Realistic Tips for Parents Trying to go Green
What is green parenting?
Green parenting is all about striving to make your family’s lifestyle that little bit healthier for you and the environment. This can be through bigger changes like changing to an electric car and investing in solar panels, or through small choices like opting for second-hand kid’s clothes and eating less meat.
It can be quite overwhelming for parents, especially when there is so much advice out there on the best way to raise your children, but hopefully we’ve kept things simple and constructive with our tips and notes on making environment-conscious choices for your family.
Roughly a third of a person’s carbon footprint is due to heating + electricity + cars/travel, so the main message is to travel less and consume less. Read on to find out the best way to fit these goals into family life.
Beware of greenwashing
Climate change is a hot topic (quite literally) of conversation in the world right now and companies like to take advantage of trends. Greenwashing is a form of marketing used to deceptively present brands as eco-friendly. For example, using green packaging or product names and marketing with images of animals, plants and nature.
Words such as 'natural’, ‘eco’, and ‘organic’ are plastered all over products and services in hopes of upping their appeal, but these words have no licencing attached to them – no conditions need to be met or proved before a brand can use them.
When you’re shopping or looking for services, beware of greenwashing. If you have the time, try and do the research on brands to see whether they follow up with their marketed promises. 9 times out of 10, it is far better to shop with a smaller business as production chains tend to be smaller and therefore easier to research, so service is more open and honest.
Energy use and travel
The biggest way to reduce your carbon footprint is by lowering your family’s energy use and changing your travel habits.
Easy ways to reduce your energy use include:
- Turn your heating down by a degree - not a hugely noticeable difference to you, but a good difference to your energy consumption!
- Insulate your home well – this means you can use less gas to heat your home and will lower energy bills
- Wear more layers – a super simple one so you can lower the thermostat further
- Unplug and switch off – appliances and equipment not being used, like the TV, radio or phone chargers, can be switched off at the wall or unplugged entirely, to save energ and your electricity bill
- Be conscious of how you are travelling – where possible, travel by walking, cycling, public transport or car shares, over driving yourself.
- If you’re able, change to a hybrid or electric car next – these save on carbon emissions and reduce the impact driving has on the environment. Electric cars tend to be more expensive than diesel or petrol, as they are newer, but there are some good renting schemes available to help cut costs.
Second-hand is not second best
Another great route for shopping is buying second-hand. Make use of platforms like eBay or Vinted to find your next tech purchase or summer outfit. Second-hand items are often thought of as old or tainted but if you look in the right place, you can easily find items that are practically brand new and for so much cheaper!
Car boot sales and charity shops are not only fun to mooch around in, but also great for more second-hand finds like furniture and books.
Borrowing kids' clothes from, or swapping them with, friends and family is a fantastic idea; kids grow so quickly that buying everything new is pointless, and this way you know who the items have come from.
For more expensive items, like vacuums or even cars, there are lots of ‘try before you buy’ schemes or renting methods that ensure you don’t waste money on buying new, only to send it back or sell it within a few weeks.
Food for thought
A further area of family life to look at adapting is food and diet. One commonly known way to support the environment is by cutting back the amount of meat we eat. For some families, cutting out meat completely is quite a drastic change, so we’re not suggesting you should go full veggie, but making an effort to switch out a few meat meals a week to veg-based ones is a step in the right direction.
For meat-based meals, switch to more environmentally friendly meats – beef has the highest negative impact on the environment, then lamb, pork and chicken has the least.
Eating with the seasons is also ideal; pick fruits, veggies and meats grown in the UK, instead of food flown in from around the world, for a much lower carbon footprint. Check out this seasonal food calendar for help.
Use a meal plan to get your family used to a new food routine, plus this helps you know exactly what to buy for each meal so less food will be wasted AND means you can reduce your trips to the shop; if you used to go 3 times a week, and you switch to only once a week, that is a huge saving on petrol and associated emissions.
Or investigate food delivery boxes that plan and prep your meals for you, even better if you can use schemes like Oddbox that aim to reduce food waste by sending you plastic-free veggies, directly from farms, that otherwise would have been thrown because of their unique shapes.
Bulk stores and local food markets are another good way to find food items sourced locally and/or plastic-free.
TIP for parents of babies: Save buying baby food in plastic pouches by making your own! Simply puree a mix of fruit, veggies or baby safe foods, scoop into ice cube trays and put in the freezer. Then, when it’s food time, pop out 3 or 4 cubes, heat up to defrost, make sure it’s not too hot and feed away! This hack allows for minimal food wastage as you can pick exactly how much your baby tends to eat, and you know exactly what the ingredients are. Plus, there’s no leftover packaging to throw away!
Plastic isn’t always the enemy
Plastic as a resource isn’t the issue, but the way we use it is. We must remember that plastic has so many advantages – it's waterproof, durable, long-lasting and light. All great properties for items like kid’s toys, so we’re not suggesting you cut plastic out of your life completely.
Simply change your view of it; plastic should be something to last, not something thrown after one use. Treat it as a precious resource, as you would with wood or gold, instead of a ‘throwaway’ item it’s become known for.
Change doesn’t have to look ‘Instagrammable’
Don’t feel the need to suddenly chuck out all your plastic food containers and replace them with matching glass jars, or similar actions, on your green journey.
Being more sustainable doesn’t need to look perfect, in fact, it’s much better that you don’t do the above; throwing away perfectly good containers is the opposite of eco-friendly.
A huge part of sustainability is using all items to their full potential and for their full lifespan. We like to replace things as soon as they break, or get more than a few years old (think of mobile phones) but try to take a minute to think the next time something breaks – could it be fixed? Or if not, can you find a more sustainable replacement (e.g. second hand) and how will you dispose of it? - or gets a few years old – do you really need a phone upgrade or are you just tempted because a new model is being advertised?
Other small changes you can make
Here’s a list of eco-swaps for common family items:
- Try reusable nappies or search for ones made from renewable or sustainably sourced materials like bamboo. Avoid disposables containing fragrances and plastics.
- Try homemade washable wipes using old cloths and flannels. Avoid disposable wet wipes filled with chemicals and non-biodegradable.
- Try to choose baby, child and adult toiletries (nappy cream, shampoo etc.) in sustainable packaging, like glass, or refillable products, and cruelty-free products. Avoid/be wary of ingredients like parabens, fragrances, palm oil, and microbeads (tiny pieces of plastics – these are illegal in the UK in ‘wash-off’ products, but some brands still use them in ‘leave-on’ products).
- Try reusable drinks bottles for each family member – that way everyone can chose what drink they have inside. Avoid single-use plastic bottles or drinks.
- Try making your own snacks, like chopped up fruit in reusable containers, or homemade flapjack. Avoid sugary kids’ snacks in lots of plastic packaging.
- Try green cleaning products, again opt for sustainable packaging and earth-friendly formulas safe to be in the water system. Avoid cleaning products with harmful and unnecessary ingredients and brands that aren’t cruelty-free. See this useful guide for household cleaners.
- Try labelling clothes and belongings so they don’t get lost and wasted. We offer labels for everything! Avoid buying immediate replacements for lost items – they may turn up! If they are essentials, look for more sustainable replacements.
- Try noticing how each product is packaged. Can you reuse the packaging, can it be easily recycled? Avoid products in single-use packaging that can easily be swapped out for better options.
For specific advice on which brands and products to try and which to avoid, use websites like Ethical Consumer that give you shopping guides and ethical ratings.
Accept you can’t do it perfectly
When environment comes into conversation, often we’re pushed into going fully vegan, or completely plastic-free, but the sad truth of the matter is that this isn’t achievable for the average person or family.
Parents raise their children with the saying, ‘do your best, that’s all you can do’ and we should apply that to sustainability.
Small conscious changes are better than none at all – buy slightly less, choose those items carefully, and make them last.
What are we, at Easy2name, doing?
At Easy2name, we are always looking for changes we can make to support the environment. Here are some of our most recent swaps:
- Changed our packaging – from plastic bags to cardboard envelopes for our stickers and boxes made of recycled plastic for our EasyTags
- Now use recycled paper in all the office printers
- Make more conscious packaging choices – we make sure to pick the right sized envelopes and boxes for sending orders so there’s less unnecessary waste
- Wrap large orders in cardboard boxes with paper tape
- Send any extra labels printed by mistake to customers so they don’t go to waste
- Our office milk comes in glass bottles, from local delivery
We are constantly learning, listening and adapting to support the environment the best we can as a business, and many of our staff are making great changes in their home lives too!
Check out our equipment labels to stop your belongings getting lost and wasted, along with our labels for clothes. Our Bag Tags are a reusable way to label all your bags, while our Bottle Bands are a reusable method of naming all your family’s drinks bottles.
Author: Anna Allam