Did anyone catch the last episode of Blue Planet 2? If you missed it, it was a powerful call to action for everyone to do more to protect the environment. It made me take a good look at my family and work out what small changes we could make to our day to day lives that would make a big difference to the world we live in.
Assuming that you are already doing the basics such as recycling waste and using reusable shopping bags, here are my Top 10 Ways to be an Eco-Friendly Family:
1. Swap wet wipes for reusable Bamboo Wipes
These bamboo wipes are super soft and perfect for wiping sticky fingers and faces. Not only will you be doing your bit for the environment but you’ll save some money too. When out and about, I put a couple in my bag, along with a bottle of water, which I use to turn them into wet wipes ‘on the go’. We use these colourful bamboo Cheeky Wipes which cost £9 for 10.
They are reusable. I normally just rinse mine in hot water and then when they start looking really grubby I’ll stick them in the wash. As a comparison, a jumbo box of wet wipes costs about £11, which, depending on how messy your children are, will only last a month or so before you need to buy another box.
2. Ban glitter
Along with plastic, glitter is causing havoc in the sea with fish mistaking glitter as food, which can cause them serious damage.
Glitter doesn’t decay and ends up floating in the ocean like microbeads and other plastics. Some nurseries across the country have banned glitter and are replacing it with lentils. Alternatively, track down some biodegradable glitter which is made from plant cellulose. Moral Fibres has a great post about glitter alternatives and directs you where to buy biodegradable glitter.
3. Stop using plastic straws
One of the most common plastic items found on the beach are plastic straws. The pub chain Wetherspoons consumed an incredible 70 million straws a year before it switched to biodegradable straws in January 2018. The irony is that most people don’t even ask for a straw, they are automatically put into a glass.
If you are out, specifically request no straw. If your kids, like mine, insist on a straw, either carry some biodegradable ones in your bag or, if they are old enough, have an honest conversation with them about how these straws could up in our seas, causing damage to our wildlife. I like these reusable bamboo straws which are made from organic bamboo and are dishwasher safe.
Another way to reduce the amount of plastic consumed in the average household is to buy loose vegetables. You can either pick these up at the local greengrocers or perhaps think about ordering a veggie box to your door.
We recently started receiving a veggie box and it’s a great way to ensure you get your five fruit and veg a day. We get a Medium Veggie box with no root vegetables from Riverford which lasts us the week. We aren’t fans of potatoes so we found that opting for a box without root vegetables ensured that there is no wastage at the end of the week. On the odd occasion where there is anything left over, I simply stick it in the Nutribullet with some fruit for a healthy smoothie.
Whilst the cotton fibres in pads and tampons are biodegradable, the plastic applicators and packaging waste are not. When you take into consideration the manufacturing processes involved and the sheer volume the average user goes through in a lifetime, any biodegradability that might be a benefit is negated by these factors. Not to mention, the lifetime cost of using tampons or pads.
As an alternative, try a menstrual cup, a reusable silicone cup that sits a bit lower than a tampon. Instead of absorbing menstrual fluid, it collects it. They collect up to three times more fluid than a tampon, so you can leave them in for longer (up to eight hours) which means you can do a full day at work without worrying about it.
Mooncups still have a bit of a hippy reputation, but with attitudes towards the environment changing, more and more women are making the switch. I recently bought one after reading some rave reviews and I can honestly say that it has been a bit of a game changer for me. No smell, no dryness and no irritability. I feel so clean. It took me a couple of months to get into the swing of things but now I have perfected the technique, I often forget that I even have my period. The only downside is the strange crablike stance I have to perform to take the thing out!
If you feel like taking the plunge be sure to get the correct size. Menstrual cups come in two sizes, one for women that haven’t had children and one for women that have. I use a Mooncup which cost about £17, but there are lots of different brands in an array of different colours to choose from.
6. Present buying
Holding a children’s party often results in a sackload of presents. Whilst my kids are very excited about this prospect, it does cause me a bit of angst for a couple of reasons. The first issue is where the hell am I going to put them all? And secondly, I feel bad about the impact that the onslaught of these predominantly plastic items are ultimately going to have on the environment. I have a couple of ideas about how to remedy this:
If you are the host:
- Ask guests not to bring a gift. Have a no gifts policy ” No gifts please – your presence is gift enough”
- Hold a book swap party. On the invite, you could write something along the lines of “In lieu of gifts, we will be hosting a book swap. Bring a book to swap and take home a new book for your library.”
- If other parents ask what to buy your child for their birthday, suggest items that they actually need to avoid more plastic or unneeded toys coming into your home. Alternatively, ask for a ‘doing thing’ present, such as tickets to the cinema, etc.
If you are attending a party:
- Club together with other Mums and buy one big present, rather than four separate gifts.
- Buy the birthday child something ‘to do’ such as tickets to the cinema, farm, or other fun activities.
- Wrap presents in recycled paper or decorate brown paper that you already have, rather than buying new wrapping paper.
7. Eco-friendly party bags
Whilst we are on the subject of kids parties, the one thing I dislike the most about them is the party bag. A plastic bag full of plastic tat. Which sadly, after about 24 hours of play gets discarded or broken and ends up in the bin. Wouldn’t it be great to offer an eco-friendly party bag full of gifts that have a bit of longevity, without costing the earth (see what I have done there?)?
- Buy paper bags instead of plastic
- Fill with homemade cookies/cake, a personalised packet of seeds, a small book, a wooden toy, such as a wooden yo-yo, box of outdoor chalk, or wooden beads
- If you need some inspiration check out these ethical party bag filler at Little Cherry and Ethical Kidz.
8. Reusable water bottles
Bottled water has become increasingly popular in recent times. Although plastic bottles are recyclable, many end up in landfill and take up to 1000 years to break down. When littered they often end up in the sea where they break up into small pieces, killing marine life that mistake them for food.
Instead of buying a bottle of water, either reuse an old plastic one or buy a reusable bottle. Simply fill it with tap water and take it with you everywhere. Think of the money you’ll save too. With the free-water initiative recently announced never has it been easier to give up bottled water.
I like these eco-friendly, reusable bottles by Chilly’s which come in 24 different colours and 4 different sizes. They claim to keep cold drinks cool for 24 hours and hot drinks hot for 12 hours.
9. Reusable coffee cups
Naively, I always thought that coffee cups were recyclable but it turns out they are not. To make these cups waterproof, the card is fused with polyethylene, a material that cannot be separated out again in a standard recycling mill.
Did you know that we get through 10,000 coffee cups every two minutes? That’s a lot of waste. To help reduce this either make your own tea or coffee at home and put in a reusable bottle or buy your own reusable coffee cup. Some coffee chains have a money off incentive for anyone that brings in a reusable coffee cup.
These colourful Keep-Cups come in a variety of sizes and colours so there is sure to be one that you like.
9. Eco-Friendly washing liquid
On average, I do six loads of washing a week. Almost every day I am washing, drying, folding and putting away an insane amount of clothes. Apart from the impact this has on my mental health, I have come to realise that I am not being particularly kind to the environment with the amount of synthetic chemicals I am pumping into our waterways and affecting our ecosystem.
So I have swapped from my trusty Fairy Non-bio pods to an organic washing liquid and conditioner. These products are made with natural, toxin-free ingredients that are not only environmentally friendly but also safe and kind to your skin.
There are many different eco-friendly washing liquids available from the widely recognised Ecover, to smaller brands such as the British brand Ecoleaf. When buying an eco-product looks out for detergents that are phosphate-free, not tested on animals, biodegradable and packaged in recyclable containers. It is also worth looking at efficiency at 30°C as these detergents need less energy.
I like Ecoleaf Laundry Liquid. It is manufactured from plant extracts and is 100 percent biodegradable. It is sold in recyclable containers and comes with certification from the Vegan Society. It comes in various sizes including a vast 20-litre size which could possibly last me an entire year.
Over to you
So that was my Top 10 Ways to be an Eco-Friendly Family. I am sure that there are lots more ways that we could work on this further so I would love to hear your ideas. It’s up to all of us to do our bit and make the world a place we want our kids to enjoy in all its natural beauty.