by Eve Wee-Ang
We are very grateful to Parents&Kids Shanghai for their permission to reprint this article
As parents, we want to do our bit to leave behind a safer world for our children and their children. But might there be a balanced way to do this? So that we don’t drive ourselves crazy when the endless cleanup tasks of infancy create an inevitable trail of waste? Or later, when our child brings back a plastic goodie bag from a birthday party? Perhaps each of us can take baby steps in our lifestyle, educating our children along the way – while giving ourselves some breathing space – and make the world a better place bit by bit.
Let’s start from the home…
Swayed by advertisements and fear, I used to have a different detergent for every corner of my house. Little did I know they contain harmful chemicals detrimental to my family’s health. I switched to organic nontoxic cleaners, but that cost me an arm and a leg, so I did some research and realized that we can easily clean our entire home with just vinegar and baking soda.
Here’s an all-purpose cleaning recipe: Dilute vinegar with water or use it neat for maximum strength. For scent, boil with fresh lemon or ginger peels. Let cool, strain and pour into a spray bottle. For stubborn stains, sprinkle with baking soda, let sit, then spray with the vinegar solution and wipe off.
When my kids were little, they were invited to endless birthday parties. I went bonkers wrapping presents until I noticed they were bringing home tons of artwork from school. I thought to myself, why am I buying fancy paper when I have papers crafted by toddler artisans? I’ve never bought any wrapping paper since.
Gift wrapping with children’s artwork: Most papers are A4 size, so tape them together to form the size you want. For hard-to-wrap presents, put them in the kuaidi boxes you planned to discard. Cover the address bits with your children’s artwork. Let your kids doodle their birthday wishes for their friends so the packaging is bespoke. My kids always beam with pride when I loudly announce the wrapping paper has been made by them.
There are many wonderful and chic ways to conserve food without resorting to single use plastics.For leftover food: Try locally made Baluchon compostable beeswax wraps that use the warmth of your hands to complete the wrapping. I also love how the colors and prints pop out in the fridge.
For potluck parties: I enjoy cooking in clay pots but used to worry about transporting them. Little Things PotHuggers is a sturdy cloth bag made for carrying heavy pots, handsewn by local Chinese. Proceeds go to funding local orphanages.
or school lunch bags or anything: Furoshiki is the Japanese art of wrapping with cloth. Run a search and you will discover many tutorials that teach you to brilliantly turn a humble cloth into an eco-friendly carrier for anything from wine bottles to school lunches.WeChat: Selina-yeh
If you have the space, green your home with greens! You might love your aircon, fan or filter, but plants are nature’s air purifiers. Plants symbolize life and energy as well as beautify the home by making it warm and cozy. I enjoy visiting the local nurseries here and learning their Chinese names and what they mean. You can also pick up some Fengshui tips, teaching you where to place them in your home for maximum benefit.
Putting kitchen waste to work
If you are a fresh coffee drinker with a garden or plants, no excuse not to use this most useful of kitchen waste varieties to enrich your soil with nitrogen. Be sure to wash the grounds first to remove acidity then mix them up with soil before spreading out. Another handy common waste item is the humble eggshell — dry and crush these thoroughly before working them into the soil, or spread a defensive circle around the base of plants that are falling victim to slugs or snails (if you have an old model blender that can be set aside for this, that is ideal). Last, banana skins, if properly chopped up, will break down fast and release plenty of useful nutrients into your soil.
Eve Wee-Ang is a mum of two who is learning to take deep breaths when her kids leave an empty room with lights on because there’s always a greener tomorrow.