Sustainable living. It sounds like the right thing to do. It is the right thing to do…But it also feels like a lot. How does a family with young children suddenly take on an eco-parenting role, all the time? In a world with an overwhelming amount of information at our fingertips, the pressure to sustain the health of our planet for future generations is tangible. Parents are exhausted yet still asking themselves, ‘Why am I not doing more?’
Realistically, planning a weekly family-friendly vegan menu overnight is unlikely to happen. It’s not possible to walk everywhere. Growing your own veg is wonderful, but that takes time and can be tough in the upcoming hot summer months. Still, all it takes is one seed. So begin with just that. Soon the little changes you make will start to become family habits, and you won’t even notice you’re all doing them.
It’s vital to make conscious decisions as a family and the best place to start is with the 3 R’s; reduce, reuse, recycle. What is absolutely necessary? How can you reduce rather than add or duplicate? Can you reuse items? Learning to recycle whenever and however possible is paramount.
With this in mind, here are some specific tips to get your family kickstarted into sustainable living.
Top 10 Eco-Parenting Tips
Turn the Lights Off : Simply teaching children to turn off electronics when not in use is a great way to conserve energy. Allow natural light to filter through your home when possible. And before popping on the AC or the heating, layer-up or layer-down, depending where in the world you are.
Reusable Cups Rock – Plastic water bottles just end up in landfills. Even big coffee chains offer a discount if you bring your trendy refillable mug. It can be frustrating when your kid loses their water bottle, again, but this will also double up as a lesson in how to care for their belongings.
Carpool – What’s more fun than going to a birthday party or a dance class? Going with your pals. Team up with other parents to share the rides. You’ll save a tons of CO2 and maybe even get to factor in a bit of me-time while your kid is enjoy the jolly.
Grow Green Fingers – It’s not always possible to have a vegetable patch in hotter climes but there’s no reason why you can’t get little ones interested in gardening. It’s a fun and healthy activity helping them to develop new skills while learning about nature from growing their own food.
Turn Off the Tap – Talk to your kids about the importance of conserving water. Make it fun. Who can take the fastest shower? Who can remember to brush their teeth without leaving the cold water running? Introducing easy games like this will naturally become part of your family’s lifestyle.
Reusable Bag Cupboard – Choose a storage place for all reusable bags that the whole family can access. Make sure you always have one or two in the car or rolled up inside your handbag for when you’re out and about. This helps to avoid buying disposable, single-use plastic bags.
Toy Swap – Arrange a playdate with another family where kids get to swap toys and games. Rather than accumulate more new plastic, your little ones will be delighted at taking home “someone else’s toy”. There is a good lesson in taking care of that toy, too, in case you need to swap it back again.
Go Big on Bulk – Hit the big supermarket and fill that trolley. Bulk-buying saves the planet and your pocket. Find refill products and use your own reusable containers, kids will love helping with this! Avoid items designed for single-use only, such as fruit snacks and juice boxes. And choose eco-friendly cleaning products, detergents and body care. Indoor air can be up to five times more polluted than outdoor air, due to the toxic chemicals often found in conventional cleaners.
Pre-loved Fashion – Kids grow so fast that sometimes, they wear a new garment just once before they outgrow it, so pass it on or sell. Second-hand no longer has a stigma attached to it. Fashion produces a tenth of the world’s carbon emission and fast-fashion has been revealed as an enormous environmental footprint for both its production and disposal. Parents can also shop vintage for fabulous bargains, unique styles and a clear conscience.
Recycle is the Norm – Set up a family recycling station in your home. Have fun trying to spot/identify recycling symbols. Take it in turns to empty the recycling or see what can be recycled in your home before chucking it away. Get creative!