15 Ways to Be Mindful of the Environment as a Parent
I thought my journey into mindfulness this year would be a relaxing, good-vibes sort of thing - I couldn't have been more wrong! The more I try to make mindful choices, the more I learn about the shocking facts surrounding how bad so many common products are for our health (and our babies, too), how so many everyday activities and purchases are literally destroying our planet, and how caring for my body and my baby is so incredibly linked to how we care for our environment.
So with that said, here are 15 ways we, as mamas, can be more mindful of our impact on the environment.
- Opt for toys that are not made of plastic. Firstly, plastic is awful for the environment in terms of how it is produced and disposed of. Secondly, plastic toys are harder to repair than other toys, and this means buying something that isn't a long-term purchase. The more we buy, the more resources are used from our planet and the more pollution we ultimately create, too. Plus, we teach our kids that we don’t value our things or where they come from. If you do buy plastic toys, try to get ones that are BPA free and as 'eco friendly' as possible, as well as toys that you know will last a few years, not just a few months.
- Buy second hand. You can get brand new and great quality things second hand these days, often from people who received items as gifts and never used them. This is a great way to save on the cost of things too. Check out your local region's Buy Swap Sell Facebook group, Gumtree, and also your local op shops. We pick up so many great things from our local op shops. Also, ask around and try to resist the pull to buy the dream the advertising teams are selling - the picture perfect nursery and baby - it's all designed to get you spend. So find out from people you trust what they really used and needed for their kids. Also, ask your family, friends and community members if they have any baby gear or clothes - or even for older kids - most people have things lying around in storage which can come up good as new. I have found lots of people keep good quality things because they don't want to part with them to strangers, but they are so happy to be able to pass them on to people they know (and people who will use and love their items too). It's really a simple rule - when you need something new, do everything you can to first try and get it from somewhere other than a shop.
- Donate. When you are done with things, donate them, repurpose them, or sell them. Try to avoid putting anything just in the bin. Stained baby clothes can be used as cleaning rags, or even given to charity clothes bins (who then on-sell the fabrics to industrial use).
- Use libraries and community services. Does your town have a toy library? Can you borrow books (and make it an outing) at your library instead of buying them new? Is there are park you can visit instead of buying big plastic outdoor toys (yard fillers) that end up ruined and faded from the sun (little plastic houses with slides, for example)?
- Adopt the mindset, 'we have enough'. When you're tempted to get new toys, remind yourself there is enough in your home already - get the pots and pans out, play with the hose, or Tupperware, or recycled food containers, or pillows, or scarves, etc. You are only limited by your imagination. Use what you have. Ask other mums what they do to fill time, and try looking online too (Pinterest is great for ideas). Ask your mum what she used to do - because her generation got through without buying masses of new toys every year.
- Plant a garden. Even if you just use a few pots. Show your kids how to grow herbs or easy vegies, and get them involved. Even younger toddlers love digging in dirt, helping to water the plants, and pulling out weeds.
- Buy food from the markets instead of the supermarket. Fresh, local food is far better than food that has travelled around the country, or across oceans, to be here (and has often been picked early and sprayed with chemicals to artificially ripen). This saves food mileage, it is healthier because it is picked at the right time, and it helps you to eat seasonally. Remember to take green bags/boxes instead of using plastic bags, too.
- Make your own food instead of buying it premade. For example, teething sticks are so easy to make and save heaps of packaging. Purchased baby food is a waste of resources - babies eat mashed vegies and fruit for ages! It is easy and quick to make your own, and much better for your baby and the environment. You can also use your own containers to freeze food ahead for when you want a quick, convenient meal.
- Use modern cloth nappies and wipes instead of disposables. There is a lot of information out there about how to do this so that you aren't wasting water too. Do your research, but know that the best option for the environment (and also the baby's health) is cloth, not disposables.
- Get your family outside instead of indoors. The more you play outside, the less energy your household consumes and the less you need new toys/devices. It also gives you (and your kids) an appreciation for nature, helps you to connect with each other instead of things, and is amazing for moods and health. Plus, it teaches your kids to love the great outdoors as much as the modern 'great indoors'.
- Use organic and natural products, especially for bath/shower products. This means avoiding putting bad chemicals into our waterways. It's also really important for our health, because many chemicals used in these products are known carcinogens (cancer causing) or other problematic toxins. Babies and children are more sensitive to these toxins and chemicals than adults are. Its an easy fix though - use organic, all-natural products, or no products at all.
- Use reusable containers instead of ziplock bags and plastic wrapping. Make sure you get BPA free containers. That goes for kids' food, as well as for those takeaway coffee cups we're all buying.
- Walk wherever you can. The more you walk, the less you're driving, and the more you're giving your baby the chance to be out in nature. Exercise is so important for our physical and mental health too.
- Enjoy all the seasons and all the different types of weather. Accept nature for what it is, rather than trying to create an artificial environment with aircon and heating all year round. If it's cold outside, put extra warm clothes on and go for a walk anyway. If it's raining, wear your raincoats and play in the puddles. If it's hot, let your kids play with a bit of water outside (or go to the local pool). Plus, the more you are outside, the less you're indoors trying to keep the kids away from the television.
- Recycle. Our local area is now recycling soft plastics (yay!) which means if we recycle everything in our home that can be recycled, we aren't even filling our rubbish bin in a whole week. Find out what can be recycled in your region, and then set up a system so it is easy to do in your home.
These are just 15 ways I'm trying to be more mindful of our lifestyle's impact on the environment. It's been a slow journey to implement them all, but we are getting there, and life is becoming richer and more enjoyable along the way.
What ways do you try to be 'environmentally friendly' with your family?