I was reading this older post from Zero Waste Home the other day and it got me to thinking about how and when I came to be on the road to a more sustainable existence. Unlike Bea, I did not have an overnight epiphany from a consumerist lifestyle to attempting zero waste.
A bit of history is probably the best way to start. I was born a little over 50 years ago when Brisbane was really not much more than a big country town in many ways. My parents did not own a car, milk was delivered in glass bottles, the greengrocer, fishmonger and baker called in with their produce for sale and supermarkets were still a relatively new innovation in Australia. We had a wood stove in our modern home which was a mere 6 miles from the CBD. We kept chickens and grew some of our own food.
As I grew up things changed. The wood stove was replaced by an electric one, my mother shopped at the supermarket, my parents bought a car and a television. Nevertheless, we grew up with an awareness that things were not upgraded just because there was a newer, more expensive model. We were taught that possessions were not easily replaced and that it was important to take care of what you had. All types of things were mended, repaired, re-purposed and re-used. They were only thrown out when they truly reached the end of their useful life.
We had new toys but also appreciated the value of home-made. I remember the excitement when our father made kites for us – from some timber dowel, brown paper (saved from the packaging of something), glue, string and pieces old old sheeting salvaged from the rag bag to make the ties on the tail of the kite.
I learned to knit and sew when I was quite young, although crocheting is something I have never really mastered. In my teens I learned how to mix concrete as I helped my father. No-one set out to teach me these things, they were learned by shared experience with my mother, father and extended family.
I believe that although there have been times when I have tended to consume more resources and be wasteful, the essence of who I am and what I believe in comes from my upbringing.
In the late 1980s, with 2 young daughters, I came to realise that there was no way that we could all continue to exponentially use more and more resources and expect that we and future generations could continue on that path.
We were living in Adelaide at the time and I became aware of a conservation group, Gully Environment Network, which was started by Clive and Gloria Bristow. Gloria wrote, “Why Conservation” which was published in 1979, well before many people took any interest in conservation and environmental issues. At the time that I met this amazing couple, they were campaigning against the introduction of wheelie bins (240 litre) in our local council area, arguing that the increased capacity (from the standard 55 litre galvanised bins) would encourage waste rather than reduce it. It is ancient history that the wheelie bins became a fact of our lives but there is a 120 litre option. However, the action continues. The Wynn Vale Community Garden was another brainchild of Clive and Gloria. Gloria was also instrumental in setting up the ReGen Community Op Shop. The link will take you to the Facebook page where there are more links to articles from the local paper. Gloria has consistently advocated and led the way with local and individual action rather than reports and studies as this letter shows. I am proud to say that she has been my mentor in my path to tread more lightly on this earth and try to make a difference.
If you are still reading this missive, I applaud you. I will write more on my sustainable journey another day. Thank you for taking the time to read.
What are you doing to move towards a more sustainable future? Who or what inspires you? I would love to hear your stories.