As parents we are keenly aware of the need to preserve our natural resources so that future generations can enjoy green, abundant spaces, clean air and the capacity to feed themselves well. The enormous system-changes which are necessary to provide our children with the things that past generations have taken for granted cannot be overstated. The current system of extraction, consumption and waste cannot be allowed to continue. This will take nothing short of worldwide movements of people determined to change ‘business as usual’. In the meantime we will do everything we can as a family to reduce our impact on the Earth, spread a positive message of how to live sustainably and speak out on behalf of the Earth’s young people.
We live on a finite planet where many of our natural resources are running out and infinite natural resources, which need time to replenish, are being consumed at a much quicker rate than they are able to naturally regenerate. Globally this averages the equivalent of 1.7 times the Earth’s current biocapacity, however this average accounts for many nations globally who do not have the excessive rates of consumption we see in North America and Western Europe. Here in the UK we would need 2.6 Planet Earths to keep pace with current consumption and the figures for Canada and the USA make even harsher reading with resources being consumed at 5.1 X the Earth’s biocapacity for Canada and 5 X for the USA.
As a parliamentary candidate for The Green Party in the last two general elections in the UK I am privileged to be able to challenge the established ideologies and fixed thinking which is so prevalent in the UK . But as a parent I work on a much more intimate scale of teaching by example and sharing wherever possible a positive message of hope for the future.
This year we have continued to increase the biodiversity in our tiny gardens by sowing wildflower seeds and building a small baby bath pond together. My intentions here are twofold; to show our boys how to make room for nature and to try and inspire our neighbours to make a little room for nature too.
We have also continued to allow our tiny back yard forest to regenerate and we have been thrilled by so many bird species visiting the garden this year.
For our pond we simply dug a large, baby bath-sized hole in an area of the garden which had been covered in gravel. We used the gravel and four unused edging stones to surround the pond and provide an even edge. After filling the pond with water and leaving it for several days to return to a more natural Ph, we placed large rocks inside the pond to provide a variety of levels for amphibians and then put in two oxygenating plants.
This year the pond was inhabited far quicker than we had planned. We had been watching the development of tadpoles in one of our local ditches and, after a month of no rain, looked at them desperately swimming in only a centimetre of water. I was so proud when my eldest son asked if he could miss his TV time to come back with a bucket and rescue them. We were able to save the tadpoles of frogs, newts and toads that day, although we were faced with the dilemma of how many to save. This gave the boys a front row view of amphibian development and proved such a wonderful learning opportunity.
When we moved into our little house over ten years ago, we inherited a front garden with four large triangles of gravel which have been a detested job of maintaining. Often people in the UK put in gravel in a garden in an attempt to make it lower maintenance but nature always finds a way and inevitably these areas become full of weeds. This year I finally found the time to scrape back the gravel, take up the weed barrier and sow several handfuls of wildflower seed from the wonderful Boston Seeds. I’m happy to say that garden maintenance this year has gone down by at least 90% and the pleasure we all get from this little wildlife oasis is priceless.
The addition of a small second hand water butt has meant that I was able to keep the area watered and we’ve already had two neighbours ask about sourcing wildflower seeds, as well as one family who came to play building their own baby bath pond !
As ever, we continue to be mindful of the objects we need to bring into our home, sourcing most things second hand or trying to use what we already have.
This month I began work on my MSc on sustainable food and land use and needed a space to work, I’m determined that I will be useful and active during my plus 50 years (when I will finish my masters), rather than joining the ranks of bored retirees staring blankly at each other over their Marks and Spencer’s cappuccinos!
Since our house is under 1000 square feet, we have to be creative with our use of space, I’ve transformed an unused bay window into a small work station and moved some furniture from other rooms . I was lucky to find this beautiful 1920s desk, a snip at just £45. I also repurposed a Victorian chair which had been in the boys room, replacing it with a second hand IKEA chair (£10) from Ebay, which the boys are delighted with. I also finally got around to replacing the set of steps which has served as my bedside table , meaning that they can now be used without having to clear them first! I found a lovely oak side table from Facebook Marketplace for a small sum (£25).
We continue to travel as actively as we can, choosing walking and cycling whenever possible and making longer journeys in our electric car. We recently went on holiday to Wales and our car managed admirably on the (frighteningly steep) Welsh mountains.
We stayed in a beautiful cottage and enjoyed amazingly sunny weather as well as many picnics and days out. The hilight for big A was most definitely Eddie, the friendly cat from next door!
Charging was extremely inexpensive, meaning that ‘fuel’ for the whole trip ( some 400 miles over the week) came to £25. We were lucky to find a lovely cottage owner who was happy for us to pay a little extra to charge for the week (£20) and the charges on the travel to and from our area cost just £1.90 each way. We were able to visit the Centre For Alternative Technology whilst we were there, such an inspirational place for adults and children alike.
As ever we continue to encourage our boys and remind ourselves to enjoy the free and sustainable pleasures in life.
Love Ruth XX