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Bay of Plenty twins Kaitlyn and Jess Lamb (18) are compost and gardening queens from the Forest & Bird Youth network. Their dedication to environmental causes has recently taken them from their hometown of Rotorua to the University of Canterbury in Ōtautahi where they are both pursuing Environmental Science degrees.

We ask what got them started and about some of their milestones along the way. 

How did you first get involved in environmental work with Forest & Bird Youth?  

Four years ago, we went to a trapping workshop run by a local community group, Whakarewrewa Pest Control in Rotorua, and Forest & Bird Rotorua had a stall there. So, Mum talked to them, signed us up, and that's where our journey started!  

We started getting emails from Forest & Bird, and one day, Kaitlyn opened her inbox and read about the 2018 Forest & Bird conference in Wellington. We were keen to attend and fortunately a member of Rotorua Forest & Bird sponsored us. Going meant we could meet the rest of the Forest & Bird Youth crew from around the country.  

Connecting with members our own age inspired us to start up our own Rotorua youth hub – and we've just got more involved in environmental issues ever since. We’ve both completed the Duke of Edinburgh Award which included volunteering in the conservation space, so we did this through Forest & Bird.  

What environmental projects are you most proud of?  

Setting up Forest & Bird Youth Rotorua in 2019 was a challenging task but has led us to many amazing opportunities. We’ve got involved with Eat New Zealand, the Rotorua Seed Library, Kai Rotorua, and Biodynamics New Zealand. The experiences have developed us as people and we're immensely proud of that!  

Kaitlyn and Jessica Lamb from the Bay of Plenty Forest & Bird Youth hub, working on their compost.

Kaitlyn and Jessica working on their compost. Image supplied.

We are also very passionate about diverting food waste from landfill and growing food, so setting up a compost system and vegetable garden at our high school, John Paul College, was another huge project that we are very proud of. The vegetables are given to families in need and in the weekend, we sometimes ran composting workshops. 

In 2021, Kaitlyn was the only New Zealander selected to attend the Bayer International Youth Ag Summit based on her idea to feed a hungry planet by establishing urban farms every kilometre

Now we are both in Ōtautahi Christchurch, we volunteer at the University’s Waiutuutu Community Garden, with the Student Volunteer Army, and with activities coordinated by University of Canterbury’s Sustainability Office. We recently ran a composting workshop at the Ako Ōtautahi Learning City Christchurch. 

What is your favourite wildlife encounter?  

At home in Rotorua, when we are trapping in the forest and composting in the garden, we always hear a cute little "chirp, chirp" and a beautiful little bird flying around us ... a pīwakawaka, or as we call them, "piwi". It's always the highlight of our day seeing cute little piwi! 

We love exploring different trails while being in Ōtautahi Christchurch, and seeing the diverse types of landscapes, as well as native wildlife that lives there. Some examples are kererū in the Port Hills, our native butterflies, and the kōtare at Taylor's Mistake. 

Who is your environmental hero?  

Kaitlyn and Jessica Lamb working in the garden

Kaitlyn and Jessica working in the garden. Image supplied.

Working in the conservation space can be really tough mentally and physically, especially being in the middle of a climate crisis and it can seem like nothing is being done.  

So literally everyone who is making an effort and getting their hands dirty to help Papatūānuku inspires us!  

To name a few, Leah Evans (self-sufficient gardener), Jenny Lux (Lux Organics where we volunteered), Karen Shaw, Sian Moffit (Kids Greening Taupō  and Blake), and Forest & Bird RotoruaYou guys are awesome!! 

If you could share one message with the government about the environment, what would it be?  

We live by the slogan; "Medicine is not healthcare. Food is healthcare. Medicine is sickcare." 

It captures our belief that our food system needs to connect people back to nature. Everyone needs to eat, we all love sharing stories over kai, and our culture is based around food.  

Localised, sustainable food systems are a way in which we can enhance human wellbeing as well as looking after Papatūānuku. The way in which we produce and distribute our food is the thing that is destroying Mother Earth and communities the most.  

So, our message to the Government is to support small, local, and circular food systems that grow healthy food for everyone in their community. 

Read more about Jess and Kaitlyn’s sustainable solutions to minimise waste + tips for compost newbies.

Read Youth leading the way

Kaitlyn and Jessica Lamb with Rotorua Forest & Bird Youth hub members

Kaitlyn and Jessica with fellow Rotorua Forest & Bird Youth hub members. Image supplied.

Join Forest & Bird Youth

Forest & Bird Youth is a nationwide network of young people (aged 14-25) who are protecting and restoring Aotearoa's wildlife and wild places. Join this nationwide community and get involved in opportunities, events, competitions and more. This is also a space to support you in your involvement and journey within the network. Grow as a leader, a volunteer, and as a conservationist.

Find out more on our Forest & Bird Youth webpage
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This article first appeared in the May 2022 E-news.

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