A few months back, there was a profile piece on me that appeared in national eco-living magazine. This post contains the unedited and raw Green Lifestyle Magazine interview that I gave for the profile.
I am reproducing it here because a) it took me ages to come up with the answers, and b) only about 10% of it appeared in the magazine article. The questions are by Tierri Abraham.
I go into a lot of depth and provide a lot of detailed information regarding my actions and opinions during my journey so far.
You have described experiencing an epiphany after watching a documentary which lead to your green transformation. Can you tell me about this?
I can still remember the day vividly. It was during September 2006 I attended a work sponsored viewing of “An Inconvenient Truth”. I had no preconceived views or opinions about climate change before the movie, and was just going because everyone else was. In fact you could probably call me ignorant.
About three-quarters of the way through the documentary, a wave of guilt and emotion swept over me. It was around the time that Al Gore showed images of the retreating glaciers that it kind of hit home. It was like someone had smacked me around the head with a big fish. I went from blissfully unaware, to environmentally away in the space of an hour and a half.
I felt so guilty that I was one of those few billion privileged humans that had trashed the planet by over consumption.
So from that day to this, I have and still do, all that I can to take actions towards lowering our family’s environmental footprint and try to promote the benefits of living a more sustainable lifestyle.
You have a background in the navy. Has your naval experience helped prepare you to create a more sustainable lifestyle? Or was the switch to a greener lifestyle a very big step for you and your family to make? Can you describe your family’s lifestyle before changing to sustainability? How many children (ages) and how are they involved?
I know that my twenty years of naval service has helped, but not in ways that are very obvious. I think the discipline that was drummed into me, and the ability to stick to a mission until completion has helped me set goal after goal and achieve the vast majority of them.
It was a very big step for our family to take. We, like many families at the time, knew very little able climate change and even less about what individuals could do to combat rising greenhouse gas emissions. The documentary helped to change all of that. Our family went on a journey, driven primarily by me, taking calculated small steps, lowering our environmental footprint as we went.
Before I had my green awakening, Kim (my wife) and I were rampant consumers caught hook, line, and sinker on the merry-go-round of easy to acquire credit.
We were really lost, chasing the almighty dollar, thinking that the more material things we owned, the happier we would be. It was simply not the case. We were sad and always struggling to pay off credit cards, personal loans that were used to purchase stuff we really didn’t need. I was slogging my guts out, day in, day out, without much meaning in my life.
I have four children, Adam 27, Amy 25, Megan 22, Benjamin 14, all who lived at home at the time. They were all much younger at the time, and the older ones were sceptical at first, and essentially blamed my generation for stuffing it all up. I am afraid that I felt guilty as charged, but wanted to change for their sake, and the sake of my yet to be born grandchildren.
What was the hardest thing about making the switch? Describe the reaction from your family and friends to your plans to become greener?
The hardest thing at the start was convincing my wife and kids that this was the right thing to do. They hadn’t seen the documentary as I had, so had no reference to what I had experienced. They thought that their old Dad was going a bit crazy, telling them to turn off their lights and computers all the time, and bugging them when they put recyclables in the rubbish bin.
My wife knew that there was something very wrong, because I wasn’t sleeping well and behaving out of character. I even stopped buying stuff. In the end, she confronted me and asked if I was having an extra-marital affair! So I looked for a method to show them the facts about climate change, as I knew it.
It took a viewing of “An Inconvenient Truth” at home to help them to understand as I did. My lovely wife had the same sorts of emotional response as I did, but the young adults of the family told me that not everyone could afford a hybrid car, or solar panels on their roof, or had the room for a vast veggie patch in their backyard.
I didn’t have much of a rebuttal, so started to plan out what we were going to do about it ourselves. The great thing was that the kids helped with all my building projects, from building the raised garden beds for the veggie patch, the two chicken coops, planting fruit trees, to helping build the clay oven. The entire family helped get us to where we are today.
Living sustainably does take a lot of time and effort. Many people say they are too busy to prepare to live a more sustainable life – yet you work fulltime in IT while producing a website. What made you decide to start a website and blog? How do you fit it all in and what do you hope people get out of your website?
Well, if you calculate out all the time that people spend watching television, and on Facebook each day, you would be really amazed how much quality time you can get back in your life. From experience, you also find yourself less influenced by advertising which helps reduce the need to buy stuff that you don’t need.
I rarely watch TV, usually only documentaries if anything (maybe the odd episode of Star Trek and Dr Who). I regain at least four to five hours each night, and both weekend days, which goes a very long way to allow us to live a more sustainable lifestyle, and then to write about it on my blog.
I started my blog The Greening of Gavin in February 2008, which was 17 months after my epiphany. Around that time, Kim and a few friends suggested that I start writing a book about the things that we had achieved so far. I was overwhelmed by even the thought of writing a pitch and looking for a publisher, so being in IT, I looked for the next best thing. Blogs had been around for a while, so I took the plunge and started writing about things I had done around our home to live life a more sustainable life.
I write posts by hand first, usually on my commute to work each morning, then on the way home I rework it if necessary and flesh out the rest of the post. I then type up that day’s post and publish it around 10 pm most nights.
As for the podcasts and YouTube videos, I have a very simple communications strategy and that is to BE EVERYWHERE!
Some people prefer reading, some digest information by listening, others by watching. If I can get the message out there that sustainable living is not only fun, fulfilling, but easy to do via as many mediums as I possibly can, then more people will ultimately take steps to lowering their environmental footprint, and then demand that of their leaders. It is worth a shot given what is at stake here.
Do you know how many followers/listeners you have? Any examples of the sort of feedback you receive from people who follow your YouTube videos and the website.
Some basic stats around visitors to the blog/podcast. To date there have been over 2 million page views on The Greening of Gavin with about 1000 unique visits a day, and over 325,000 on Little Green cheese which has 800 unique visits a day.
The Greening of Gavin podcast has about 200 listeners per day, and the same for the Little Green Cheese, but about a thousand more on the day I publish a weekly episode.
The YouTube videos have received over half a million views with just over 3000 subscribers.
As for Facebook and twitter, I use these networks to drive traffic back to the blogs with some effect.
Here are some recent comments from the TGoG blog;
“Great talk Gav. I think you covered everything and you kept it simple yet fully inclusive. Its important (i think that you are good at this) in speaking slowly, clearly and also not overwhelming your audience by coming across as being so so green that people switch off believing that they can’t relate to you. You are “the guy next door”. I even imagine you as that guy who pops his head over the fence in that Tim Allen Tool show.” – Lynda
“Keep on keeping on Gavin. You are doing a great job in spreading the word.
You are an inspiration to us followers and I’m sure the ripples will spread.” – Jean
Great post! Don’t be too discouraged. Sometimes when you are on your ” high horse’ you have a view of things that others just don’t see yet. I have known more than a few folks that take time to digest the information that is given them. They go home, do some of their own research and eventually come to the same conclusions as you do. Keep up the good work.” – Barbara
“Thank you Gavin, I read your book in one sitting it was so interesting and inspiring.” – Wendy
“Hi Gavin. I’ve been following your blog for a while, I found it when trying to convince my partner to build me a pizza oven. Thanks to you, he’s now on board and collecting materials in readiness for construction. He’s also a big ‘Greening of Gavin’ fan. We’re both amazed at how much you achieve, while working a day job. Thank you very much for your website/blog. It’s inspirational.”- Astrid
“Hi Gavin. I recently found your blog in Greg Foyster’s book, Changing Gears and have been reading your archived entries when my 2 and a half-year old son lets me have some free time! I love your honest, down to earth, non-preachy writing style and the friendly advice you provide in your blog.
My hubby and I are starting our sustainability journey. We have a 3.6kW solar energy system, have started planting some veggies (though our Asian Greens are being demolished by cabbage moths!), use water wisely and have dramatically reduced our consumption of ‘stuff’. We still have a long way to go, but I feel happier already!
Thanks very much and please keep on blogging! – Angelina”
Your second blog about your cheese making is also popular. What made you take up cheese making?
Well, my cheese making adventure started about a year after I took up blogging my sustainable living adventure.
Our local community centre was hosting a cheese making course, and to cut a long story short, I thoroughly enjoyed the five-hour course. I made some Feta and then purchased a cheese making kit afterwards so that I could make my very own cheese at home. I was well and truly bitten by the cheese making bug!
It took me a year of making cheese at home before I decided to write about it and share recipes on a second blog called Little Green Cheese.
Since that very first cheese, I have gone on to make many more different types including the following; Feta, Wensleydale, Farmhouse Cheddar, Emmental, Stilton, Camembert, Parmesan, Ricotta, Romano, Pepper Jack, Monterey Jack, Ossau-Iraty with green peppercorns, Caerphilly and Mozzarella, to name a few.
What is your favourite cheese?
I know it sounds like a bit of a cop-out, but any artisan cheese made with the best possible ingredients gets my vote. However, if I had to choose one cheese out of the many I have made, I would say that Caerphilly is my favourite due to its unique taste and quick ripening time (3 weeks). Second favourite would be Stilton.
What have been your biggest successes and biggest failures in the garden since starting to live more sustainably?
During my first year of growing food, I was totally amazed how well everything grew. Not a huge harvest, but enough food to keep my family and I interested in growing more. I learnt most of the techniques I use from books, with no real practical experience before 2006, so to go from zero to gardening success in just a few years is one of my biggest and best gardening successes.
Every gardener gets their swag of failures along the way. Mine was Brussels sprouts that no one would eat, and planting way too many zucchini and egg plants each year. It gets to a stage where you can’t even give them away for free! Succession planting techniques were learnt soon afterwards.
The best thing about food gardening is that it keeps you grounded. You spend time noticing the change of the seasons in minute detail. It brings joy with each success, and learning from each failure.
What has surprised you most about your own lifestyle transformation?
The biggest surprise has not been how easy it all has been once the basic habits are formed, but the amount of people who continue to tell me how they have been inspired by all the things I do and write about. Usually in the same email, they then tell me about all the small steps that they have taken themselves after reading about something I have done.
Those emails and comments keep me inspired and encourages me to keep on doing what I am doing here in the suburbs and that it is worthwhile and helpful for others who may also want to take steps to lowering their own environmental footprint. It makes me a very happy man.
There you go, raw and unedited. Quite different from the magazine profile if you compare the two (you will have to buy a copy of that issue to find out). Don’t get me wrong, I was very pleased with the profile. I just needed to show you the rest of it for prosperity.
Hopefully it has shown that there is a bit more going on in my head than just gardening!