It can be hard to keep up with all the ways we’re encouraged to live sustainably.
Even the word sustainable can get confusing. Sometimes it’s about climate change and at other times about waste and it’s hard to really know what we should focus on – is it having too many plastic toys for the kids, is it worrying about how much food you throw away that the kids don’t eat or is it about turning down the heating and putting on a jumper?
It can become a complicated set of rules and routines that we’re often not inclined to follow, in part because it costs us, and we worry that we’ll be depriving our kids of the best the world has to offer.
But sustainability isn’t just about the environment. It means to live in a way that allows you to maintain things at a certain level over time. For example, it’s not sustainable to feed your kids sugar all day. They’ll be hyper, they’ll crash, they’ll be sick and then they’ll be starving hungry again.
Sometimes when we think about sustainability from an environmental point of view it’s good to keep that idea of sustainability in mind. In the same way you can’t live on a diet of sugar sustainably – and probably wouldn’t want to with good reason – there are good reasons to enjoy a more sustainable lifestyle from an environmental point of view.
Whether it’s a healthier diet, saving money, helping your kids learn contentment or getting more enjoyment out of the world outside their door, there are plenty of reasons to enjoy a sustainable lifestyle that benefit you, as well as the world of all people that rely on the sustainability of this planet’s resources.
Our top tips for helping raise children that are more sustainably minded are therefore designed to benefit the whole family, not just future generations.
1. Help your kids to grow up eating less meat
Reducing the amount of meat you eat as a family is an important step to reducing the amount of the world’s resources devoted to animal farming.
That matters from an environmental point of view because half of all habitable land is used for agriculture and 75% of that land is used for livestock. With a growing population moving to a more plant-based diet will help ensure we can use that land to produce crops to feed the world.
Meat, in particular beef and lamb, are also high net greenhouse gas emitters, so the more we eat the more we contribute to the way we farm and the way our food supply chain is set up.
But reducing the amount of meat in your kids’ diet is also a way to improve their health and save more money as a family. The cost of meat typically outweighs the cost of equivalent protein substitutes, while also being a major contributor to calorific diets that cause obesity related diseases. The rise in meat consumption in past decades goes hand in hand with our expanding waste bands and we can do ourselves, and our kids a favour by reducing the amount of meat we eat to correct for this.
In short, eating less meat is healthier, cheaper AND better for the planet, so It’s really a win-win-win.
If you’re worried about what you’re going to eat if you’re not eating meat, here’s 6 alternatives
6 protein substitutes for meat that you can feed your kids
- Lentils – it depends on the type of lentil (green lentils, black lentils, brown lentils etc) but they only take 20-30 minutes to cook on the boil. Very straight forward and they contain 9g of protein for every 100g you eat. That’s a lot less than beef or chicken, but that 100g includes over 60g of fibre, compared to chicken or beef, as well as a host of nutrients you wont get in meat
- Eggs – are a tricky one as they do rely on animal farming in order to produce them. But they produce vastly less greenhouse gas emissions and even the highest impact emission per serving egg will produce less greenhouse gas emissions than the lowest impact portion of beef or lamb.
- Beans – come in a variety of types and they’re all great meat substitutes. They’ve got some of the lowest greenhouse gas emissions per portion, less than any of the alternatives listed here. They provide about 7g of protein which is lower than meat, but regular consumption has lots of other health benefits, including helping reduce cholesterol and the risk of heart disease.
- Soy – gets a bit of a bad rep, but as a meat substitute it’s a brilliant option in the form of things like tofu. Unbeatable on greenhouse emissions and it’s just super simple to cook with.
- Green Peas – if you can get your kids eating peas (ours are big fans) they’re an absolute winner when it comes tom protein. Peas only have 4 to 5g of protein per 100g, so we’re not talking a lot here (chicken is c.21g for comparison), but given it takes 1/10 of the land to grow peas the numbers are compelling. Plus you get a bunch of other nutrients out of them that you wouldn’t get from meat.
- Porridge – well we mean oats really, but porridge is a great source of protein. You’ll get about 17g of protein in 100g of oats which is a pretty good return. Plus oats lower cholesterol and blood sugar and it includes lots of resistant starch that’s great for gut health, so you’re setting your kids up well!
Let your kids have fewer toys, or only buy eco-friendly toys
The speed with which kids use (break), grow out of, or get bored of toys is astonishing. It seems there’s an inverse correlation between how much a kid ‘loves’ a toy in a store and how quickly it’s forgotten about. The more bleeps, lights buttons, the more plastic the toy seems to contain and the more limiting it is when it comes to inspiring contented play over days and weeks.
But breaking that cycle of always buying new toys has never been simpler. Eco friendly toys and toy rental services are more readily available and better quality than ever before. Here are our recommendations.
When it comes to toy rental services like Whirli, the waste they’re able to stop through renting toys is incredible. If you’re looking for a fast way to teach your kids the importance of not using and throwing away or immediately passing on toys before buying more, this could be a great solution for you.
3. Help your kids learn to appreciate nature
While not having a direct impact on helping your kids grow up to live a more sustainable life, learning to appreciate and understand the natural world around them is a positive way to encourage sustainable attitudes to the world.
Our own kids have a limited experience of the wider natural world (outside of parks etc) because we live in East London. So we have to work extra hard to travel and show them more of the parts of the world outside of the concrete jungle. We know however, that grounding their understanding of the world in nature, how eco systems work and why they’re reliant on the health of the natural world for their own way of life, is a great way to encourage them to live sustainably.
Make a habit of buying sustainable personal care products for your household
Kids pay attention to the products you use on a daily basis. They love to imitate and they love to ask questions about what you’re doing. So if you’re preaching sustainability or teaching them about not wasting their food, it’s important to back it up with product choices that echo that same heart.
While packaged goods brands have a long way to go till they really care about sustainability, there are brands making a conscious effort to change the way they make the products in your daily routines. Here’s some top sustainable personal care products you should check out.
- Electric toothbrushes are usually packed with plastic, including the brush heads, and they end up never leaving landfill. SURI is developing an eco-friendly brush that raise the bar on sustainability so you can get a great brush, and feel great doing it
- If you’re more a manual brusher, the Humble Co have a great bamboo brush that’s cheap and cuts a bunch of plastic out of the supply chain.
- Gone are the days of relying on wasteful aerosol cans or weird eco-friendly deodorants that involve dipping your finger in some goop and wiping it on your pits. Refillable deodorants from Fussy and Wild make the sustainable option sexy, with clever applicators, great smells, and easy delivery of your next stick exactly when you need it.
It’s worth reading more about the difference between bar soap and bottled shower gel to understand how much waste you can really save with a switch to a bar soap. Try Earth Kind for grown ups, or give Rowdy Kind for kids (it seems bar soap guys really love being kind!)
If bar soap just isn’t your thing, then there are still improvements on your classic plastic bottle of shower gel and shampoo that goes in the recycling once you’re done with it. Rather than continuing the cycle of plastic use, try switching to a neat refillable solution like Fiils or KanKan and immediately change how much plastic you get through with your daily washing routines.
Ditch the plastic loofah (yes, they’re often made of plastic!) and switch to something like our very own GRASP Pebbl brush that’s hygienic and useable again and again. Plus it’s super practical for kids so they can start washing themselves more easily than with other types of sponges and scrubs.
5. Enjoy holidays that aren’t abroad
If pandemic lockdowns in 2020 and 2021 will have taught us anything positive, it’s that there are amazing holiday spots across the UK that most of us have ignored in favour of cheap flights south for some rays. While the guaranteed hot weather abroad is big pull, teaching your kids to value what’s on their own doorstep can save a lot of air mile emissions and give your kids an appreciation of destinations that have more to offer than just a bit of sun.
6. Bikes and busses
The way we get around is still a major way in which we contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. Travelling by car leads to emissions 2-3 times higher compared to the equivalent average bus trip. And of course cycling emits nothing. For shorter journeys of 1-2 miles, opt for walking or cycling where possible and you’ll immediately be giving yourself a health boost as well as cutting down a huge source of emissions.
7. Buy local
Because supply chains are so globalised now, it can be hard to know the emissions created from buying food not grown or made locally. But the source of what you buy is still a major sustainability concern. Whether it’s the labour practices of where that good is made, the resources used or the conditions in which it’s made that might dramatically increase pollution, there’s plenty of reasons to be concerned about where the thing you’re buying has been made.
But on top of that, is the simple fact that carrying parts to make a good across the world, making the product and then carrying around the world again to reach your local store or your doorstep, is neither an efficient use of resources or very sustainable from a greenhouse gas emissions point of view.
However, you can make more informed choices for your kids and with your kids with new technology that helps trace where exactly your stuff comes from and the emissions that might have resulted from it. Giki helps you improve the choices you make about what you buy, by calculating the emissions associated with any one purchase. They make it easier to choose sustainability.
8. Bath less (or at least less frequently)
There are a host of at home changes you can make to reduce carbon emissions that are now unsustainable for our planet. From helping your kids switch off lights to turn down the thermostat a little to improving at home insulation. But one particular change that might well be appreciated by kids is to bath less.
Dermatologists often warn us that we all wash too much, drying out our skin and removing our natural moisturising factors to actually leave our skin in worse condition. That’s particularly true for kids who have thinner, more delicate skin and need washing even less than we do as adults.
Using less hot water day-to-day is a great way to reduce emissions as well so it really might just be a win-win for the planet and your kids!