PARENTING

Environmentally-friendly ideas and practices to help ‘Restore Our Earth’







In honour of Earth Day this week and the ‘Restore our Earth’ theme, I wanted to share a few things we do in our family to help reduce our carbon footprint. I am aware that I’m preaching to the converted, and that we’re all aware of the importance of lightening our footprint and saving our planet. I also know none of us are perfect when it comes to our efforts of minimising our impact on the planet — by simply being alive, we are leaving an impact. However, little by little we can do and learn and try harder. And most importantly, we can educate our kids along the way.

This is not meant to be some sort of bragging list of the things we do, but more just to share some of the things we’ve learned. And I’m really hoping you’ll share with me the things you do in your own homes so that I can learn from you too.

  • Last year we bought a SubPod worm farm/composting system for our garden, and we’ve been really happy with it. We are able to compost our food scraps, and the worms create a nutrient-dense soil for our garden. It’s a win/win!
  • A couple of years ago we invested in solar panels on the roof of our house. We were surprised by how affordable the solar panels are, and how quickly you start to make your money back.  Our solar panels account for at least 2/3 of our hot water and energy use, which feels really good.
  • We have a Flow Hive beehive in a corner of our front garden, and we are really happy with it. We are yet to harvest honey (it can take up to 18 months, depending on weather and seasons), but we love having our own bees to pollinate the flowers and fruit trees in our garden. We can’t wait to harvest our own honey! Also, it’s been really fun educating ourselves and our kids about bees. They are fascinating! (Flow Hive was founded by a really cool guy here in Byron. If you don’t already know the story of this company, it’s worth checking out.)
  • We also grow our own herbs in our veggie garden, along with some veggies and fruits. So often, if you don’t have herbs growing in your garden, you have to buy a pack wrapped in plastic from the grocery store, so simply growing your own saves on all that single-use plastic. Of course we also shop our local farmers market every Saturday morning for all the produce we don’t grow in our garden. We try our hardest to avoid buying produce wrapped in plastic packaging.
  • When we do our food shopping at delis, or if we’re buying coffee beans or anything in bulk, we bring our own containers to fill. It used to feel weird handing someone my own container to fill up, but no one has ever batted an eye.
  • When we built our studio, we bought a rain water collection tank to put at the back of it. When it rains, the tank fills up and we use that tank for watering our garden, rinsing our wetsuits, and for any other non-drinking purpose.
  • Last year, after lots of deliberation, we bought a Nissan Leaf electric car. Electric cars are not cheap here in Australia, and unfortunately the government offers zero incentives for buying one, but we just really felt it was the right thing to do for us. We have several (free!) quick charging stations in our area, so we are always able to charge whenever we are out and about, and of course we can also charge at home in our driveway, plugged into our normal outlet (though that is a slower way to charge.) If you know Michael, you will know he did his research before buying this car, which involved spreadsheets (!), and we have indeed been really happy with the car. If you have questions about the car — I’m happy to answer (or get Michael to answer!).
  • Our council doesn’t recycle soft plastics, but we collect ours and take them to a designated recycling centre. Here in Byron, the big Woolworths grocery stores have soft plastic recycling stations, so we drop ours off about once a week.
  • We try to avoid using the tumble dryer if we can. (This is tricky in the wet season here, as sometimes we can have a month of non-stop pouring rain, but outside of those seasons, we mostly dry everything on the line.) We bought a large stainless steel foldable clothes airer, which we stick in a sunny spot of our garden (and can hide away whenever we have guests over!).
  • In the kitchen, we have invested in some great food containers to avoid using plastic wrap or cling film. For our bread-baking, we bought a set of three stainless bowls with lids, to keep our dough in the fridge. We also have beeswax wrappers and reusable stretch lids.  We save our empty jars as well for food storage too. Some other great websites for reusable food storage products are: Ukonserve, Lunchskins, PlanetBox, and Klean Kanteen. You can also make your own beeswax wrappers!
  • We have a cupboard full of reusable water bottles. We never leave the house without our big 2 Litre one with us, and every one of our kids takes a water bottle to school with them. I made a vow never to buy a plastic water bottle again in my life, and I’m hoping I never have to break it. 🙂
  • In 2015, when we set off on our travels, we decided to cut meat from our diet. We have been vegetarian for nearly six years now, and to be honest, we really don’t miss the meat. Vegetarian cooking is so fun, and the meals are so flavoursome. For lots of meat eaters, it’s hard to think about cutting out meat entirely, but even if you can go ‘meatless’ one or two days a week, it all adds up and makes a huge difference. We are not dairy free, but we do try to find non-dairy alternatives whenever we can. (I am obsessed with coconut yoghurt and coconut kefir. We also have a variety of oat milks and coconut milks in our fridge at all times.) Again, it’s about making an effort — it doesn’t have to be all or nothing.
  • One of the easiest things we can do (which has a big impact) is to be smart about where we invest our money. Switch your bank to a good one that doesn’t invest in fossil fuels. There are organisations that make it easy to do so. (Make sure your pension or superannuation is with an ethical bank too. I believe it’s actually pretty easy to make a switch if you need to.)

Please share your ideas, practices, and eco products in the comments below. This is a wonderful opportunity to learn from each other!

Courtney x


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Comments (12)

Laura
April 24, 2021

Courtney, these are absolute gold tips. Thank you! I’ve used so many Babyccino recipe ideas for veg cooking, too. You’re inspiring!


Courtney in Australia
April 26, 2021

Oh thanks so much. I’m so glad the tips are helpful. xx


Annie from Brimful
April 26, 2021

My husband adores his Nissan Leaf as well….I honestly think he lives life happier, knowing what a positive impact it makes driving an electric car!


Constanze
April 27, 2021

So clever ideas!

Though I really love avocados, we rarely eat these – also mangoes and other fruits that are flown into our country. Also I love that when we eat one every few months it is something so special! We try to only buy fruits and veggies that are seasonal and grow nearby.

I think renting clothes and other things is also really helpful, or at least buying second hand. We luckily have a gem of a second hand shop around our corner and there are such great apps (like Vinted in Germany) that are full with really great clothes! I mostly use it for functional clothing or baby clothing (it is the best for silk-wool bodies etc.)

We also have switched our bank, this is such an easy way to make a difference, I think.

Last but not least we deleted our Amazon accounts – mostly because how they treat their staff, resellers and their kind of handling business but also because I believe that the future belongs (or should belong) to the smaller shops and not one giant company. Changing the way of consuming goods is such a relevant step, I personally think.

xx


Courtney in Australia
April 29, 2021

I love the idea of deleting your Amazon accounts! We used to use Amazon a lot when we lived in London, but since moving here to Australia, we haven’t used it (they only just came to Australia!). We too try to support our local shops whenever we can. And luckily for us, avocados and mangos are native fruits here! 🙂


Liv
April 28, 2021

Hi.

Just for Constanze, my kids LOVE blueberries but I’m in agreement with you tropical fruit in the UK is nuts in December. We buy frozen as a compromise. It means that at least they aren’t flown over from the tropics. We do the same with mangos and strawberries. If only blueberries do for weekly pancakes – at least is not quite as taxing.

A question for Courtney – does the leaf fit all the kids? We’re looking at electric cars but we’ve got a large family and are struggling to get one that fits 4 cars seats as all the kids are under 6.

One thing I would LOVE to be the new normal is no presents at kids parties. We’ve just had our first one for our 5 year old and received some lovely well intended gifts. However, my kid will definitely not play with them all, some were doubles and some we’ve already got. Obviously we can pass on etc… but I wish I could say “no presents please” and not make my son feel like he’s missing out because he brings gifts to others. Is it a circle we have to break? I guess it’s pretty community dependent.

Liv x


Constanze
April 29, 2021

Hi Liv,

yes, you’re so right about the frozen fruit, we do that, too. Especially with mangoes and berries.

I LOVE what you are saying about the birthday presents! I was shocked when a friend recently told me that her son (age 14) was invited to a birthday and the friend got 50€ from another kid (why??) – but also the more normal gifts are cluttering our world, I think. Maybe it would be possible to give a present as a group to the birthday child so there wouldn’t be so many small and “useless” gifts?
If we would share a community, I would happily start the gift revolution with you 🙂

Constanze
xx


Courtney in Australia
April 30, 2021

Hi Liv,
I totally agree with you on the no presents thing. One thing I’ve done before is to say something like ‘please no presents, but if you’d really like to give something, can you just give a favourite book’. Books are one of those things you can’t have too many of (well, within reason, I guess), and can always be easily donated or passed on.

To answer your question about the Leaf. No, it’s just a five-seater car. But we find that now that some of our kids are older, we are often only just with the three younger ones. We still have to drive our old minivan when we’re all together, but we drive the Leaf during the week and whenever we can. (Unfortunately, we can’t get away with having one car only, so we figured the second car should be electric.) The electric cars that fit 7 people are SO expensive, we are hoping that over time, they will become more affordable.


Kerry
April 29, 2021

Great tips! How do you fit all of you in the Leaf? We currently own one, but we are looking to switch to a different one since it’s going to get really crowded in the back seat when number three comes along.


Courtney in Australia
April 30, 2021

Hi Kerry,
Unfortunately, we don’t all fit! But we find that, now that our kids are older, we are often driving around just a few of them at a time. We still have our old minivan for family road trips or if we are all piling in to go to the beach, but for most of our driving, we are in the Leaf. (Unfortunately, we have to have two cars — we tried to just have one car, but it wasn’t possible living here in a country town.)


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Marianne
April 29, 2021

All great ideas! When we have leftovers or need to cover food in the refrigerator we use dishes as lids. Saucers on cereal bowls, sandwich plates on pasta/soup bowls or dinner plates on larger bowls. Because they sit flat we can stack also. Old undershirts, t-shirts and worn out towels of all kinds are cut up for rags for cleaning. If I have to clean something really gross I don’t mind throwing one away.


Eveline
April 29, 2021

What a great post!


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