helen bowman

Sustainability is important in our family. I suppose we were aware of it pre-kids, but since having them – and thereby significantly increasing our carbon footprint as a family – it feels like a real responsibility. Of course, it also helps that much of the media is finally conveying the reality of the climate emergency we all face.

Living more sustainably takes preparation and planning. It isn’t always realistic or possible because of how slow most industries have been in transforming their practices, but we try to act consciously on an individual and family level, where we can. That includes:

1. Buying more organic, local food and less convenience food. I meal-plan around reducing single-use plastic, including the kids’ snacks. We buy lots of stuff in bulk from our local plastic-free shop and pick up loose fruit and veg whenever possible (which has also encouraged us to make healthier, more interesting choices – I now make my own pasta sauces, for one thing). We’re mostly vegetarian (the girls will very occasionally eat fish in restaurants)  and lately I’ve been trying to nudge them onto oat milk instead of cow’s.

We occasionally head over to Bulk Market in Dalston because they offer recycling collections for difficult packaging such as cracker, biscuit and wet-wipe wrappers and toothpaste tubes. We use compostable bin bags for our organic waste and we produce very little waste that’s not either recycled or composted. I avoid buying drinks in plastic bottles, snacks in plastic packets or juice boxes with plastic straws. Each of us has (and regularly loses!) our own reusable water bottle. We also use natural cosmetic and cleaning products and again try to refill/reduce plastic where possible.

2. Thinking more structurally. We recently renovated our house with sustainability in mind, incorporating a more efficient heating system, LED lighting throughout, a boiling and filtered water tap and so on. We used sustainable materials wherever we could. Our biggest single eco-investment to date is our electric car, the Kia e-Niro. It seemed the logical next step given that sustainability has become so central to our lifestyle and philosophy. The car is great because we love to travel but are increasingly aware of and concerned about air pollution. With some of the smaller lifestyle changes, it can feel that your impact is so small and your efforts so piecemeal – that can be demotivating. But an electric car feels instantly significant. If everyone had one – and I really do think the government needs to do more to make that possible for people – the difference would be huge. So having an electric car has alleviated a little of my environmental guilt!

3. Supporting ethical brands: i.e. those that seek to improve their environmental and social impact and source high-quality organic, recycled or biodegradable materials. Nappies are a biggie for us parents – we use Muumi ones, which are about as compostable as you can get – even the packaging is compostable. And of course, I love the new eco range from Jem + Bea – I have the Edie Eco Holdall and BABA Eco Pouch. The timeless, elevated designs remain but there’s a lot of ‘good under the hood’. The bags are completely vegan and ocean-friendly, in that they’re made from regenerated yarn derived from discarded fishing nets. I love that we are now seeing ‘green’ products that are design leaders, rather than design laggards. I think all businesses need to be thinking sustainably, if not radically, now – there’s no excuse not to.