiting Society category of the prestigious International Green Gown Awards 2022, having won that category at last year’s Australasian Green Gown Awards.

The OOLC has a steady flow of local school children and community groups throughout the year. Students and staff from EIT programs, including Bachelor of Teaching (Primary), and many from the Schools of Trades and Technology and Primary Industries, are also involved in projects there.

Mark says the EIT is grateful for support from local businesses, including the PanPac Environment Trust, which provided funding for professional development workshops for local teachers. He has also received a grant from the Ideal Electrical Trust to install solar panels to sustainably power the log home and light the surrounding area.

“Our next step will be to install a sustainable water system to capture rainwater from the log cabin roof that can be pumped to any native trees we plant.”

“Electrical and plumbing students will help with the design and installation, and we will have infographics and real-time displays of the energy being produced so visitors who come to the center can see how solar energy works.”

Mark’s appointment coincides with the School of Primary Industries starting this year’s native tree planting program in a canyon at the OOLC.

Tutor Brian McLay says the plants are from native nursery Te Wai Mauri, which was founded in Waiohiki in November 2021. EIT has trained the nursery staff and will be the nursery’s first customers.

“We are the first to buy plants from them and it is fitting that they are planted in the Ōtātara area as this is part of their ancestral lands.”

“The Te Wai Mauri planting team, the Kaitiaki Rangers, and nursery staff will be attending a planting day on May 11 to plant the first of these natives in the gorge.”

EIT Executive Dean Professor Natalie Waran, who oversees the institute’s sustainability strategy, says Mark will take responsibility for facilitating the development of collaborations and partnerships within the EIT, as well as externally with associated regional agencies, schools and the private sector. The goal is to launch and implement environmental and sustainability initiatives to achieve the strategic outcomes of EIT and Te Pūkenga. In 2023, EIT will be fully integrated into Te Pūkenga, which will bring together New Zealand’s Institutes of Technology, Polytechnics and Industry Training Organizations to build a network for on-job, campus and online learning.

“We are very pleased that Mark has taken on this role. He has a long-standing interest in sustainability and will work with all stakeholders to develop and maintain the award-winning OOLC and to drive the EIT’s Sustainability Action Plan

“One such area is the waste minimization awareness project, where we plan to reduce single-use plastics on campus. “

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