Here at Blossom and Bear we are always trying to work out how we can love our planet and it's people better by making sustainable choices, the same applies to our family lives at home with our little ones. We still have a lot to learn so it's great to hear from other mums on their tips and tricks. Jenna (aka @zerowastemum) is passionate about navigating this at home with her family, so we asked her a few questions..
As a mum of three, life is already full and busy, so how would you encourage other parents in your position and stage of life to start to make realistic and sustainable choices? What worked for you?
We began making sustainable choices in 2017, when we moved house to an area that collected food waste. It sounds like a strange start but dividing up our bins meant that I could see clearly how much waste, in particular how much plastic, we were throwing away weekly. It started to not sit right with me; that we would be purchasing all these things wrapped in plastic, only to use that plastic just for a couple of days before throwing away. It just grew and grew from there.
If you’re looking to make sustainable changes but have no idea where to start, I would ask you; what is a trigger for you? For me, the triggers have changed so much over the years. At first, it was plastic. Then, it was the amount of carbon emissions it takes to put beef or lamb on our kitchen table. Next, it was the amount of micro plastics in clothing, but then — it was fast fashion all together, I found out how little garment workers are paid (0.6% of each item) and I couldn’t not make changes to my lifestyle.
Once you start to have an idea of what is not sitting right, then just start thinking about how you can make changes to help shift your lifestyle. Knowing the reason of ‘why’ is what motivates me to make the sustainable choice time and time again.
- We decided we didn’t want to throw away a mountain of disposable wipes, so we use reusable. When we used reusable cloth nappies with our 1-2 year old, we saved around 4-5 nappies a day going to landfill which is around 1,500 a year. That’s a motivator for me.
- I look to buy as much as I can from small businesses not only because of the quality, but to support individuals who have worked their socks off to create and sell something they are really passionate about. Knowing I’m giving my money straight into the hands of a business that is going to keep pursuing their passion is also a motivator.
What would you say have been the easiest switches you have been able to make as a young family and why?
There have been so many changes we’ve made to our lifestyle in the last 3 years, and many of them honestly feel like the easiest switches.
Because there are so many things to consider, especially in our homes, at first I just divided the task down. I looked at all the bathroom products we use, and tried to find plastic free alternatives, recycled paper toilet roll, natural make up, bar soaps.. etc. In the kitchen; it was all about what we put in the kitchen bin — and really simply, just trying to put less in it. Eating up our leftover food properly, buying less plastic, shopping locally and organically when I could. In our bedrooms; I really got fed up of getting bored of clothes, or seeing clothes fall apart so quickly. We have made a promise to ourselves to buy as much second hand as we can; preloved kids clothes, second hand toys, gifts for other children.
So many of these things are really easy to alter. It’s just a case of making new habits, which takes a bit of practise (like never leaving the house without shopping bags, a tupperware of snacks for the kids or a filled re-usable water bottle).
I’m out and about a lot with the buggy, which makes shopping locally really easy. We are conscious of not just the amount of plastic we buy, but also where food is produced and the ingredients in products. I also find that buying second hand is a real joy. When you find something amazing for a fraction of the original price it’s a buzz! My 5 year old son loves popping into the local charity shops to see if he can find a new box of Lego, and then I have a chance to get a quick look along the rails too.
Families tend to revolve around food a lot of the time! You have some great recipe ideas on your blog, could you recommend your favourite go-to’s and have you found any good alternatives to baby pouches and food-on-the-go options that mums always need to be armed with?
Since becoming more conscious of sustainability one of the biggest things we’ve changed is that we eat much less meat. There’s an amazing recipe book by Rachel Boyer called Little Veggie Eats (@littleveggieeats) which promotes meal times for the whole family. Her recipes are perfect not just for weaning but also eating together at the table as the children grow.
One amazing tip I learnt from Rachel... The brilliant reusable pouches and snack bags you can buy from @nomnomkids. They wash in the dishwasher so if you like making your own smoothies, purée etc - you can have it on the go with these pouches. We keep snack times super simple; veggie sticks, fruit cut up into tupperware, raisins. Occasionally I make a big carrot cake flapjack (recipe from @we_are_food, there’s a slightly altered version on my blog). Or, I just slap some 100% peanut butter on some sliced toast and snack time is sorted.
We keep meal times simple. We plan our meals ahead, eat together as a family as much as we can, save food that is leftover. We always make food from scratch too, not only because it’s better nutritionally, but it’s much easier to buy individual ingredients without so much packaging.
Cloth nappies and other baby-related products…which ones have for you proven the most effective in your effort to eliminate waste?
I would never ever go back to using disposable wipes ever again. Reusable cloth wipes are so easy and much nicer to use. Cloth nappies too are brilliant. Nappies take a bit of getting used to, (the options of what style to buy seems endless too!) I would recommend completing a questionnaire on thenappylady.co.uk to see what you might want to use. Then, if you manage only part time reusable at first, then that’s an amazing way to start cutting down waste, and you can work up from there.
I’ve also had to train my brain that I can just buy less. When I was pregnant with my first baby the lists my friends sent to me with “must have’s” were huge! I found I actually only needed half the stuff they recommended. I’ve had to train myself to not instantly reach for my debit card, but write my idea down - then if I’m still thinking about buying it a week/month later, I know I really need it. By that time, often a friend has offered to lend me theirs or I’ve realised I don’t need it after all. I can’t tell you how much waste is eliminated from just not buying something in the first place..!
Jenna’s top 5…if you can change up anything it should be these because…(the things that really have made the most difference to your family life.)
I feel like a year ago I would’ve had very ‘practical’ answers to this question. If you want that - there’s loads of information on my blog of where I started, simple swaps we began to make in our lives that transformed our ‘physical waste’. These 5 things are mindset changes.
- Realising that I have the power, as a consumer, to make decisions with my wallet that put money into good hands. This is supporting small businesses, local stores and ethical brands. By supporting companies that are doing good things, our investment has the power to make an impact beyond ourselves.
- When I learn something new about sustainability, making sure I put that learning into action! I don’t know about you, but I’m always learning new things, especially in the world of climate change. For example: when I learnt that beef and lamb have the biggest climate footprint per gram of protein, we stopped cooking with them. When I’ve been learning recently about racial injustice, I started to research and discover BIPOC companies that I can support.
- Talking about what I’m learning with those closest to me, my friends, family and colleagues. I can make a small impact on my own but I can be much more powerful as a multiplier. It doesn’t come from having thousands of followers on social media but behaviour change is much more likely to come from intimate connections.
- Life is a balancing act. (Especially when you have small children!) The changes we make in our family are sustainable, for us. That could look different for me than it does for you. Find a good balance, keep challenging yourself and make it last. This is a movement, not a moment.
- Being conscious. That is what sustainable living is all about? Being conscious that our actions have impact! We are aware that when we support a small business instead of Amazon, we are having a good impact. When we buy second hand clothes rather than fast fashion, we are having a good impact.
Things that most surprised/shocked you about making some of the changes you have?
The thing that has most surprised me is how starting to make one choice has led to another, then another, then another. When I begun my journey into sustainable living I thought I wanted to leave ‘less’ impact on the planet, but I’ve realised over time that actually I could actually help to leave a ‘better’ impact — this surprised me.
I feel like there are so many more changes I can make to live more sustainably, it’s a consistent challenge and I really enjoy the adventure.
Teaching your children to make good choices that impact the wider world, have you noticed changes in the way they think about waste?
Not really! They’re still so young. They know that different things go in different bins — and that’s great. We have a number of books that talk about the plastic crisis in our oceans, we chat a lot when we go food shopping about where food comes from and why we are making certain decisions. I just hope the consistent, gentle encouragement I can give them as they grow up helps them to be aware of how their decisions impact people all around the world, and that they can help make the world a better place.