Living Green and With Purpose
Recycling, Repurposing, and Upcycling
Photo by Xenia Gross
When Farah Masani says everything used in the renovation and decoration of her cozy 1200 square foot home has been “recycled, repurposed, or upcycled,” she means it—literally. Everything in the house she shares with fiancé Shawn Frendt, and his sons Emmett, 14 and Oliver, 9 has come to the house from the local community.
For we conspicuous consumers, it’s hard to imagine living like this, especially when purchasing virtually anything is just a mouse click away. Masani glances around the cheery open concept main floor and enumerates the origin stories for each of their belongings. The rocking chair came from a friend who downsized; the TV stand belonged to her ex-husband’s wife; the brick on the fireplace was from a chimney in Wilton; and the overhead light fixtures came from a chicken coop. The harvest table was a barter deal. “I taught a guy how to slaughter a turkey for Thanksgiving and he gave me this table. It’s worth $3,000! I could never fathom spending that much money for a table, but I love it. Every time we eat a meal, I think of that guy.”
In the kitchen, Mason jars serve as drinking glasses, colorful china from tag sales is intentionally mismatched, and the kitchen cabinets that came with the house have been cleverly reconfigured. The commitment to living green continues throughout the home—even the bed in the master bedroom was hand-made by the couple.
Masani is a passionate advocate for her way of life. “Everything that we need already exists, so why go out and buy it when you can come up with a more thoughtful solution? We used steel beams in the house instead of wood, because Shawn, aside from being a Wilton police officer, is also a third generation welder. So the main beams holding up the house have been re-purposed from a local warehouse.This was a way to bring his personal history into the house.”
When a 175-year-old overgrown pin oak on the property was in danger of caving in a neighbor’s roof, it was clear that it had to come down. Masani saw this as an opportunity to honor the tree and its heritage by repurposing its wood and making it a meaningful part of their home. Log lengths were trucked up to a sawmill in Ridgefield, cut into 12-foot boards, then stained with a non-toxic water-based product, and installed as new flooring in their home.
“What’s really important to me is living with meaning,” says Masani. I always ask myself, “‘What’s the greenest way to live?’” But how did she come to this way of life? Born in India, Masani grew up in Bombay (now Mumbai) as well as in England, France, and other parts of Europe. “At 19, I fell in love and followed a boy to the University of Texas. It was a complete culture shock. Food was packaged and had chemicals and preservatives. It was hard to find real butter, real milk, and chicken that tasted like chicken. I was in the world’s best country eating the world’s crappiest food.”
In Texas she studied economics and social work, became a licensed social worker, and began helping primarily immigrant families from “the other side of the tracks.” It was an awakening of sorts. “All the Mexican families had chickens, goats, and little home gardens. It was just beautiful. I learned that you can live off the land.”
Masani’s marriage to the “boy” ultimately didn’t work out, but she fell in love again—this time with the town of Wilton (and soon after with Shawn.) But she needed to make a living. Masani has been a baker, a barista, and an organic farmer. Today, she leases an acre of land in Westport and grows organic produce for Barcelona Wine Bar and bartaco.
In 2015 when Masani saw the realty listing for the former summer cottage it was kismet. She viewed the property in the morning and by the afternoon the paperwork was signed. It’s been an adjustment for this blended family. “My values are my values. It’s hard for me to have Hellman’s mayo in the fridge. But just because I like to eat single-source, organic food doesn’t mean Shawn can’t eat M&Ms. We have a lot to learn from each other.”
EASY WAYS TO BE GREEN
- Clean your refrigerator coils,
- compost household waste and include fireplace ashes,
- rent a hybrid car,
- use cloth napkins,
- repair leaky faucets,
- bring your own cup to the coffee shop,
- use rechargeable batteries,
- turn your computer off at night,
- use alternative dryer sheets.