I have been feeling pretty deflated and powerless since it was announced that we will be leaving the EU. A big decision has been taken out of our hands that will have a huge impact on our children’s future.
On top of that, the new PM Theresa May has made the worrying decision to abolish the Department for Energy and Climate Change. This attitude towards the environment is particularly worrying and we can only hope it isn’t echoed over here. After all, the BBC recently published the World Health Organization’s ten worst British cities for air pollution – and Gibraltar was the worst culprit by a significant margin.
However, moping won’t get us anywhere, we need to turn our energy towards progress and work as a group to tackle climate change. If we all started taking steps to improve our carbon footprint, then we’d be leaving our children to inherit a cleaner Earth and a healthier, happier future.
Admittedly, I don’t do enough at the moment myself. As a parent of two small children I get through mountains of nappies, wet wipes, plastic and piles of washing. However, making a few changes at this critical time could not only result in a cleaner planet for us all, but also be kinder on the purse too.
To not recycle is frowned upon in the UK. Most local authorities have recycling schemes; bins are provided and collected on a regular basis. I can’t remember the last time I visited a house where the inhabitants didn’t recycle, whether it was wilfully or begrudgingly. Whilst there are numerous recycle bins dotted around Gibraltar, there are not enough initiatives to incentivise us to use them, nor enough awareness in general.
Earlier this year, Eyleen Sheil gave an inspiring lecture at Gib Talks in which she emphasised the small everyday steps we can all take to improve the environment. Inspired by this, I have come up with 11 simple ideas to get us on the road to improving the planet as parents.
- Nappies and wipes- Firstly, I took on one of the worst offenders, wet wipes. After a quick google, I discovered reusable wipes, which are much gentler on baby’s bottom. For someone like myself who was put off by the large initial expense of using cloth nappies, this seemed to be a good compromise to begin my journey towards greener parenting. It is a contentious issue as to whether cloth nappies themselves are environmentally friendly, but it is essentially down to how you launder them and if you use them for more than one child as to how limited their impact is. Considering the warm climate we live in, line drying is entirely practical which means they should in theory be the better choice. (Make sure it’s a full load, and washed at 30 degrees in an energy-efficient washing machine.)
- Keeping cool- Talking of our hot climate, air conditioning consumes a lot of electricity which is not only bad for the environment and our health but bad for the bank balance too. To avoid using it excessively, where possible, get out of the house and enjoy an afternoon on the beach or in the park. If you’re working from home, see if you can take your office alfresco. Wrapping your baby in a wet muslin is a great way to keep your baby cool in the hot weather.
- Refreshments – Since we’re talking about keeping cool, while it is important to keep hydrated, it’s time to ditch those plastic water bottles. If you don’t enjoy water straight from the tap, a water filter is a good alternative. If you need a drink on the go, there are some very stylish reusable coffee cups and water bottles on the market. If you do choose to drink from plastic bottles, remember to recycle them in one of the numerous recycle bins dotted around Gibraltar.
- Shorter showers and shallow baths- I was staggered to discover at Eyleen Sheil’s talk that taking shorter showers will save 10 litres of water per minute on average. As a busy Mum, short showers are not an issue for me, but I pay more attention to the depth of my children’s bath now. Every little makes a difference.
- Shopping- I use “bags for life”, however, I’m going to put my hands up and admit it, I have about 50 of them bursting out of my kitchen cupboard. That’s obviously not the point of them, so I recently started keeping a stash under the buggy and in the car which prevents me from forgetting them. On top of that, to avoid excess packaging, buy loose vegetables and where possible, buy locally sourced and ideally organic products.
- Meal time- Meal planning and cooking from scratch is a great way to avoid wastage and also saves time. While being vegan or vegetarian are both proven to be more environmentally friendly, if you are like me and struggle to imagine life without bacon, it is a good compromise to at least add a few vegetarian dishes to your repertoire, or introduce “meat-free Monday”.
- Breast is best- While I fully appreciate it is not a viable option for everyone, there is no denying that it is the more environmentally friendly option in contrast to formula feeding. There is no need for any formula, any packaging, plastic bottles or sterilising. You are a mobile milk bar. You will probably require a couple of nursing bras and some breast pads, but even those can be reusable.
- Thumb over dummies- Between lost dummies and the rate at which they need replacing, you can get through a lot of them. A recent study has proven that the alternative option, thumb sucking, is good for your immune system. If you choose to use dummies, you can still lessen the environmental impact by taking them away once your child is a year old which is what most medical professionals recommend.
- Hand me downs- Children grow at an alarming rate, as a result of this they are rarely in the same clothes for long. Likewise, the toy they can’t bear to put down now is often yesterday’s news a month later. Make the most of local Facebook groups where you can buy and sell second hand toys and clothes. Just be weary of the products that you should never buy second hand for babies (among other things, car seats and mattresses).
- Recycle- I’m not just referring to wastage here. Save loo rolls for crafts, make boxes into dens, jam jars into vases, let the children’s imagination run wild. Where you are short of ideas, you are sure to find plenty of inspiration on websites like Pinterest.
- Travel- Are there journeys where you don’t need to use the car? Walking is not only good for the environment, but great for your health and a chance to bond with your kids over stories and songs (when you’re not screaming at them to not run into the road).
These are only a few suggestions and it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Together we can start creating a better future for our children today.