As our impact on the planet becomes more and more clear to me, it feels more urgent for my family to take steps that minimize our waste and effect on our environment. Especially as a parent, the future of our planet is important to me because I know that my children will be dealing with the repercussions of the current way we consume. And while there need to be big changes on a national level, I have been focusing on small changes I can make to live a more sustainable lifestyle.
I was already pretty eco-conscious. For example, we cloth diapered both my children; we compost our food waste and have reusable water bottles and food packaging. But recently, I’ve been creating new habits to help minimize our waste. Here are five simple, yet impactful actions I have for families who want to become a more eco-friendly family:
Research What Your Community Is Doing
Your city might have different ways that they are addressing sustainability. I looked into what my local city/county allows in the recycling bin and compost bin to make sure I was separating our waste properly. Knowing what can and can’t be recycled or composted, helped me to also make better choices when I was looking to prevent packaging waste. I also researched how my local representatives were addressing the climate crisis in their projects and initiatives. One of the most powerful things we can do for our planet is making sure our community leaders are working to address it on a larger level and holding them accountable. To start, you can find out who represents you in Congress.
Plan Your Meals and Shopping List
In the United States alone, 40 percent of food gets tossed every year. Not only does meal planning help to make day to day meals easier to manage, but it also helps to prevent food waste. Also, eating most meals at home can help to avoid waste from packaged take out meals and prevents food from getting thrown out that we don’t get to.
Planning our meals and creating shopping lists also helped identify items that I could purchase in bulk or made at home versus individual packets. I started bringing my own jars and reusable produce bags when I went to the grocery store. Some of the duster bags from my Tula blankets have been repurposed for this use!
Another benefit I've seen from mealing planning is that we have seen cost savings in our grocery and store bills because we are being less impulsive with our shopping.
Make Your Changes in Baby Steps
The process of getting to a less wasteful lifestyle can become overwhelming. So, to ensure we are successful, we are making changes in small manageable ways. I started by thinking of ways we could be less wasteful in four different “areas”: in the kitchen, in our closet, in our medicine cabinet (i.e our beauty/grooming products and cleaning products), and in my backpack (i.e. how and what we travel with daily or for larger family trips). I changed things as they needed replacing, ran out, or as it became necessary. I am also being mindful that we are still learning. Any changes we make to our habits are improvements, so I try to be forgiving and not get overwhelmed.
Take Your Sustainability Efforts With You!
Avoiding single-use plastic and excess waste can be easier to manage at home, but we are also working on being more conscious when we are out or traveling. Along with bringing reusable straws, bottles, and utensils with us, my sons often pack their Tula Backpacks with containers of snacks to avoid purchasing individually packaged items (like small bags of chips) or to bring leftovers home if we eat at a restaurant. In my bag, I try to have things are on hand that we may need like cloth wipes for runny noses or cleaning messes while we are out. I tend to refuse straws, napkins, or other single-use plastic items when we are out and about.
Also, if we can walk or plan a stop on an existing drive, we do so that we can avoid additional car rides or having small items delivered to us. Living in Portland, Oregon, we are pretty lucky to have many restaurants and places that are eco-friendly too!
Before Your Toss: Mend, Repair, or Pass It On
As a parent, I’ve noticed that we have clothes and other items, like toys, that my children damage or stop using on a much higher frequency than I do. But in an effort to prevent waste or buy more things, I have started to build up my sewing and “handyman” skills. Just by extending the life of clothing by an additional 9 months, you can reduce carbon, waste, and water footprints by approximately 20-30%. I also think about repurposing items if they can’t be used as intended like old shirts beyond repair have become our cleaning cloths. If an item is no longer needed by my family, I try to pass on the items to friends, re-sell them, or donate them.
I was already familiar with the second-hand market from my own babywearing and cloth-diapering days, so I just began to look for previously used items when possible as well.
While the climate crisis we are facing will require many changes on a global level, I think it’s beneficial to start with the choices that I make for myself and my family. I hope these tips will give you some ideas of where you can start. Or if you already have, do you have your own sustainable tips to share? Share them with us and hopefully, I can explore additional things my family can do to care for our Earth.