Green Smart Pots

I was in South Australia’s McLaren Vale wine-growing region recently and met a lovely gentleman and olive farmer named Tony who sold us some tasty homemade olive oil and then proceeded to show us some of his organic veggies. He had this amazing veggie patch with beautiful, healthy herbs and veggies all growing in these plastic tubs. He mentioned a business that his uncle had started called Green Smart Pots which were what we were observing here which have a clever self-watering system especially designed for Australia’s strict water restrictions. Little “wicks” draw the water up from the base and keep the plants healthy without over or under-watering them. This sort of thing has been around for awhile, but these were excellent designs that we could see working beautifully with our own eyes.

This is something I have been putting off due to being in a rental house situation and not wanting to alter things too much. That, and also not wanting to put a lot of effort into a garden only to leave one day and not be able to take it with me. This system definitely solves both problems and gives people with even the most modest amount of space a way to grow their own food and steal back from the big grocery stores the expensive, chemical-covered, food-mile laden and generally poor excuse for fresh veggies and herbs that they peddle!

Not Buying It

I’ve just been going through a mini bout of poverty: no jobs rolling in, Christmas costs just past, bills to pay, etc. So I’m down to a few cents in the ol’ bank accountaroodle. But it’s all good. Great actually to be firm with myself about delving into credit just so I can live comfortably rather than tightening up and just doing less, spending less and eating what’s left in the cupboard Not Buying It book cover(it’s surprising how many meals you can make when you think the cupboards are empty! In fact, during my housesitting period, I chucked out countless boxes worth of old food from people’s cupboards that could’ve saved them $$ heaps on buying new stuff when they didn’t need to…anyway, that’s another story!).

Coinciding nicely with buying less and just dealing with it, Heidi and I have started reading a book called Not Buying It by Judith Levine. It’s started off a bit doom-and-gloom as many of the books I’ve read of late about climate change and unsustainable practices are, but it looks to be an interesting read as she chronicles a year of her life not buying anything that is “non-essential”. She keeps a chronological journal that shows how she does through a whole year of reducing her consumeristic behavior.

In general, but especially when money is hard to come by, I like this thinking. I’d love to try doing a whole year of buying only “essential” stuff but I imagine it’d be hard. With less income rolling in, I guess you’re forced into that kind of action anyway, made even more obvious when you see how homeless and under-developed nations live like this all the time. Of course, this sort of “experiment” is the extreme as most of us don’t choose to live such a hard life, but I suppose if we all pulled back just that extra bit and reconsidered the true necessity and impact of every non-essential thing we buy, we’d be making some headway with the global crisis.

Wealth reduction and appreciating what we’ve got

This is just a thought that popped into my head so I’m going to explore it a bit and see what comes of it: people with more money buy more stuff. Yes, I know, a revolutionary thought, hey?

Well, though it seems blazingly obvious on the surface, I was thinking that money – however you come by it – breeds a type of laziness once you have a certain amount of it. Now, it may take a lot of effort to make the money in your work or career, and we all need to get certain essentials in life that cannot be acquired secondhand or made from scratch, but it seems that once you’ve hit a certain earning (and perhaps “busyness”) threshold, then if something needs repair or has “fallen out of fashion” or performs a very specific task that could be done by something else but we decide we “need” that particular tool for the job, well then we just go out and buy a new one.

For example, in the realm of repairing an item, I’ve seen it happen often that someone who can afford to replace an item will not bother mending a fixable item, but will effortlessly replace it. The earning threshold they have achieved has now put them in the mindset of “why should I bother to spend the time/effort to fix this (and it’ll look unappealing then anyway), when I can go out and buy a new/better one?” While this might be true of a well-worn item that you’ve had for decades and is overdue for a replacement, it often is the case with an item with only superficial repair needs, but it’s the time it takes and the effort required which determines the fate of this otherwise intact item.

It’s all a bit lazy and I think accounts for a lot of our society’s waste of resources (see the important and entertaining Story of Stuff for what I mean). That laziness, I believe, stems directly from that financial threshold that this person might have achieved from a number of reasons:

1) they may work so much that they claim that there is no time to spend on repairing something. They also have “better things to do” with their time
2) they have a status to maintain with peers so an aging or obviously repaired item will simply look tatty in amongst their swishy other stuff
3) there is a certain power or thrill in being able to wield this financial prowess at will. Picking a brand-new item fulfills our society’s need to buy and consume

To me, this all boils down to having too much money. You always hear stories of people who started small, living it tough but working their way to bigger and better things. While that’s truly honorable in some ways, it reflects our mindset in our society that success is all-important and we see those early days as a necessary evil en route to financial freedom, comfort and wealth. What I don’t understand is why those early days are considered a negative to get through as quickly as possible? It’s in those early days of honest labour and frugal living where we probably make our most genuine relationships, where we value every dollar we earn, where we respect others who are in the same boat as us and where we are anything but lazy. Take that ultimate goal of becoming wealthy out of the picture and just be happy living at that level all the time, and suddenly the mindset changes.

In terms of buying stuff versus fixing stuff in this context, the solution is to reduce our need for greed. If we realise that time for ourselves and relationships should come first, and with that extra time we will also slow life down to a meaningful speed, then we’ll time to do other things than just work. This will cascade to a lower income which will allow for less flamboyant spending. However, that appreciation for what we have will return, and we will be happy to repair something when it needs it as our focus will become less about our stuff and more about the increased time we will be able to spend with friends and our own projects. Our improved relationships with family and friends will lessen the need to supplant that part of our lives with stuff and a sustainable level of wealth more similar to your friends will negate the need for showing off as the relationships will be rich enough to overlook such trivialities.

Beyond that, due to our withholding from buying stuff we don’t need, our impact on the planet will be vastly lessened which will ultimately lead to a better world. Increased recycling of goods through hand-me-downs, selling secondhand goods and people just holding onto what they have longer, will greatly reduce the number of factories being built for new items, resulting in less pollution, fewer resources being used in production and lessen the waste of items going to landfills.

The sea of benefits of this type of sustainable living attitude over the selfish and wasteful attitude that seems to be gaining strength around the world seems to be obvious, but we are still hampered by our governments and money-hungry corporations breeding us into money-lusting monsters.

Within my own life, it wasn’t until I pulled back from this supposed allure of making as much money as possible and being seduced by the shiny new toys in the shops, that I realised how much richer, slower and more fulfilling life can be. And that there’s a great satisfaction in building or repairing an item over buying something new!