Sustainability is a hot topic these days and has been now for over a decade. If I define sustainability as adopting living patterns that satisfy the needs of now and don’t compromise the ability to meet the needs of the future, then sustainability is all encompassing of the way humans interact with each other as well as the environment in which they live. Too often sustainability is limited to nurturing and preserving our natural environment and neglects to include things such as achieving gender equality, sustainable economic growth, an end to poverty and hunger, and so on. When raising our children we must be aware of the broad definition of sustainability and both raise our children to be sustainable, and be sustainable in the raising of our children.
Many people consider sustainability when deciding whether or not to have children. And rightly so. In the early 1800s the world’s population hit its first billion. It past 2 billion in the 1920s and from then on the billions rolled by at an increasing speed, surpassing 7 billion in 2011. This is undoubtedly pushing our world’s physical limits. So, if I’m aware of this, why, instead of choosing a child free life, adopting, or breeding modestly, did I choose to have four children? Mostly, this was just me being selfish and not considering the additional burden I was placing on the planet. I wanted four kids. No matter how narcissistic this is, I know I’m a great parent and I know the children I bring into the world will be a positive contribution to society and the economy in the long run. I’m working hard to ensure they will be advocates for minimal and mindful consumption, equal rights of all kinds, and generally mindful and minimalist when it comes to their impact on the planet. I hope that their positive impact on all these aspects outweighs their negative impact on environmental sustainability.
Speaking specifically about nurturing and preserving our natural environment, it’s hard! There’s so much to know and so much conflicting information available. I’ve heard and read all sorts of things. If you use more than three reusable coffee cups in a lifetime, you’d have been better off using disposable cups. Disposable coffee cups are recyclable because they’re made of paper. Or they’re not because the paper is lined with plastic. Yet cardboard milk cartons are also lined with plastic and we recycle them. Similar arguments are made for disposable and reusable straws, and even plastic and reusable shopping bags. The increased number of cloth nappies used and the water used to wash them should be considered when deciding cloth or disposable. How on earth are we to know what’s right and best?! I have this overwhelming responsibility to minimise the impact that my family has on our beautiful planet, yet I’m largely incompetent at fulfilling it. For now I have decided that being present and mindful is the beginning, a commitment to learning more about sustainable practices is next, and teaching the reasoning behind my logical sustainable decisions to my children is an ongoing commitment.