For over 30 years I’ve been a Vegetarian, a good recycler and I thought a responsible member of planet earth. Then my children came along, school began and I quickly realised I’d barely been trying. 2 years ago we started to change that.
We have gradually improved and each time those changes are inspired by my kids asking innocent questions or talking about something that’s happened at school.
Daddy, Why Don’t We All Use Soap?
A question my son asked me one day when he noticed that I used soap but everything else in the family bathroom was in plastic bottles. It wasn’t because I was leading the way in reducing single plastic use, it was just a better option for my skin.
But my choice of cleaning product prompted my son to ask a question that led to us discussing our cleaning products as a family. My wife led the charge at this point, looking at the options we had. The kids were great, happy to experiment with different soap shampoos, refilling bottles or trialling new cloths.
In the end, we came away with the following changes, making a massive difference in reducing our single-use plastics.
- Everyone switched to soap shampoos, removing all plastic bottles
- No more shower gel bottles, only soap
- Removed plastic-made shower buffs and converted them to cloths that we clean and reuse
- Introduction of a body cream that we refill in the local eco shop
It’s estimated that up to 64% of single-use plastics come from the bathroom and an average bathroom uses up to 31kg of it each year — so that’s a big improvement we’ve made thanks to a casual chat with my son.
Photo by Ella Olsson on Unsplash
Weigh Of The World
Just before Lockdown a new store opened in our town called ‘Weigh of the World’, dedicated to people that refill and don’t need to buy new products in jars, packets etc… I was pleased to see it open and popped in to have a look, but did nothing to make it part of my shopping life.
My daughter comes home from school last summer and proclaims that we should stop buying packets of pasta and rice, instead we should put them in tins and fill them up from this ‘magical’ shop in town. Thus our fortnightly trips to weigh of the world began.
Every two weeks we venture to the library to change our books and then pop across the road to the shop. It’s a genuine highlight of the week for the kids, never before has shopping been something they look forward to.
The amount of things we get has continued to grow. It started with pasta, rice, spices and nuts. Then we added oils, vinegars, cereals and then oat milk. The kids get to fill them all up, weigh them and it’s a real interactive experience. Saving the planet and fun for the kids — perfect combination.
This final change to our lives was originally forced upon us by the global pandemic but ultimately when the adults would have returned to normal proceeding, the kids have suggested we don’t.
For years we’ve been lucky to have nice sunny holidays in Europe and our last trip before the first lockdown was two weeks of beaches, natural water parks and amazing food in Mexico. This changed when travel stopped and we took in some sights around the UK instead.
As things are starting to return to normal we began talking to the kids about where we might go. We had cancelled trips to Las Vegas and Greece, so those were ideas we had, but we got a response we really didn’t expect.
“Daddy, we loved our holidays in this country and wouldn’t it be better if we went on planes less”
So rather than a week spent going around Greek islands, we have 7 days staying in the converted basement of a castle in Scotland. Instead of time spent wondering at the flashy lights of the Vegas hotels, we’ll be playing on the beaches of Wales.
I do expect us to have an overseas holiday at some point, but rather than one or two holidays a year, maybe we only do those trips every couple of years.
All of this should make a big difference to our carbon footprint (as it’s estimated a simple round trip to Portugal adds 0.5 tonnes of CO₂ to our footprint) and allow us to enjoy our homeland.
Photo by Nareeta Martin on Unsplash
But Have We Made A Difference Daddy?
My son has asked me a few times if all these changes have made a genuine difference and without trotting out the stats I’ve put above (which mean less to a 10-year-old) I struggled to give him a tangible example of the results. That was until pocket money became a thing.
As part of introducing pocket money for the first time, we set jobs for the children to do and one of those was putting out the recycling boxes. My daughter commented that our boxes didn’t seem as full as the neighbours and it got me thinking that ours do seem sparsely filled compared to the old days.
And that’s when it hit me. I explained to the kids that before we started all our efforts to cut back, our boxes would be overflowing. We were one of the households that used an extra box. At the time I saw this as a badge of honour, it showed we recycled more than most but in hindsight, it also highlighted we had a lot that needed to be recycled.
I now feel much prouder that we recycle less than most because we’ve been cutting out the products at source and certainly this makes the kids smile — as it should because they deserve all the credit.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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