As a young lad I was lucky enough to have some wonderful grandparents that were influential throughout my formative years. Waste not, want not was a phrase I heard regularly. On my fathers side my grandad served in the merchant navy and ended up in the water at least once. On my mothers side my grandad worked in munitions manufacture in the midlands.
I have wonderful memories of summers spent with the latter. Whilst my parents were always busy putting food on the table and paying the bills they did their best for us kids. Grandparents however had a lot more time to give us. Summers spent with my mums parents consisted of gardening, cooking, woodworking projects and household chores along with trips to the nearby beach and ice cream cornets on the seafront over the long summer evenings.
My grandparents had a nice little bungalow with a well tended garden just a short walk from the sea. Nan worked part time at a little new agents that smelled wonderful thanks to shelves creaking under the weight of jars of sweets and the iconic smell of newsprint and tobacco. I never remember grandad working but he always seemed to be involved in some project or another.
They had a little car that only came out for their weekly shop or a Sunday afternoon excursion to the countryside or a visit to a plant nursery, we didn’t have ‘garden centres’ back then. By todays standard their footprint in the world was extremely small and their lives were simple. Every meal was home cooked and most of their produce came from the garden and little glass house. That glass house was a magical place with it’s massive grapevine and huge sweet smelling tomato plants.
Having lived through the war folk were, in general, much more content with the simple things in life. Whilst they were not poor they were very content to have a TV, a little car and a fridge. I don’t recall them going on holiday but would regularly entertain friends with afternoon tea. Sitting in the garden on a fine sunny day with a cuppa and a biscuit was a great delight.
Nan spent most mornings cleaning before heading to the kitchen to prepare lunch. I never knew anyone that could whip up a two course cooked meal in such a short period of time. They always did the washing up together before a leisurely afternoon was enjoyed. Grandad was a great fan of snooker and spent many happy afternoons watching Pot Black and enjoying a smoke with his afternoon tea. Nan’s greatest joy was always time in the garden pulling weeds and the like.
That all had a profound effect upon young Potter. I loved this benign quiet life of simple pleasures. They wanted for nothing except grandad who always hankered after a snooker table which he never got but then there was not a room in the house sufficient to contain one.
As I approach the age I remember my grandparents being, and as a grandad myself I am minded of those days and look back fondly at such a simple life. Today the world has become a boiling cacophony of noise and fury within which peace and contentment are hard to find. Technology has helped ruin society which moves too fast for most of us to keep up.
Speaking personally everything I do is aimed at restoring those simple pleasures and garnering appreciation of the privileged and prosperous position that I enjoy. That did however came at a cost. I never had a family holiday and in over twenty five years of marriage Catherine and I have not had a night away from home unless it was for business. We work twelve hours a day often six or seven days a week. Whilst that means we are significantly more prosperous than my grandparents or indeed my parents ever were, as the years pass I have to question the cost.
In the words of Chuck Palahniuck (Fight Club) “We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.”
“The things you own end up owning you. It’s only after you lose everything that you’re free to do anything.”
I can’t say that Tyler Durden was a significant role model for me, though I loved the book and the movie, I have to concede that he had a point. I may have fallen for the societal dictate that to have and achieve more is good and to go without is bad. As the years have passed I begin to realise that having a bit less is a bit better. Like all of us I have too much stuff, most of which I do not need. I am entirely at a loss to understand why I need more than three hundred bonsai or thirty motorbikes. I love everything I own and and bust my hump taking care of it all but why?
My grandparents were pass masters at living frugally, no doubt a result of living through the post depression years and the war. My grandad was a great woodworked and I remember we spent many hours dismantling old furniture and packing crates to supply the wood he used. We even saved all the old nails and screws for re-use. We spent a lot of time in the workshop with a little hammer straightening out bent nails. Today that sounds totally bonkers but it had a profound effect on me. I still save nails and screws and nothing is thrown away before I pull out anything of use. I recently had a knackered printer/scanner to dispose of. Having pulled it apart I had a box of useful bits and bobs including a piece of glass. That came in useful recently as I was fixing up window frames and used it to replace a broken pane.
I have tried to extend my hatred of waste to our business over the years. I consider creating bonsai a form of re-use and have always loved garden rejects above all else. Whilst current vogue is for recycling I consider that to be a last resort. We pretty much use everything we have. Why recycle something that still has a use? Recycling uses a vast amount of resource. Reusing it costs nothing, in fact it saves a great deal both money and resource.
Since the day we started our business nearly twenty years ago I have endeavoured to eliminate any waste. The primary resource we need, as a mail order business, to function is boxes. We can easily blow through up to a hundred every day. In all of those twenty years we have never, once, used new boxes. Every parcel we have ever sent has gone out in a reused box. Because that has that saved a fortune (a large box could easily cost £5) it’s enabled us to keep shipping costs to a minimum.
Thanks to my grandparents influence I am happy to say that Kaizen Bonsai produces less waste than our household does. We don’t have any waste disposal facility, no wheelie bins or waste collections. On top of that we use all the cardboard and packaging waste from three local small businesses and a lot of local families. We use everything from old newspapers and magazines, paddy bags and junk mail. All of our pallets are re-used or returned to a local company dealing in such.
We shred old cardboard and paperwork for loose fill packaging. Literally the only packaging material we have to buy are bubble wrap for pots, sticky tape and bags for soil products. I actually produce more waste in the form of empty beer bottles than all of Kaizen Bonsai’s activities combined. Waste not want not!
When someone turns up here with a load of old packaging it takes some sorting out and it’s always of interest to me to see what comes in. It’s heartening to know some folk think as I do and see value in these things.
Recently a good friend and supporter of ours arrived with a van full of boxes having been clearing out his fathers loft. Obviously another old gentleman that lived through the war. It looked to me like he had saved every box that ever came into the house. There were boxes for huge old cathode-ray tube televisions, betamax video players, cassette players and power tools from the 1970s. Some of the boxes featured address labels and had blocks of postage stamps on. How things have changed.
However within the generous donation of boxes was this one from the first part of the 1970s that I will let speak for itself.