Just one rubbish bag a year: How do they do it?

By Don Farmer chiefrep@age.co.nz -
NO WASTE: Heather and Robin List with some of the environmentally friendly items they use. in the background is mulch and compost they generate for gardening.PHOTO/LYNDA FERINGA
NO WASTE: Heather and Robin List with some of the environmentally friendly items they use. in the background is mulch and compost they generate for gardening.PHOTO/LYNDA FERINGA

Garbage collectors don't linger long outside Robin and Heather List's Masterton home.

The retired Presbyterian minister and his wife only put out a council rubbish bag once a year, if that.

Sometimes it can be 16 months before the rubbish bag is full enough to warrant collection and that's because the Lists have mastered the art of reducing, re-using and recycling which helps their pocket and the environment.

News last week a family of five in Auckland had minimised household rubbish to the extent it took them a year to fill a wheelie bin was applauded by the Masterton couple who have been doing much the same thing for five years.

Mr List said to his mind it would be much easier for the two of them to cut rubbish back to a single bag than for the Auckland family that includes a 2-year-old girl and a baby.

Cutting back on rubbish is so ingrained in the Lists' psyche it is automatic but there are a few traps they have to work round.

"Basically nothing goes into the rubbish bag apart from some forms of plastic packaging, and dog roll wrappers.

"We refuse to buy anything that is on a polystyrene tray but sometimes we can get caught out by others buying things for us that are, so they go into the bag," Mr List said.

The couple's environmental efforts don't stop at cutting back on garbage, and composting.

They designed an environmentally friendly home 10 years ago, have solar power for generating electricity, grow most of their own vegetables and fruit, catch water off the roof into a 5000 gallon tank and even buy bamboo toothbrushes that can either be used as kindling for their woodburner or used as garden markers when their teeth-cleaning days are over.

The woodburner has a very long flue running through the centre of the house which has high ceilings, allowing it to radiate heat in winter which is then distributed throughout the house by a large fan.

Lawns are mowed using a hand mower.

When Mr and Mrs List do shop for food items they would never dream of accepting items in plastic bags, taking their own reusable bags along, including a small netting bag for fruit.

Environment protection has extended to trips into town also, with the couple preferring to cycle rather than drive.

"Once we would arrive at Pak'nSave and be the only bikes in the bike rack but things are changing.

"Very often the racks are now full," Mr List said.

Masterton District councillor and conservationist Chris Peterson describes the Lists as being "a marvellous example to all of us".

"It's great that they are doing this and there are others.

"There are lots of little endeavours by people in the community who are intent on making life less wasteful.

"If we were all to do something there would be an enormous reduction in the amount of rubbish that is accumulated," Mr Peterson said.

For more articles from this region, go to

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf04 at 06 Dec 2016 10:09:53 Processing Time: 1434ms