Sustainable family living means different things to different families. What I’ve discovered is that our family lives fairly sustainably, but it’s certainly not be design. I like to think of our family as being ‘accidentally sustainable’.

Some see sustainable living as recycling and composting, others as health and wellbeing, some families believe ‘charity begins at home’, and for others it just means running the household with some semblance of organised chaos!

I’ve decided to stop, and take a moment, and think about my own family.

I sat in my easy chair and watched my son and his 3 friends jump and laugh and dance, and act out the story and orchestrations of ‘Peter And The Wolf’ spinning on our turntable.

We’d just got back from checking out the rock pools at Narrow Neck Beach (what we call tide pooling in the US).

We uncovered anemones, chitons, crabs, and ghost shrimp, and had fun naming their parts and features, and musing about their aquatic adventures. My wife’s a marine enthusiast and she’s putting her Christmas gift of Morton’s The New Zealand Sea Shore to good use. The critters haven’t changed much since 1968.

As I surveyed the room, kids carrying on happily, I realised I could just as easily be living a hundred years ago as I am now.

Storytelling, tide pooling, and tomfoolery

Storytelling, tide pooling, and tomfoolery. There’s no advance in technology that has altered these basic family activities.

And even if our family purchased access to every TV movie show on demand, we’d still just be folks sitting around listening to stories. It’s only the variety and medium that changes over time!

sustainable parenting

When I think about the basics, I figure our family isn’t denting the world with conspicuous consumption as much as I used to — with cars, and clothes, and fast food, and faster living.

These days, I keep things simpler than ever, right down to my trusty old vinyl collection that’s served me more faithfully than any digital format.

The fact I still enjoy experiencing music 1 side at a time on vinyl means this part of my life is more or less sustainable by accident. I don’t need to discard old media for new. 2 speakers and a needle do the job.

What I’ve got works well for me, and works well for my boy. And we even prefer it to cropped and chopped singleton songs pumped across radio waves, drifting abstractly, seemingly unconnected to larger collections.

Purely poetically minimal perfection

Here’s a good Kiwi example: Lorde’s beautifully minimal Pure Herione, listened to 1 side at a time, is not to be underestimated.

Black and grey gatefold, weighty 180g disc, a gorgeously simple liner booklet whose credits span no more than a dozen grey lines in a field of matte black. An epic antithesis in 10 parts, interrupted only by a flip of the side. Purely poetically minimal perfection.

Source: Wikimedia, 2017

All one needs and nothing more, and perhaps that is sustainability. Perhaps my preferences – the preferences my boy will surely inherit – foster an accidental sustainability.

For a shred of insight, I checked out one popular articulation of ‘sustainability’ (wikipedia, of course)

For humans, sustainability is the potential for long-term maintenance of well being, which has ecological, economic, political and cultural dimensions.

The fact is that with my little boy around, I’ve grown a bigger and healthier respect for the world at large. I’m trying to get him to see the world the same way. After all, we only have this 1 world, and we only have our 1 family, and if we need to find a way to maintain the long-term wellbeing of both.

I suppose when we’re out tide pooling as a family, looking for creatures both exotic and mundane and my boy stands on the rocks and declares himself the captain of this ship – of this world – well, he’s getting the point too.

It’s his world to appreciate and savour, to explore and catalogue in simple stories and games. He respects this existence, it seems, and wants to see it remain as good as it is. Maybe that’s no accident.

For more expert advice on living sustainably, check out our I believe in sustainability section.

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Brian Sorrell has worked as a cook, typist, computer programmer, woodworker, bicycle repairman, and university lecturer, all of which inadequately prepared him for his current full-time role as Dad. In February 2012, the family packed up their house in California and relocated to Auckland, where he now specialises in chasing his always-on-the-run son, drinking coffee, and recording his adventures at Dadding Full Time

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