I’m pretty much sold on the whole sustainable living movement (not sure how I feel about dropping the “M” word… it’s a bit like saying you’ve been on a journey, cringe, but I can’t think of a better word). I like to do everything in a low waste and sustainable way if I can, I like to encourage everyone else to do things in a low waste and sustainable way if they can. I thrive on the challenge of trying to endlessly further reduce my impact on the planet. However, one big (life changing big) thing I didn’t do in a low waste or sustainable way was to have children, two children to be precise.
The ultimate zero waste commitment
Prior to having children I wasn’t quite far enough into my sustainability journey (already dropped the “M” word, no point holding back now) to consider that the ultimate eco move would be to NOT have children. After all, no matter how low waste a person is, they will still create more waste than if they had never existed. I didn’t realise this was something some people were doing until I’d already pretty much committed (given birth).
This piece ISN’T a debate about the environmental ethics of having children, the impact more humans will have on our planet or anything related to population control. I decided to have children, it was the best decision I ever made, end of. It is each individuals decision to make. However in having children, a quandary that continually crops up for me, is to what extent I should influence or even force my eco lifestyle onto them. From smaller decisions about birthday balloons that are destined for landfill to big decisions such as whether to raise them as vegetarians.
A green parenting debate
With regards to climate friendly parenting I go back and forth, never able to decide. It feels wrong to inflict something on them that they cannot yet have a say in, especially as I didn’t find the eco life until I was well into adulthood. I had balloons and ate meat before coming to my own conclusion about these things. It’s easy to give something up when you’ve already had more than enough of it. I’ve eaten chicken, it didn’t rock my wold, chicken and I can go our separate ways, no hard feelings. Do I give them options, let them make their own decision? Yet, everything else we do as parents is a decision that we have made and inflicted onto our children without consulting them; breast feeding or bottle feeding, the local school or home school. I didn’t give a second thought about consulting my little darlings on these matters, what I say goes.
Perhaps I am unwittingly concerned about what others will think about my eco parenting choices. When you are debating whether it’s mean spirited not to let your offspring have a paw patrol magazine because it’s wrapped in plastic and comes with some crappy plastic toys you don’t need or want, it’s hard not to consider whether others are judging you and deciding you are indeed mean spirited.
Go eco or go home
Despite it all, I have come to the conclusion (literally whilst typing) that I should raise my children in a low waste and sustainable way in every way possible. You don’t search eBay for pre loved undies and worry about what others think. I want to share (sounds much nicer than inflict) my zero waste-ish ways with my children.
Parents should raise their children the best way they know how. For me that includes taking care of ourselves, our belongings and our planet and encouraging our children to do the same. Whilst I worry that my children are missing out if they don’t have balloons on their birthdays, I want to choose to focus on sustainable alternatives instead. Teaching them to value quality and longevity and avoid contributing to a throw away culture. These principles can be applied to more than just the environment. These principles should be applied to the likes of friendships and education.
The cloth nappy bottom line
Our planet needs green parents, it needs any future generations to be full of Greta Thunberg’s. We won’t survive if we don’t stop wasting and start taking care of things. There will be nothing left for our children. Think about that. The waste we create goes nowhere, we are simply leaving it for our little ones to live side by side with. Those balloons are still here, somewhere!