Being environmentally friendly is something that many people are striving for; particularly in recent years. Hundreds of studies and reports are conducted and published from reputable universities, the UN, the EU, and even the Catholic Church. Pope Francis has given the drive to be eco-friendly renewed momentum and motivation with his encyclical on the environment. But, just how practical is it for families to change up their routines?
Family life can be hectic. If there is a new baby on the way, planning on how to cut down the mountains of waste may be the last question on a couple’s mind. Being green was certainly on the mind of Catherine Devitt, the Environmental Justice Officer from the Jesuit Center for Faith and Justice (JCFJ), when she found out she had a new baby coming.
Although she is no longer working for JCFJ, much of Devitt’s work when she was involved looking at how Jesuits in Ireland can improve their environmental footprint. When it comes to her home life, Devitt definitely practices what she preaches.
One of the most important challenges is the boycott of disposable diapers. They are known to be both environmentally and financially unstable. Not only do they rack up a hefty expense, but many are burnt or shipped off to landfills. Devitt’s mom used cloth diapers in the 1980s, before disposable diapers became mainstream in Ireland. She was on hand to offer her daughter guidance. While seemingly much more expensive than the other option, cloth diapers pay for themselves in the long run.
(For those looking for first-hand guidance, advice, and information, many social media resources and groups have been established for these discussions.)
As the mother of a one-year-old, Devitt said baby clothes quickly became unusable.
“They’re growing at such a fast rate, and we certainly found that parents are very willing to give you clothes that you no longer need. We found that there’s actually no need to buy new clothes and that there is plenty of alternatives, whether through charity shops or again online, there are so many groups where people are willing to give clothes that they no longer need.”Jesuit Center for Faith and Justice Environmental Justice Officer Catherine Devitt
According to Devitt, buying new clothes that will only be used for a short period of time is not worth the environmental impact. Straying from this practice is also a good way to save money. Baby clothes can cost quite a lot.
Breastfeeding is another good way to save money. If it is an option, it is not only good for mom and baby, but the environment as well. It cuts down on plastic, bypasses intensive farming and emissions associated with formula, and puts more money in your pocket.
“Every maternity hospital should be promoting breastfeeding for mothers.”Jesuit Center for Faith and Justice Environmental Justice Officer Catherine Devitt
Devitt adds that she believes no stigma should be associated with it.
There are arguments that to save the planet, people need to cut down on the number of children they have, or even stop completely. Larger populations create more waste and emissions. Devitt disagrees.
“Some people comment that we have an overpopulation problem and we should be talking about some people not having children and so on. I think it’s important to really think about how we want to raise our kids and what’s the type of world that we want to leave our children, so we try and make a conscious effort of being outdoors with our child. I think, as well, children are really aware of these issues now. They’re talking about environmental issues in school. They’re probably more eco-conscious than their parents and I think, therefore, as parents, it’s really important to talk about these issues and live more sustainably in our homes.”Jesuit Center for Faith and Justice Environmental Justice Officer Catherine Devitt
Trócaire Campaigns Manager, the official overseas development agency for the Catholic Church in Ireland, Joanne McGarry, has a five-old-daughter at home. She faces different challenges when it comes to instilling a respect for the environment into her home.
“I try and give her as many messages as I can about the need to be kinder to the environment. There’s a lot of things we do at home to try and get that message through. I take it very seriously. I do my best, but I’m not perfect by any means.”Trócaire Campaigns Manager Joanne McGarry
With a focus on children the same age as her daughter, McGarry says it’s important to “make them mindful of conserving water and electricity. So, she would be going around making sure the taps are turned off.”
“We try and grow some food in our garden. It’s nothing major, but it’s nice for her to see where food comes from, and that helps us with the messaging about food waste. I’m actually quite strict about it. I would encourage her to finish her meals.”Trócaire Campaigns Manager Joanne McGarry
That isn’t the end. Single-use plastics, which have long been singled out for the “evil,” are not welcome. One of the most famous cases that highlights the issue is a giant island of mostly plastic waste floating in the Pacific Ocean. It is known as the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” It is reported to measure about 617,763 square miles and continues to grow exponentially each year.
Help get rid of the single-use plastic in your life by switching to reusable bags.
“We do our best to reduce the plastic that we buy, first of all. There’s a lot of plastic stuff out there for kids. Some of it is reusable, which is fine, but then there’s a lot of very single-use stuff, like some toys, straws, and packaging. We have paper straws and stainless steel straws and we try and minimize the plastic that we buy. She’s getting those messages. She has her own, like most kids now, water bottle that’s refilled. We wouldn’t buy any plastic bottles.”Trócaire Campaigns Manager Joanne McGarry
Save the ocean from one more plastic bottle and stop contributing to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by getting your own reusable water bottle.
Focusing on the concept of “fast fashion” and the negative impact it has on the environment, McGarry has this to say:
“Some families would be lucky enough to have hand-me-downs coming from all over the place. I’m lucky enough to have a friend who gives me a lot of her daughter’s clothes and we do our best not to buy clothes that are very disposable. Some people don’t have the opportunity to do this, but if you’re in a parents group or a mothers group or a toddlers group, there’s lots of passing on of baby things, which can be very expensive. It works both ways because the person passing it on is delighted to be getting rid of it and delighted to see it getting another wearing, and the person receiving it is delighted because they don’t have to go out and buy it.”Trócaire Campaigns Manager Joanne McGarry
Changing habits to reduce waste and to create a household that respects the environment and works towards sustainability can be very difficult. According to some eco-mothers, it isn’t impossible and may even be convenient, both for your wallet and the planet.
Let Custom Earth Promos help you cultivate new habits and save both your wallet and the planet in the process.