Community Soapbox: Eco-friendly habits passed down through the generations

My parents have been eco-conscious their entire lives.

Some of my childhood friends classed my parents as hippies. They love music (rock, blues, anything good really.) They grew large gardens of vegetables. We didn’t have air conditioning or big tvs, but we did have big speakers and lots of houseplants. And if that makes them hippies, I’d love to be a hippy too.

I grew up in a household that wasted as little as possible. We composted, reused everything we could, watered our houseplants with water from our dehumidifier, and passed clothes down to my younger sister and cousins. (I was the oldest cousin, and got the new stuff.) These are lifestyle habits that are normal for me, so I have a hard time understanding the need for everything new and plastic and disposable. We played outside or read books, went camping, helped out, and didn’t watch a lot of tv.

Now that I am a parent, I struggle a lot with the balance between convenience and eco-consciousness. We reuse a lot, but also recycle a lot. We use hand-me-downs and pass them on to our younger family members, and buy the girls new clothes at Christmas or for special occasions. We drive our cars, instead of taking the bus, because there isn’t enough time between end-of-work and extra-curricular activities.

Making eco-conscious decisions is so important in life. It always has been. I love that the City has composting and recycling programs, but it makes me sad to read that all recycling isn’t necessarily recycled. I think as a society we need to work harder to not create the waste in the first place. In that vein, I’d like to share a few things we do in the style of my parents:


We used to do backyard composting, but when the city came out with their program, and you could compost meat in the green bins, we stopped with the backyard work because we can compost more than my urban backyard could manage.


This is easy. Use things until you can’t use them anymore. Sometimes spending a little more for a quality product will ensure you’re not creating waste after a few uses. We bought our girls Roots backpacks four years ago and they are using them again this school season.Reusing can also be done with store-bought products. My mother would freeze her homemade spaghetti sauce in the plastic 2L containers ice cream used to come in. I think she still has some of these containers and uses them to this day.

Repair instead of replace

Learn basic sewing and fix the holes in the seams of your clothes. I’m the first to admit I gather a large pile of “sewing” before I sit down and do it all, but it’s an easy way to save a shirt or sweater that gets a hole in the armpit. Plus, who looks under there? If your sewing sucks, no one will know! Find a good repair person and fix your leaky faucets, noisy dryers, or any appliance that can be fixed instead of replaced. This also goes for electronics that just need a little love, instead of a full replace. Or carpentry work on your tables and chairs, bedroom furniture, and doors and household trim.So many things can be repaired instead of thrown away. Make an effort before creating that waste.

Hand-me-downs or clothing swaps

My daughters have benefitted from older family hand-me-downs. To be honest, we have saved a fortune in clothes. And it’s good for the environment. Now that my eldest daughter is almost 11 the clothing stream has nearly dried up, and it’s almost time to show her the benefit of clothing swaps, and buying second hand.

Clothing swaps are easy to organize. Find a few friends who are around the same sizes, and plan a get together. Everyone goes through their closets and finds clothing they are tired of, or don’t love anymore, and brings them along. Then you swap with each other, checking out what your friends may have that will be your new favourite item.

There are many easy changes you can make in your life to avoid creating waste. We try our best to take fresh foods in lunches (cut up into containers every morning), wash and reuse containers – ones we’ve bought, and ones that other foods come in (like sour cream or cottage cheese), fix our own clothes where possible (my eldest daughter is now interested in sewing, so that’s a bonus!), use a rain barrel for our gardens, and use the city services – recycling and compost.

Read a little more about how my family tries to be sustainable on my blog: Easy ways to be sustainable (despite a busy schedule)

(Our next big change will be an electric vehicle, when we’re ready for a new car!)

What eco-conscious choices have you made for your family? I would love to hear some quick and easy things to do to keep reducing our carbon footprint. Leave a comment below with your thoughts.

Jessica is a busy working mom and writer who enjoys covering local interest stories, and creating content for her own website A Modern Mom’s Life. She loves living, working, and playing in Kingston. You can see what she gets up to with her family on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

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