You might have vintage shopping, local eating and energy saving down. But, when you have kids - and the lost hours of sleep, extra work and general depletedness that becoming a parent entails - that stuff can understandably take a back seat.
Research from Swedish academics, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters in 2017, indicated that having a child adds an average of 58.6 tonnes of CO2-equivalent onto your household’s emissions annually. When you imagine all of the extra stuff that comes with little people, from cots to car seats, it’s not hard to see how the reams of stuff quickly pile.
But a new generation of parents are seeking to overhaul the system. Raising their families to be eco aware from the get-go, without making any pretensions of being perfect, they’re shaking up the paradigm.
To get the details, HuffPost UK spoke to four people who are raising the sustainability heads of the future.
Sabrina Henry, artist and mum of three
For Sabrina, raising her kids to be eco aware began with an interest in food. “When I became pregnant with my first child, Kai, 16 years ago, I realised that I needed to eat to provide the right nutrients for him,” she says. To avoid the processed stuff when he was born, she blended up her own baby food, to store in reuseable containers.
After the birth of daughter Zahara, now aged 10, and son Ezekiel, now 6, she became focused on where ingredients were coming from and their environmental impact. To teach her kids about local food, she would take them to veg markets, to see and buy it themselves.
Reducing plastic consumption is a big part of educating her kids on living greener: “We always wash and reuse jars, to store stuff in our cupboards, and we’ve switched to using bamboo toothbrushes,” she says.
The biggest learnings have come from time spent learning about permaculture, and taking the family down to volunteer with nearby projects. Here, they got excited about how food grows and nutrient cycles - though of course attentions do wander off and someone will be pushing someone else around in a wheelbarrow before long.
As to Sabrina’s philosophy, when it comes to teaching her lot?
“My approach is to promote what you love rather than bash what you hate,” she says. “I’m more energised by that approach.”
See Sabrina’s art at sabrinafhenry.com
Fiona Murphy, primary school teacher and mum of two*
Showing her kids the plastic-free way is the biggest lesson that Fiona wants impart to Sam, 7 and Matthew, 4.
“We are trying to really reduce plastic as a family. That means no coffee cups, no water bottles, no plastic bags,” she says. “We also now have a milkman and we get our veg delivered or head to the market. Also a friend has just set up a food buying co-op where we bulk buy pasta, washing liquids, nuts, rice, etc. and that makes a huge difference. It’s called nakedlarder.co.uk and she’s just setting up.”
When it comes to clothes, she tries to find brands working with natural fabrics, or tries the H&M conscious collection, which is made from recycled and organic materials. “Also I’m a big fan of hand me downs for the kids, we move the clothes from family to family making sure that they get as much wear as possible.”
Lucky enough to have the backing of her sons’ school, which aims to be single use plastic free, the family also try growing things to support our planet’s eco system, like “bee friendly flowers on our balcony.” As to the biggest catalyst for change in their home? ”[David Attenborough’s BBC One documentaries] Planet Earth II and Blue Planet II. They [the kids] love it and we watched it on repeat for a while. It was just a great conversation starter for them.” Fiona’s confident that the little generation have this stuff nailed. “Kids are wiser and smarter than we give them credit for,” she says.
Bek Freeman, co-director of a small creative studio and mum of two
One of Bek’s biggest eco lessons to her kids? The transport one. “Last year, we bought a cargo bike, for short journeys.” Rather than grinding a car’s gears, the family now cycles to the shops and anywhere else in the vicinity.
Coco, 6 and Miró, 3 also spend a lot of time outside, to ensure that they’re au fait with how the planet works. “We live quite close to Hackney Marshes, so we [Bek and her partner] teach them an appreciation of the environment and how, for example, if we harm insects it can throw off the balance of things.”
As someone who lives minimally, this is also a lesson that Bek is keen to pass on. “The kids are surrounded by everything telling them that they need more toys and clothes, so we try and talk to them about how we don’t actually need those things.” When it comes to buying stuff, the family try and operate a ‘one in, one out’ policy, to avoid accumulating unnecessary stuff and the carbon that entails.
The family are also vegan. “One of the main reasons for that is environmental, as well as for health and for the animals,” she says. When it comes to gentle conversation starters, she recommends “a really beautiful kids book called ‘In the Forest.’ In it, a forest is destroyed, but eventually someone cares and replants it - we’ve read many times.”
John Pritchard, founder of ethical sunglasses brand PALA and father of one
“I think there is no doubt we’re at a tipping point with the environment,” says John, who is dad to Eloise, age 10. “And it is for us adults, parents or not, to set the example for the younger generation coming through.”
The plastic one is a biggie - “We went on a beach clean earlier this summer, which, due to the social aspect, is a really good way of getting kids involved” -while the pair go out and about together on foot, rather than taking the car, transport-wise.
Books and puzzles come from the second hand shop while John says that Blue Planet II has been invaluable: “You’ve got to hand it to David Attenborough - the most convincing argument bar none for teaching my daughter to be more mindful of the planet.”
Find out more about PALA eyewear, here.
*Name has been changed