Let’s face it – living an eco lifestyle is a very popular concept these days. Gone is the notion that only hippies recycle and care for the planet.
There are so many things that we can do to help take care of our planet; the catchphrase being reduce, reuse, recycle. The idea is that
- we reduce the amount of ‘stuff’ that we purchase, therefore producing less waste
- before throwing anything away, see if it can be used by someone else, or if it can be used in a different way
- recycle everything that can be recycled!
This mantra helps to take care of all the stuff that already exists, but what about when we need to produce something new?
Ethically produced items are becoming more widely available, as a greater number of people strive to live a more eco-friendly life. This is especially true of children’s products, namely toys and clothes. Many parents today wish to instill an ethical mindset in their children, and do so by buying eco-friendly products for them. These items are sought after on the basis that both the way in which they are made and the materials used are natural and kind to the planet.
At least that’s the official line.
A number of people source ethically produced items because they are unique, pretty, and for the ‘designer green’ status it carries. Being eco-friendly is fashionable. Some people are “green to be seen.”
Now before all the eco-warriors run at me on their hemp shoes, waving their wooden pitchforks sourced from sustainable forests, let me be clear: this is not intended to insult anyone who is doing their bit for the planet (especially since the only reason I know about hemp shoes is because Mr Sunbeam once owned a pair!)
I admit that I too am drawn to the beautiful wooden toys for my children, and soft organic cotton clothes in funky prints. In fact, Mr Sunbeam and I have been speaking to our children about reducing our plastic use and being more eco-conscious. Imagine my delight then, when our biggest-middle ray requested one of said beautiful wooden toys for her upcoming birthday. Was I happy that she was clearly listening to our influential words? Of course! Was I excited at the thought of all the wonderful pictures I could take to show the world just how kind to the planet our family is? A bit…
I would love to take all of my children’s clothes (as well as mine and my husband’s) and swap them with ethically sourced, handmade ones. I would relish in replacing our plastic food storage boxes with gorgeous stainless steel substitutes. I would savour the satisfaction of getting rid of all the plastic toys in the house and swapping them for a Santa’s workshop of wooden wonders.
However, I’m more of the reduce, reuse, recycle mindset. I’ll happily cut up my old clothes to make new threads for my children to wear. I’ll continue to use the ugly plastic food storage pots I have, instead of buying the stainless steel alternatives. My children can keep their lego and Sylvanian Families toys. Why? Because these items already exist. Throwing them away only adds to landfill. Yes, I could donate them to charity, but it doesn’t get rid of the problem. It would only serve to make my home look like it was eco-conscious.
Now I’m not suggesting that every act of love for our beautiful Earth is a status symbol. Back when Mr Sunbeam and I first set up house together, we embarked on our eco-living adventure. Some people thought we were weird! We used Earth friendly cleaning products, bought organic food and began sourcing ethically made clothing (hence the aforementioned hemp shoes.) When we were expecting our firstborn, we decided to use cloth nappies, as a way of further reducing our waste. Our biggest ray’s first toys were wooden building blocks and a wooden train set. These items were well-made and well-played with (and still are), but weren’t as easy to find then as they are today.
Our eco-living then fell by the wayside. We still recycled and used cloth nappies, but didn’t put all of our efforts into being as kind to our planet as we used to. It seemed a monumental task, like we weren’t making a difference. Due to an increased awareness and a greater demand for ethically sourced products nowadays, however, going eco seemed more sustainable – surely a good thing!
So should being “green to be seen” be taken as a positive for the possible impact it will have on our planet? Does it matter, if the potential outcome outweighs the intent? Either way, Earth benefits. If I happen to procure some lovely things along the way, then so be it…