The price of everything the value of nothing.

Just a heads up to those that have started to follow me. I have set myself a goal of one post per day this month so don’t be surprised if stuff hits your inbox each day in March but it will probably taper off in April at least a little bit.

But onto the post…

We terraced our backyard 6 months ago. With such a steep block we were losing all the water to run off and felt like we had little usable space. In the rush of work, family, life and the universe the back yard has been kind of let go to the point where you couldn’t tell the start of one terrace and the end of another.

I have been promising A. that I will put up some retaining walls and we had decided on second hand bluestone for upper edge of the bottom paved area and hardwood sleepers for the top section. I cleaned up the backyard and mowed it yesterday so today I decided to procrastinate a little less and go and start sourcing some items.

In our area we have a number of second hand dealers usually run by slightly questionable Italian gentlemen and the trick is to learn to bargain. So I went to the usual place I go as they have this massive mound of blue stone blocks 4 meters high in all shapes and sizes. Spoke to the gentleman and we came to a price of $3.50 per block. To some this may seem a bit expensive but these can be pretty big blocks (I struggle to lift some of the blocks and I easily lift 40kg bags of feed) and a retaining wall made of these is never going to need to be replaced in my lifetime. It occurred to me that at this price it would be cheaper if a bit harder to not use a hardwood wall on the second tier and I would not need to replace it in 20 years time.

Add to that it is second hand and all of the embodied energy has already been used to make it up and I don’t have to have guilt complex over using hardwood it seems like done deal. Straw that breaks the wood retaining walls back is A. likes this better. So there I am, looks like I am hauling stones for a while.


Purchased two sets of 10 today which is about all the old Suzuki which is my work horse will handle at once, even over a short distance.

In between I went to Bunnings which is a large hardware store chain with my daughter as I need to grab a few things. I notice that they are now selling second hand house bricks and notice that they are cheaper than at the second hand yard. Even more disturbing I noticed that the new bricks where 30% cheaper than recycled bricks…

So what gives here? How can it possibly be cheaper to buy new bricks with all of the energy involved in making them, and that is a lot of energy then shipping them a minimum of 200km which is the closest brick works, and they cost less than a brick where all of the embodied energy was paid out 50 years ago. And all you need to do is get them from houses being demolished in our area and clean them up…

Seems ludicrous and it is. We value things poorly in this society because damaging the environment either though bad practice or just the miss use of fossil fuels doesn’t get properly valued. It costs more if you look at the big picture but it costs less in the notes we hand over so most people will follow the notes and I can’t say I blame them. But even that doesn’t follow in some ways. When I worked out the area of an average block of bluestone it would take 7 -12 plus bricks to have a similar area. So I can have old bricks which are nice in their own way but cost two to four times the value, or have beautifully cut blocks of old stone that look fantastic. That makes no rational value argument. What it does show however is that often on top of bad environmental practice green washing and marketing of items distorts their real value.

I am going to continue to wander through the second hand yards as in time the energy to make these new items and ship them is going to get more and more expensive so for the rest of the people grab the new shiny stuff  now while you can or be like me and wander though the second hand yards.

And you like me could feel better getting wood and materials that are second hand with the  embodied energy already in the system and using what we have already created with so much effort over time.

I will be honest at least half the fun in it is searching out stuff and the bargaining, but don’t tell my wife that. So go and find the nearest second hand yard and enjoy.

‘Oooooh look at that timber … shiny, bright, shiny I could do something with that …’


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