Keeping up with the New Joneses
The New Joneses showcased their tiny home at the Home Show to champion their lifestyle ‘big life, little footprint’.
The story begins with Tamara DiMattina, a powerful PR and communications magnate for fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG).
Blunt and to the point, she said, “My job was to get people to buy shit they don’t need with money they don’t have to impress people they don’t like. I didn’t like doing that. So, I started my own PR business to promote good stuff.”
When you think ‘eco-warriors’, your mind drifts to the likes of Costa or Wombat. So how does a pushy PR professional find herself at four Burning Man festivals and starting a grassroots eco-movement? The lightbulb ‘ah-ha’ moment occurred on a trip to Antarctica, otherwise known as the ‘last great wilderness’. There, she witnessed climate change and learnt about sustainability, “I didn’t want to be part of the problem anymore.”
“The New Joneses is a vision for how we can all live on this beautiful planet that has limited resources” exclaimed Tamara. With the help of responsible sponsors, the organisation tours around local events like the Home Show with their tiny open-plan house. ‘What do they sell?’ I hear you say. They sell a lifestyle!
The New Joneses has become synonymous with green and sustainable events. Their signature tiny home was recently spotted in Victoria at the Royal Melbourne Show and Ballarat Begonia Fest and even made its way up to the Sydney Home Show. The stand reflects European style living, where small living spaces encourage life outdoors and community gardening.
The design is inspired by biophilia; the scientific (or love) connection between humans and nature. Research shows that hospital patients exposed to trees instead of concrete walls recover faster. Apple has caught onto this phenomenon in recent years with gigantic ‘shot with iPhone’ billboards displaying beautiful nature photography. There’s even evidence to suggest that contact with enzymes in the soil can help treat depression.
This philosophy is draped all over the Joneses’ home. St Kilda builders, The Sociable Weaver, constructed the most ambitious open-plan design on the market. Massive timber panels extend outwards, connecting the living room and kitchen to the serenity of nature. Their space becomes a stage for sustainable living featuring a vertical garden, Tesla power wall and Flex home automation system.
Tamara holds no punches when discussing consumer culture, “’Keeping up with the Joneses’ is a phrase we use to talk about that stupid consumer treadmill that we’re all on. When your neighbour gets a new car, you get a new car. Your mate gets a new iPhone, you get a new iPhone. Your friends get the new Nikes, you get the new Nikes. You just keep buying more and more stuff.”
Therefore, it’s quality instead of quantity. You can go out and buy a cheap flatpack kitchen made in China. But if it’s low quality, then you’ll soon need to replace it with another kitchen. The result is more landfill, more resources and everything in between.
This extends past consumer goods to our everyday habits like food shopping. Many of us do one huge food shop a week, because god forbid, we starve! Walking to the shops a few times a week results in less waste and saves pennies for that trip to Vietnam. Whether you live in a small dwelling or a mansion, Tamara says we don’t need to buy a Tesla, but we can all own a worm farm.
Buy Nothing New Month is a New Joneses initiative to encourage second-hand shopping and raise self-awareness of our spending habits. This October, pledge to only buy the essentials: food, medicine and hygiene products. Find some retail therapy through free-cycling, recycling, up-cycling, repairing and swishing.
Tamara, having worn second-hand clothes for twenty years, said: “Vintage shops have been cool for a long time, you guys are just catching up.”
Friend of the Joneses and mother of four, Penny, loves selling old possessions, “We had an extra bit of carpet leftover from a renovation and put it on FB Marketplace. Within half an hour, a guy came round, picked up it and took it away!”
Tamara stresses that reusing is just a matter of perspective, “Who loves the idea of staying in a luxury hotel? And if you stay in a luxury hotel, are you the first people to use those sheets or that towel? Or if you’re in a fancy restaurant, are you the first ones to eat off that cutlery?”
Penny confessed, “I was a BIG waste person. I would constantly throw out so much. I had to go to the council and ask for a bigger bin! Now our family of five creates only one bag of waste a week.” The Penny dropped when she had kids and realised the “world’s not going to last with the way we’re going”.
Our third panellist, Justin from Sustainability Victoria, teamed up with The New Joneses to discuss their new target, E-waste. He said, “We love our devices. They’re more accessible than ever. They’re cheap and cheerful, we want the latest and most up to date technology. But their end of life can be problematic.”
The government have honed in on electronic waste after noticing an alarming three times growth compared to other waste products. An emergency bill was quickly ratified, banning electronic devices going into general waste. Sustainability Victoria is now in the process of educating the public of the new law and where to dump e-waste.
Using this link, you can follow the deadly simple steps. https://www.sustainability.vic.gov.au/campaigns/ewaste
> Enter Postcode
> Select item you want to dispose
> Find nearest e-waste points on map
> Read info and opening times
The Long and Winding Road
Let’s end the feature on a story reminiscent of Pixar’s classic Up, “There’s a lady who has one of the smallest houses in Australia right here in Melbourne. She still wanted to be in the city, to have that connection and walk to cafes. But with rising house-prices, she would have to move out of Melbourne. Yet, more than space, she wanted community, she said ‘I just wanted to be near the people.’ Everyone chooses the way they want to live.” recounted Tamara.