For volunteer Dave Bryce, one of the secrets to living a healthier life is getting amongst the dirt.

At 74-years-old, Dave has been working to live as sustainably as possible for the past 20 years.

“My wife and I are trying to live as sustainably as we can by providing for most of our needs through nature. We grow trees for firewood, eat from our garden, and heat our house from the sun.

“We’ve found that working with plants and trees is important. There’s bacteria on them and in the soil that interact with our own microbiomes and stimulate our endorphins. We feel good and it keeps us healthier and more resilient.”

As a passionate environmentalist, Dave uses his spare time to co-ordinate the restoration of Drayton Reserve, a former pastoral farm that sits below his home on Mount Pleasant.

“Scientists have said that 50 per cent of the earth’s surface needs to be returned back to its original ecosystems if the human species is to survive, so we are totally dependent on that happening and we’re working on doing it here,’’ says Dave

“There are many benefits to working with nature and every time you go into the Reserve, there is something new to learn about the interactions between the plants, birdlife, insects and fish”.

Dave has organised volunteers to work in Drayton Reserve since 2016 and estimates they have planted about 8,000 trees.

“We’ve been doing this for six years and are in our seventh planting season. We try to put in a thousand trees a year, but it usually ends up being more than that.

“We have 200 people on our email list, and 10 to 20 regulars. We’re always looking for more people who are keen to get involved, whether it be individuals, businesses or school groups.

“All of our trees are eco-sourced, provided by the Council, and we get them right here in Christchurch from Trees for Canterbury.’’

Dave keeps the group growing with regular working bees and newsletters. He has also been very involved with the creation of the Eco Kiwi Pledges, a joint effort with the Redcliffs Residents’ Association, that list ways you can reduce your carbon emissions and improve biodiversity.

While planting trees and looking after the reserve takes up a lot of Dave’s spare time, Dave is also a keen gardener, growing more than 100 edible species in his garden.

From grapes and guava to broccoli and bananas, Dave has attempted to grow it.

“We love having our own garden and it means we can reuse our waste, we don’t have to go out and buy fruits and vegies, and we’re integrating with our own ecosystem.

“Anyone can start getting a garden growing. You can simply start by growing micro greens on your kitchen bench. I recommend starting off small. Things like lettuces are great as they grow all year round. Or peas and broad beans are also quite easy.

“Every little bit counts and anything can be helpful. We need to learn to live within nature if we want to survive on this planet, everyone can do it,” says Dave.