Words by Daniel
Time was on my side when I moved into an empty house. I’d saved up some money to be able to buy the basic furniture I needed. But soon I discovered the solar hot water system needed replacing ($4,500) and the drain water pipes needed extensive repairs ($5,000). The solar hot water tank was still providing warm water and the yard was not flooded, yet, so I decided to push these larger problems out of my mind and get on with furnishing the interior.
Kitchen and bedroom
I began to explore my new neighbourhood looking for secondhand furniture shops. Critical of my own consumption habits, I wanted to see how far I could go to avoid buying anything new and instead using recycled materials. It’s a no-brainer that using secondhand items reduces waste and saves the raw materials that would have gone into manufacturing new ones. To my delight, I found out there are a good range of secondhand stores in the region. Also with websites like Ebay and Gumtree,it’s easier than ever for people to sell or give their unwanted items. My area also has a Facebook, ‘Swap Buy Sell’ page where people in the community post items for sale or to give away.
While holding out to find a bed and mattress, and some kitchenware to cook my meals, I had literally camped out in the living room. Winter was only a few weeks away but its morning chill had already arrived. I had budgeted for a reverse cycle aircon but it wasn’t going to be installed for another two weeks, so I warmed up by hugging a hot water bottle in my sleeping bag.
A few locals gave me addresses for several Lifeline stores where I could find kitchenware. Within a few days I had the kitchen cabinets filled with everything I needed to cook up a storm.
I began to search Gumtree for a bed. A kind person who lived about 30km away from me was selling a queen size bed with mattress and two bedside tables, all in great condition. The price was so affordable that I planned to hire a ute to bring them all home if I couldn’t transport them all in my car. But the kind stranger offered to bring the bed (the biggest piece) in his car and I managed the rest. This experience of helping another person out and expecting nothing in return was priceless. I offered to buy him lunch at my local pub, but he was in a hurry to get back home.
The next day I found some very nice bed linens, blanket and a doona from a Lifeline store and packed my sleeping bag and air mattress away. When I examined what I had acquired secondhand so far, I was more than happy, not only because I’d stayed within my budget, but also because the high quality and style of the goods aesthetically pleased me. It also gave me great of satisfaction that my money was circulated to Lifeline and private sellers in my community.
The lighting throughout the house was poor and its energy consumption high. The quote for the things that needed changing came to $3,500, well over what I could afford. Just as I was about to give up hope on the project, I met Eric one day by accident. He had a semi-retired electrician friend who helps those with limited budgets. I said let there be LED lights throughout the house!
Doing more with less
After the lighting was done and I could cook myself a decent meal and sleep in a super comfortable bed, my ideas for the house became greener and greener. But the question remained, could I afford it? It had always seemed to me only the wealthy could afford to eat organic, have solar panels on theirs roofs and buy the latest in green technology. Although I was out of work, with not much cash to splurge, I had my own house. I had a backyard to grow my food. Enough rainfall from the sky to store for my usage. After finding some paid employment I may be able to set up renewable energy, suitable to my dwelling and consumption. I was not that far behind the green Jones.
It was Lori Ryker that put it into the right perspective for me in her book, Off the Grid. She says, “for most of us, finances are limited and, in the instance of energy systems, we must learn to do more with less to bring about an off-the-grid lifestyle.” This is a very healthy attitude to adopt because it will help us to work toward a more environmentally friendly existence by looking at our current carbon footprint and with whatever we can afford in reducing it.