Living lightly on this earth is becoming a goal for many families today. From those living in urban areas, to those living in the in woods, being an earth-friendly family is worth the effort and pays off in not only a healthier earth, but also in your wallet.
1) Talk About It
The first step is to gather your family and talk about the journey you are about to go on. Talk about why you are wanting to do this and ask for your children’s input. Get even your youngest children involved – you may be surprised at the ideas they can come up with. When you actively involve children, they are more willing to make changes that might seem difficult to us “grown-ups.”
2) Ditch Disposables in the Kitchen
Paper products in the kitchen create a lot of waste…and require a lot of resources to make. By switching to real products, you will reduce your waste immensely.
Switch paper napkins to cloth, paper towels to cloth, paper/plastic dishes to real dishes, real silverware, real cups…take a look around your kitchen and see what you throw away and if there are alternatives for you.
For those concerned about breaking dishes with young children, it happens. We use Corelle brand dishes and they hold up incredibly well. We have 4 children, ages 8 and under, and rarely do they break (unless dropped on tile). We also use mason jars for cups, which double duty for food storage.
We’ve noticed that when presented with real dishes, children will actually take care to not drop them. This will take a short time for them to learn, but completely doable.
3) Cloth Diapers and Wipes
In this day and age, you can find any diaper system to match your needs. We were a pretty basic flats or prefolds and covers family but you can even find all-in-one systems. Be sure to check out the Cotton Babies Cloth Diaper section to see what’s available for you!
Cloth wipes are super easy after making the switch to cloth diapers but even if cloth diapering isn’t for you, cloth wipes are still a great option (even if at home). Conventional wipes can contain quite a bit of irritation ingredients, but with cloth wipes (usually made with flannel), all you use is water. They’re super gentle on babies skin and keeps old wipes out of the landfill!
4) Use Reusables for Mom…. For both breastfeeding and menstrual care!
For breastfeeding, washable breastfeeding pads are the way to go. With my first two children, I went through an insane amount of disposable breast pads (like boxes and boxes), and then got two pairs of wool breast pads… WOW. It dramatically reduced the waste we were putting out.
Switching menstrual care products is also a great step. Every woman is different, but there are a couple different options: menstrual cup and/or cloth pads. Both help reduce waste and are a little friendlier for your body. I’ve used them both exclusively for almost 5 years.
5) Reduce Water Use
For those who live in a drought area, this may already be in place, but for the rest of us, reducing your water use is a huge positive step towards being an earth-friendly family. Your family can make simple changes like:
- Turning off water while brushing teeth
- Showering less
- Taking shorter showers (sing a shorter song!) and/or shower with your special someone
- Check your toilet for leaks or even switch to a low flow dual flush toilet
- Only use the dishwasher when full
- Scrape off dishes rather than using water to rinse
- Ensure you are using the right water level for your laundry
- If you live in an area that allows for rainwater collection (it is illegal in some places), invest in a rain barrel and use that water for watering plants and garden areas.
About 10 years ago, we were guerilla composters… meaning we were kind of composting illegally. It sparked a passion in me that I didn’t know I had. There are even cities that pick up compost! Even those with limited space can take advantage of the many options for composting….from countertops composters to worm bins. For those with more space….tumbling composters and bins.
So much of what we throw away can be composted and turned into nutrient-dense soil. In turn, you can use that to grow plants, herbs, vegetables…or even sell to gardeners in the area.
What can you compost?
- Fruit and fruit waste
- Vegetable waste
- Paper and cardboard
- Yard waste
- Animal bedding
- Natural fiber (cotton, bamboo) fabrics.
7) Reusable Cloth Bags
While many stores have reusable bags for sale at checkout, those are still quite harmful for the environment (and you!). They aren’t washable and are still plastic and will eventually end up in the landfill. Switching to cloth bags allow you to wash them, reuse them longer, and then they can be ripped up to be composted at the end of their life. Keep them in your front seat or at the feet of your children to help remember to bring them into the store with you.
8) Shop Local, Shop Small, Shop Secondhand
Transportation of goods from all over the country or world is a big part of our impact on this world. When we shop locally – like farmer’s markets – we get fresher items with a low impact on the environment. When we shop small, we support business with a smaller footprint. When we shop secondhand, we extend the life of a product, keeping it from filling up our landfills.
When I first started having babies, the internet was not like it is today. I was very limited in finding recipes to make anything. Today, you can find almost anything on Pinterest. Take a look at the items you buy and ask yourself…”can I make this?” Chances are, you can! Looking for a baby powder recipe? We have one of those right here on the Cotton Babies blog!
There are so many great places to buy ingredients in bulk, like Mountain Rose Herbs, that you can even gather a group of like-minded families together to make all these great items together. You will find reusable containers for them and really keep your footprint down, while using safe, natural ingredients for your family.
10) Revisit and Revise
The switch to being an earth-friendly family is a journey. It will not happen overnight. As life changes, so will what you do. As you go through your journey, it is important to revisit what is working, what isn’t… and what you want to add in. Then go for it! If shopping local isn’t an option currently, do what you can and who knows… maybe it will be an option later.
That being said, it does take some effort. It can be frustrating when something doesn’t work out… and sometimes guilt will hit when you forget your reusable bags and walk away with a cart full of plastic bags. Shake it off and keep trying. If it is important to you, its amazing how everything will work out.
Keep tuned in to the Cotton Babies blog this year for some great tips for being an earth-friendly home.