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Parents Living Lightly

By Beth Simpson, Albury

I grew up on a ¼ acre block on the northern beaches of Sydney. Looking back on that time, I realise that my parents were “living lightly” well before their time, much to my frequent embarrassment.

My mother did not, and still does not, drive. She either walked or caught the bus, or on rare occasions took a taxi. She walked us to and from school, pushing a younger child in a stroller. This was her daily exercise –no need for the gym!

She walked to the supermarket, pulling behind her a shopping trolley. No plastic bags for her!

My father worked in the city, but every morning and evening he tended his vegetable and fruit garden in the back yard. He was big on composting and nothing was thrown away. To my great consternation, he even syphoned the contents of our septic tank onto the garden as fertiliser.

Every evening Mum cooked dinner and made a point of telling whoever would listen about which part of the meal came from the back yard. Corn on the cob in summer was my favourite, but even potatoes tasted good.

Later they experimented with chooks, and soon there was an abundance of eggs. Mum was always baking to use up the eggs. She convinced all visitors that her cakes and slices were healthy because of the home grown eggs she used.

Mum made nearly all our clothes. All our jumpers and cardigans were hand knitted until Mum acquired a second hand knitting machine which produced garments that were created quickly but were very stiff.

If Dad wasn’t in the garden, he was in the garage fixing or building something. Lots of things in our house were recycled. Everything was used until it disintegrated. Nothing was thrown out because it might be useful one day.

I was not permitted long showers and had to wash my hair in a basin. They were conscious of saving water many decades ago. We had no dishwasher or clothes drier. Life was fairly frugal, mainly to save money, but the effect was also to save resources.

So while I was mortified at times by my parent’s tactics, what impact did their habits have on me over time? You’ll have to read next week’s column to find out!