One Melbournian has turned an epiphany into an example.
IN September 2006, Melton resident Gavin Webber attended a movie screening organised by his workplace. “There were about 100 of us and we all went and watched An Inconvenient Truth, of all things,” he says.
Before that day, the IT-professional admits, he was a “conspicuous consumer”.
“I’d buy a new computer every year, entertainment gear, DVDs, clothes – I didn’t care where they came from. I was just steaming along like anybody else.”
But halfway through the documentary on climate change, he was physically and emotionally overwhelmed. “This wave of guilt from sins past came over me,” he says. “I started to think, ‘Holy shit, why don’t I know about this? This is going to affect the future of my kids, my unborn grandkids and everybody – all life on the planet – if we don’t do something about it.’ By the end, I was blubbering.”
Afterwards, when his colleagues caught a cab back to the office, Mr Webber walked instead, trying to come to terms with what he’d just seen.
“I worked in South Yarra at the time, so I walked back along the river. I was crying and angry, and wondering: ‘What am I meant to do?’ I was totally confused.
“But when I got to work I started researching and found out what I could do. It all went from there; I haven’t lost that passion or the sense of urgency that spurs me on everyday to live a more sustainable lifestyle,” he says.
There was a minor catch, however. After a fortnight observing his strange behaviour, Mr Webber’s wife, Kim, was worried. “She thought I was having an affair,” he laughs. “I was just researching like fury, trying to find out more and more.”
When Kim saw the documentary, she had a similar realisation. Within four months, the family had reduced their household power consumption by nearly two-thirds.
Encouraged by friends, Mr Webber decided to start a blog. He called it The Greening of Gavin. He posts something new nearly everyday: podcasts, videos, photos, opinion pieces and DIY advice, on topics ranging from peak oil adaptation to mozzarella-making. Recently, he won a blog of the year competition run by eco-magazine ReNew.
“I’m an average bloke. I’ve got a nine-to-five job during the week and I’ve got four kids and an average suburban block. If I can do it, anyone can,” he says. “It’s been very rewarding – taking our home from a bog-standard, four-bedroom house and converting it into a sustainable living paradise.”
Inside, one of the more unusual steps the family took was to convert open archways to walls and doors, so they could zone heating and cooling to smaller living areas. Outside, they’ve installed several large vegie beds, built chook runs and planted over two-dozen fruit trees.
“The front yard is no longer lawn, it’s a 13-fruit-tree orchard,” he says. “As soon as you walk through the main gate, you see the food growing and you get a big eye-full of solar panels on the garage roof. We designed it that way.”
It’s all part of spreading the word. To that end, Mr Webber has also founded a local sustainability group. So far, the members number in dozens, not thousands, but it’s growing. “Melton wasn’t that sort of place and now it’s starting to change,” he says. “You’ve got to start somewhere.”