5 Simple Tips for a Greener Family Life
We are all becoming more aware of the ongoing impact humanity is having on the natural world and its creatures, and that we all have a responsibility to protect the environment. Now, more than ever, being eco-conscious and living a greener lifestyle is vital.
Most people want to do their bit to help the planet, but when you’re busy with day-to-day family life, it can sometimes feel like just another thing to add to your already full to-do list.
Here’s 5 easy tips that go beyond simply ‘recycling’ and ‘driving less’, that you can start incorporating into your family life to lower your carbon footprint, be more eco-friendly, and even save yourself some money in doing so!
1. Packed lunch packaging
If you’ve got kids of school age, packed lunches can be a good area to make simple swaps which are more eco-friendly. Though many areas do offer kerbside recycling for tin foil and clingfilm, reusable packaging options often work out cheaper, are less wasteful, and have a lower carbon footprint as less energy is used in producing them.
Bee’s Wrap makes award-winning, reusable food wraps from certified organic cotton and sustainably sourced beeswax, which are perfect for packed lunches, storing food, and wrapping leftovers.
You simply wash them under the tap after each use and once dry they’re good to use over and over again. One wrap can last up to a year before it needs replacing, and once it reaches the end of its life it can be composted, putting all the energy of making it back into the earth!
2. Swap shampoo bottles for shampoo bars
Most households will have an array of products in their bathroom, sometimes with different shampoos, conditioners and body washes for each family member. This adds up to lots of plastic, and an array of chemicals which aren’t all that good for you or the planet.
Shampoo bars make a great alternative, many of which are mild enough for the whole family to use. They reduce your plastic usage and the need for buying lots of different products and, as they last for ages, will save you money in the long run.
Most shampoos contain sodium laureth sulfate (SLS) which strip the hair’s natural oils and send your scalp into overdrive to produce more oils, which is why your hair will tend to look greasy and need washing only a day or two later.
Shampoo bars help retain your hair’s natural oils, which acts as a conditioner, keeping your locks nourished and shiny. Once your hair’s natural oils rebalance, you’ll find you can go longer between each wash without your hair looking greasy – meaning less water used and less products!
Funky Soap Shop has a great selection of handmade shampoo and conditioner bars, which are made with 100% natural ingredients, no harsh chemicals (better for you, better for the planet), and are cruelty free. All of their postal packaging is biodegradable, and they only use RSPO Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (Greenpalm) from a reputable UK company.
3. Let clothes have a second life
The fashion industry is responsible for 10 percent of the entirety of humanity’s carbon emissions. With this in mind, the obvious answer would be to choose clothing brands which are committed to sustainability and being carbon neutral.
However, by far the most eco-friendly option for clothing is to buy second-hand. This is a no-brainer when it comes to kids’ clothes – especially when they grow out of clothing so quickly, and end up trashing it whilst playing/painting/eating food anyway!
Buying second-hand clothes from charity shops, eBay, or getting clothes handed down by other parents means less resources are being used to make new clothes. What’s more, giving these unwanted clothes a second life means less will end up in landfill, which is damaging for the planet.
The added bonus of buying second-hand is that you can pick up some absolute bargains – even for high-quality, big-name and designer brands – which means you’ll be spending less money and be better off as a family.
When your kids have outgrown clothes, be sure to give them to a charity shop or bag-up and take them to your local recycling centre to avoid them ending up in landfill. Even better, why not try selling bundles of them online and earn a bit of extra money from them!
4. Cut out the baby wipes for quick clean-ups
There’s no denying the invention of baby wipes has been a godsend for parents across the globe. For cleaning up baby bums, they are quick, efficient and portable. Though there are many biodegradable and affordable options available now to parents, baby wipes still contribute to carbon emissions.
In an article by The Guardian, there has been a 400% increase in wet wipes found along British coastlines over the past decade. Many wipes which claim to be flushable or biodegradable do not fully degrade, instead wreaking havoc with the sewer system and contributing to ‘fatbergs’ forming.
The wipes that are used for babies’ bottoms will often end up being put in a plastic bag, with plastic-containing nappies, which will all end up in landfill contributing to carbon emissions.
This is an uncomfortable and unfortunate truth, but baby wipes are so convenient for cleaning up babies’ bodily excretions, and so widely used, that it’s unlikely people will switch to an alternative any time soon.
Despite this, there are plenty of times when a simple flannel and water will do the job.
By swapping to using flannels to clean off faces, hands and spills during children’s mealtimes, you will reduce the number of wipes you’re using and therefore reduce the amount clogging up sewers or ending up in our rivers and oceans.
Flannels are cheap to buy and easy to wash and reuse over and over again, making them a cheaper and more eco-friendly option for family life.
5. Embrace the wild look in your garden
If you’re lucky enough to have a garden where you live, a simple way to help the environment is by not doing anything…give the lawnmower a rest and let part (or all!) of the grass grow long.
Doing this will create a haven for all manner of bugs and insects, also giving wild birds a source of food from the grass and flower seeds. Daisies, dandelions and clovers may seem like a nuisance ruining your pristine green lawn, but when left to grow – even for a few months – they provide vital food and shelter to bugs, butterflies and bees.
These vital pollinators have already had so much of their homes destroyed and repurposed by humans, with wildflower meadows in alarming decline. Since the 1930s, nearly 7.5 million acres of wildflower meadow have been lost and they are still being decimated to make room for housing and infrastructure developments.
If every household with a garden allowed the grass to grow long over spring and summer, it would massively benefit the eco-system and help protect our much-loved countryside by encouraging more bees and insects into our gardens.
We’ve only touched on a few ways to start living a greener family life in this article, and there are hundreds more to choose from. But small, actionable steps are sometimes better than trying to tackle everything all at once! Even trying out just one of these tips will help you to reduce your carbon footprint and live a more planet-friendly family lifestyle.
Look out for Melissa's latest articles on Anita Frost's author website, where she'll talk about topics including business and publishing, author news and events, and giving back to communities. You can find her in-depth monthly feature on the News & Media page of the Green Bean Collection website, discussing children's books and reading, early years education, living a greener lifestyle and all things Green Bean!
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