#2 Small Steps.
Until my children arrived, I had no idea just how much extra 'stuff' would be needed, nor how much extra 'stuff' would be generated. I've also overheard comments like these more frequently...
"Kids have way too much plastic these days".
"The world is overpopulated as it is, why would anyone want more kids?".
But before we jump on the 'lets blame the next generation for everything' bandwagon, lets take a moment to remember that we were also kids once and we had a little carbon footprint all of our own.
It's definitely time to stop dwelling on the negativity and think about the changes we can make right now, which will be of benefit to us all. These changes should be realistic and attainable. Otherwise, rather like a cabbage soup detox in January, there is a risk that un-realistic, albeit good intentions, can quickly turn to hot air!
So below are just four of many easy ways to implement change in order to become a greener and more energy efficient household.
#1 Ditch the plastic bags and switch to reusable.
Honestly, I'm totally fed up that plastic bags are still being used excessively in grocery stores. Sometimes I see only one item being placed in a bag. Sometimes two plastic bags are used to 'double bag' a product. Ugh.
I purchased 8 reusable grocery bags (they're around $1 each) and made a pact with myself never to go grocery shopping without them again. I make sure I always have some in my car, one under my stroller and I keep a material tote in my diaper bag so that I can reduce my plastic usage when i'm out and about. The whole process took about fifteen minutes to organize and the satisfaction that it brings when I think about all those plastic bags I haven't used, is totally worth it.
We're all aware that plastic bags are a total nightmare. It really is up to us to make the decision to stop using them. 'Nuff said!
#2 Rethink the plastic in your kids lunchbox.
When my second child started school in September, I was making lunches for quite a few people in our house and I was using a serious amount of sandwich bags. I decided to ditch them and start using the reusable kind (see below). They are sturdier than sandwich bags and are really easy to clean. They look nice so my kids love using them and it felt good explaining to them why making the switch was better for the environment.
I also decided to stop buying multipacks of snacks like popcorn, crackers and chips. It is more economical to buy larger, value bags which can be divided up into reusable containers. Juice boxes with straws are also out. My kids take a reusable water bottle which is better for their teeth and their insides. It saves money and means less of my family's plastic waste is floating around the planet.
NB - My kids do drink liquid other than water. We're not perfect! My two year old is what I'd refer to as a 'mine sweeper'. Happily polishing off any juice box he can find in most situations.
#3 Use the clothes dryer less.
We do a LOT of laundry in our house. It struck me on a particularly bad laundry day just how much water, detergent and energy I was using with both the washing machine and the dryer combined. I felt bad about it.
I couldn't just stop washing clothes so I decided to invest in a couple of clothing airers to try and reduce our dryer usage. I also put a simple clothes line outside for when the weather was nice.
Yes, it takes extra time to hang out wet clothes and there are certainly moments where I see the dryer standing there, mocking me. But when I decide to hang out my laundry and put two fingers up to the dryer, I feel better about it. I try to remind myself just how much energy I'll save over the year. It's also a great way for the kids to help out.
It's important to be realistic and to cut yourself some slack. When you're massively sleep deprived and the thought of air drying anything makes you want to weep or you've realized that you washed your kids coat, its still wet, its freezing outside and you're leaving for school in half an hour then yes, the dryer needs to be used.
However it is worth trying to do our bit for the environment when we really don't have an excuse other than 'we can't really be bothered'.
#4 Turn off the lights and turn down the heat.
Easy Peasy. Make a conscious effort to turn all of the lights off whenever you leave a room or whenever you leave the house. Its un-neccesary to leave lights on when they don't need to be.
This is another thing that you can get your kids to help with. I have tried turning it into a game where they run around the house maniacally, finding lights that are still on and switching them off. Although sometimes this can lead to a huge meltdown as one child may find a light and turn it off before the other one has the chance! Just a heads up.
There have been times where I've noticed, in the middle of winter, household members walking around in T-shirts with a sweaty glow about them. Ridiculous. I now make a conscious effort to turn the heat down a degree or so and to wear more clothes. Vice versa in the summer.
My husband likes his 'gadgets' so we invested in a Ecobee (the 'Nest' is similar) which controls the climate in your house. We've had it around a year and the difference in our energy bills has been pretty significant. A worthwhile investment which I can highly recommend if you're interested in becoming more energy efficient.
So there it is. A little list of things that can be easily achieved and which can definitely help. With all of the ongoing environmental issues that we hear about daily, it really is essential that we try to do our bit.
We all have the right to a family - in whatever shape or form it comes. We all deserve to feel happy with our choices. However it is also our responsibility to take into account the environmental impact that our family practices have. It's also of paramount importance that we teach our children that they have a responsibility too. Small steps.
Thanks for reading.