Balancing family life with environmental impact

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Balancing family life with environmental impact 1

As a family we’re really concerned about the environment. Our children are worried, and we are too. We’re not perfect in any way, but we try to do as much as we can, but like everyone it’s a balance. Sometimes we find ourselves slipping and have to get back on track. Life gets in the way. But it’s important to us to  to be as sustainable as we can. We’re trying to make a difference little by little.

Food

We’ve set up some habits that are helping us have less impact on the environment. One thing is meat reducing by eating a more flexitarian diet, but there are lots of things we can do, and lots of easy mid week dinners that we can make plant based with some simple swaps. The less meat we eat, the easier and more automatic it is to not eat meat, so I can see us doing more and more.

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  • Eat vegan or meat free meals on Meat Free Monday plus at least one more day. We either eat things that are by default vegan, or by swapping like for like with plant based items. We eat the Move Over Meat Revolution burger. It’s the best vegan burger we’ve found and we’ve just swapped for our previous meat based burger, in a bun, with wedges, or with rice and salad.
  • Buying better quality meat from our local butcher. It’s been produced locally, has no added water, and has not been intensively farmed. It’s also got low food miles. It is more expensive though so we need to make it go further, which is another reason for cutting down on meat, so we have it rarely.
  • Bulk out dishes with vegetables and pulses to make them more plant based meals. I made a batch of cassoulet with vegan sausages and some chicken, and when I served the kids’ meals there was one piece of chicken each (about 3cm cubed!) and the rest was pulses and vegetables. Next time I’ll not bother with the meat.
  • Eat in season. We have access to an allotment so have regular gluts of many things and use/freeze them.
  • Make use of our freezer, we batch cook and freeze. I freeze veg bits for stock, and always freeze leftovers, so when we’re short of time we can defrost things in the fridge overnight, then next day we’re ready to go with an easy week day dinner
  • Meal planning and using leftovers – for example a chicken, 5 sausages, a punnet of mushrooms, an onion and store cupboard ingredients last week made us 16 meals (a roast, sandwich, soup, bubble & squeak, fried rice, stock for soup)

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Travel

We walk or use our bikes whenever we can for local journeys, although we do have two cars, my husband’s car is a hybrid and most of his journeys are on electric power. I’ve recently got a much smaller car that uses far less fuel, and I’ve also reduced my mileage. We’re both working from home regularly and it’s working out well for us. The children walk to and from school at least two days a week, and on the other days we try and use the ‘park and stride’ at our local supermarket, but we do use the car, because I need to be at work straight after dropping them off.

We don’t fly very often at all. Our children are 10 and 8 and have flown twice (shorthaul). The vast majority of our holidays and breaks are in the UK. In the last 10 years we’ve been to Cornwall (7 times and again this year), Scotland, Cumbria, Norfolk, Devon, Suffolk, Northumberland, London. There’s so much to see and do in the UK we’ve still got so much to explore.

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Plastic and recycling

Although we use a lot of homegrown produce, we still buy from the supermarket. We make sure the fruit and veg from the supermarket is loose rather than plastic packed wherever possible, and I’ve bought some of the reusable bags we can take with us.  We’ve switched to glass jars rather than plastic for things like mayonnaise, and we reuse the jars to store ingredients and food (overnight oats in a jam jar is lovely).  We take lunch to work and school and use mostly re-usable containers for this. We’re trying not to use cling film so when things go in the fridge its in a glass bowl with a plate over.

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Obviously we use our own shopping bags, and re-use any plastic bags we do end up with. I am terrible at remembering a bag (its not hard is it?!) but my handbag is big and I can carry a lot as I refuse to get a plastic bag.  We buy cheap wrapping paper or brown paper for presents so it can be recycled, and try to use string and ribbon -I like how it looks! We do have a massive stash of gift bags we’ve been given by other people, and recently moved house so we have a load of tissue paper that I’ve flattened and kept, so use that in the gift bags.

I love it when I find a new product that has plastic free packaging. Move over meat has no plastic packaging so the cardboard box gets flattened and goes straight in the recycling.

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We recycle as much as we can. Our non-recycling rubbish is collected fortnightly, but we can easily go four weeks without filling the wheelie bin. Our council (East Riding of Yorkshire Council) is brilliant at waste management and our garden waste and all food waste (even cooked food) is composted and is given back out to residents for use on their gardens.

We recently renovated an old house and we’ve reused as much as we can – roof tiles and doors have been refurbished and used again. We even lifted the floor tiles in the original kitchen and relayed them. We gave away lots of materials to people who could use them for things like sheds on their allotments. Because the house is essentially new now it’s incredibly well insulated, so our gas use should reduce.

Clothes are where it gets harder… We try to buy better quality and buy things that will last. I’ve had lots of great stuff from our local charity and second hand shops; a Jaeger mac, Laura Ashley coats, silk dresses, LK Bennet boots – it’s worth having a look when I drop stuff off. My husband doesn’t buy much, and when he does it lasts. My daughter likes to wear my son’s old clothes (which is lucky!).  I try not to buy man made fibres, and stick to cotton mainly, or linen (but hate the ironing) and try to make sure I look out for the Better Cotton Initiative. We wash only when needed, and air items between wears.  We do have a tumble drier but rarely use it – we have a ceiling mounted airer that dries clothes quickly, and use two washing lines when the clothes wont freeze on the line. I do mend things that can be used more too, either with a sewing machine or by hand.

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I don’t like using lots and lots of different products in different plastic bottles, so stick to some tried and tested favourites. I make a multi surface spray with water, washing up liquid and a little zoflora and use this on most things. I use soda crystals, baking soda, lemons, vinegar. But do still use bleach (I have a 10 year old son…).

We tend to buy good quality and make it last – bedding, towels, furnishings. They tend to wear out not be thrown out, and we’ve got a lot of second hand furniture in our home too. All our lightbulbs are energy saving, mostly now LED.

Working on a brand like Move Over Meat is brilliant as I get to find out about all the sustainable options we have, and try them out. Its been so easy to do most of these things, and once they’re habits we can look at some more change. It is a balance though, we’ve got busy lives and no one is perfect. But I do think we are trying to make a difference, and live a more sustainable lifestyle, consciously.