by Diana E – Frugi Customer & Crusader
So I meet a lot of Mums in my weekly whirlwind of toddler groups and baby classes and I love chatting to them about “what being a parent is like nowadays”. Worries revolve around the things we “should” be doing as caring parents, baby massage/swimming/signing…! The list is endless and it is very easy to get absorbed by our own particular worries of baby’s developmental milestones/health problems/work-home balance. The issue of “saving the planet” seems, if not inconsequential, then at least not so close to home.
When it comes to discussing an eco-friendly lifestyle, the initial reaction I get is one of “well that’s nice if you can afford to do that, but it’s not for me”. Now roughly translated this means that green/organic/fairtrade products are viewed as having a financial premium which excludes less well-off families from joining in the great big green party!
My question is whether that is REALLY true? Do you pay for being green? Do people see our family as “rolling in it” because we take the environmental implications of our decisions into account and therefore don’t simply go for the cheapest option?
There is no doubt that you do pay more for fairly traded, chemical-free, quality organic cotton products precisely because they are fairly traded, chemical-free and organic. I do love buying new clothes for my children but I can’t afford to dress them entirely in new clothes and that is fine with me. To compensate for my purchases of new clothing I scour charity shops, nearly-new sales and other friends’ attics (with their permission!) to find clothes that will complete their wardrobe. In short, whatever I buy new I want to be ethically sourced, the rest is recycled or was a gift. I don’t think I spend any more on my children’s wardrobes than a Mum who buys a comprehensive mix’n’match selection of clothing from any one of the High Street stores for each season/size/gender.
Being green for me means not buying excessive amounts of anything, reducing waste (that includes clothes that are worn once before being grown out of!), choosing to make do with much less (the inimitable “quality not quantity” cliche). I get much more pleasure from my well thought out purchases of a few key items than a myriad of poorly made bits of tat that will not withstand the rigours of frequent washing and line-drying (do you know how many clothes say “dry out of direct sunlight”?!!!”). I am striving for those modern ideals of having a clutter-free, minimalist house where the things I surround myself with are either useful, beautiful or have sentimental value, I reckon with a following wind I should achieve that by 2020!
But really, and this goes far beyond clothing, the bottom line is this. Using borax to clean my kitchen floor IS cheaper than using a branded floor cleaner, using soda crystals and vinegar to unblock my sink IS cheaper than Mr Muscle, using collected rainwater to water my vegetables, not washing clothes if they are not dirty/smelly (gasp!)… it’s just not EASIER and it’s not the norm which means that in order to live this way you need to learn how to do it, and this excludes many because they feel they are unable to learn a new way of living.
So if you aren’t ready to take the plunge on the whole borax/vinegar thing then I have a fun suggestion, why not throw a “Clothes Swapping” Party? Invite at least a dozen friends to bring along all their old clothes that don’t fit or don’t suit and get swapping! New clothes for free! Make sure you have a cross-section of body sizes (tactfully) and ideally some nibbles/drink too! The parties I’ve thrown have been a great success and rarely does anyone leave without anything new.
I’m going to be weighing up in more detail what I think my “green” choices are costing me over this summer, so watch this space!