Joining the War on Wastefulness as Modern Parents

war on waste

My journey into learning about health and wellness for my family has led me to an unexpected place: discovering the truth about how wasteful we are as a society. It has got me inspired to change my family's habits because - it affects our wellbeing, our health, and my kids' future on this earth.

The more I think about it, the more I realise wastefulness is really a modern attitude and way of life. It's a problem we mamas have been thrown into, and are contributing to without even being aware of it. So let's start educating ourselves around why this stuff matters, and what we can do about it in our own lives.

Since this is a modern problem, it may be we need to look to the past to find out how previous generations avoided being wasteful. Do you remember that old adage:

"Waste not, want not."

When was the last time you wanted something? If you're like me, it was probably within the last hour (lol). This adage, waste not, want not, has struck me because if you flip it, it basically means, waste leads to want. So by that theory, if I am wanting something more, then I am probably being wasteful in my life.

And it's true. Here are a few examples:

I don't need to buy more toys to keep my toddler entertained - no matter how much I want to - we can use what we've got and repurpose things in our home. The more wasteful we are with the toys and resources in our homes, the more I feel the need to buy something new to entertain my kid. So buying new toys means not getting value out of the things we already have to play with.

I don't need to buy a new book - I can read those unread books on my bookshelf first, or just borrow it from my local library. And of course, we can borrow books, DVDs and CDs from the library for my child too. They've got such an amazing (and constantly updated) range - for free! So buying new books leads to being wasteful of what's available at home and in my community.

I don't need to have more time to myself, I need to use my time better. The more wasteful I am with my time (e.g. scrolling through Facebook), the more I feel I need more time to myself. So getting more free time often leads to using it less effectively.

And I'd love more money - but I would automatically have more if I didn't spend it on all these unnecessary things!! Having more money always leads to spending more money.

waste not, want not

My family is happiest when we are playing together - exploring, going for walks, climbing rocks, kicking a soccer ball, baking, digging in the garden, going on a picnic, playing chase and tickle monster, and more. We are enough for each other. When we want more, we waste the opportunity to value what we already have.

When I consider these areas in my life where I want something more, I realise I already have enough, and the desire to get more means wasting (not using) what I already have.

This realisation, that we already have enough, is the key to beginning to change our habits. If we tell ourselves we have enough, then we become creative and resourceful with what we've got, and it becomes true.

What about you? Wherever you are feeling like you want something, is there some place further back where you might be able to avoid being wasteful of what's already available to you?

It's the small things - eating more than we need, buying disposables, getting cheap new clothes or toys every time we shop, eating out or getting takeaway instead of using up what's in the fridge, buying ready-made snacks instead of making our own, etc, that add up to a huge wasteful modern society. They are small things we all do, every day. But it's time we said, "enough". Not only is what we have in our lives already enough, but there is also already enough waste in our world. 

Did you know, in Australia,

  • 50,000 takeaway coffee cups are used every half hour. These are not recycled.
  • 6,000KG of clothes are thrown out every 10 minutes (into landfill). It takes 2,700litres of water to make one item of clothing - enough drinking water for three years. And three quarters of clothing purchased in Australia is thrown out within one year of being purchased.
  • The average family throws out over $3.5k worth of food every year (about a tonne)!
  • 2/3 of Australian adults are overweight or obese.
  • Australia's most costly disease, cardiovascular disease, is a direct cause of obesity - and about 50,000 people die of CVD each year. Diabetes, another direct result of obesity, costs Australia $14.6billion each year.

Now that is what I call a waste.

Minimalism with a family

It's fair to say that a huge challenge for modern parents is learning how to be more mindful of our waste and resourcefulness, and in how we teach our children to value these things, in a culture where we are bombarded with thousands of carefully crafted messages every day that tell us what we have isn't enough.

So, next time we want new clothes, new appliances, new toys, new devices, or even more takeaway coffee, pause and askÔÇŽam I being wasteful? What am I teaching my children in this moment - is it a reflection of what I truly value? And how can I better approach this?

Will you join the War on Waste?