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How to be a sustainable parent

Teaching children to have an environmental conscience can help shape their future [Photo: Getty]

There’s definitely been a shift in attitudes towards the environment lately, with recent research revealing more than two-thirds of adults believe climate change and ocean pollution is the biggest threat to humanity.

And we’ve certainly been upping our efforts in the sustainability stakes recently with a Mintel survey finding 65% of Brits claiming to live more ethically than a year ago.

But, when it comes to parenting the need for convenience can put a great big spanner in the ethical living works.

Because when you’re trying to feed, clothe and entertain little ones, keeping the environment in mind can often take a back seat.

READ MORE: How to quit plastic: 6 simple switches you can make today

But bringing up children doesn’t have to mean your sustainable efforts should slip down the to-do list.

There are some steps you can take to becoming a more eco-conscious parent, what’s more adopting a greener approach can have a knock-on effect for future generations.

“Parents today are so much more eco-savvy than they used to be, conscious that using sustainable products are not only better for the world around them, but their world inside the home,” explains Zoe Bonser, show director at The Baby Show.  

“Having a baby for the first time gives you a fresh perspective on life and teaching your child to use eco-friendly products from the very start will only have a beneficial impact on them later in life as they become more responsible for the world around us.”

Yahoo UK spoke to the green experts on bringing up babies the more sustainable way.

Opt for natural ingredients

When shopping for baby products instead of grabbing your go-to, it’s worth shopping around for more natural options. “Baby products, cleaning products and the fashion industry all impact our planet,” explains ChannelMum.com sustainable parenting experts Stephen Skinner and wife Holly aka @NomadiDaddy and @TheTinyMumma.

“Look for natural, organic and handmade products when making your next purchase. Or you can even try making your own.”

Try to make recycling a fun game [Photo: Getty]

READ MORE: Couple pay for wedding by collecting discarded plastic bottles

Re-use, recycle and repurpose

According to William Richardson, founder of Green Element, it helps if parents are conscious of buying as little as possible new.

He suggests trying Facebook groups or Gumtree for baby and child toys and other paraphernalia.

“That will absolutely bring that carbon footprint down,” he says. “People talk about plastic being evil. But plastic does last and if you're using it and then passing or selling it on then that's a really positive way of reducing that carbon footprint.”

Educate the future generation

Children learn from their parents, so teaching them about recycling and reusing whilst they are young will make it easier for them as they get older. Stephen and Holly suggest making sorting the recycling into glass, plastic and cardboard a fun game. 

Use reusable bottles and cups

Any frazzled parent will likely testify that caffeine is LIFE, but it’s worth ensuring your much-needed coffee-hit is as sustainable as possible. “As parents we tend to drink a lot of coffee, so get yourself a reusable coffee cup,” says Stephen and Holly. “Most high street coffee shops now offer a discount if you use one, so you'll save money while you save the planet.”

READ MORE: TV presenter bans children from playing with plastic toys

Go plastic-less

Parenting doesn’t have to mean drowning in plastic and clingfilm. “Reducing your plastic-use is easy to do once you get used to it,” says Stephen and Holly. They suggest using refillable water bottles instead of buying plastic bottles of water and opting for loose fruit and veg packed in paper bags at the supermarket, instead of those wrapped in plastic.

“You can also use washing powder in paper boxes instead of plastic capsules,” they add. “Remember to also take reusable bags shopping with you. Not only does this reduce waste, it also saves you money.”

Overhaul family eating

Starting with reducing meat consumption. According to Stephen and Holly not only can eating less meat save cash, it also reduces your impact on the environment and introduces your child to more diverse tastes. “Try ‘Meat-Free Monday’ each week, add extra veggies to bulk out food and use less meat in other meals,” they suggest.  

Richardson suggests giving children the food you eat, when appropriate. “This means we’re not actually making additional food,” he explains. He also suggests encouraging children to eat everything on their plate and only giving children the amount of food you know they will eat.

Being conscious of what we eat can help encourage children to be more environmentally friendly in the future [Photo: Getty]

Rethink reusable nappies

Not only are disposable nappies purse-unfriendly, they’re pretty harmful to the environment too.

According to the 2008 life cycle analysis, by opting for reusable over disposable nappies, families could make up to a 40% carbon saving.

While, WRAP (the Government’s Waste & Resources Action Programme) estimates that households using cloth nappies reduce their household waste by up to half compared to those who use disposables.

As if those figures aren’t shocking enough, at the moment it is estimated that UK families send 355,000 tonnes of single use nappies to landfill and insinuation each year, costing Local Authorities (and tax payers) a whopping £32 million a year. They can also take up to 500 years to breakdown in landfill.

Still not convinced? Here’s five reasons to give them a go.

Teach children to have an environmental conscience

Encouraging children to have an environmental stance from a young age will hopefully help reduce their carbon footprint in the future.

Simple tips like encouraging children to turn off the tap when they’re brushing their teeth will all help them to think about the impact their actions have on the environment.

Don't be too hard on yourself

We all forget things from time to time, but if you slip up don't let that put you off trying again tomorrow.