Compassionate Action

Being in the world

A commitment to be of service to our world is at the heart of Zen. Service and compassionate action can take many forms; for some people their paid work is their vehicle for service, for some people caring for family at home or volunteering in the community is their expression of compassion, while others may choose social activism or environmental action. As a Buddhist community, here at the Centre we work on a daily basis to live simply, use resources wisely and build responsible engagement with our wider society. Although the challenges of pollution, waste, poverty, inequality, ecosystem destruction and climate change are truly global in scale, we believe that compassionate, community-based actions are worthwhile even though their outcomes are not certain.

AZC produces an environmental update every 1-2 months, with news on the climate crisis and opportunities for action.  We send this as an email update (contact if you would like to be added to the mailing list), and we also refresh this page each time an update is sent.  Here is the latest update: 

Green Network Plastics Update (8 July 2021)

Kia ora!
It has been a few years since I did a plastics update and, seeing as we are in the midst of Plastic Free July, now seemed like a good time. And a series of great questions from Erena on plastic recycling was another spur for action too -- thanks Erena! (for those of you who don't know, Erena Shingade started working part-time at the Centre with Amala-sensei and me in March, doing mainly accounts, IT support and Dharmagear).

So, here is our 2021 Plastics Q&A:

What plastic numbers are recycled currently in NZ?
Short answer: 1 & 2. 
Long answer: Almost all councils accept plastics 1 and 2 in kerbside recycling, and recycle them, either here in NZ or overseas. These two plastics are collected and recycled because there are high volumes of these materials, markets exist for the plastics and they are easy to turn into other useful products.

What happens to plastic number 5?
Short answer: Landfill

What happens to the other numbers?
Short answer: Landfill
Long answer: Since China stopped taking low value plastics in 2018, many councils here in NZ have stopped collecting them altogether. Some councils still collect them and store them, while other councils collect them and landfill them. In Auckland, mixed plastics (3, 4, 6 & 7) are currently collected in kerbside recycling but are then sent to landfill. 

What happens to soft plastics?
Short answer: Landfill
Long answer: As a nation we purchase about 5000 tonnes of soft plastic every year. The Love NZ Soft Plastic Recycling Scheme collects and recycles about 150 tonnes of soft plastics a year, which is great, but still just a drop in the soft plastic ocean. All the rest of it ends up as litter or landfill.

What about biodegradable bio-plastics?
Short answer: Landfill
Long answer: Terminology can get pretty confusing here, but if a plastic says compostable, then that is where the plastic should go: to a compost bin. If it says degradable, then it has to go to landfill. Neither can be recycled.

What happens to Tetra Paks?
Short answer: Landfill
Long answer: Problem with Tetra Paks is they are an aluminium/plastic/paper composite and very difficult to recycle. Very few places accept Tetra Paks in kerbside recycling. Auckland does, but most places you just have to put them in the landfill bin. There is no Tetra Pak recycling facility in NZ. A new Tetra Pak recycling facility in South Auckland was announced back in 2019, but it still has not happened. This year though, a new facility in Hamilton has been announced that will turn Tetra Paks into building board.

Are we really still shipping plastics to Malaysia?
Short answer: Yep

Can I recycle my disposable coffee cup? 
Short answer: No
Solution: It’s time to break up with the disposable cup! Slow down, sit down, and enjoy your coffee in a regular old-fashioned mug!

Why is it so complicated?
There is no co-ordinated recycling system around the country, so rules vary from place to place and this makes it pretty hard for us to have confidence about how to recycle. New packaging types are appearing all the time too, and some current packaging choices used by manufacturers (e.g. composite packaging, plastic sleeves over bottles, not using the plastic identification symbol) makes things worse.

Surely we are no worse than any other country at recycling?
Short answer: Wrong

Crikey. That is all pretty bleak. What can I do?
Practice "leaving no trace". As Amala-sensei wrote recently, this Zen saying points to an attitude of profound care; paying attention to our daily choices, consuming no more than we need, taking responsibility for whatever residues remain, so that past ancestors are honoured and future descendants thrive.

Choose a Plastic-Free July challenge. Its a great way to focus in on one aspect of our plastic-filled lives and create some change (a bit like a TI for plastics use).

Sign a petition! The Kiwi Bottle Drive have a public petition open that calls for the government to implement a comprehensive beverage container return scheme. This is one good way to increase reuse and decrease wastage.

Stay informed. The Zero Waste community is passionate and very knowledgeable in New Zealand. Find your waste heroes and follow them.

Ngā mihi nui,

Green Network Earth Month Update (24 March 2021)

Kia ora,
Earth Day is celebrated all around the world each April, but this year there are so many good things happening here in Tāmaki Makaurau in April that we can easily celebrate a whole Earth Month: 

This amazing festival is already underway and has a huge amount on offer. Take a look. Sensei and I have booked for a couple of events already -
-- can attend online or in-person
-- if you would like to join us, get in touch with us about sharing transport

The students are back on the streets, calling for action. All ages are invited to join them. Meet outside the Queen Street doors of the Britomart building at noon if you want to walk with others from AZC.  

An online study period leading up to Earth Day, focusing on the ways that Buddhist and Indigenous traditions can enrich and inform one another for the benefit of all beings. 

We will be celebrating Earth Day with ceremony and a one-day sitting. This will be a "hybrid" event, offered both here at the Centre in-person, and online via Zoom and Mixlr. 

Ngā mihi nui,

Green Network Update 10 March 2021

Kia ora everyone,
It has been a challenging few weeks for sure, with Covid restrictions, earthquakes and tsunami alerts all fraying our nerves. Thankfully we have no fatalities from any of these events- definitely something to be grateful for. During the latest Level 3 here in Auckland, I was reading The Vegetable Roots Discourse again (a 16th C collection of verses by Hong Zicheng), and was struck by this verse: 

"Heaven and Earth remain peacefully unmoved, yet their life-breath is unceasing.
The sun and moon hasten through their courses day and night, yet their constant light has not changed through the ages. 
So it is for the wise:
During times of leisure, they keep in mind what is proper for emergencies.
During times of haste, they retain an element of composure"

The verse reminds me, in this time of ongoing climate crisis, to keep on working - with the calm and clarity of practice. 


The big one this month is He Pou a Rangi Climate Change Commission's advice. It is a pretty friendly submission process- you can take a look at my submission if you want to get an idea of the process. Also includes links to some of the recent articles that I have found most useful.  Public consultation closes 28 March.

For those of us in Auckland, there is also the Auckland Council 10 Year Budget consultation. This budget includes climate action items, so good to speak up in support. The feedback form looks relatively straight forward (I haven't tackled this one yet!). Feedback has to be sent by noon, 22 March. 

The Centre is now a certified "Carbon Friendly" operation. We have entered into annual carbon offsetting with New Zealand firm Ekos (founded by the Zen teacher Sean Weaver), as the first step on our own journey to carbon zero. Next we are planning to look at renewable energy options for the Centre. 

We will be celebrating Earth Day with ceremony and a one-day sitting. This will be a "hybrid" event, offered both here at the Centre in-person, and online via Zoom and Mixlr. We are also going to explore volunteering options (on the Saturday), with the good folk at EcoMatters. More details to come, but mark that date now!

Ngā mihi nui,

Green Network Update 31 January 2021

Kia ora koutou katoa,

Today is the last day of January, the month associated with Janus, the ancient Roman god of gates, doorways, transitions, endings and beginnings. It seems like a good time to look up and look forward:


We’ve hardly started the year and already there has been so much inspiration: President Biden's inauguration was a celebration of diversity and courage, and the poetry reading by Amanda Gorman was electrifying (Gorman is also awesome reading her poem on climate change). President Biden immediately returned the USA to the Paris Agreement and has clearly signaled renewed US commitment to climate action.

NZ's Emission Budgets

Here in Aotearoa, a big climate-related event happened TODAY when the newly formed He Pao a Rangi (Climate Change Commission) released its first advice statement. The advice includes the proposed first three emissions budgets for Aotearoa. The Commission Chair Dr Rod Carr is hosting a public webinar 7-8 p.m. tonight, Sunday 31 January, to introduce the Commission’s advice and what it could mean for New Zealanders. This is open to anyone who would like to know more. You can register for this event here. Tomorrow, Monday 1 February, public consultation opens. Consultation will run for six weeks, through to 14 March. The Commission is also running a great series of public online events during the consultation: check their website for upcoming events.

Following consultation, the Commission will  finalize the advice and present it to the Government by 31 May. The Government has until 31 December to accept the recommendations. If it chooses not to take on the Commission’s advice, it must publish an alternative plan for addressing climate change in Aotearoa and reaching its targets.

NZ's Final Paris Targets

The other crucial climate decision that the government will make this year is setting New Zealand's final target under the Paris Agreement, ahead of the major climate summit in Glasgow, November 2021. New Zealand really needs to step up at Glasgow as we are looking woeful at the moment: we're currently projected to emit 707 million tonnes over the next decade - 106 million tonnes above our interim Paris target and 191 million above a target consistent with limiting warming to 1.5 degrees.

Clearly massive work ahead and rapid change needed at all levels- government, business, household, and our own heart-minds. The school strike organisers are already back to work this year, petitioning the government for faster action. Let's follow their young, wise leadership. In Zen, work (samu) is seen as an essential part of practice. So, with confidence in our collective human capacities and faith in our practice, lets roll up our sleeves and start our climate samu for 2021. 

Ngā mihi nui,


More on the AZC Climate emergency declaration

On the 28 May 2019 Sangha members met to discuss the option of declaring a Climate Emergency. There was unanimous support from those present for the draft declaration. AZC staff subsequently created an online survey to gain further input from the Sangha. There was almost unanimous support expressed in the survey results as well -- one Sangha member supported strong climate action but did not support the concept of a climate emergency. On 19 June 2019 the AZC Trustees unanimously adopted the declaration. 

By declaring a Climate Emergency, we commit to:

  • incorporating climate crisis considerations into the life of our Centre, our decisions, practices, purchases and policies

  • advocating strongly for greater central government and city leadership and action on climate change

  • treasuring and deepening our practice, which enables us to find love, compassion, joy, equanimity, and the courage for action in the midst of uncertainty and change.

This declaration is a way of affirming (to each other and to the wider community) that we are committed to the difficult work of facing the current climate crisis, exploring its roots in human greed, fear and denial, and its social and ecological consequences, and then doing what we can to alleviate suffering.

In making this declaration, we join hundreds of other Buddhist communities, faith groups, councils, cities and nations around the world, in order to serve our living planet and all its beings as best we can. In the coming weeks, months and years we will be working to keep this declaration alive and central in our practice and in our day-to-day activities.

More on being in the world

Here are some of the actions that we already taking to be in the world with attention and care:

Our food choices

At the Centre we follow a plant-based diet. We maintain vegetable plots in a local community garden and in Sensei's backyard. During the summer months, many of the vegetables used in the Centre kitchen and on sesshin are grown ourselves. When we are purchasing food, we select mainly local, seasonal fresh produce and also support organic and fair-trade producers whenever possible. All our food waste is composted.

Our product choices

We try to reduce the amount of "stuff" we use at the Centre and when we do need something, we explore low-impact, fair, simple options (e.g. reconditioning second-hand appliances). We take responsibility for what we can no longer use, making sure things are recycled whenever possible, or disposed of responsibly (e.g. we have an annual e-waste collection at the Centre to make it easier for Sangha members to dispose of old electrical equipment appropriately).

Our social choices

We aspire to make the Auckland Zen Centre an inclusive, accessible and welcoming place for those seeking to practice the Way, regardless of race, ethnic or national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or physical capabilities. For many years we have supported the human rights work of Amnesty International by fundraising, writing letters annually on Kannon Day, by staying informed about local and global issues and by taking part in public actions. Centre members also helped to found and continue to support the New Zealand Buddhist Council, which aims to create respectful relationships among New Zealand’s various Buddhist communities and to work with other faith communities to nurture mutual understanding and promote peace.

Our travel choices

We celebrate walking and biking as beneficial modes of transport. We encourage car-pooling and the use of public transport and our Centre is located within minutes of a train station and bus depot.

Our local choices

We care for our local neighbourhood by regularly collecting litter from the streets and in the past few years we have converted a neglected corner of Onehunga into a tiny park: our zendo backs onto a council-owned car park and the area around the car park was a forlorn wasteland, sprouting only weeds and rubbish. With the help of a council grant, we’ve cleared the litter and weeds, mulched the ground, and planted over 100 hardy native plants that in time will draw native birds and insects into this tiny oasis. We have also installed bench seats so locals can enjoy the garden.

Our Green Network

In early 2019 we had a series of talks from Sensei and Sangha members, exploring responses to the climate crisis we are in the midst of. This is such an urgent issue. After the talks we decided to form a Green Network to help keep ourselves informed and inspired about the climate actions that we can take up, both individually and together as a Sangha. At the moment the Green Network has email updates every 1-2 months, members are regularly taking part in different climate actions around Auckland, and we have irregular meetings. Contact if you would like to be on the Green Network email list. We also are affiliated with a Facebook group called "Dharma Rain Aotearoa". This is a digital space for anyone interested in exploring practice and compassionate action in this time of climate crisis. Search for the group on Facebook and ask to join -- you are most welcome. 

In addition to this daily work, at the Centre we mark the importance of compassionate action in two ceremonies each year: Earth Day and Kannon Day

Our actions and choices matter, large and small.

 Bread made at the Centre each week for lunches  Pumpkins growing in one of the Centre garden plots  Letters calling for the release of prisoners of conscience written on Kannon Day  Reconditioned 1960s sewing machine, in use at the Centre  Bulk purchase of paper-wrapped toilet paper (from 100% recycled paper).