Green Rocks … Kids
Before I begin, know that I’m not part of a zero-waste (unfortunately), vegan family that lives off mung beans and wears hemp sacks (not that there’s anything wrong with the latter three, if that’s your jazz). A lot of what’s mentioned below, I also have to work on. I’ll try and keep my messages short (according to the word counter tool, this text takes 4 minutes and 13 seconds to read!) and sharp; please forgive me if I waffle. If you have feedback, suggestions or comments, let me know! I’ll include some useful links at the bottom.
Summary: Buy less, buy secondhand, buy consciously, and stop buying useless plastic crap.
Having children is, arguably, one of the most environmentally-unfriendly things we can do. However, for our species to survive, we kinda need them (at least until clever enough robots are en mass). Luckily, we have two things going for us: (i) newborns are clueless about almost everything and, as such, are completely malleable; and (ii) we create and define our own realities so, in principle, anything goes. We get to say and, thus teach the new generations, what ‘the norm’ is.
Buy less; stop the stuff
Simple: We don’t need masses of anything. In fact, too much is detrimental to our wellbeing. So before you buy, ask yourself: Do I really need it? To avoid temptation – either virtually or on foot – unsubscribe from newsletters detailing latest product releases and/or go for a walk in a park (trees are awesome) instead of the high street. If you don’t know a product exists, it won’t gnaw away at your insides saying ‘Buy me! BUY ME!’ until you finally cave in and buy it. And then a week (day?!) later discover something else you again can’t live without. Your appetite for buying will never be sated, so just stop!
Make secondhand your first choice
Secondhand does not equal shoddy. Let’s change attitudes in ourselves and the next generations towards ‘inferior’ secondhand goods. Almost everything we want /need already exists, often as new. Toys, clothes, equipment, furniture, etc. can be less-expensively purchased from secondhand shops, eBay, gum tree, relevant forums, flea markets, friends, family, etc. In addition to protecting our environment, avoiding items that have been made unethically – child labour and water poisoning are prolific in the cotton industry, for example – and reducing what goes into landfill, you’ll also be avoiding harmful chemicals. Greenpeace conducted research into 100 kids clothing brands – from the cheap to the expensive – and found all lines contained cancer causing chemicals! My 3 year old daughter loves going to flea markets and literally doesn’t know her secondhand items are any different to new ones. To her, they’re what she wanted and nothing else!
If you need to purchase an item that can’t be obtained secondhand, think about where it comes from. Vote with your wallets and tell businesses you want socially- and environmentally-conscious products. Businesses follow money, so if you only buy organic clothing, for instance, they will follow by producing more organic goods; eventually, at a lesser cost too. And organic doesn’t have to equal ‘more expensive’ and ‘ugly brown hemp sack’. There are many places offering reasonably-priced, cool organic goods. Plus, if you save money buying mostly secondhand, you can afford to spend more on items you do want/need to purchase new.
Nappies are, often literally, a pain in the ass. Not only do they account for A LOT of non-biodegradable landfill, but they are full of chemicals that come into direct contact with your baby’s skin. And many of the better-known companies are often linked to other, shady, operations. like funding arms (not the human appendages). If you can afford it (perhaps by buying less, and secondhand) and are disinclined to go down the wash your own nappy route as I am, opt for a green brand of nappies. There are an increasing number out there and, if you shop around online, you can find reasonable deals and bulk packages. Not only will you be saving the environment, but you’ll also be kinder to your baby’s skin. The same goes for wet wipes. As a bare minimum, avoid wet wipes with the hard plastic lid. It may be easier to get the damn wipes out, but at what cost?!
This deserves a section of its own, as I have a real bug bear with useless plastic crap, like the shit you get in happy meals and kinder eggs. We have a lot of plastic crap. Numerous weird and completely useless objects that I have no idea what to do with, and that my kids lost interest in after about 1.5 minutes (if it wasn’t broken sooner). In fact, regarding toys in general, children do not need 25 teddies, 42 barbies, 3 laptops, 14 plastic telephones, 12 boxes of lego … you get the gist! It has been proven to quash creativity and increase boredom. Both my kids have / had more fun banging a wooden spoon off a bowl and rummaging in the kitchen cupboards as babies/toddlers than playing with the plastic crap that accumulated around us. So, please, can we JUST STOP BUYING THIS SHIT. It serves no other purpose than to make someone rich. If we don’t buy it, eventually businesses will stop producing it. And if kids don’t know this crap exists, they won’t want it! Easy!
Most people, myself included, like buying presents, particularly when it comes to kids. As hard as it is, refrain from going overboard and buying loads, and think about what you’re buying. Does anyone really need another squeaky toy, stuffed animal or new outfit? Instead, ask the parents if they want/need anything; put some money aside for when the kid is older; donate to a children’s charity; plant a tree in their name; buy something secondhand and don’t be ashamed to hand it over; write a letter to the kid to read when they’re older; buy a book; go and cook dinner for the new parents and clear up afterwards; babysit. Get creative!
Remove the pressure of having to fork out lots of money and hand over loads of presents, and go down the route of less is more. You can let someone know you’re delighted with their news without buying products. In fact, using our common-sense, that is how life should be. We have been taught that we must buy stuff; in reality we are poisoning ourselves and the planet, creating unnecessary stress and lining someone else’s coffers!