Behind the Green is all about giving you more insight into the places we feature. Our interviews reveal what happens behind the scenes, tells stories of the people on the ground, exposes the challenges they face, as well as the communities they impact; essentially the bits you don’t usually hear.
Meet Nisha, the owner of Eco Villa. A trained outdoor instructor and self-development coach, she describes herself as a “jack of all trades”. Her hobbies include looking after her 4-year old, she is also an avid gardener and permaculture enthusiast! Permaculture is defined by the development of agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient.
Learn more about Eco Villa here >
How did you come to be owners of Eco Villa?“My husband and I lived in Australia for a while, but both wanted to move back home to New Zealand. We wanted to live in a big city and we were both enamored by the south side of the island. The city had changed so much after the earthquake in 2011, so it was quite sobering to come back. We knew we wanted to start a business that could improve people’s lives in some way.
When we first went into the Eco Villa we felt good vibes, it had soul and character. I believe every property has its own energy, created by the people who used to live there. Apparently, it used to be a very musical house where a famous opera singer lived, and people used to come in off of the street to hear the beautiful music, it was perfect because my husband is also a musician.
There’s just something about this building that captures peoples attention and it just feels like somewhere you want to spend time.”
What inspired you to have a more sustainable approach to the Villa?“I had a varied upbringing with an adventurous father and my mother was quite unconventional. We moved around in communities that were developing a more sustainable way of living. We lived off the grid, so I’ve always had that background.
My husband and I host guests at our house and we were surprised to find how many people are surprised by stuff that is completely normal to us. We wanted to inspire people to live more sustainably by showing them how easily it can be done in day to day life. For me, if someone goes home and decides to start growing their own lettuces in the garden as we do, that’s a win in itself.”
How would you best describe the Eco Villa to potential guests?“I would describe it as an amalgamation of all of the best bits of a hotel, a B&B and a backpackers hostel. You can expect the professionalism of a hotel with smart check-in, with the homeliness and delicious food of a B&B and the social element of a hostel. We want our guests to feel comfortable, almost like they’re in their own home.”
What is the one thing you recommend guests to do in the area?“Christchurch is such a vibrant place that I couldn’t recommend only one thing! It depends on the guest. We like to recommend great sustainable restaurants that we have tried, because the city has an amazing food scene. It’s also quite a small city so it’s great to just have a walk around. After the earthquake, lots of buildings collapsed meaning a lot of walls were left with huge empty spaces which are now home to amazing murals and street art.
I recently updated our website to display all the amazing sustainable community events and most of them are free which is even better!”
Where do you see the biggest area of improvement in your approach to sustainability?“We would really like to be able to run on 100% renewable energy, so installing solar panels would make a huge difference to the villa. It would also be great to be able to install rainwater tanks as the water supply is becoming more of a problem in New Zealand. We would love to be more self-sufficient and we are working everyday to get closer to this.”
What green initiative are you most proud of to date?“We’ve made huge improvements in terms of our approach to food. Our breakfast minimises plastic waste. We don’t use meat and have stopped using dairy, as dairy farming intensifies land use (even more so than meat) causing nitrogen run-off which is bad news for the local water supply. It’s our way of reducing our carbon footprint and showing people that they can have a delicious plant based breakfast. We only use eggs that are ethically obtained, having seen where they come from myself.”
What would you do differently if you could start again?“I would approach the construction of the Eco Villa differently. I would have liked to have spent more money on green initiatives, but we just didn’t have the budget at the time. During construction I did install a lot of sound proofing, but I wish that we had installed more. The villa is well sound-proofed, but it could always be better. My advice to anyone setting out on a project like this would be to spend the extra bit of money to do what you want, as opposed to doing it later down the line.”
What’s next for Eco Villa?“We’ve got lots of plans for the future! We’re looking into showcasing local businesses. We plan on having vegan cooking workshops, as well as more decadent workshops on chocolate and vegan cheese. We’re also partnering with local companies, including Rekindle who run the Resourceful ōtautahi Walking Tour to show visitors how resourcefulness can benefit the well-being of people and the planet.”
What book would you recommend for our eco-conscious readers?“Sepp Holzer’s Permaculture – If you’re a keen gardener I highly recommend Sepp. His books read like novels, unlike some books on permaculture that are difficult to get through. I read this one cover to cover!”
Find out more about Eco Villa & do your own green checks here >