As you become parents, so you think to the future and wonder how the world will be when your little one grows up. But are you doing enough to ensure the wellbeing of the planet? In short, do you have a carbon footprint the size of a yeti – or a mouse?
Try and fun quiz and see if you need to green up your act.
1 Do you know how many disposable nappies are sent to refill in the UK every day?
a) No, but judging by how many my baby gets through I imagine it’s a lot
b) I know it’s in the millions but it’s hard to argue against the convenience of disposables
c) It’s about 8 million, and I’m doing my best not to add to that number by using reusables
2 When you’re out shopping, what labels do you look out for?
a) The price
b) The ingredients
c) The Soil Association/Fairtrade Foundation logo
3 How many carrier bags do you gather from the shops each week?
a) At least 10 – I’ve a big family to feed
b) A few, especially if I’m buying clothes or need to nip into the corner shop
c) None. I always carry a couple of reusable bags with me, just in case I feel the urge to splurge
4 Which of the following best describes your shopping habits?
a) I buy the same stuff every week, with buy one get one free offers if I’m tempted. I tend to buy ready meals and pre-packed fruit and veg
b) Mostly the same stuff, but seasonal stuff when it’s there, and I only bulk buy if I think we’ll get through it. Tend to do one big shop a month and top up from local shops and have occasional ready meals
c) Mostly seasonal produce, preferably loose and locally produced. I tend to prefer organic delivery companies to supermarkets. I tend to cook from scratch
5 How often do you use your car?
a) Every day, to and from work, to the shops, the nursery, my friend’s house…
b) Three or four times a week. My husband takes public transport to work, and I drive the kids to playgroups, etc
c) Only if my journey’s too far to walk or cycle and there isn’t a bus that can get me there, so about once a week
6 How much do you recycle?
a) Newspapers and wine bottles
b) I generally sort out the stuff the council will collect from us
c) I always sort the recycling for collecting and compost all my food waste
7 What are your priorities when buying children’s (and your own) clothes?
a) Price and style
b) Price, style and quality – I like things to last
c) I try to buy organic/fairly traded clothing if possible
8 What do you do with clothes your children have grown out of?
a) I throw them out, they’ll be out of date by the time I have another one
b) I pass them on to friends with younger kids or give to the local charity shop. Any that are ruined I throw out
c) I hand them on to friends/charity. Ruined clothes I use as cleaning cloths about the house
9 What will your priorities be next time you buy a washing machine/dishwasher?
a) Price and looks
b) Looks and energy efficiency, but within my budget
c) I’ll only buy A-rated appliances, to save on the water and electricity I use
10 Where are you planning to go for your next holiday?
a) Somewhere long haul – I want guaranteed sun and cheap food and booze when I get there
b) Probably France, but we’ll drive rather than fly
c) Somewhere in Europe, but we’re going to go by train and make the journey part of the holiday
Hmmm. You appear to be a very pale shade of green, with apparently only the minimum of recycling to salve your conscience. Surely it wouldn’t hurt to sort out the recycling on a regular basis? Price is obviously important to you, but do bear in mind that some greener options may seem more expensive, but could save you money in the long run, while others are actually much cheaper. Using washable nappies, for example, could save you hundreds of pounds over your baby’s nappy-wearing life, even factoring in the cost of washing them and the wear and tear on your machine. [link to other stories we’ve run on this]. Similarly, eco-appliances will cut your electricity bills, but whatever you choose, only wash full loads, and do so at the lowest temperature you can get away with.
When it comes to shopping, take a little time and pick out only what you need, rather than diving straight into the bargains – remember, if you don’t eat it all, you’re wasting money rather than saving it, and creating more waste into the bargain. Take a leaf out of Jamie Oliver’s book and cook from scratch as much as time and your capabilities allow, and do choose fruit and veg in season as much as possible – it’s bound to be cheaper and will taste much better than watery imported strawberries do in January. And don’t forget to take a few bags with you to put it all in.
It’s also worth considering whether you need to get in the car: could you walk instead (fresh air is good for you!)? Is there a regular bus service? Is cycling an option? About 70% of all car journeys are less than five miles, which really isn’t too far to cycle – and the more you do it, the fitter you’ll be. Apparently cycling for 30 minutes every day can increase your life expectancy by 10 years.
Cheap clothes are something of a problem – non-organic cotton production is heavily dependent on the use of chemicals and bargain prices have a nasty habit of indicating both poor quality (so it won’t last long enough to hand down or pass on) and the fact that someone, somewhere (possibly a child) has been paid very little to make it. So, try to buy less but better quality (and eco) to ensure it’s built to last and everyone gets a fair deal.
And that holiday – enjoy yourself, but do something to offset all that carbon and take a few steps to become greener all round.
You’ve heard the message, you just need a little help to put it into action. Rather than thinking how impossible it is to do everything at once, break it up into smaller, more achievable steps and you’ll soon be on your way. Think of the mantra “Reduce, reuse, recycle” and your carbon footprint will shrink in no time. Basically, use less, ie buy foods with less packaging, buy fewer, better quality clothes; reuse where possible (do you really need a brand new cot when your sister has one she can give you?) and recycle in any way possible, not just kerbside collections, but composting your food waste and passing outgrown or unwanted clothes to charity shops. For more eco-tips visit the following: www.recyclenow.com; www.reducereuserecycle.co.uk or www.freecycle.org.
Other simple steps could include switching off appliances rather than leaving on standby; only filling the kettle with the water you need; turning off lights when you leave the room; making sure your house is well insulated.
You obviously care about what you buy, so take this one step further and look beyond the ingredients list to see how and where your food has been produced. Food that has been produced locally is definitely greener, but if you do buy imported food, avoid air-freighted produce. It may seem lazy, but having food delivered to you can be greener – after all, if a fully loaded van is delivering to lots of people in one area, it will be using less petrol than if all of those people drove to the shop and back (and it’s a great excuse for not going out!).
For any shopping, think about ethics, and whether you’d like the reassurance that no-one has been exploited in the manufacture of your goods. One of the best ways of ensuring this is to look for the Fairtrade mark , and you’ll find it on food and clothing. For more about what the label means, click here [link].
What can we say? You’re fully genned up on all things green and could probably teach us a thing or two on the subject. While you are definitely doing your bit and more to save the planet, there’s a slight danger that people may regard you as po-faced and a bit too good to be true. It’s all very well thinking about the future, but don’t forget to live for today and enjoy the here and now. It’s always possible to have fun without destroying the earth’s natural resources!