Sustainable Living That Helps Cut Family Outgoings


When fellow mother Jenny R. posted here on the Mamazou blog how “Parenting is so much easier when I was raising my non-existent kids hypothetically,” it elicited mixed emotions. The truth is, parenting is a journey that will take you by surprise, even when you think you’re fully prepared.

In my case, I had dreams of building an entirely sustainable house running on solar and wind energy, with a garden for growing produce and a bike I can take everywhere. I thought everything was well planned, right down to the colors of the walls in my children’s future energy-efficient rooms. What I hadn’t planned for was actually taking care of my child, an ordeal that took up a lot of my time, energy, and money.

Eight years and two kids later, I’m happy to say that the pieces for my sustainable family living plans have come together. While my home is still far from generating enough power for its own energy needs, my husband and I have built a life of sustainability, simplicity, and meaning that we aim to impart to our son and daughter. Not only does this help cut back on unnecessary expenses, it also helps ensure a good world where my children can grow old in.

Teaching by example
The first lesson in sustainable family living is that it starts from small actions, like the easy practices enumerated by Time Magazine which are good for the earth and your budget. From showing your kids how to segregate trash and bringing your own water bottle and shopping bags on days out, children stand to gain a wealth of knowledge on what it means to be sustainable.

Most children are naturally curious about the world around them. They usually ask questions about why segregation is vital and take pride in brandishing their own water jugs instead of buying bottled water. These are consistent with the results of a study published on Education Inquiry, which reveals that even preschool children are able to learn about the environmental, social and economic aspects of sustainability from parents and teachers.

Designing family life
However, sustainability doesn’t end with reusable grocery bags and segregating trash – it’s all about designing an environmentally responsible and frugal family life that works for you.

For instance, I’ve let go of my dream to bike everywhere I go while living in the suburbs, since my neighborhood simply wasn’t designed for cycling. We have a car that has high fuel efficiency, which is used once in a while for long-haul trips. I do, however, bike with my children to school everyday, which has benefits for the environment, everyone’s emotional wellbeing, and my wallet.??

Even in what we wear, there are advantages to investing in sustainable garments that may not be as cheap to pay for up front, but are durable and won’t need to be replaced every few years. The Huffington Post relayed the sentiments of Kate Pietrasik who founded the unisex children’s clothing label Tootsa, and noted that becoming a parent fuelled her passion for the environment and ensuring a better world for her child. She says, “When I began Tootsa I knew that I wouldn't be happy unless each garment was carefully designed and made to a very high standard, that the clothes were practical as well as stylish and would last the test of time.” This fashion movement led me to invest in clothes that both my son and daughter could use for a long time, and to be more responsible in what my husband and I choose to wear.

Technology and stewardship
I’ve had more than my share of funny looks from family and friends who seem to think sustainable living means saying no to all forms of technology and growing your own crops. While the latter is partly true – my children and I have a small vegetable patch on which we grow tomatoes, lettuce, and garlic – technology remains a part of our everyday life. The difference is that sustainable family living entails a conscious decision over how you let technology and apps shape your daily life. Not being overly reliant on technology means you won't have to purchase gadgets and appliances as much.

Indeed, sustainable family living is less about what people choose to discard – such as technology, fast food, and Styrofoam packaging – but ultimately about what they choose for themselves, which is stewardship. As much as my husband and I are stewards of our children, our children are also stewards of the future, and it is important that the world we leave behind is a place they can live and thrive in.??In this way, sustainable living isn’t just some hippie trend for parents, but a necessary endeavor for all of us today.