When Tyson turned forty in June we wanted to celebrate him well, without massively increasing our footprint.
The main agenda was to gather people together and enjoy each other, with good food. But here are a few things that also had an eye to our sustainability commitments:
We asked for gifts of sustainability actions in lieu of presents, and were touched by how many friends offered Tyson some idea of what they are doing to live within our earth's means. Some made new commitments; others reiterated choices already made. I was particularly moved by one (slightly) older friend who gifted to Tyson her decision to make more use of public transport, along with an invitation to ask her how it was going and an admission that the idea of using public transport scared her a bit. The traditional photo board included space for people to add notes about their sustainable choices.
Cooking one big roast dinner for sixty people used less energy than all those households cooking their own roast dinners at home (and was more fun!). We used about 15kWh of energy for cooking; a household roast dinner takes around 2kWh. The meat was free-range pork.
We borrowed cutlery and crockery from Tyson's parents to reduce our use of disposable items. We still have a pile of disposable plates, cups and cutlery in the cupboard from before we really got moving on this sustainability journey, some of which have been reused and returned to the cupboard several times, and these bumped up the numbers, along with some compostable plates. (I have my doubts about how they compost, though - I tore them into quarters and soaked them in water for a week and they were showing no signs of breaking down or being suitable for our compost any time soon!) Despite me encouraging guests to leave the dishes for us to run through the dishwasher in big loads the next day, a happy team got going in the kitchen and cleaned them all for us. They really did seem to be having a great time in there. Perhaps for some this was their sustainability 'gift', but most I think just enjoyed talking and laughing while working together.
We minimised our use of gladwrap and alfoil. So often at parties or events these are used to cover food for quite short periods of time. Instead, we used baking trays to cover salads.
We labelled our bins and encouraged people to separate out compost, recycling and genuine rubbish.
Eva made her own decorations. We also re-used the cloth bunting made for us by a friend last year, and ran one string of LED fairy lights.
Cards were home-made. The two gifts we did purchase were wrapped in cloth, one from each of the children. (We are not scrooges; its important our kids experience both giving and receiving. We encouraged them to be involved in choosing gifts that suited Tyson, to help them learn to think of someone other than themselves) The cordless drill set in particular will be put to use to facilitate many future projects along our sustainability journey.
Two weeks later my dad turned eighty, on the opposite side of the country. We celebrated by all my siblings (five of us) gathering, along with spouses and children, to share a holiday in the Grampians with my parents. The emphasis, again, was good time together. Bushwalking. Eating. Talking. Cuppas. A visit to the farm where Dad grew up. Grandkids' shenanigans. Reading books. Spotting wildlife. My gift was to arrange for my sisters and I to sing a couple of songs for Dad.
However, as we don't live near each other (not even all in the same country) a very great amount of fuel was used to bring us together. Would we have had less environmental impact if we had all sent my dad expensive presents instead? Maybe. But we would not have celebrated him well, and we would not have modeled for our children that people are always, always more important than stuff.
Happy birthday to two of the finest men in my life.
Some of the sustainability actions Tyson was gifted:
And finally from our small man, a gift not of sustainable actions but of hope: