Green Is Not a Parenting Style

I read a lot. Mainly fiction, but also autobiographies, anthropological studies, and books on sustainable living. And, since Tom was born, about parenting.

I tend to be drawn towards books and magazines that focus on being a ‘green’ parent. I subscribe to the Green Parenting Magazine, and I have recently been given two different books with ‘green parenting’ in the title (The Ultimate Guide to Green Parenting by Zion Lights and The No-Nonsense Guide to Green Parenting by Kate Blincoe). I read blogs by parents aiming for a more sustainable life.

Mostly, these books, magazine articles and blogs are good. Sometimes useful, sometimes funny, sometimes informative. But there is a worrying underlying assumption in many of them and it has been annoying me more and more as time goes on.

The assumption is this: that being a green parent means being an attachment parent.

It’s all over the place. Especially in the Green Parent magazine. This assumption that anyone who wants to take care of the environment must also want to breastfeed, co-sleep, and baby-wear. That you can’t want to live sustainably and also use time-outs. Even the Zion Lights book, which is not very long, dedicates the entire beginning chapter to telling people that they should take the attachment route. And never, ever, ever think of doing any kind of sleep training. (The Kate Blincoe book, incidentally, has a brief mention of baby-wearing but otherwise is refreshingly free of judgement on parenting style. Read it. It’s very good).

Now, if you’ve read my parenting posts before you will know I do some of these things with Tom. I own more slings than I should and aim for empathetic, gentle discipline over time-outs or scolding (not always successfully). But that is to do with how I feel most comfortable parenting and what works best for my family. It has nothing to do with wanting to be green. Being a green parent should be about trying to reduce your impact on the environment and teaching your kids to do the same. Recycling? Buying second hand clothes? Using cloth nappies? These are things I do which make me closer to being a green parent. Owning four slings? That doesn’t make me green, especially considering I also own a buggy. And I’d like to think the fact that Tom has never slept a single night in our bed doesn’t make me not green either. Nor does introducing a couple of bottles of formula a day when I went back to work when he was 6 months old (we already owned the bottles, proving breastfeeding is not always waste-free, and recycled the formula cartoons. We are still using the scoops as toys for water or sand play).

And that is my worry. That parents who want to reduce their impact on the planet, but who don’t (or can’t) breastfeed or baby-wear or co-sleep, might read these books and articles and be turned off the whole idea. Because it ends up being part of the realm of ‘that’ kind of parent. Which is ridiculous. We all need to think about what we use and what we throw away. Especially when we are raising the next generation. It has nothing to do with which parenting style you prefer and everything to do with being mindful of your choices and how they affect the world around you. And raising your kids to do the same.

So regardless of how you approach parenting, please don’t think you can’t also aim for a greener life. Because you do not have to be an attachment parent to be a green parent.

 

Life with Baby Kicks
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A Small Step to Greener Living

I have discovered something amazing! We have a milkman. We’ve lived in this flat for 2 and a half years and I had no idea we had a milkman. 

I only discovered this by chance – just before Christmas they came round all the flats in our street in the evening to try to attract new customers. Normally we wouldn’t have been home, but it was a bit drizzly, so Tom and I hadn’t stayed long in the park on our way home.

Not only do they deliver milk right to our doorstep, which is hugely convenient and helps keep some of our money out of the hands of the big supermarkets, but they use the proper glass bottles and collect them once a week to re-sterilise and resuse. So it is helping cut down our weekly waste as well.

And the company are a small family business that is based locally. And the milk is from a farm in nearby Essex. And they offer extras like organic free-range eggs and fresh juice.

I’m very pleased we were home in time to discover their service. Though slightly ashamed I had never thought to check if we had a local milkman at all…

Anyway, it’s another small step towards greener shopping habits. Every little helps and all that!

Declaring War on Household Waste

I’ve had a pretty busy week, so have only just had a chance to sit down and watch Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s latest show, Hugh’s War on Waste (although I have to confess that part of the reason for the delay is that I was expecting to find it on Channel 4 with the old River Cottage episodes). After tackling battery hens and overfishing, it’s no surprise that H F-W has turned his attention to the endemic issue of waste in our consumerist society. It’s a huge topic to cover, and the first episode felt a little jumpy as a result, but is also an issue that is very close to my heart, so I’m really pleased to see it getting the attention it deserves.

While there are lots of other reasons I’m so keen that Tom grow up spending time outdoors, one of the major ones is that our wasteful society is putting the environment at risk. We have to raise our kids to value nature, so that they will have a reason to fight for it.

Outdoor play is just one way I’m hoping to raise Tom to think about his impact on the world around him. We try to model ethical choices in our day-to-day lives – recycling; buying second hand, fair trade or recycled products; buying less generally; being mindful of gas/electrical use and, most of all, trying to reduce our household waste.

Luckily, our local council, Waltham Forest, is really hot on recycling. In fact, they deserve a huge shout out for this – I’ve never lived somewhere that recycles so many different materials (and I’ve lived in quite a few places, including Bristol, which is known to be a ‘green’ minded city). We actually don’t have a big ‘black’ bin in the flat; our main bin is a recycling bin and it is where about 95% of our household waste goes. We also have a brown bin for food and garden waste, and handy biodegradable liners for our kitchen caddy arrive free through the letter box every few months. The small remaining amount that can’t go in either of these bins goes in one of the small bins in the bathroom or our bedroom. I only have to empty these once every three months, if that. Tom is in cloth nappies, which helps massively with this.

Food waste, with an occasionally fussy toddler in the house, can be a bit more of an issue. I have been known to finish up scraps that haven’t been pre-chewed, but we do still end up putting some bits in the brown bin. I have a strong stomach but even I can’t face reusing food that has been in Tom’s mouth. Instead, we have to reduce food waste by making sure we aren’t chucking out food that has gone bad before we have a chance to eat it.

Since I went back to work when Tom was 6 months old, I’ve tried to be very organised with our grocery shop, both to save us money and to make sure we aren’t wasting food. We get our veg via a veg box scheme (ours is from Riverford), which delivers fresh, organic, seasonal fruit and veg to our door once a week. For the rest, I sit down every couple of weeks and do a two-week meal plan. We get this delivered, as I would otherwise have to drive to the shop, which would be less fuel efficient than having it delivered in a van with a bunch of other people’s deliveries. It’s also a lot easier than dragging a toddler around the store for a big shop. Doing the shop every two weeks, rather than every week, also cuts down on the fuel used in getting it to us. Since the bag tax came in, I’m pleased to say the amount of plastic bags arriving each fortnight has also decreased dramatically (we reuse any that do come, or return them to the store).

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When the shop arrives, I put away dry goods and sort the fresh food into two piles – freezer and fridge – depending on when we plan on using it and how long it is likely to last in the fridge. I plan meals so that several dinners will be made in bulk, and the excess makes up my lunches at work, Tom’s dinner the next day (usually before seasoning is added), or goes into the freezer for later use. We generally get through most of the veg box each week (we only get a small one). Any veg that looks like it might not get used goes into a stew or soup, or to bulk up a mince dish, and fruit is stewed down and added to yoghurt for desserts.

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Sharp eyes will notice the cauliflower leaves sticking out of our kitchen caddy. I have no idea how to use them. Any thoughts very welcome…

Although there is a lot we do to manage our food waste, we could definitely be doing more. After watching Hugh’s War on Waste, I plan to use fruit that is past its best in smoothies as well as stewing it. We will also have a ‘eat up day’ at least once or twice in every fortnight, where I don’t plan a meal but use up store cupboard ingredients and fresh food that is on the turn (we already have ‘freezer’ days which are to eat up meals from the freezer). I’ve already stopped peeling most veg – carrots, potatoes, sweet potato and the like are now just getting a good scrub before going in the pan. I could probably be making more stock with odds and ends of veg, chicken bones and other leftovers.
What about you, have you been inspired to cut down on your household waste? Share your tips.