Simple ways to be more sustainable as a family

Want to ditch the plastic and ‘be sustainable’ but don’t know where to start? Feeling overwhelmed by what you need to change to be a good global citizen? It seems that everything we eat, drink, wear, drive and buy is all wrong these days but fear not. You can unleash your inner Eco-hero by following a few small steps to get everyone in your house on the pathway to sustainability in no time.

Firstly, ask yourself WHY you want to be more sustainable or WHY you want your kids to be more sustainable. Also, ask your children WHY sustainability is so important. If you can answer that question honestly and really think about the answer, that’s the first step in your journey.

Do you want to save the planet because you believe it is the right thing to do? Maybe you’ve always been a kick ass environmental warrior but life and the need for convenience got in the way? Do you believe you are part of the bigger picture sharing this amazing planet with nature and all its awesome creatures because you are also pretty amazing and feed off its energy? Or maybe you don’t think about it too deeply but know we need to start making changes because this plastic environmental thing has gotten out of hand?

The more you ask and remind yourselves why the more conscious and mindful of your behaviours you’ll become. (Tip: Repeat again and again for several decades until desired result is achieved).

Secondly, I follow a few hard and fast environmental guidelines for my family which you might want to consider introducing. I have focused on my plastic tips here because that’s the topic of my most recent children’s book The Eco-heroes and the Plastic Planet but there are loads of practical ideas I can share on other topics if you want to get in touch. (Don’t get me started on veganism. Finally, my audience has arrived.…..)

My guidelines are hard because you might not like them, your family might not like them and they may be hard to implement, so your family might not like you. (Excellent!) However, don’t forget we have an enormous job to do to get our climate back on track. There’s no time to waste so that’s why these rules are fast. If you start following them quickly, then you will be making some of the changes needed to protect our planet’s future and that’s the aim of the game here. You will also know that you are doing your absolute best to be more sustainable, fight climate change, be a role model and be your most amazing self. (Top Tip: Ensure family members think these changes are their ideas so you can skip the part where they give you endless hassle and grief for foisting your beliefs upon them!)

My guide for reducing family plastic:

  • Stop buying straws and juice boxes. They are great for the lunchboxes and kids love them, but no one needs them.
  • Install water filters so you can fill up your own water bottles and keep them in the fridge. It’s easy, cost-effective and totally works. Also, no more need for those ugly big bottle dispensers in the kitchen. (Check out Liquid of Life).
  • Stop buying cling film. Use aluminium foil instead and label if you really have to. Foil still keeps food fresh and it has more chance of having been recycled and being recycled again than cling film.
  • No more balloons. Balloons do NOT biodegrade. They are celebratory, fun and we have an emotional attachment but they are polluting our skies and oceans at an alarming rate. Foil balloons are no better because they need helium which is a depleting resource. If you have to have balloons, then dispose of them responsibly.
  • No more glitter. You can buy BIO glitter which does not pollute our environment and there are some awesome adult glitters too if it tickles your fancy.
    Refuse to accept plastic cutlery and cartons in your food deliveries. (Tell the restaurant first before they deliver!) Also, re-usable sporks are the way to go when you are out and about. I have a fancy one from which I strap to my handbag.
  • Ditch bags in the supermarket. Keep re-usable shopping bags in every handbag, car, gym bag possible, but if you have to use a plastic bag (it happens) then reuse it as many times as you can. Choose loose fruit and veg. You do not need to have a bag for every item in your trolley.
  • Say no to sequins and plastic stuff stuck to clothes. (YES, that covers almost every t-shirt in the children’s section!) If you already have these on your clothes, wash them in a guppy bag from our ocean conservation partners, Azraq to catch the microfibres from manmade materials ending up in our seas.
  • Refuse, recycle, reduce and re-use as much as possible. It is so nouveau riche to have everything new these days anyway.
  • Do realise this is a journey and you will make mistakes, but keep trying and being a fantastic example to your friends and family. Be the best you can be as often as you can – that doesn’t mean perfect. You know yourself how much of an effort you are making towards a more sustainable future. And you know deep down what you need to do, even if you don’t like it.

Thirdly, buy and read my books (or borrow them from someone else). The Eco-heroes Recycling Trip Trouble, The Eco-heroes Fight For Food and The Eco-heroes and The Plastic Planet are based on 5 children in the UAE. They highlight climate change, address the UN Sustainable Development Goals and are created, written, illustrated (by the very talented Leona Collins) and printed locally on recycled paper with vegetable inks. The books are available in English and Arabic and are a fun, relevant way for kids to learn some really important environmental messages while having a good laugh. The aim is to empower them to make the best choices for themselves and the planet whilst inspiring them to make a difference. They are available from and at Magrudys bookstores. Every one of us has the ability to unleash our inner fabulous selves and be the Eco-heroes we were born to be. Just do it!

Written by Colette Barr, founder of Save Our World and author of The Eco-heroes book series

Read more:

Where to find natural, ethical and organic cosmetics in Dubai

Organic farms to visit in the UAE

How British mums can adopt a greener lifestyle in Dubai

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