Are you looking for ways to reduce, reuse and recycle? We asked some of our favourite eco-bloggers for their expert tips to help you and your family live in greater harmony with the environment. And the best thing about these experts? They’re ordinary people who do more than talk the talk – these environmentally-friendly folk are doing it for themselves and the planet – and now you can too!
One simple swap
If you were to change just one thing, we asked, what could you do to make your lifestyle more sustainable? Leading the way, Nadja at Labelless Mum says it’s as simple as being more conscious about your consumption. Everything you can do to cut back on car journeys, electric, plastic, meat, and clothes, makes a difference, and gives you a “heightened awareness of what we can do as families and individuals.”
That’s something Helen at Spot of Earth agrees with. She says: “Consumerism is so instilled in our cultures and lifestyles that often our first thought is ‘I’m going to go zero waste, what do I need to buy?’” To help you start thinking differently, Emma at Emma Reed suggests a simple bathroom swap:
“If you’re just starting out on your eco-friendly journey the simplest first swap would have to be to a bar of soap. Ditch the pump dispenser (with all of the small components, a lot cannot be recycled) and choose a bar of soap, preferably in no packaging or in paper, because at the end of its life you are left with nothing, zero waste.”
Another simple swap is baby wipes – which are mostly plastic. Natural fibre flannels are reusable, better at wiping, and don’t pollute the environment for hundreds of years after use, says Emma.
Why stop at one swap?
Once you start looking for ways to reduce your environmental footprint, says Nadja, you begin to see more and more things you can do to lessen your impact. She recommends taking a step-by-step approach, starting small and going from there. Already got a zero-waste kitchen? Tackle the bathroom next, swapping your plastic toothbrushes for bamboo ones, for example.
She also says she understands many families’ reluctance to try things like reusable nappies, or women’s sanitary products: “They seem like a lot of work in our modern society, and also like totally foreign concepts. But again start small. Get one nappy to try it and build from there!”
Helen recommends a waste and recycling audit: “It’s a good idea to do a waste audit of your recycling and general waste bins to get some ideas for your next swaps. If it’s full of yoghurt pots, have a go at making your own yoghurt. If there are lots of cracker and biscuit wrappers, could you make your own snacks?”
7 Child-friendly eco-projects to try at home
Looking for some fun and educational activities you can do with kids to nurture their understanding of and love for the natural world. Here’s what our experts came up with:
- Plant a tree. “My son planted apple seeds (from a regular eating apple) two years ago,” Nadja says. “He now has his own little apple tree to take care of and watch grow. He and his siblings learned a great deal about how long it actually takes until a tree is as big as it is and how much is involved.”
- Grow cress. “Put a thin layer of compost in the bottom of an egg box or clean, empty eggshells, dampen with some water and sprinkle on cress seeds,” says Helen. “You can watch them sprouting, so it’s a great introduction to growing plants from seed and understanding the life cycle of plants. When it’s grown, you can chop the cress off and add it to egg mayonnaise for a tasty sandwich filler.”
- Put out a bird feeder. Another great tip from Helen: “Anything that enables children to see wildlife and enjoy nature will encourage them to protect it.” She also recommends nature walks and taking photos and doing drawings of nature to engage young minds.
- Do a litter pick or beach clean. Caring for the environment means being active and involved in activities that help to make a difference.
- Dedicate a day to learning about the Earth. Emma says “One really fun project we recently worked on was to design a machine that could clean the rubbish out of the ocean. We spent a few days on this which included coming up with a design, discussing how it would work, making the model out of recycling and writing about it too.”
- Teach simple mends, says Zoe at Eco Thrifty Living. “Or let them watch YouTube videos, so that they mend clothes and toys if they are damaged. Depending on their age, they may be able to sew back on buttons or glue broken bits of toys back on.”
- Teach leftover cuisine. Another great idea from Zoe is to show kids how to use up their leftovers in recipes for new dishes. She says a great example is soup croutons which are really easy to make from day old-bread.
Next steps on the path to sustainability
You’ve made some lifestyle changes, now you’re ready for more – but what should you focus on next? Start growing-your-own says Zoe at Eco Thrifty Living. Even if you don’t have much outside space, try putting “some things on a sunny window ledge, or sprout beans in a jar. Growing your own herbs and salad leaves means that you save money and reduce plastic packaging.”
“If someone is really looking for a challenge,” says Nadja, “why not aim for self-sufficiency as much as personal circumstances allow? Depending on where you live this could mean having a little herb garden on your window sill or you could set up your own vegetable patch in the garden. There is nothing more satisfying than eating something that you have grown yourself.”
Another thing to try, says Zoe is to set your family a challenge: “Produce no food waste for a week (except inedible scraps); get the whole family to eat only plant based food for a day; have a no spend week or even month (i.e. don’t buy new things and reduce waste that way).”
Not sure what to change? Begin by monitoring your behaviour patterns, Zoe says. Work out “how much food you threw away in a week and how much it cost. How much in the way of animal products did your family eat in a week and what was the carbon impact of that?” Then make an informed change.
Emma agrees – she writes that she’s “recently been trying out an app by Giki Earth which gives you a breakdown of how much you are contributing. It’s really interesting to find out what steps you could take next in order to improve this.”
Adopting a more sustainable lifestyle is vital if we’re to protect the planet from further harm. We hope our expert tips have given you some good ideas for fun and educational ways to reduce your environmental footprint. Do you have a tip to share? We’d love to hear from you. Just drop us a line via our Facebook page.
Lead Image: Photographee.eu