How To Live More Sustainably with Kids
Are you an eco-conscious parent wondering how you can live sustainably even with kids? Here are some simple ways to live sustainably with kids from eco-friendly food choices to sustainable home solutions to simply leading by example!
How To Live Sustainably with Kids
So from personal experience and talking with others, being an eco-conscious parent can create a ton of guilt and stress about their family’s lifestyle. We also tend to just stress about if it’s ever enough. Moreover, there’s so many sustainability tips out there and sometimes they just don’t work for families or even individuals.
Well, guess what?! If you’re making any effort, then it’s enough. You can do more, but it’s about sustaining what you are doing. A sustainable lifestyle should be achievable for everyone anywhere otherwise it’s not really sustainable or manageable in the long run and everyone loses. For us, it’s about progress and balance. You can have a radical impact on our environment without radical changes to your lifestyle or stressing over if you need to do more. Kids create enough stress as it is!
So here are a few of the ways we live sustainably with kids as examples. Pick one or a few or all of them to implement, but remember to find a balance that works for your family that you can sustain.
What Does It Mean To Live Sustainably?
So to be clear for everyone, I want to give a baseline on what sustainable living can mean. Sustainable living describes a lifestyle that attempts to reduce an individual’s or society’s use of the Earth’s natural resources and one’s personal resources.
For us, to live sustainably really just means we try to minimize our use of Earth’s resources and any damage created by human and environment interactions. We push towards minimizing our impacts on our environment.
Now here are some simple ways we live sustainably with kids.
Lead By Example and Action
This is the biggest thing any parent can do for a family to live more sustainably with kids. I’ve found that leading by example and taking actionable steps towards sustainability impacts my child the most.
For example, my toddler will finish eating and sometimes have food scraps left. We’ll ask him to compost the food scraps and he’ll take his plate over to the kitchen compost bin and put it in. He does this because he sees us do this as parents and we explain our actions on why composting is important. He’s a toddler so he may not understand it fully yet, but it’s building good eco-friendly behaviors and habits that I hope will stay with him.
Don’t Fear Talking About Sustainability with Kids
Provide Age-Appropriate Educational Material
Books about sustainability and climate change are great ways to talk about these topics with kids. The books keep the content age-appropriate so a kid can understand. The best part I’ve found about reading is it always opens up the door for the child to ask questions on their own terms or take time to think about it themselves.
For younger kids, I loved incorporating STEAM and nerdy books from the beginning. Baby Loves Green Energy and Climate Change for Babies are a couple of my favorite board books that discuss climate change and protecting the environment.
For older kids, I’ve discovered NASA’s Climate Kids website, which is a great resource for discussing different climate topics. It even has games and activities a family can use to educate, but have fun as well. The activities tab has some seriously great ideas for kid activities if you’re trying to come up with ones!
Focus on the Positive
Yes, climate anxiety is a thing and it’s really hard to not be overwhelmed by the scary and sad things, even as an adult. This can be reflected in our kids as well. Feelings are good though as they usually lead to action and can be turned into something positive.
I’ve found focusing on the positive truly has helped my individual sustainable living journey as well as my family’s. When you or your child is caught up with climate anxiety, try to flip it for something positive.
For example, the United Nations Environment Programme says globally “we produce about 300 million tonnes of plastic waste every year. [And] that’s nearly the equivalent to the weight of the entire human population.”
Instead of being completely defeated by this thought, we focus on what we are doing to change this with our family’s sustainability journey. We consciously buy less plastic, reuse it as much as possible, and recycle it. We are making a difference daily. Moreover, we are taking positive action by voting and calling our representatives to support the environment and reduce plastic dependency.
Focus on Sustainable Energy Solutions at Home
A home is where you and your family probably spend a majority of your time. So focusing your sustainability efforts here can help make an impact.
Make an Electric Car Your Next Car
Looking to get a new car soon? A great investment would be an electric car. We have one gas car and one electric car. We only fill up the gas car once every 1 to 2.5 months now because we prioritize using the electric car. It’s saved us a nice chunk of money due to the current gas prices, and the electricity is coming from our solar panels.
Get a Solar Panel System
Getting a solar panel system for your roof or yard is another great way to live more sustainably with kids. After the payback period, it will literally be creating energy and saving you money all while helping the environment.
We have a tiny electric bill now and only because our city restricted the system size, which didn’t quite cover our whole electricity needs. Make sure to check out our Going Solar Journey where we did our own DIY solar panel installation that’s now saving our family money and providing us with renewable energy daily.
If you’re looking for a quote and FREE system layout, then reach out to GoGreenSolar here (U.S. only). They helped us with getting solar panels and we love them!
Opt for Electricity
Slowly, or quickly depending on your budget, phase out natural gas for electricity within your home. This way you are utilizing renewable energy whenever possible. This could be converting gas stoves, water heaters, or even fireplaces to electricity. Home improvements can go a long way towards drastically lowering greenhouse gas emissions caused by fossil fuels and could save you money in increased efficiency as well..
Eco-Friendly Food Choices
There are some eco-friendly food choices out there that may not be realistic for a family with kids. I know I sometimes get this paralysis when grocery shopping and deciding whether to buy locally grown and organic, or buy pre-packaged food because it’s the only thing my toddler will eat.
It’s natural to question it. But realize it’s all a balance between what’s right for you and your family and what’s right for the environment. It’s about progress over perfection. We’ve found focusing on these simple ideas works best for our family.
Waste Less Food
We have a toddler who can be very picky and so can most kids. It’s sometimes a real struggle! I’ve found myself giving in to giving my child food that I know they’ll eat more often to ensure the food isn’t wasted.
Not wasting food is actually one of the most environmentally friendly things to do. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, “Roughly one-third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year – approximately 1.3 billion tonnes – gets lost or wasted.” And not only that, but according to the Natural Resource Defense Council, around 40 percent of the food in the United States is never eaten.
These numbers are staggering, which is why I’m more inclined to feed my child something they’ll actually eat instead of it going to waste. I’m not saying don’t ever branch out and get your kids to try new things. We definitely keep exposing our child to more and more food and a balanced diet. However, maybe when packing lunches or with some daily meals, give kids food they’ll eat and not excessive amounts. It’s a way to ensure you reduce your family’s food waste.
Another simple way to make eco-friendly food choices for a family is to compost, if possible. Food waste does not break down in the landfill, and then contributes to adding extra greenhouse gases to the environment. Families will inevitably have some food waste. Composting allows for the food waste to breakdown properly and turn into organic matter.
For some families composting may not work for you, and that is okay! We struggled with a standard compost bin and the maintenance, but then a curbside compost collection business became available in our area. This allowed us to collect our food waste and set it out to be picked up each week. It fits our family lifestyle and has eliminated our food waste going to the landfill.
So I encourage you to give composting a try or look for a local service provider in your area!
Grow Your Own Food, But Only What You’ll Eat
Growing your own food can be a game-changer for some families. No longer being dependent on the grocery store for produce that isn’t always super fresh and sometimes wrapped in plastic is fantastic. Also, you know where it comes from, if chemicals were used, and it can even save you money in the long run.
You don’t need a lot of space, just some sun and water! We grew tomatoes and herbs in our linear planter boxes that are only 20” wide by 6’ long. In 2022, we’ve decided to grow more of our own food and can’t wait to share how our larger terraced garden turns out.
Again, the most eco-friendly food choice is not wasting food, so only grow what your family will eat. That’s not to say you can’t give fresh produce to friends and family if you grow too much. Maybe just don’t plant turnips if you don’t eat a ton of turnips.
Buy in Bulk
Buying in bulk can reduce your family’s amount of plastic waste. If you’re using something weekly, then why not buy larger quantities and reduce the amount of plastic waste. Instead of buying individual yogurt cartons, I buy a large one that I can distribute out into smaller portions/containers, if necessary. It means a few less plastic cartons to get recycled or end up in a landfill. Plus, we’ve found in the long run it has cost savings for our family.
Additionally, you can eliminate more of your plastic waste by using your own bulk containers in stores like Sprouts. We can fill bags of trail mix, nuts, beans, rice, and even candy in our own containers! I also found our local bubble tea shop has bulk loose leaf tea where we can fill our own containers. Good-bye plastic bags and jugs!
Swap for Sustainable Products
Another simple way to live more sustainably with kids is just to make some eco-friendly product swaps to reduce your waste and family’s footprint. I can guarantee you have a lot of products in your house. And you know what?! Most of those products have an eco-friendly alternative that’s just as good or even better than the not eco-friendly product.
So try your local zero waste store or order online from eco-friendly and sustainable companies to make some sustainable swaps. There are even one-stop shops for eco-friendly products, like EarthHero, who have vetted all the brands and products to ensure they are better for the environment. Shops like these seriously takes all the thinking out of trying to hunt down an eco-friendly product on Amazon or somewhere else. It’s a time-saver for families trying to live more sustainably with kids!
However, sometimes as a family, remembering to order ahead online doesn’t happen or you didn’t realize you’d run out (I know life is crazy with kids!). Luckily several superstores are now starting to have more eco-friendly products and brands on their shelves. Check out all the eco-friendly products and brands at Target I found, which can be super convenient for busy families too!
Baby or Kid Eco-friendly Swap Suggestions
Here’s a couple simple eco-friendly swaps we’ve made related to our child that were simple yet impactful!
- Cloth Diapers or Bamboo Disposable Diapers – Babies/toddlers require diapers, so help reduce the negative impacts by choosing better options!
- EarthBreeze Laundry Detergent Sheets – Kids always lead to lots of laundry so try some sustainable detergents
- Reel Bamboo Toilet Paper – Tree-free toilet paper that makes you feel better when kids flush a ton down the toilet…
- Kid Bamboo Toothbrushes – Small sized bamboo toothbrushes are a great alternative to plastic ones. (Family-Pack one too!)
- Eco-friendly Toothpaste – In a recyclable aluminum tube instead of non-recyclable plastic tube
Overall, it’s about progress and balance to live sustainably, especially with kids. So do what you can and try to raise eco-conscious kids in the process. Just remember, you can live big while also leaving a little footprint on the environment.
Hope this helps you and your family on how to live sustainably with kids! Let us know what you think and what your family is doing to live sustainably!
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