Have you been wondering how to be more environmentally friendly in your house? Sometimes it can feel a bit overwhelming where to start. Here are 21 suggestions for family-friendly environmental actions to introduce to your home:
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It seems to me lately that the minute I mention I use cloth nappies, accept hand me downs or repurpose our soft plastics into eco-bricks, people think I’m an earth-friendly tree-hugging lunatic. It really isn’t the case, but I am on a mission: to play a small part in looking after myself, my family and the environment.
As a mother of four, I want to make healthier choices for my kids, planet-friendly choices if you will. There are so many reasons why we need to be environmentally conscious with everything from global warming, pollution, wildfires and deforestation just to name a few.
As a parent, I believe it is my responsibility to take care of the environment and make the world a better place to live. It’s not just about going green, it is about teaching our children to make smarter choices to bring with them through life. Small changes can and will make a huge difference.
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Easy and Effective Environmental Actions
#1. Make Eco-Bricks
The kids will absolutely adore this one! Seal Rescue Ireland are collecting completed eco-bricks and repurposing 1.5 and 2-litre plastic bottles into chairs, tables and so much more.
Fill a clean plastic bottle with soft unrecyclable plastics such as biscuit wrappers, cling film and plastic packaging on fruit. Not only is it hours of fun filling bottles, you know they are going to a good place.
#2. Switch to e-Billing
Ditch the paper bills and save money while you do it. Most companies offer small discounts if you switch to paperless billing so it’s a win-win for everyone involved.
#3. Eat Less Meat
As a vegetarian this is really easy for me to say, I don’t eat any meat, chicken or fish. But the rest of the family still eats meat so I have recently introduced one meat-free dinner into our meal plan and it’s going down a storm.
Try it, it’s a great way of getting more veggies into everyone too.
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#4. Recycle Old Crayons
When crayons become old, battered and bruised melt them down and make new ones. Not only is it a great rainy day activity for the whole family, but it will also save on waste and teach younger ones about repurposing when possible.
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#5. Buy What You Believe In
Ditch the impulse buys and stop with the fast fashion. Trends last a month, maybe two – ask yourself do you really need it?
Many items from clothing to gifts that we buy are not produced in an environmental way so start look at where you buy things from and how responsibly they’ve been made.
Tip: search for options to support small Irish (or local to you) businesses instead of buying from big retailers all the time. Every time you buy from a small business an actual person does a little happy dance too!
#6. Buy Second-hand School Books
Back to school time is an extremely costly time for parents. Have you considered asking parents in classes above your children could you buy their textbooks? Or maybe your school hosts “buy and sell” days or offers book rental schemes?
If not, it would be a good question to raise with the PTA. Not only will it save you a fortune, but it will also prevent the need for hundreds of books being printed to keep up with the demand.
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#7. Go to the Library
Instead of buying books, why not got to the library instead? Not only is it a fun afternoon out, but it’s also a great way of saving money too. You can also download numerous magazines and newspapers from library websites to read from the comfort of your home and phone, saving thousands of trees over time.
#8. Cut Down Food Waste
In Ireland there is over one million tonnes of food waste disposed of each year. And around 1/3 of this comes from households which means every household in Ireland is responsible for 1 ton of food waste! The cost per household is between €400 and €1,000 per year.
Hold a family meeting and talk about the cost of food, discuss what happens with the waste and explain to them how you as a family can help prevent adding to it.
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#9. Use The Clothesline
As your mother or grandmother said, ‘it’s good drying weather out there’. Make use of it whenever you can and get the kids involved. They can help with pegs or even hang clothes from a chair.
Make it their job to notify you when the clothes are dry or if it starts to rain. They will love checking every few minutes and telling you when it’s time to take them in.
#10. Make Recycling a Normal Part of Life
Introduce a recycling bin in your home and tell your smallies what can go in and why. For example, we have a colour coded system to teach our kids the difference in our bins and my two-year-old is getting the hang of it just a few months in.
#11. Ditch Kitchen Roll
Spills around the house can be limitless especially when it comes to toddlers. Cut up old towels and use them to wipe up any spillages. You can pop them in the wash and reuse hundreds of times.
#12. Collect Rainwater
Repurpose an old barrel to collect rainwater to use on warmer days. You can use it to water plants, clean the car or even wash down the patio. The kids will love keeping an eye on the barrel after each rainfall too.
#13. Get Active, Get Outdoors
Make use of local parks and the great outdoors. Not only is being an active family great for the mind, body and soul you will save some money on the usual electricity you may have used at home.
Bring your reusable water bottle, a picnic or packed lunch and go find something free and fun to do.
Also, try to walk more instead of using the car especially for little trips to the local shops and of course, to and from school – if possible, of course.
#14. Use Freecycle Groups
One man’s junk is another man’s treasure! Use freecycle groups such as Zero Waste Ireland to give away old bikes, toys or even clothes.
And if you are in need of something, in particular, ask away you may be surprised what others have to offer.
#15. Ditch Plastic Straws
Join the fight against single-use plastics and ban straws from your home. We have and we now use metal straws and they have gone down a treat in recent weeks. Think about how many straws you could be saving from going to your local waste centre.
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#16. Ditch Disposable in Favour of Rechargeable Batteries
Not only is it cleaner for the environment, but it could also save you a small fortune. If this is not an option for you right now, make sure as a family to drop any used batteries to WEEE recycling banks. In 2017, 43.5 million AA batteries were recycled in Ireland.
In fact, WEEE Ireland has numerous authorised collection points across the country where you can recycle batteries, electrical goods and even light bulbs.
#17. Grow an Edible Garden
Nothing sparks more joy in kids than green fingers. Why not grow some fruits or vegetables that the kids like to eat. You can choose anything from strawberries, carrots, broccoli and even cabbage.
The kids will love preparing the garden, sowing the seeds and watching them grown and of course, digging them up to eat.
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#18. Introduce ‘Fiver Birthdays’
If your child has a birthday party coming up this year, explain to parents that gifts are not required but if they would like to give your child something, a fiver would be appreciated.
This way the birthday girl or boy gets to choose one main gift from any money they make on the day saving unwanted gifts being received alongside unnecessary plastic waste never mind all that wrapping paper that gets torn then thrown away.
#19. Use Cloth Nappies
My love for cloth nappies began during my pregnancy on number three, now I’m so far in, I would never use a “sposie” ever again. Did you know it takes 9 gallons of water to manufacture one disposable nappy?
It also takes up to 500 years to break down at the landfill. Consider using cloth nappies and save up to 4000 nappies going to the dump per child from birth to toilet training.
#20. Carry a Reusable Water Bottle Instead of Buying
This is one of the easiest changes you can make as a family. Invest in sustainable reusable water bottles for each member of the family for school or work lunches, and days out.
Make it your family’s mission to stop buying one-use plastic water bottles!
#21. Conserve Energy
Make it your children’s responsibility to make sure lights are switched off, iPads are plugged out and TVs are not left on standby.
Make sure your boiler is as efficient as it can be. And when replacing appliances, pick A-rated ones.
It’s amazing how small changes can help save energy and bring your electricity costs down too.
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