News | 10 May 2021

Empowering Pōneke to embrace less waste

Having spent most of her career surrounded by pre-loved items, creating art, and working at the Tip Shop, Jo Langford loves her job educating the community on waste reduction as Wellington City Council's Waste Minimisation Officer. We caught up with her for a chat.

Jo Langford in a loose black and white speckled dress standing next to a waste reduction education table.

What are you working on right now?

Part of my job includes giving landfill tours and educational talks to pre-schools, schools, offices and community groups on how to reduce waste. Our sessions focus on reducing food waste, composting, worm farms and how to Reduce – Reuse – Recycle.

We develop resources that help people know what's recyclable in the Wellington City Council kerbside collections, other options for recycling, and tips on how to reduce waste.

I have also just finished making a model of the landfill for school visits. Yes, I have the most fun job in Wellington!

Talk us through a typical day or week

The waste minimisation team work with a wide range of organisations, communities and individuals to help make a healthier, less wasteful future for our city. Some of the ways we do this is through education sessions, campaigns and providing funding for waste minimisation initiatives.

We work really closely with the Council’s web team and communications team  they do an amazing job of helping us get our message out there to Wellingtonians. Together we promote campaigns like Plastic Free July, Love Food Hate Waste, and workshops like Waste Free Parenting and living with Kate Meads.

A child with redish golden hair in a black t-shirt looking at a small scale 3D model of the city, with a road, the landfill and heavy vehicles.
Jo's newly finished model of the landfill for school visits.

What did you do before this job?

I trained as an artist and made work exploring the fragile relationship between the natural world and the human constructed environment. These works are generally made from discarded ‘waste’ materials, which led me to apply for a part time job at the Landfill's Tip Shop all the way back in 2007.

This was a dream job. It helped fund my art practice and provided a perfect vantage point to scout for art materials. And it felt good to be saving usable things from going to the landfill.

The Tip Shop is still one of my favourite places. It’s more than just a second-hand shop – it’s a point of connection for a whole community of people including creatives, fixers, tinkerers and collectors.

In 2020 I was offered a six-month secondment as an educator in the Waste Minimisation Team. I loved the work and the team and at the end of the secondment was offered a permanent position, and now I never want to leave!

What's been your greatest achievement?

Juggling having a family, work and art making – although the art making didn’t last long but I guess being able to let that go for a while is a healthy achievement too.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Hanging out with family and friends, fixing and building stuff, gardening, making huts and potions with the kids.

Jo Langford in a colourful red and blue jacket, leaning against a tall glass box with a green piece of 3D art inside, with Wellington waterfront in background.
Jo with some of her cool, waste-inspired art, when it was on display at Wellington waterfront.

If you had 12 months' paid leave, what would you do?

Since I’ve been in the Waste Minimisation team, I've learnt so much about waste and the environment  concepts at the core of my art practice – and all that information is bubbling away and ready to come out in my next project. So I would use the time to develop a new body of work.

I would also love to learn te reo Māori, do lots of gardening, learn about food foraging, read more, and have some sleep-ins.

Is there anything you want to add Jo?

Yes! It’s great to have the opportunity to get the 'reducing waste' word out there as much as possible.

If you want to book an education session, landfill tour, or check out our funding for waste minimisation initiatives, send us an email waste.education@wcc.govt or check out the Waste Education webpage.

Not sure if an item is recyclable? Take a look at the information on ‘Sorting and preparing your rubbish and recycling’.

The ‘what to do with your waste’ itemised search tool is also really handy and will give you information on if an item is recyclable through Wellington City Council kerbside collections, if it's recyclable through another scheme in Wellington, and tips on how to reduce this waste in the future.

If you want to embrace more of a zero waste lifestyle and start consuming less, analysing what you are buying, and choosing reusables and package-free, check out our ‘sustainable grocery shopping’ page and The Rubbish Trip.

If you’re interested in working with Jo and the team, they are currently looking for a Waste Minimisation Officer and Waste Educator.