Two weeks ago, I met a lovely lady called Maeva, who at the time, worked for the same company a I do. Here is the email she sent me out of the blue;
I’m writing to you after reading your profile on the intranet. I hope you won’t mind.
My husband and I are also onto the sustainable living path. We spent 6 months living on our boat last year and so were able to control our impact on the environment (produced our own electricity from wind turbine and solar panels, lived on rain and river water using 3L per day per person, etc.). Now that we are back on dry land after finding it was possible to live comfortably with so little, I see waste everywhere and want to do something.
We’re trying as much as possible at home: we have switched the fridge off for winter, have energy-efficient light bulbs, switch everything at the wall (not that we have many appliances… we’re talking a laptop, a radio and a micro-wave), have decided not to switch heater on for winter, we don’t have a car (walk, cycle or catch public transport everywhere we go), etc.
I now want to take my neighbours on the ride. Unfortunately we are
tenants in a 1970s block of flats occupied by low-income earners (including 2
flats under Housing Commission Scheme, 1 occupied by refugees). We’re talking apartments rented $160 per week. This means no insulation, unsealed
windows, 1-flush toilets, etc. and of course no renovation done by landlords for
many many years, except new paint over old paint. Yet I think that it’s not
because all we can afford is an old cheap rental flat block that we shouldn’t
have an opportunity to our bit. So I’ve got this crazy idea to get community,
landlords, city council, housing commission, etc. together and see what could be
done to improve our footprint as a little community in the community. This is
very early on in my thinking and at this stage what I am trying to do is learn
from people who have been through such a process before I try to get
stakeholders together. So I’d be very happy to hear about any tips that you
Let me know if we could talk sometime.”
So talk we did. Maeva met me at my building and we had a brown paper lunch together. It was as if we had known each other for years. It was great to meet another person face to face who shares the same values and cares about consumerism and treading lightly on the planet as I do. First of all, because we had shared blogs before we caught up in person, we talked about her husband and her recent voyage in their yacht called Tyhina. They sailed from Florida where they fitted the boat to Newfoundland in Canada all by them selves, and the plans they have to sail the Northwest passage from Newfoundland to Alaska over the top of Canada in the next few months. You can follow their adventures at this site, http://www.tyhina.com. Check out the voyage log for the story about their last trip and the crew page for their bio. I was so impressed, because to plan for this type of voyage takes a lot of forethought, and just to provision food for such a journey is amazing. Maeva talked about how they had provisions on board for 12 months, all in waterproof containers, and what they ate and how she prepared it. They were basically on a vegetarian diet for the first trip, because meat and dairy products are so hard to keep on a long voyage. She reckoned that they ate like kings every day. As of two weeks ago, her hubby Pete had sailed solo from where the yacht was in overwintering in Newfoundland to Greenland, and her only contact with him was a couple of rings on her mobile phone each morning at 4 am! She was going to fly out at the end of July to begin the trip with him. Good luck and fair winds!
Anyway, after we talked about trip, we got down to sustainable living. She loved all the things we had done and saw it as a simple example of turning a suburban block into a sustainable example for other people. I thought that the best way to tackle her proposal where she lived was not to promote green living, but to show how easy it was to save real money by adopting a few energy efficiency measures to reduce their resource consumption. Where she lived there was adequate public transport and food shops within walking and cycling range. Maeva told me that she didn’t need a fridge because she bought fresh fruit and vegetables most days by riding her bike to the local greengrocer and only bought what she need for the next few days. Everything else she needed to cook her meals were dry goods that stored well in containers which she learnt from her first voyage. I suggested that she showed the other residents how she lived, and gave examples of how they could save money doing it her way. In that way, it wasn’t shoving a green message down peoples throats, but more like frugal living and was greening by stealth! She thought that was a good idea and would give it a go in the time she had left in Australia.
We then went on to talk about excessive consumerism and how we both enjoyed scouring op shops for bargains. Most of her corporate wardrobe was from Vinnies, and I certainly couldn’t tell the difference. I told her about the things I bought at the Salvos, like preserving jars, cooking utensils and jeans which were built to last. All very cool stuff, and we went on a while about how we see the people around us still carrying on as if nothing was happening to the world, and that water restrictions and climate change didn’t exist in Melbourne. Simple things like people still running the tap to wash out a cup, and washing loads of dishes in dishwashers two or three times because no one wants to unload the bloody things. How the CBD buildings are lit up like Christmas trees overnight when no-one is actually at work. I also mentioned how people leave their PC’s and monitors on when they go home at night, and how dual monitors seam to be the latest craze amongst office workers. We only have one set of eyes for gods sake!
After our little eco whinge fest (which everyone is entitled to on the odd occation), we finished up, and said our goodbyes . I suggested that when Pete and her get back to Australia, that they could pop over for a visit to our house and tell us about their exciting trip. Maeva said that it would be a great idea.
Bon Voyage, Maeva and Pete.