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Parenting

How to be an Eco Parent

2 October, 2013

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!
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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.

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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!

Parenting

How to be an Expat Parent

24 September, 2013

In the second of the series, How to be a _____ Parent we have the wonderful Emma of a Bavarian Sojourn giving some advice for those contemplating a family move. *gnashes teeth* Yep, I’ll be needing these in a few months!

This is by no means an exhaustive list. You don’t have the time to read one, and I don’t think I could write one if I tried, as I am still learning new things, even after four years as an Expat! This list is however aimed at those who have just undertaken their first move, or are seriously considering it – but if you are doing neither, it might give you some idea of what it is like. Enjoy!

  • Patience. Something you absolutely must have as an Expat parent. You will find yourself calling upon it almost every day!;
  • Research each new destination thoroughly. This will not only give you a good insight into a place, but will help you settle in faster as a family;
  • Take as much time as you need to make decisions about important things such as housing and schools. Don’t be forced into signing something by pushy estate agents, relocation consultants and the like. If something doesn’t feel right, it usually isn’t.
  • Help prepare your child for a new country with stories, films and books. We love Miroslav Sasek’s “This Is” Series. Whilst Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and the Sound of Music might not actually be factual, they gave our children some idea of what the countryside looks like in this part of the world at least!!
  • Bear in mind that the first few weeks of your new life will be taken up with hideously frustrating bureaucracy. It will soon be a distant memory, don’t worry.
  • Do expect strange but lovely gifts from your new neighbours. We were given bread and salt when we first arrived here – a traditional Bavarian house warming present – particularly welcome as we hadn’t then found the bakers!
  • If you are not on a work Expat contract, but are there for the long term, look at local schools as a good alternative to the International variety. Your children will be fluent in the local lingo in a matter of months (and this will help you no end!)!
  • Keep an open mind with everything. You will experience cultural misunderstandings from time to time, but don’t immediately assume that it is intentional (something I have to remind myself often!)…
  • Expect that things will be different to what you are used to, and you won’t go far wrong. Things might make more sense the way they are done at home, but you are not at home.
  • Expect the unexpected. From odd and often unnecessary doctor’s appointments that arrive in the post, to strange cultural playground rituals. It’s all part of the fun!!
  • Don’t imagine that Expat Parenting is not competitive, it is. From how many languages your children can speak, to the contents of their lunch boxes. You would be amazed!
  • Enjoy meeting people from thousands of different countries and backgrounds. Don’t just stick to Expat circles either, it can take more time to get to know the locals by attending local functions and events, but it’s worth it. Get to know your neighbours too, even if you can only communicate via sign language at first!
  • Prepare your children for how different basic things like birthday parties can be. Not every country celebrates with cakes or offers party bags for example! Likewise, if it’s your child’s party, don’t imagine anyone will know what on earth you are talking about when you suggest Pin the Tail on the Donkey or Musical Statues.how to be an expat parent
  • You will experience eye opening situations such as lit candles on classroom tables, School trips in almost -20 conditions, and forest schools in the snow. Things that could possibly make tabloid headlines at home – embrace the differences!
  • In the same vein, get used to super relaxed (or almost non existent – to us anyway) health and safety rules. This might sound slightly worrying, but it’s usually more refreshing than anything, and I am holding out hope that one day my children will thank me for their more free range childhoods!
  • Learn the language together. I don’t usually advocate watching TV, but it helps more than you think it could, and speaking the language will help you feel like less of an outsider.
  • Join online groups for your area, always helpful when looking for recommendations for doctors, dentists and the like.
  • Install Skype, What’s App and anything else that helps you keep in touch with home. And get the guest room ready quickly, you will be using it a lot!
  • But perhaps most important of all – enjoy yourselves! Start a blog, take thousands of pictures and experience absolutely everything you possibly can – for who knows these days how long such an experience might last? And on the days that you find things tough, remember that it’s more than likely than not that one day you will look back on it and laugh… Promise!