Feature

The Green Gypsies

Green Lifestyle online

Shunning the thought of being snowed under by rent or mortgage payments, this carefree family has taken to a sustainable life on the road in a mobile home.

The Green Gypsies

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Bluey, the uber-sustainable house-truck is no wallflower: covered in colourful artwork on all four sides, she is a big truck carrying a big message, and she’s coming to a town near you. Having just clocked 20,000 km running their truck solely on waste vegie oil, ‘green gypsies’ Bec Schofield and Dave Mann deserve the beer they’ve cracked open on the fold-out timber deck of their mortgage-free first home on wheels.

On the homestretch of Bluey’s first experimental lap around the country, it has been a journey much longer than the year they have so far been on the road. It stretches back a good five years when Bec was working as a schoolteacher at a tough school in Sydney, dreaming of taking her passions of singing, dancing and the environment on the road in a travelling green roadshow. Struggling to know where to start, it was a chance meeting with well-known songwriter Dave Mann at a folk festival in the Top End that provided the missing pieces of the puzzle. He’s now her husband and happens to be equally keen on building and adventure. With one-year-old daughter Gracie perched on her knee, Bec concedes she sometimes has to pinch herself to remind her that the dream is now a reality.

Inside, the firetruck-size home feels like something from a Dr Seuss book. There’s a mini pot belly stove and flue for chilly nights, a high bunk bed with musical instruments below, and the quaintest of kitchens complete with jarrah-branch drawer handles and mosaic wall tiles. Comfort and aesthetics were not at the expense of sustainability. Homemade solar panels on the roof power the mobile music studio, the fridge and computers; guttering collects rainwater for drinking and washing; and all timber used was sourced from salvaged materials.

“The design was an organic process that was not without its share of obstacles,” says Dave. One significant stumbling block presented itself when he failed to find a biodiesel cleaning unit smaller than the size of the truck. “The feasibility of the whole operation hinged on the ability to be able to process the next load of vegie oil while on the road,” he says. Undaunted, he set about designing one.

With surprisingly few hiccups on the road, and no shortage of free fuel from restaurants and fast food outlets, Bec and Dave have been able to focus on what they love most – “singing up country”, performing in-house concerts and writing songs for a new album. “Our low overheads have basically meant that we have been able to afford to go to out-of-the-way places that don’t usually get access to live music or exposure to the type of message we bring,” said Bec. “My motto has always been Mahatma Gandhi’s ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’, and I feel I’m right on track with that – sharing songs and stories about caring for the country, bringing up my daughter in a loving family and living with a small footprint.”

While their homecoming to Margaret River in Western Australia will be a welcome break from the gypsy lifestyle, rest is not long on the agenda, with plans afoot for major mobile-home renovations before the next trip. “The next stage is a mobile worm farm for kitchen scraps, a washing machine that agitates through the motion of the moving truck, an extra room on top of the cabin to accommodate a bigger family, and perhaps even an aquaponics system,” explains Dave excitedly.

If you haven’t managed to catch the green gypsies this time around, stay tuned because it sounds like the next show will be bigger and better than ever. Listen to Dave Mann’s new album at www.davemann.com.au