Clare’s dad starts redecorating the living room, and Clare suggests eco-friendly paints.
Okay, this is not good. Our living-room is a total mess. All because of Dad.
It seems that since his company made him redundant a few weeks ago, he’s been getting quite bored at home, just looking for a new job without much success. So today he decided that instead of just sitting around waiting for people to call back, he’d do something useful and do all those little DIY jobs around the house he keeps putting off. Then, apparently, he remembered that Mum had wanted the living room redecorated for Christmas this year, but had given up on the idea because we now can’t afford to hire decorators. So as a sort of Christmas present to her, and so she wouldn’t be disappointed, he decided to do it himself.
Which is why we’ve just come in from school and found him in his grotty work jeans, with the wallpaper steamer, stripping off the last of Mum’s expensive, grey and cream flower pattern paper.
And Mum is less than impressed.
“I appreciate the sentiment, really, but what were you thinking?” Mum cries. She’s standing in the living room doorway with her coat half-off, having just brought us back from school. Daisy, Ben and I are standing behind peering in through the door. Gobsmacked.
“How do you expect us to afford to redecorate the whole room properly, including furniture, curtains and carpets? Even if we’re not paying hired decorators, it just isn’t going to be feasible. Not now we’re meant to be on a budget!” Mum continues.
“I thought we could do it on a budget”, Dad replies, “Look… I know I kind of got carried away with the whole idea, and I’m sorry. But I’ve just been feeling so… useless. I wanted to do something. And besides we’ve already given up a holiday. We shouldn’t have to give up everything, just because our income’s a little less than before.”
“You’re meant to be a financial advisor. You know it’s going to more than a ‘little’ out of our income”, Mum groans, “You’re just in denial. You want to think we can afford whatever we like. I know, I look at things in the shops, and I think – I want it, I should be able to afford it. But we can’t do that anymore. We can’t just spend however much we like on food, drink, entertainment, going out or on redecorating.”
There’s a horrible pause. I glance at Ben and Daisy. They both look uncomfortable and gloomy. Mum’s words have hit a nerve. I think we were all hoping that, yes we’d lost a holiday, but that was all. Nothing else would change. All Mum and Dad’s words about saving would only apply to stuff we wouldn’t notice, like the heating.
“I’m sorry”, Dad repeats. “So much for that Christmas present idea”, Mum sighs.
“It’s alright”, she says, “We’ll just have to buy some cheap paint and redo the walls. And you can buy me that book for Christmas instead.”
“Wait”, I say, “If you’re going to repaint we need to use eco-friendly paint.”
“Weren’t you listening? We can’t afford fancy paint made from bamboo or whatever”, Daisy says, “And anyway, that’s the difference. It’s just paint.”
“Actually”, Ben says, “Normal paints contain Volatile Organic Compounds or VOCs. They give off toxic fumes as the paint dries. They can irritate your eyes, nose, lungs and they harm the ozone layer. Some countries have already banned paints high in VOCs, and I think some new regulations possibly in 2010 banned the production of paints with VOCs, but don’t quote on me on that.”
I stare at Ben in surprise.
“How’d you know all that?” I ask.
“I’m studying A level chemistry”, Ben shrugs, “Paints contain chemicals.”
“So have you read that website that says that 30 litres of non-biodegradable waste is created for every litre of non-eco-friendly paint made?” I retort.
“No. But thanks for that. I’ll use it in my next assignment”, Ben grins.
“Well, I think based on those figures we have no choice, but to buy eco-friendly paint”, Dad says, “If we’re going to honour Clare’s green project. And you know, I bet a change of colour is probably all we need. All the furniture is sort of magnolia and beige, so it’ll match anything.”
“I think you mean neutral colours, but yes you’re right”, Mum nods, “Perhaps a change in colour will do it.”
“Oh, if you’re-painting the living-room a different a colour”, I say. “Can we get new thick curtains to keep in the heat? We don’t have to get second-hand. I have a couple of ideas for curtains that would be even more eco-friendly. You know cotton is grown with a lot of pesticides?”
“No”, Daisy says in bored drone.
“Well, you can buy organic cotton by the metre and then make things out of it. So we could buy some material and make curtains.”
“Great”, Mum nods, “If I knew how to sew.”
“Daisy does”, Ben points out. Daisy freezes and then glares at Ben.
“It’ll probably still be quite expensive”, Mum says.
“OK, then how about repurposing”, I say.
“Which is?” Daisy asks.
“It’s rather like recycling. You take something you already have and convert it into something else. Which is similar to upcycling, which is where you find a new purpose for waste materials or useless objects instead of throwing them away. For example turning old sheets into a set of curtains, or turning bottles into lamps.”
“So you’re suggesting we make curtains out of old duvets?” Daisy says.
“Yep”, I smile.
“I suppose we could give it a go”, Mum sighs, “After all, we have a lot of good quality covers and sheets we don’t use anymore. But lets decide what colour we’re re-painting the living-room, don’t you think?”
“Okay”, I reply.
“Well, I don’t know about you”, Dad says cheerfully, “But I’m starving.”
“I’ll start on dinner”, Mum says, finally pulling off her coat completely.
“I’m going to start my homework. But later, do you want to search for eco-friendly paints Clare?’ Ben says, “You can see what colours are available and I’ll know more about the chemical stuff.”
“Sure”, I reply.
“Your father and I will join you”, Mum nods, “And Daisy can look for curtain making instructions too.”
Daisy pulls a face, and disappears off down the hall, followed by Mum. The conservation obviously over, Ben and I drift off too. As I go upstairs I can’t help but feel a little pleased that, except for perhaps Daisy, the whole family seems to be getting into the swing of going green.
Ben’s birthday approaches, and Clare’s dad hints at buying Ben driving lessons, or even a car, as a present. However Clare tries to persuade her parents, and Ben, to go for an eco-friendly option.