Taking the stress out of going green

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Photo by Phil Barnes

It was an identity crisis moment. Sitting sobbing on the bedroom floor with a crying baby and another soiled cloth nappy that had splurged all over the baby, carpet and me. I’d had enough. I was obviously a terrible mother and now the eco-warrior in me had died too. Pass the disposables, sod the planet I was just trying to get through the day.

My baby’s bottom shrank overnight as the bulky reusable sat in the corner glaring at me and the slim, weird smelling disposables changed the way my child felt to cuddle. It had just been too hard; the cloth nappies had not fitted properly and I’d run out of the cash and will to do anything about it.

Then that good old parental favourite, guilt, jumped on to my back like a big ugly monster, taunting me with phrases like ‘those nappies will never biodegrade you know’ and ‘you are condemning your child’s planet to be a landfill site’. Still, my baby was happy and I gradually found my way through those early crazy months. I did feel sad though, not to be in the green parent tribe.

Once the brain fog had reduced I realised it wasn’t so black and white. There are in fact at least 50 shades of green. Anyone who has ever written a birth plan knows that from the very start, parenthood is about compromise and constantly reviewing your expectations. So what if I wasn’t using cloth nappies, there was so much I was doing right.

I found a green lifestyle that would make my family life better, happier and healthier, not worthy, guilt-filled and exhausted. This meant changing things that would benefit us and letting fun and family activity be the guide. I learnt that with the right information, even cloth nappies could have been easy, but hair shirts and hand-knitted muesli would be strictly banned.

Here are my top seven ways to be greener, happier and healthier without the stress:

  1. Make intelligent swaps.

That means using British grown rapeseed oil instead of imported olive oil to save carbon, whilst enjoying the bonus that it’s also lower in saturated fat, higher in healthy omega-3 fatty acids and cheaper. Also, it is easy to ditch marine polluting laundry detergent and opt for the wonderfully freaky soapnut shells. They are the dried fruit of the soapnut tree and clean clothes brilliantly without polluting or upsetting sensitive skin.

  1. Don’t be afraid of using technology to lure children outside.

Whilst we need to create a balance of screen time and outside time, it can be helpful to harness the power of the app for a fun activity. Try treasure hunting with geocaching, star gazing with an app like Star Walk and using the Wildtime app for nature inspiration.

  1. Do a better job of reusable nappies than me.

I totally messed up because I didn’t know some vital information.  For example, it’s best to try out a few different types before you invest in the 20 or so that you’ll need. Some types just won’t be the right shape for your baby and having loads that don’t fit will be disheartening and expensive.

  1. Make your milk feeding green

Breast feeding is best for the environment and your baby but that knowledge doesn’t help you when it doesn’t work for emotional, physical or logistical reasons. Step away from the guilt and make sure your bottle feeding is as green as possible. For example, you can buy safe glass baby bottles and make sure you keep your kettle de-scaled for efficient boiling.

  1. Learn a few tricks to cut your food waste

Did you know, the banana is one of the most wasted food items which is made worse by the fact that they have come all the way from the Caribbean or South America. Here are my tips for being a banana saver!

  1. Care about carbon, but don’t be ruled by it.

Get the basics like insulation sorted, try not to choose clubs and activities that involve lots of driving, choose local products with limited packaging, but then be kind to yourself. There is much, much more to being a green parent than carbon counting.

  1. Make your outdoors space count for wildlife.

Plant a pot with lavender to provide nectar, put up some bird feeders and have a messy ‘nature reserve’ corner with a stack of logs and sticks and long grass. Now is also the right time of year to plant some wildflower plugs such as oxeye daisy, corn poppy, ragged robin. These will bring colour and life in even the tiniest space.

So don’t be an eco-worrier; forget the guilt, take some fun steps and be an eco-warrior instead. There are happy green days ahead.

Can you believe this still happens?

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I love it when readers send me information about causes they are passionate about. Not all of it makes enjoyable reading, though. A recent letter highlighted the grisly issue of snaring in our countryside.

Snaring is the practice of using wire nooses to trap animals, such as badgers, foxes, deer and rabbits. Now forgive me for being naive, but I’d assumed snaring was illegal. It’s one of those old country skills that I thought had gone the way of basket weaving and falconry.

In fact, the UK is one of only five European members that still allow the use of animal snares. Foxes or rabbits are often the intended victim, although other animals can be caught (including domestic cats). However, the Badger Trust reported last year that the badger cull policy was leading to an increase in the snaring of badgers, even though it is illegal to kill badgers this way.

The legislation around snaring is complex. Several best practice guides exist, such as one published by DEFRA, but these are not legally binding (although they would be referred to in court in cases of suspected malpractice).

Snaring or trapping within sight or earshot of public rights of way, including footpaths and highways is generally considered to be bad practice. Catching the wrong species, for example badgers, wild cats, dormice and otters does constitute an offence – but you have to ask how on earth this is monitored, especially given that ‘good practice’ necessitates traps are out of sight and hearing of anyone. It would take a very honest person to shop themselves for a wildlife crime when they could quietly release or destroy an injured animal that they hadn’t intended to catch.

Let’s be clear: Controlling predators such as foxes is a common part of country life, carried out by landowners around the UK. It doesn’t just happen on shooting estates either; it is part of management practices on nature reserves too. For many people, this is intolerable in itself, but whatever your view on culls, the death in most cases is by gun; it is swift and professional.

By contrast, death by snare can be lengthy, indiscriminate and painful. In short, it is an inhumane and barbaric way to kill. Even proponents of fox hunting, which is of course now illegal, could cite the economic and community benefits associated with hunting with hounds – there are no such advantages with snaring.

Fox hunting, however, was very visible and there was a clear target for protesters. Meanwhile, snaring operates in secrecy, under cover of darkness and with no publicly available timetable. This has allowed it to persist in a time when an animal welfare concern is normally enough to generate headlines.

Snaring is undeniably out-dated and ‘good practice’ is incredibly hard to police. It’s time we left the medieval age behind us and updated the law.

First published in the EDP and EADT

Image from www.antisnaring.org.uk