Becoming a more ethical family

Living “green” often involves a departure from convenience: it involves a shift from “mindlessly” grabbing whatever we need (or don’t need!), whenever we need it to planning ahead a bit, making responsible choices about what we buy, and in a mindful way. “What a faff!” some might say; “I don’t have time for that!”

There is some truth in this – we know as a busy family that time is precious and a transition from unsustainable living to a more ethical approach cannot happen overnight. However, given time, it is possible – hurrah! Last year, we ran a competition to win a family photoshoot and asked the question: “Tell us what makes you more ethical as a family?”  One of our respondents shared a great tip about reducing plastic in their lives by switching one item each month so as to bed it into their lives.

We’re also on this journey to be a more ethical family (and business) – and we have a long way to go (we certainly don’t preach from plastic-free high horses!) We were so inspired by the wonderful, creative initiatives of our competition entrants: reusable tea bags? Yes please!!

Inspired and motivated by our competition entrants, here are a few simple ideas for you to try, should you make the choice to live as a more sustainable and ethical family.

1) Reduce Plastic

I’m sure everyone has seen the state of the ocean around the world and knows how single use plastic is changing the face of our marine life. So why not challenge yourself to notice when single use plastic appears in your shopping basket and see what you can do to avoid it. Rather than buying three onions from the local supermarket wrapped in plastic, visit your local farm shop or greengrocer and buy as many as you want with no plastic. Bring your own reusable cup to coffee shops; keep reusable bags handy; opt for gifts without cellophane wrap, etc.  

We’re planning our little girl’s party at the moment and have been sourcing biodegradable balloons (which must be composted responsibly as can still pose a risk to wildlife if they float off), wooden cutlery, recyclable cups and plates. The plastic stuff is cheaper but just think that we seem to be shipping our landfill waste abroad and out of our hands. Then it ends up in the rivers and seas of the world killing the animals – is that fair?

We’re also substituting plastic from other areas of our lives, including in the bathroom. Plastic-free shampoo, conditioner, soap, mouthwash and razors are now in our bathroom alongside bamboo toothbrushes (and they all look so stylish!!)

For lots of choice and inspiration, check out the fantastic north west website: http://www.Plasticfreedom.co.uk

Being an ethical family

2) Reduce Fuel Use

Looking for things to do as a family? Can you keep it local? Can you avoid needing to use a car or even public transport? That way you stop the emissions getting into the atmosphere. It’s also healthier for the whole family to walk somewhere.

You could also consider buying electric vehicles. It is happening! Electric cars and motorbikes are becoming more and more popular. Yes, the infrastructure still needs lots of work but the government has set out plans for electric vehicles and their future.

If you live in a place as we do with lots of terraced housing and no driveways, consider asking your workplace to put electric charge points in. There are bursaries available for workplaces that make the cost of a point very reasonable. Once in place, the workforce can charge during the day and the space can be rented out in the evenings and weekends.

In the meantime, you could also look into being a more ethical family by offsetting your carbon emissions; something LLG photography are planning on doing from next year. 

3) Buy local and grow your own

Supporting local cafes, shops and businesses is an easy way to be more ethical and sustainable. Too many of the big companies seem not to care about ethics and would rather get more pounds in the bank. Putting your money into the local community helps with their survival and more locals can be encouraged to set up shop in your area if they know there is supportive local commerce. 

You don’t need a big garden to grow some of your own fruit and vegetables. Strawberries, tomatoes, raspberries, potatoes, peppers, herbs and others are easily grown in pots and planters. Kids love picking fruit from their garden so it also becomes another way of encouraging your kids to be part of a more ethical family.

We have a local group who have used ‘spare’ council land in parks, by the library and next to council buildings to plant herbs and vegetables that are free for the community to use. Isn’t that a simple yet beautiful idea!?

4) In the house

All the big supermarkets stock more ethical products for your house. Companies like Ecover and Ecozone make just about every household cleaning solution and do their part to help the environment, whether it be their sourcing, their technology or their commitment to sustainability you can make a difference by buying their products as opposed to the slightly cheaper alternatives.

Their products still come in plastic bottles, however. Ecover is using ocean plastic to create their bottles of certain products and many places and markets now offer refills rather than buying more plastic. Near us, we have a couple of options: The Echo Stall at Altrincham Market and the Macctastic stall at the Treacle Market in Macclesfield where stall holders are doing their part to help out with simple, everyday products. Options are limited at times but, again, every little helps (thanks, Tesco!).

Nappies and wipes! If you have a young family then consider just how many nappies you use. The majority of nappies are not biodegradable and take around 400 years to decompose! The same is true for wipes. So when you put your dirty nappy in a non-biodegradable nappy bag it will stay like that. The stuff inside will decay and disappear but the nappy, wipes and bag will not. 

There are many more ethical nappies, wipes and bags available now but look for the fully biodegradable ones. For example, Naty, Kit and Kin, and Mum & You all make nappies that are as eco-friendly as possible but are not fully biodegradable. Beaming Baby make a nappy that is over 77% biodegradable so take a look at their site. We use Mum & You wipes which are 100% biodegradable (and bloody good as well!). You can also buy washable bamboo wipes and breast pads for breastfeeding mums (which are so much softer than the disposable ones).

For the first year of our daughter’s life, we used reusable nappies. Yes, it means lots of washing but the only parts getting thrown away are biodegradable liners in biodegradable bags. When our new one arrives in October the reusable nappies will be out in force! Check out http://www.thenappylady.co.uk for a comparison of real nappies out there. We, personally, have bought from Little Lamb Nappies and they have been amazing. I actually can’t wait to be using them again!

5) Educate

Having worked in education for the last 18 years how we teach our kids about the future of the planet is so important. There are so many wonderful documentaries out there (like Blue Planet 2) that we can watch with our kids. We can support their (and our own) understanding by getting involved in activities and reading articles with them that highlight and address the effect humans have on animals and plants. One of our competition entrants shared this: “We talk to our eldest son about the environment, our impact on wildlife as humans and how he can help make simple changes like turning off a tap and he knows the recycling system pretty well!!”

Schools have a big part to play, businesses have their role and councils can do more. There is great work being done by local pressure groups to change villages and towns. We are friends of Transition Bollington aimed at raising awareness of how a small town like ours can make simple but important changes. Why don’t you do an internet search for your local town? I’d almost guarantee that something is happening right now and you might not even be aware.

Can you be a more ethical family?

The hardest thing about any of these ideas is thinking “what’s the point, we are just one family”. Yes, you are. But all it takes is you telling your friends what you’ve tried to do and modelling more conscious decisions. Then they tell their friends. Before you know it, one family becomes five families. Five becomes twenty. Twenty becomes a whole village. As one competition entrant said:

“Embrace ethical spirit by being good and thoughtful community members and neighbours who are willing to help in whatever little ways we can”

We can’t hope that everybody will change what they do with the hope of being a more ethical family. It can be more expensive and take more planning which is never easy with a family. All we can hope is that we can make small changes and affect things at a council level and then a government level. We need to take care of our own family first and build from there.

These are just our thoughts on how to be a more ethical family. We’d love to hear your ideas for more ethical and sustainable living so go ahead and inspire us in the comments below.

If you are getting married soon and you are planning to have a more ethical wedding then check out our blog post all about that!