Sometimes the demands of family life leave me wishing there was an extra hour in the day. With a never-ending to-do list and my three-year-old son James wrapped around my leg, constantly asking me “Why?”, my time and energy are often in short supply. Ask me to consider the environment, on top of everything else, and I am liable to stick my tired head in the sand! But Earth Day – celebrated annually on 22nd April - is a timely reminder that we must prioritise tackling the environmental challenges facing our planet. What can we do, and how can our kids help?
We must prioritise tackling the environmental challenges facing our planet.
The best way to instil children with respect for the natural world is to get them immersed in it. Perth Community Farm is a nonprofit organisation which is creating an urban farm in the city, as well as providing a retail outlet chock-full of natural, eco-friendly products. Located on Jeanfield Road, the farm recently held a ‘Dig and Play’ session for families.
We popped along to have a nosey, and I was astounded by the work in progress. Volunteers are establishing fruit, veg and flower beds; digging, planting and watering with enormous pride and passion. I got my hands dirty planting salvaged primroses, and James had fun running about with the other kids, haphazardly flinging wildflower seeds into the earth and excitedly peeking into the bug hotel. The farm has big plans to grow and develop and welcomes all volunteers who would love to muck in. You can find out more on their Facebook page, and website.
Perth Community Farm shop is housed in The Bees Flower Shop on Hospital Street and strives for minimal waste. You can purchase washing-up liquid, handwash, laundry detergent, shampoo and conditioner in refillable bottles. When you return with your bottle your refill is cheaper and you stop having to buy multiple plastic containers. The shop also stocks the gorgeous ‘Faith in Nature’ products – James chose a natural coconut soap (packaging free) and became slightly hooked on the beautiful scent. Amongst other things on the shelves, you can find organic and vegan foods, shampoo bars, and 100% biodegradable ‘Earth Friendly Baby’ wet wipes.
Next, I went to St John’s Shopping Centre to check out the Zero Waste Perth store. It forms part of the wider Zero Waste Scotland initiative and offers an extensive array of information, including advice on reducing plastic use, protecting marine life, and minimising food waste.
Children’s puzzles, activities and quiz sheets prompt them to study the posters on display, and James was fascinated by a quirky gadget designed to accurately measure portions of spaghetti. It helps reduce food waste, and is made from recycled CD cases! Zero Waste Perth runs regular events which have included upcycling craft activities for families, sewing your own reusable bag, a bike first aid workshop, and much more. Take a look at their Facebook page or take the kids into the store to see what’s on.
Remember that even small changes can make a big difference.
So, how can parents be more environmentally-friendly, and take better care of the earth for the benefit of our children, and their children? Try not to succumb to eco-anxiety (yep, it’s a thing) and remember that even small changes can make a big difference. Here are a few suggestions:
To conserve energy in your house, use energy-efficient lightbulbs, and turn off lights when not required (I have despaired over this ever since James was able to reach our light switches…he aspires to compete with the Blackpool illuminations).
Power down computers and turn off the telly whenever it won’t cause war with your children. Encourage them not to spend half an hour perusing the contents of the fridge with the door hanging open. Shorter showers, and shallow baths also help.
Investigate green energy suppliers and enjoy the fact that lowering your energy use will also help your bank balance.
Carefully planning your meals for the week can reduce the time you spend dealing with a fractious toddler in the supermarket, and will leave you with less food waste.
Think about packaging – James loves to choose his own loose fruit and veg, and I carry his snacks in a re-usable packet or tub. I take a durable bottle of water to the playpark, or a thermos of tea, and James doesn’t need a straw for his juice. Local friends of ours now get their milk delivered in glass bottles, which sounds fab!
With the arrival of a new baby, the thought of regularly washing cloth nappies may seem daunting. I used disposable nappies and, once in landfill, the plastic they contain apparently takes hundreds of years to break down.
I asked some friends about their experiences with cloth nappies and they were enthusiastic (as much as you can enthuse about baby poo). Lynn told me how straightforward she found the routine of changing and washing cloth nappies, and Sabine liked the range of styles available and the long-term savings from using the same nappies repeatedly, including for younger siblings.
The local ‘Perth Nappies and Slings’ group offers advice and support and it’s a great place to get started.
You don’t have to be mean to be green, and children will not feel deprived if you introduce an eco-friendly slant to their playtime. Try classic wooden toys, rather than plastic, and always recycle or pass on pre-loved items to friends.
I find lovely kids’ books, in great condition, in Perth’s charity shops. Second-hand clothes are perfect for wee ones wanting to play fancy dress games. For birthdays and Christmas, think about pretty, reusable gift bags, and ditch the wrapping paper. Lately, I have been impressed to find greetings cards which aren’t wrapped in cellophane in the shops.
The most important step in all of this must be to educate our children to care for the planet they have inherited from us. Our pre-schoolers will one day be running the world (isn’t that a terrifying thought…) and it will be up to them to respect and protect it.
If we teach our kids about recycling, avoiding waste, and appreciating the beauty of nature, we are taking vital baby-steps towards a brighter future.