3 October 2013

How Green Living Can Soften the Impact of Redundancy

By: Tanya Fyfe (BEng(Environmental))


Since the birth of our eldest son in 2010, my husband has been the primary breadwinner for our family. A few weeks ago, and shortly after the arrival of our second son, his position was made redundant and we suddenly found ourselves in the daunting position that has faced many families in recent times of having no regular income for an unknown period of time.

We have two small children, live in a stock-standard 1970s style house on a normal suburban block and like most Australian families, have a mortgage to service.

I consider ourselves fortunate that our living expenses are much lower than those of many families, partly due to decisions we have made to lower our environmental footprint.  It is this sustainable lifestyle that has helped give us a little “breathing space” while my husband and I search for regular paid employment. 

Here are some of the ways we live sustainably and make our saved dollar stretch as far as possible:

(1) Nappies

We have a good stash of cloth nappies, a combination of modern cloth nappies and old-fashioned flats. Most of these were bought three years ago before our eldest was born, and are now serving their second tour of duty. We only use disposable wipes when we are out. At home we use a combination of face washers and squares of an old towel.

(2) Clothes and toys

We never say no to hand-me-downs and in turn, pass them on when we are finished. Op shops are also great when we need to buy extras, and our local rubbish tip has a recycling shed that is a source of free toys. We have been lucky enough to borrow some items that we only need for a short time, such as a baby capsule. Other baby items that we did buy have been lent to others between children – what goes around comes around! When our boys are given toys as gifts, our family are well practiced at giving less, good quality toys that last the test of time. Daddy’s 30-year-old Lego is still going strong, and hopefully our boys’ wooden toys will last just as long.

(3) Baby food

Our youngest is exclusively breastfed, so we’re lucky to have no monetary costs there. Once he starts on solids at around six months, it will not be packaged baby food. Like his big brother, the plan is for his first meal to be mashed spuds that he will ‘help’ harvest from the garden. Thereafter he will eat a combination of homemade purees and mashes, and finger feeds from the family meals.

(4) Fast food

We very rarely buy takeaway food and not just because we live in a small town where takeaway options are limited! We make our own pizza, fried rice or fish and chips sometimes (those home grown spuds again) and they taste so much better our way. On those days when cooking just seems too hard, we have frozen home-cooked meals in the freezer. These are easily topped up when they run low by cooking extra-large batches on days we do cook.

(5) From the garden

We have eggs from the chooks and ducks, some fruit from our own trees and a selection of vegies from the garden. Our vegie garden might not get as much love as it did pre-kids, but we manage to keep the staples going.

(6) Preserved food

Although not on the scale my Mum manages it, we do preserve our surplus harvest for use during the year. I make cordial when the grapefruit are in season, bottle bulk fruit that spice up breakfast all year and freeze lemon juice into iceblocks. I have sun dried apricots too, the Australian summer is perfect for this but they don’t last because they are too yummy!

(7) Electricity

We installed solar cells on our roof and actually look forward to our power bills as our account is always in credit!

Although our house has reverse cycle air conditioning, it has been rarely used since we installed roof insulation. We also open and shut up the house to take advantage of the daily warmer and cooler periods and dress according to the weather.

(8) Transport

Our family has one car and we strive to walk everywhere we need to go in town. If done briskly this is good exercise. At toddler pace it makes for a pleasant morning outing!

Our family does not go without. We just meet our wants and needs in cost effective and environmentally friendly ways. In the good times this means we have more disposable income for luxuries, getting  ahead on the mortgage or completing capital works (like the solar cells), but in lean times like the present, it simply means that our basic needs are more easily met.

Have you found yourself in a similar situation after unexpected job loss? Please share how your family got through the challenging period by living greener in the comments below.

About the Author: Tanya Fyfe is an eco mum and environmental engineer and lives in the WA Goldfields with her husband Andy (an experienced exploration geologist) and two young sons Billy and Thomas.

CATEGORY: green living, job redundancy, benefits | POSTED BY: Meg Supel |