11 Kid-friendly, sustainable ideas that you can incorporate into your lifestyle TODAY
Yesterday was Earth day. This is posted today for a reason, lest we forget that saving the earth is not about one single day, that we shouldn't forget our duties to the earth that we borrow from our children.
Earth Day was started in 1970s because Gaylord Nelson, a senator from the US was disturbed that an issue as important as our environment was not addressed in politics or by the media.
Cut to today, there is a lot more awareness about the damage we inflict upon earth everyday but the lack of political will and inaction remains.
Boond Boond se bane sagar or Little drops of water make the mighty ocean. Each one of us can contribute to saving our life-giving earth and preserve it for future generations.
Here are 11 ways to incorporate kid-friendly, earth-saving, sustainable practices into our lifestyle.
Cloth diapering: Modern cloth diapering has come a long way since its earlier counterparts. They are both easy on the eye, wallet, and the environment. There is an upfront cost but you save about 1/2 a ton of diapers reaching the landfill over a period of three years. Add to it the social impact of sanitation workers not having to deal with bodily fluids waste is enough reason to switch over.
Investing in wooden/natural toys over plastic: Every piece of plastic ever produced is still around now and will remain for a long while after you are gone. Chew on that. We buy so many toys for our children. In order for it to be safe for children, the plastic used in toys needs to be virgin plastic. This essentially means newly minted plastic which will remain on our planet far after our children have outgrown them. Invest in fewer toys but in ones made from natural materials like wood. Not only does it provide a rich sensorial experience to our children but also as a bio degradable material that becomes one as soil. Wooden toys are traditionally more expensive than its plastic counterparts but there is a growing body of research that children need less toys not more. Even the smallest difference counts, like moving to beeswax crayons from plastic crayons.
Use steel/ceramic dishes: Growing up, our houses had steel vessels, serving dishes, plates and glasses and special china for guests. Somewhere along the way, we fell for the glitz of microwave friendly melamine and plastic ware. We are wary of glass and ceramic because they are not "kid-friendly". Funnily enough, most plastic releases BPA (Bisphenol- A) which is extremely harmful to children and adults alike. Simplest change you can make in your life today is to discard all plastic plates, glasses, and snack/lunch boxes, water bottles.
Always carry a cloth bag: Always carry a cloth bag while going outside. This can help you avoid taking unnecessary plastic bags. Designate one cloth bag for you and your child. This will make it a ritual which they will follow into adulthood hopefully.
Always carry a reusable water bottle: You know that bottle of water that we don't carry because it is too much of an effort to lug around 500 ml. It contributes to landfills at an alarming rate and most importantly, those PET bottles are single use only. They release or leach harmful chemicals into the water over a period of time that are carcinogenic or act as endocrine disruptors which leads to hormonal imbalances. Also, think of the resources it takes to get that bottle of water in your hands. Fossil fuels and water to develop plastic and fossil fuels to get them to you at that oh so convenient shop on the go.
Fix all the dripping taps: You know that only annoying tap in the house that slowly but relentlessly drips throughout the day. The job which is too small for a plumber, so you wait for another few jobs to add up before you call them. Just do it today, you can save up to 1000 liters of drinkable water in a month. Think of Cape Town, they have run out of potable water and their water supply is literally guarded by their police. Is that the future we want to leave behind for our children? For children, this can be an exercise in building awareness about how water wastage occurs.
Bathe and brush more efficiently: We teach so many habits ground up to our children, that become their norm. Brushing and bathing are one of those basic habits. Installing a water saving shower head saves up to 60% of the water used by aerating the water and increasing water pressure and it costs as less as 600 Rs in India. Teaching our children to have faster showers or baths. We can keep a bucket near our feet while showering and use the stray water for watering plants or other home purposes. Just closing the tap while brushing and using a glass for rinsing against the traditional "scoop in your hands" method saves a tonne of water. Talk to your children about how water is a precious resource and how we need to save it a every chance we get and reuse wherever possible. Make a game out of it, allow them to come up with applications from their everyday lives.
Waste segregation and recycling: The municipal corporation in Mumbai is making a big push towards sustainability by making all residential and commercial complexes to compost thereby removing wet and organic waste from the equation. They also limit the kind of dry waste they accept forcing societies and individuals to segregate waste for recycling. For example, they do not accept glass waste, they do not accept wood waste, they do not accept electronic and medical waste. Waste segregation and recycling is a habit we can inculcate from a young age. Keep a large bag in the service area in your apartment. Keep adding things to the bag like restaurant serving boxes, used bottles, even plastic bags, glass items, metal objects like bent hangers, corrugated sheets like those ecommerce packaging materials, and newspapers of course. Encourage your child to participate by talking and identifying recyclable objects. Keep one day aside as recycling day in a month and call the local recycler over and make a ritual out of weighing and measuring waste. For older children, this can be an exercise in math and the monies received from this exercise can become a reward for recycling. For even older children, you can even set recycling targets and make it an exercise in measuring baselines, setting targets, defining strategies, achieving targets, and earning money.
Using steel or bamboo brushes or even better none at all: Straws are a form of single-use plastic. They have a shockingly short lifespan, and they never biodegrade and take hundreds of years to break down. The best and most ideal solution to this to give up the use of straws. As adults, we can and we should do it, but expecting them to forego the fun of slurping and blowing into a straw is not fair. The good news is that there are sustainable alternatives available in the market. Bamboo straws and steel straws are portable, easily cleanable with straw cleaners (the same one we use to clean those sipper straws) and the bonus is that they are BPA free and will withstand the vigorous chewing of a young child.
Bring back the culture of mending: Remember that annoying habit of our parents and grandparents where they would never throw anything away and would repair things compulsively. Turns out that it is very good for our earth. Using less means saving resources that can be used elsewhere. Just like recycling day, set one day a month for mending. Mend shoes, bags, clothes, toys, and everything that can be mended. Learn to sew buttons and fix small tears. Teach them to your children irrespective of gender, these are necessary life skills. For smaller kids, needlework with a blunt/plastic needle and matty sheet, and lacing, beading are excellent ways to engage the small muscles of the palm thereby fostering fine motor skills.
Reuse AC and RO water: If we are privileged enough to have a split AC for cool air and an RO purifier for clean drinking water, we are already at the apex of the world's population. These devices waste a lot of water. AC's in the form of condensate water and RO's in the form of unrecovered or waste water. RO's on an average waste 80% of the intake water and purifies only 20%. Take that in, for every liter of water that goes into a RO purifier, only 200 ml comes out as purified water. It does not make the rest of the water "impure". This water usually flows directly into the sink or into the drain. Both AC water and RO water can be used for watering plants, mopping floors, cleaning cars. In fact the RO water can be collected and can be used for washing vegetables and fruits etc..