I sometimes have fantasies about how simple life would be if we lived in a world like Little House on the Prairie; wearing soft cotton nightgowns, running through the long, gently swaying grass of the prairie early in the morning to fill up our water pails, eating food that's been completely homemade from scratch … Oh, that's right, they scrubbed their dirty clothes with bare, chapped hands against washboards, then boiled them in a cauldron over an open flame to soak out the stains... Let's just forget that bit, shall we? I guess it's the family values, quality of life, and the simplicity of living that I really covet.
While our forebears still had taxes and mortgages, they didn't have the temptation of rampant consumerism that we have today, or finance companies bombarding them with offers of quick cash. In those days, there was never a mention of global warming or environmental change. Is it possible that regressing to a simple life is the solution to saving our planet? Well, it may be a stretch, but we can only but try. Here are ten ideas that I think will help save our precious planet and also help you to have quality family time along the way.
1. Hoof it!
Pull out the pram and go for a walk with your child. Our New Zealand weather can be unpredictable at the best of times, but when fine skies beckon, seize the moment. Walking to the shops, to playgroup, or to the library will save petrol, save money, burn calories and give you and your little one a much-needed change of scenery. And the sunlight will do you both good.
2. Make the most of new technology
You don’t need to go overboard with all the latest technological toys and gadgets, but there are some incredibly useful online tools that will simplify your life no end.
3. Be resourceful
If you, your partner, or a close friend works in an office, ask for the leftover
printer paper that is being discarded. Use this for your children's drawing paper. Some local newspapers may have leftover unprinted newsprint to give away or sell, and this is fantastic for making large-scale masterpieces or murals.
Breastfeeding is free! It's nutritious and excellent for your baby. If you are able to breastfeed, give it a go - you could potentially save over $2000 a year.
5. Make your own food from scratch
Your family's health is too important to serve them up a constant stream of frozen meals and tinned goods. Young children love fresh vegetables boiled up and mashed with some milk and a little bit of butter. For dessert, try some stewed or fresh fruit. You will save money, eliminate packaging from store-bought products, and avoid those nasty additives and preservatives.
6. Buy secondhand
Recycling is not only about discarding appropriately, it's also about extending the life of pre-loved items. Someone has cared enough about something for it to find its way into a secondhand boutique instead of a landfill, and now it awaits another owner who will love it just as much. This has the added bonus of keeping costs down. There are loads of great ideas out there to help you decorate children’s rooms that are not only economically friendly, but environmentally friendly as well.
7. Encourage reading
Utilise your local library. They have an abundance of books and children love
visiting them. They can choose any book they want (with your guidance, of course) and not be told it's "too expensive."
8. Grow your own
Gardening is an amazing way to channel frustrations while getting in touch with your environment. Introducing this ancient skill to your children at an early age will stand you both in good stead for many years to come. Teach them how to sow a seedling, water and nurture it, and watch it grow. Set it up in a trough or pretty pot near the door so it's easy for you both to check on its progress.
9. Get creative
Ninety percent of the families I’ve worked with as de-clutterer have an overabundance of craft supplies. These are usually scattered all around the house, and parents often buy more of the same stuff because they doesn't realise they already have it. If this sounds like you, gather up all your art and craft supplies, sort like with like, discard (responsibly) the broken, and store the keepers in containers where you can easily access them.
10. Go organic
Children don't need a lot of pretty-smelling products on their young bodies. They'll get more than enough of this when they hit their tweens! Check out organic products for your children and yourself too. If you can't say the words on an ingredient list, do you really want to be using it?
Adapted from an article by Michelle Denholm