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  • Writer's pictureTracy Tristram

10 easy ways to be more eco-friendly as a family

Updated: Aug 29, 2020

eco friendly family

We can finally see the homeschooling finish line, but that doesn't mean we aren't going to keep busy during the summer holidays. As well as plenty of fun days out planned, we're also going to be working on ways we can become more eco-friendly as a family. Here are some easy wins on how we can all make small changes to bring about a big difference to our carbon footprints...

1. Use your leftovers and waste less food

eco friendly family
Turn last night's spag bol into a healthy chilli bowl.

We'll be honest, if the COVID-19 catastrophe has taught us anything (besides never taking anything for granted again), it is that we had been wasting far too much food as a family. Now that we're trying to limit supermarket shopping to a bi-monthly affair instead of a bi-weekly one, supplies need to sttttreeetchhhh. And one of the best ways to make that happen? Use leftovers, serve up smaller portions (not a bad thing for the ol' waistline) and plan meals more efficiently. We've also started composting with our scraps and peelings: head over to our handy guide to gardening projects for families for the lowdown on how to create your own compost.

2. Eat more plant-based food

eco friendly family
Ditch the meat at least once a week. Photography: Unsplash

By eating less meat as a family, we'll all be doing our bit to help save the planet. How? Well here are some rather interesting becoming-veggie facts:

  • Eating a plant-based diet means 2.5 x less carbon emissions than a meat diet. In its 2006 report, the United Nations stated that raising animals for food generates more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined!

  • In turn, if you were to eat vegetarian food for a year, you would save the same amount of emissions as having not driven a small family car for six months.

  • 30% of the earth’s land surface—a massive 70% of all agricultural land—is used for rearing farmed animals. Much of this is grazing land that used to be natural habitats such as rainforests.

  • Farmed animals and fish are often fed a wide variety of drugs to fatten them up faster. And where do these drugs end up? In the human food chain, and also in our waterways. Not cool.

We know that it's not easy to make the switch to being a meat-free family on a permanent basis, but baby steps are huge steps when it comes to doing what you can. Even if it's just once a week, it all helps. And with so many meat alternatives on the market these days, the kiddos will never know a Quorn nugget from a chicken one: trust us... we've been bamboozling our offspring for months.

3. Turn the heating / hot water off

eco friendly family
Sort out your schedules! Photography: Wix

What with the whole fam being home 24/7 in lockdown right now, lots of us have gotten into the bad habit of leaving hot water on constant, and whacking the heating on when the temperature dips. Check your boiler schedule, turn off the heating altogether and reset the water for an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening. The same goes for turning off plugs and lights! "Go back to your room and turn the lights and chargers off!" has become our mantra, along with "If you're cold, put on a jumper!"

4. Take shorter showers and skip the baths

eco friendly family
If your child is ickle, use a plastic pot instead of a paddling pool.

Talking of hot water, there will be no more lengthy showers and very few baths in our house going forward. Experts say that running a full bath can use up to 70 gallons of water, while a 5-minute shower generally uses about 25-30 gallons. According to the WWF, around 1.1 billion people in the world lack access to clean water, which makes it even more important for us lucky folk to not waste what we have. Also, by not running the tap while cleaning your teeth (guilty), you can save 2-3 gallons of water per person, per day! It all adds up.

Also, be mindful of how often you fill up the paddling pool! We know the kids love a splash when the sun is out, but even making it a few inches shallower helps, or, if they're small enough, put them in a plastic tub instead. Oh, and don't forget to check out our ice lolly recipes for another way to beat the heat!

Need to water your plants? Then do think about how you can conserve the water: we've been collecting rainwater in a big water butt, and it's surprising how much it fills up even with just a short downpour.

5. Ditch that nasty single-use plastic

eco friendly family
Swap plastic for bamboo when it comes to toothbrushes. Photography via Unsplash

Straws, sandwich bags, water bottles, plastic coffee cups: you know the drill, and you also know it's not good for the environment. There are so many brilliant alternatives for all of those dastardly single-use plastics, so we really have no excuse. Plus, by using steel/bamboo straws and beeswax instead of plastics, we'll be saving money in the long run as well as the planet. Also let's take a moment to talk about toothbrushes... Did you know that a plastic toothbrush takes over 400 years to decompose? That means that there are billions of these nasty little plastic numbers filling landfills (and oceans) the world over, and they're also seeping chemicals into the air. There's a simple solution to this: let's all start using bamboo toothbrushes! They're biodegradable, natural and so, so, so much better for the planet.

6. Recycle, recycle, recycle

eco friendly family
Recycle everything that you can. Photography: Unsplash

Most (if not all) parts of the UK supply recycling bags for free to put out with your general waste. Make sure you always read the labels on the packaging before you pop that container into the recycling: a lot of what you might think is recyclable actually isn't (so much grrrr at you supermarkets with your needless un-recyclable plastics!). Reduce, reuse and recycle is your new family motto.

7. Turn your trash into treasure

Eco-friendly family
Recycle then upcycle your old loo rolls! Photography: The Best Ideas for Kids

Kids getting antsy with boredom being stuck home right now? Then go back through that recycling bag and pull out all your loo rolls and plastic bottles. We've got some seriously cool upcycling projects for kids to be getting on with, and even a few for the moody teens.

8. Think pre-loved and shop second-hand!

eco friendly family
Clear out the closets and make some cash. Photography: Unsplash

With such easy access to a ton of selling platforms these days, there's always a brilliant bargain to be had if you're looking for toys, clothes and even big ticket items. Likewise, clear out your own clutter and either sell it (offer the kids a cut to encourage them to Marie Kondo their closets!) or, better still, donate to a charity shop. We recently moved house and some of our fave purchases for the new abode are second-hand! Boot sales have also reopened so why not gather your jumble, gather your troops, find a local boot sale that is sticking to good social distancing protocol, and set up 'shop' for a morning selling your bits and bobs?

9. Use your legs more

eco friendly family
Best foot forward! Photography: Unsplash

Do you really need to use the car for the school run (when they got back to school that is)? And is it really necessary to pile into the car to get to the park? Ditch the motor and walk more, we say! It's better for your health, better for the environment, and, let's face it, better for your stress levels. Trying to get parked on a school run is not fun at all. Walk it or bike it instead.

10. Grab some energy saving lightbulbs

eco friendly family
Energy saving bulbs are the way forward. Photography: Unsplash

Did you know that an energy saving lightbulb will last 12 times longer than a bog standard bulb? They also use less electricity so you'll be saving money and reducing your carbon footprint, all for an easy bulb swap. Lovely jubbly.

See, not so hard, eh? You're all set to be an eco-friendly family from here on in.

Top image: Rafferty Tristram, London for Kidz

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