• Sophie Smith

What can a mother do about climate change?

As a mum, all the talk of climate change and global warming is really hitting me hard as I think about what kind of future my children and grandchildren will have. Sometimes I feel frustrated that I can’t be out on the streets, fighting for real change - like demanding that Cyril tells us why we are so dependent on coal-burning Eskom and not utilising our amazing solar energy potential in South Africa. But there is a season for everything, and right now, I’m doing the best I can with my kiddos, and so I am trying to make the important changes at home. These are some things that we do to try and make a change, the last one is my favourite:

1. Cloth nappies

There really aren’t many good reasons to not use cloth nappies. Parents have been dealing with their children’s poop and pee for thousands of years, but suddenly in the last few decades, we have decided that it is more convenient to just throw it in the trash for someone else to deal with. Those nappies never die! They will stick around to haunt your children and grandchildren. Call me dramatic but according to the calculations on the SACNU website, there are 10 471 541 nappies thrown away each day in South Africa. What a shocker.

And I’ll be honest - two of those 10 471 541 nappies come from my family because night nappies just don’t work for us - but we do our best to use cloth nappies during the day and it is such a part of our lives, I can’t imagine not using them. There is the most amazing and supportive Cloth nappy Facebook community that I highly recommend if you are considering making the change.

It's about the rubbish, but it's also about instilling the principle in our children that waste doesn't just disappear, we need to start dealing with our shit and taking personal responsibility for the waste we produce and our impact on the earth.

2. Say no to plastic

This is such a tough one because plastic is so quick, easy, cheap and convenient. We are certainly not getting these all right but it’s where we are aiming:

  • Plastic toys - this is a big one for us. Plastic toys are cheap but always end up getting broken and thrown away at some point, which means a landfill or the ocean. Wooden toys can last for generations, not to mention that they are biodegradable. I have just set a rule - no plastic toys - and it really helps in spur of the moment decision making and my children already know it's not worth begging me to buy plastic toys. You can let your friends and family know too so that you don't get unwelcome plastic gifts.

  • Plastic bags - did you know that Kenya banned all single use plastic bags and using them meant prison time or a whopping great fine? Let’s call for the same in South Africa.

  • Plastic packaging - there is nothing that makes me feel more guilty that throwing polystyrene (which can’t be recycled) into the bin. I have a friend who takes the cling wrap and polystyrene tray off his veggies, and leaves them at the shop. I think we should start a protest movement like this, is anyone in?

  • Cosmetics & toiletries - recently I did a big spring clean and threw away a lot of old cosmetics and toiletries - all in horrible plastic bottles. Now to find affordable, natural products that are sold in glass, even better if we could get refills of our favourite products.

  • Litter - this seems to small, but let’s start picking up litter. Lexi is obsessed and makes me pick up all sorts of gross things and pop them in a bin.

3. Hand-me-down clothes

Did you know that the United Nations estimates that 10% of total global emissions come from the fashion industry? The textile industry produces 1.2 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas every year. Not to mention the raw materials, toxic dyes, plastic microfibres that pollute rivers and oceans, and pesticide use.

Ok my children love to be naked, but we do need clothes. We have a wonderful network of mums who give us hand me downs, and who we give our old clothes too. And once they are all done, they go to various orphanages or safe homes.

There are times when we don’t have what we need from the hand me downs, especially for Finn, and so we need to hit the shops. But I am learning that it can make a huge difference to buy from small, local businesses (we love Roseibee and Annapatat Kids), or companies that are very transparent and striving to be environmentally progressive and sustainable, like Cotton On.

4. Eat less meat and animal products

Am I telling you to become a vegan? Well that would be amazing. But I am just asking to you branch out from your usual meal repertoire which, if it’s anything like mine used to be, revolves around meat, and try some new vegan or veggie meals. Find a few winners and include them in your weekly meal routine. The more you cook them, the less you will rely on meat for a meal. I have a blog post with a few basic ideas which we regularly use in our home.

The biggest culprits for global warming are cows who produce so much methane. If you have to eat meat, chickens are a far more environmentally friendly option, or venison.

And please don’t tell me that your husband will insist on meat. I dare you to look him in the eyes and tell him that his children need a future on this beautiful planet more than he needs meat every day.

5. Instil a love for nature

This is by far the most wonderful and exciting part of motherhood for me: teaching my kids to love this world we live in. You see there’s no point in scaring them with ideas of impending doom. If you teach your children to love our planet, then they will protect what they love. We have a huge responsibility to influence the way to next generation see our world - a resource to exploit or a treasure to protect. Imagine if Donald Trump’s mother had taught him to value the natural world.

There are so many books out there, I’ve recently read a wonderful one called How to Raise a Wild Child by Scott D Sampson. He suggests that there are three essential elements:

  • Experience - regular time in nature, even if it’s just a back yard or a park.

  • Mentorship - your role as a mentor, a co-adventurer and a discoverer is absolutely vital.

  • Understanding - children can be very disconnected from the world - we are so dependant on it though - for oxygen, drinking water, food, bacteria and so much more. We need to make the deep connection to the earth a reality for our children.

I've written a lot more about this with some practical ideas in my blog about Raising Little Nature Lovers.

Motherhood is not easy - there's so much to keep our hands and minds busy - from meal planning, to work demands, to cuddles. From mastitis to lunchboxes and the school run, the fatigue, and always trying being emotionally available for our kids and trying our best not to screw up this parenting thing. Sometimes it just feels like a bit to much to worry about the fate of the world too. I hope that these can be a few practical steps that you can start to take so that we can ensure that our kids have a future on this beautiful planet.

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© 2019 Sophie Smith