Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Accidental Environmentalist

Dads, in my experience, seem to fall into one of two categories - the ones who rush out to buy the latest gadget as soon as it is available at the Apple store, bugger the expense; and the ones who will happily wait several years for their preferred brand of socks (Explorer) to go on sale (at $2 off).

My father falls squarely into the latter category.

As a teenager, my Dad's frugality was a sore point for myself and my brothers. We rolled our eyes at his home-made "security" system - silver-backed tape on the windows to fool the burgulars into thinking we actually had a security system - and derided him endlessly for taking his own snacks to the cinema (not even packaged snacks - apples and gladwrapped sultanas and almonds!). We begged him to buy some new clothes to replace his worn and mended overalls and paper-thin t-shirts. We refused to tell him how much a new pair of sneakers cost to avoid the outraged rant that would inevitably follow (as far as he was concerned, anyone who paid more than $10 for a pair of shoes was being ripped off).

It wasn't that he didn't have the money to spend. It wasn't that he was greedy and loved money; he wasn't miserly in that sense. It was just that he couldn't see the need for new things where old or existing things would suffice.

Naturally, we all reacted to this tight-arsedness in various ways. I became an avid bargain-hunter, who often lashed out on pretty, useless objects just for the joy of owning them. My middle bro became a model of generosity, a soft target for chuggers and friends who endlessly "forget" their wallets. And my youngest bro married a lovely girl who comes from a family where money is made to be enjoyed, who believe in buying the best quality that you can afford, and naturally he has swung over to that way of thinking.

My Dad never changed his position.

Over time, I've come to recognise the value in my Dad's frugality. I have even taken some lessons from him - I have no qualms about picking up items from a skip or hard rubbish collection, for instance. I will often make-do with whatever I have to hand, rather than replacing it with new. Buying anything over, say $100, causes me a little twinge of panic. Of course, I still buy stuff - but while my Dad taught me to wait for something to go on sale rather than pay full price (unless I really love it or it's shoes*), my WWOOFing experience taught me to question the impact of every purchase beyond the price tag.

Lately, I've come to see that my Dad has managed, unknowingly, to be what I like to call an Accidental Environmentalist. He's not motivated by some higher environmental or spiritual goal, he just doesn't like to spend money unnecessarily - and as a side-effect, without even trying, he's been saving the planet for fifty-nine years. His values are from a different era - the Great Depression, or post-War austerity, when everyone had to make-do and mend. A time before climate change and cheap long-haul flights; before shopping became our number 1 leisure activity; before the internet, even. Imagine that, kiddies.

At some point in the future, we are probably going to be forced to revert to a simpler, more localised way of living, because our current lifestyle is simply unsustainable. If this change occurs in his lifetime, my Dad will be in his element. People will be flocking to him for his words of wisdom; he will be a guru of frugal living.

"The best thing about them is they're already worn in!" (about dead man's pyjamas from the op-shop).
"I found this old hook at a construction site on the way home, it might come in handy" (twenty years later). 
"You can eat the whole apple, you know. Are you going to eat that core?"

My Dad, the unwilling eco-warrior. We should all be more like him.

*Shoes. My weakness. I have large size 10-11 feet; there are hardly any shoes in my size and never on sale, so I will happily fork over full price for a decent pair that fit me. Or a gorgeous pair that don't quite fit me. Sorry, Dad. And planet. I'll try harder.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Me n' Heidi Klum...

Sisters in colour pairings, yeah?

Heidi at the Golden Globes the other night...

...and a resin bracelet I made at a jewellery workshop recently. It's all about tan and hot pink, baby.
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