Effective Parenting – Sustainable Family Living

Easy Ways to be a Sustainable Family

As parents we need to ask the question: “What legacy are we leaving for our children?” “What about our children’s children?” No longer can companies and governments clear old growth rainforest, dredge the seas of all life, and pump toxic waste into our water ways, without a cry of “no!” from protestors and protectors of our planet for the future generations.

What is turning ‘green’? View it like the traffic light system, ‘green’ means ‘go’ for the planet. The earth can continue to be a wonderful place for the next generation to call ‘home’.

This journey to ‘greener’ lands can happen together, as a family. I am not talking about drastic changes. You do not have to spend a fortune on solar panels or protest along the streets with banners (but please do if you feel inclined!). These easy ways just require a growing awareness of the preciousness of the earth’s resources.

Have you heard of the hundred monkey story? One monkey on an island decided that to eat the potato he found, he would take it to the seas edge and wash it.  Soon the other monkeys on the island followed this new idea and a new food source was found. When the hundredth monkey washed his potato, a monkey on a neighbouring island received an idea, “How about I wash this dirty potato at the seas edge before eating it”. And so the idea went on its way, from island to island. Let us wash the dirt off our earth gently and lovingly and may our ideas from a simple respectful home life, spread across the globe, the hundredth human story and may you be one of them!

Wonderful Water – The lesson to teach:

Explain to your young child that the clouds give us rain as a special gift. We catch it and save it to use as our water. Let us respect the clouds and their gift to us by not wasting water. Say, ‘Thank you clouds’ as you hop in the bath, or turn on the tap everyday! When it rains say ‘Thank you for filling up our water supplies!’

  • Bath together, save water and have fun! If not bathing together run a shallow bath for children or give them a strip down flannel wash. Do not bath or shower children every day, twice a week is sufficient when out of nappies (strip down wash at other times, if needed).
  •  Fill a bowl with warm water and add a couple of drops of lavender oil, a lovely way to wash hands and face before bedtime. This in turn can create soothing dreams, as well as more water for the planet!
  • Use ‘green’ washing up liquid. Have fun with water and bubbles without polluting our waterways; kind to your child, your dishes and the earth.
  • Install and teach your child about dual flush toilets. As part of toilet training, stick a gold star on the button for wees. Press to be a winner for water!  If you do not have a dual flush toilet fill a large plastic bottle with water, pull up the lid and place it in your cistern. Put in more if desired. One large flush consumes twelve litres of water, compared to one small flush which consumes three. A big difference! If home alone, do you need to flush every time? Put the lid down and wait until next time. This would save half your toilet usage!
  • Change to water efficient shower heads, available from hardware stores and free from some councils. One shower head saves 10,950 litres of water a year. Have a fun timer in the shower, four minutes only – buzz times up! Place a bucket under the shower to collect the water. Carry it out to water the garden, wash a bike or float a leaf boat in!
  • Only fill the kettle with the water you need. Do not discard old water from drink bottles or drained vegetables down the sink, water your plants!
  • Use chemical free shampoos, conditioners, washing powder, toilet cleaners, basically anything that goes into our water ways. Keep it clean. When using products which are not natural and chemical free, agrochemicals accumulate and create dire results to our water systems!
  • Install a water tank, now you can grow your veggies and have sprinkler showers – like the good old days!
  • Never leave a tap on whilst cleaning your teeth, use a special little cup to rinse your mouth out, and wash your brush at the end. A tap running, whilst cleaning teeth, will waste nine litres of water per minute!  Try not to shave in the shower, turn taps off and put a plug in the sink!
  • Fix dripping taps quickly, everyone needs a lesson in changing a washer. In the meantime place a bowl underneath the leaky tap.
  • Are your clothes really dirty? Only wash dirty clothes, not just wrinkled ones from a day’s use! Press the washing machine button to ‘on’, only when the machine is full. Wash where possible on a cool wash.
  • Contemplate the countries where people walk ten kilometres a day for their water supply and carry it back on their heads! Hold gratitude for our simple gift of running water.
  • Visit your local reservoir with your children to see how the rain water is stored. This can be a wakeup call; the water level is so low!
  • Wash the car with a bucket; children love to help and to wash their bike too. Even better if it is a recycled bucket of bath water! Never use water as a brush, use a brush to sweep and a hose to water. Do not water your driveway, it is not thirsty!
  • Water you garden – with your tank or recycled water – early in the morning or late evening, for better absorption into the soil. Pea straw or mulch your garden: to save precious water. It really works!
  • Do not concern yourself with others: what is your water footprint?
  • Never turn on a half full appliance. Try washing up by hand, kids love it!
  • Watch your water bill and usage go down, share positive changes together as a family.
  • Tell your children the story of how litter travels on a long journey to the sea: down the drains. Teach children not to litter, better still; do not buy packaged fast food, what most litter is made up of! Take a bag on a local walk, especially along a beach or river, and pick up the litter. You may well be saving a turtle’s life!

The Earth’s Treasures – The lesson to teach:

The earth – helped by her two friends, the warm sunshine and tickling rain – grows the food that we eat to stay alive. The earth looks after us and we need to look after her. The earth is our home and holds treasures of life: plants, insects and animals! Our own garden is a wonderful and amazing place.

  • Plant your own vegetable garden. This can be a small patch of spinach or a large plot, even a pot on a veranda! Turn ‘native’ in your garden. It will feed local wildlife and save a huge amount of watering. Use eco friendly soil fertilizers, good old horse and chicken manure and environmentally friendly pesticides. Do not create toxins in your own lovely soil.
  • Choose places of natural beauty for day trips and holidays. An appreciation for nature will make you conscious of looking after the earth. Go camping, look up at the stars and realize you are part of this big, beautiful universe.
  • Say a blessing before meal times:  thanking the earth, sun and showers.
  • Compost your vegetable scraps. Keep chickens, they will eat your compost! Buy a worm farm to use up your vegetable scraps, and then put the worms into your garden. The earth loves worms!
  • Explain to your child where packaging goes: deep into the earth’s tummy! Recycle where possible (understand the recycling plastic number system, check with your council which numbers they accept) and teach your child which bin to use. Recycle more; you can save 2,400 pounds of carbon dioxide per year by recycling just half of your household waste. Cook your own snacks and meals, far less packaging is required!
  • Refrain from using plastic bags; try never to use a plastic bag again! Keep recycle green bags in the back of your car. Do not put fruit and vegetables in plastic bags, unless a necessity. Choose paper if that is an option. Make sure your child has a little shopping basket too! A plastic bag takes 500 years to decompose or is a killer. In the sea, turtles think they are jelly fish eat them and die. This is becoming a huge problem. Six million plastic bags are used in Australia every year. That is three hundred per person. What is your count; chart for one year.
  • Can you use your rubbish again? Re-use glass jars as storage jars. Use cardboard from cereal boxes for craft patterns.
  • Phone the customer service lines of big food companies to ask, “When will you be using recyclable or biodegradable packaging? ”Phone paper, nappy and tissue companies to enquire, “When will you be putting recycled products on the market?”
  • Recycle boxes into hours of playful fun; trains, boats, cots and mail boxes!
  • Attend a clothes swap. Arrange a garage sale. Remember one man’s trash is another man’s treasure! Wear hand me downs and pass on clothes (vintage is in!)
  • Buy ethically sourced, wooden and material toys where possible. Fix broken toys with glue. Mend torn clothes with a needle. Treasure items; remember they will go into landfill if you don’t!
  • Recycle old envelopes and paper into little writing pads (Lovely for your child’s pretend café and your lists!) Buy recycled paper and office supplies.
  • Buy recycled toilet paper. Buy recycled tissues or use a handkerchief.
  • Try a cloth nappy system, dry pail using tea tree oil and wash in bulk. Use biodegradable nappies and wet wipes. Use old sheets, cut into strips and dip in warm water for warm wet wipes!
  • As the organic T –shirt from Target says, “Good Planets are hard to find!”
  • Remember the processing of plastic requires oil and toxins. When discarded, plastic will not biodegrade. Use wisely!
  • Check all labels for chemicals and additives. If they are in our foods, they are in our air, soil and waterways.
  • Take old mobile phones back to phone retailers for recycling. If thrown in the rubbish, chemical substances can seep into the landfill and contaminate groundwater and the soil. The same applies to fridges, microwaves, computers and other electrical goods. Think twice before you upgrade and dispose of wisely.

Save power and fuel – The lesson to teach:

Energy from our plug sockets and light switches is made in factories that produce big smoke, which goes into our air. These factories also dig deep into the earth’s belly. We must use our power wisely and try not to waste it. Special energy can be made from the sun, the wind, an even the waves! It is great to use this ‘good for the planet’ power source.

  • Turn the lights off when not in use. This will to help the planet, and save you money. Do light checks all the time, to see if you can spot some ‘cheeky’ lights that are still on, quick! Turn all appliances off at the plug. Check this too. It will save you money and help the environment.
  • You do not need to have your own solar panels or wind turbine to use alternative power.  Change to ‘green energy’ for your home, an easy and painless way to be a supporter of the environment.
  • Hang your washing on the line (the sun and wind would love to dry it for you!) or an indoor drying rack.
  • Change to energy efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs. One light bulb changed will save 150 pounds of carbon a year (up to 75% of energy consumption).
  • Dress warmly; lovely slippers, dressing gowns, socks and jumpers in winter. Rug up, rather than turn the heating up.
  • Buy toys free from an electrical cord or batteries. Wonderful for the earth and your child’s imagination!
  • Try some ‘home days’ each week – do not use your car at all and connect and slow down at home. Home is where your heart is!
  • Car pool if you can and for fun! Pedal power rules! Buy a baby/child bike seat and ride away…
  • Catch public transport. Children usually love train, tram, and bus journeys.
  • Locate your nearest farmer’s market. Follow the 100km food rule, how far has your food travelled?
  • Support local businesses.
  • Eat healthily and in season.
  •  Support Fair Trade, respect for your fellow human beings!
  • Admire the aboriginal way of life; they knew how to live in harmony with the earth. Read simple story books of their culture and visit aboriginal centres whilst on holiday. Respect the rightful custodians of this land, Australia.

What is your family footprint on the earth?