Quality & the Environment

When I was a little girl, my Mum and Dad used to say, “They don’t make things like they used to”.

I sometimes think about how the quality of goods have changed over the years and if the people in my parents’ day appreciated how good they were at the time.  Even when I was young, I know that the toys I had were certainly better quality (for the majority anyway) than most of the mass produced ones that are around today.  Take a look at this doll below.  I still have it.  It’s probably about 43 years old now and it still works!  Actually, I have a few things from my childhood that still work and are in good condition. Even though they didn’t think it at the time, a lot of things have lasted.

Talking Doll

I was always taught to look after and appreciate what I had and encouraged to save money to buy good quality things that would last rather than buy cheap products that would fall apart.  I never really made the connection then about how this affected the environment.  Other than getting angry with people who littered, I wasn’t aware of a great deal to do with the environment until I was much older.  When I was 24, I went backpacking around Europe for 5 months by myself.  During my month in Germany, I was so amazed by how much the people there cared about the environment.  (On a bit of a side note – I also went to my very first Medieval Festival in Germany).  Anyway, I came back to Australia on a mission to save the planet!

Wizard at Medieval Faire in Germany

At that stage I worked for Hamersley Iron in Dampier, Western Australia, as a Secretary.  (Don’t you just love the hairstyles back then?) 🙂

Me at Hamersley Iron

I hassled everyone at work to stop wasting paper and organised a paper recycling system for the whole company.  No one at home ever really thought about recycling then.  Most of them thought I was nuts!  I even changed the way we ordered our smoko.  We used to get our biscuits inindividually wrapped packets so I changed it to boxes.  I arranged for a skip bin to be placed at the block of flats that I lived in so that all the bottles and cans (drinking was big in the Pilbara) could be recycled.  I wasn’t changing the world but I felt like I was playing my part.

Years later I moved to Fremantle.  I kept on recycling and caring for the planet as much as I could but didn’t really feel as if I was doing anything to write home about.

Another 3 years passed and I decided to move to Queensland.  I made a wonderful friend before I left WA and we spent 3 fun filled months on the road, her and her dog in her van and me and my dog in mine.  As I was typing up this page, I remembered how we painted a banner at our stop in Adelaide and took it to a pub one night to get everyone to sign it then sent it up to Jabiluka!  🙂

Me and Jo - Jabiluka Banner

When I got to Queensland, I met my ex-husband, had kids, used cloth nappies and tried to be as environmentally conscious as I could but (also being the carer for my ex-husband who was disabled) I fell back, somewhat, into the trap of going for the easy options.

Galen and Sammalen 2002

Years later, after I’d being doing leatherwork for some time, I realised that I was actually living what my parents had been telling me when I was younger.  I was passionate about making quality products that lasted and it was also a way that I was playing part, once more, in caring for the environment.  I wasn’t out saving whales or stopping mining and, I agree – there is still some degree of environmental unfriendliness concerning the tanning process but, to the larger extent, I was (and still am) contributing.  My products, unlike cheaper mass produced alternatives, will last for many years to come and, looked after properly, may even be passed down to the next generation.  They are not falling apart within weeks or months of being purchased and they are not ending up in landfill or in the ocean.

Another thing that I hear in my head quite often, which I know is an echo from my parents when I was growing up, is that saying, “If you’re going to do something, do it properly.”  I am so grateful for this because I know that it makes me always do my best.  I can never make something that I am not happy with.  If I don’t like it, if I don’t think the quality is as high as it should be, I won’t use it. I want people to love what I make for them and I want the products I make to last.  Quality is not an option.

One customer of mine came to me, fed up after spending over $700 during the past 10 years on backpacks.  Each year he would buy himself a new one because they just fell apart.  He decided that it was time to outlay some money upfront for something that was going to last.  He understood that, while it seemed a large sum of money in the beginning, it was going to save him money over time and he would have this backpack for the rest of his life.

What’s Next?

I’m always announcing decisions! 🙂  Sometimes I feel like I can hear people saying, “Oh, here we go again!” but I believe that we are here to grow and that requires change.  Change comes from making a decision.  So, my latest decision is partly to do with my Viking re-enactment and wanting to be as authentic as possible, and partly to do with the environment.  I am moving away from chemical stains and am going to learn how to make my own plant based dyes.  This will take some time and experimenting but it feels like the next step and another way that I can contribute to the environment.

My next ‘big’ change that I would like to make, hopefully not too far in the future, is to source hides from a farmer who is killing a cow for his/her own meat.  I want to learn the process of tanning myself.  I know it’s HUGE – not only the actual hide itself but the process.  The thought of scraping off all that flesh is just … ewwww but leatherworkers in Viking days and before did it all and that’s what I want to be able to do too.

I’m a big believer in the Law of Attraction, focusing on what you want, and I believe that I will make these changes in my life and in my business; that I will be able to contribute more to keeping the old skills alive but also looking after our future by caring for our environment.  I also believe that, together, we will make the world a better place.

I am always happy to connect with like minded people so please don’t hesitate to contact me if you are on the same path and would like to have a chat – or even if you’re just interested and want to find out more.