Third in the How to be a _____ Parent series, is Kat from the beautiful and inspiring blog, Eco Empire. Let her inspire you with her tips for nurturing a nature loving family….
I didn’t suddenly decide to become an eco-parent – it just made sense to take care of the environment our children are inheriting. My belief is that even the little things can make a big difference so I try to encourage people to start small but dream big. I started small by looking at the products I was bringing into my home and then I started to dream big – like being self-sustaining with chickens and fruit trees and maybe even bees!
One of the strangest misconceptions about being an eco-parent would be that we make things harder for ourselves. I’ve actually had someone tell me “yeah but I just can’t be bothered recycling” (I thought they were joking, but sadly they weren’t). What you need to know is that being eco conscious does not mean compromising on the good stuff, it just means making informed decisions. I rarely do anything without stopping and thinking how it may affect the environment. The good news is by being eco conscious you often make decisions that are not only better for the environment but better for your family’s health, wellness and bank balance!
Some simple rules to live by:
• Always consider an item’s origins. Whether it be the clothes your kids wear, or the fruit they’re eating – think about where it was made, how it was made, how far it’s come. I try to buy local and ethical products.
• Always read the label. Whether it be that jar of sauce or your laundry liquid, get to know what’s good and what’s bad and be warned about deceptive labelling making out a product is organic or eco-friendly (when it’s not). It’s amazing what kind of toxic and unhealthy ingredients are in well-known products. These are not just bad for the environment, but unhealthy for your family too!
• Ask ‘what are my options’? Don’t just assume that you HAVE to buy or do something. There are always more environmentally friendly options out there. If you’re ever unsure just Google ‘eco-friendly _____’ – there are so many wonderful resources out there for you to find.
• Start small. Don’t overwhelm yourself all at once. Perhaps try to do one new eco thing a week or even month. I’m still learning and growing.
Here are ten of the easiest eco things I’ve done as a parent that you can do too.
1. Buy second-hand. Kids’ needs grow quickly, so buying everything brand new is often unnecessary and expensive. I buy boxes of second-hand clothes and toys from the local online classifieds or Ebay. Markets and Op Shops are a great place to go too. Most of the things I’ve bought look near new! The kids certainly don’t care that it’s second-hand.
2. Use natural products. Whilst you might eat naturally (wholesome food with no artificial or toxic ingredients) people often forget about what goes on (or makes contact with) their skin – such as bath soap, laundry liquid, kitchen spray and wipe, even medicine. There are so many toxic products that not only damage our ecosystem, but aren’t good for your health either! If you can’t afford to buy eco products, you can possibly make them for next to nothing.
3. Grow your own. Grow fruit, vegetables and if you’re lucky get your own chickens. It’s a great way to ensure you are eating organically and it’s such a great activity to do with the kids and teach them where food comes from. My son is a big fan of picking mint leaves and chewing on them as a snack!
4. Visit the local farmers’ market every weekend as a family ritual. Especially if you can’t grow your own food, you can buy them from local farmers. The markets usually sell fruit, vegetables, meat, eggs as well as breads, plants and homemade jams and preserves. It’s really a great way to do some food shopping disguised as a great family outing!
5. Begin a love affair with nature. It won’t be hard to convince most kids to enjoy the outdoors, in fact as a newborn my son was often only consoled by going outside (I’m talking the instant we walked outside he would stop crying). By teaching them to be kind to animals and respect nature they will become natural mini eco warriors and nature will become their playground. My son can play in our yard for hours with little to no toys.
6. Join a toy library. Usually not-for-profit organisations run by local parents, they offer annual memberships which let you borrow toys (much like a book library) for a set number of weeks. By the time my son is sick of a toy it’s time to return it for something new!
7. Use cloth nappies. Disposable nappies are an environmental disaster taking decades to break down in landfill. There is a big misconception that cloth nappies are hard work, but they’re not! I personally wash (and by wash, I mean put them in a washing machine) my nappies daily so it’s just part of my daily routine and that way it only takes maybe 15 minutes out of my day. That’s not a lot when it means saving thousands of nappies from heading to landfill (not to mention saving you lots of money).
8. DIY and homemade. From recipes to toys, before you buy think about whether you could make it instead. One of my son’s favourite toys as a young baby was a fabric ‘book’ I put together from fabric scraps. He also goes crazy for my homemade dehydrator raw crackers – and the best part is I know exactly what’s in them.
9. Create new traditions. Holidays such as Christmas and Easter (also Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and even birthdays) has turned into a consumerist, commercialised nightmare. I’ve watched kids get absolutely spoiled with gifts only to be happier playing with an empty cardboard box. Come up with new traditions for your family – I’ve always loved the “Something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read” gift giving philosophy, and for holidays like Easter simply making chocolate Easter eggs together is an affordable fun family activity.
10. Read. I’ve borrowed books from the library and even bought a few, but there is SO much great inspiration and information on the internet. I follow a pile of great blogs written by people, just like me, learning and sharing how they live their lives in a sustainable and eco conscious way. Pinterest is another great resource for ideas. Expand your knowledge!
As a mother I feel like I have been given the most important job in the world. Everything I say and do could shape the person he will become! Talk about pressure! But I think teaching him how to love and care for the environment automatically provides a fun and imaginative childhood, implanting amazing moral and ethical values for life. I think if people aren’t already convinced to ‘go green’ before having kids, holding a newborn baby in your arms and knowing that you’re daily living has an impact on that tiny baby’s future, can be the light bulb moment!