Eco-challenge diary

We asked the Glover family to go green for a week. Sarah, 32, from Chorley, Lancashire, husband Tony, 33, and children Patrick, 4, Poppy, 2 and Isla, 10 months, like their modern conveniences – from tumble dryer to central heating – so Sarah kept a diary to record all the ups and downs.


Day 1: Cooking from scratch with organic vegetables

Our Abel & Cole organic vegetable box is delivered to the house with all sorts of things I wouldn’t usually buy. I’m panicking that the kids aren’t going to eat any of them.

But my children never fail to surprise me and today, when I cooked them curly kale, carrot and sweet potato, they hoovered it up! Saying that, Patrick wanted to know why his (sweet potato) chips were orange. I even managed to disguise the parsnips as special chips.

There’s no denying that cooking from scratch certainly takes longer, but it’s much more satisfying, tastes better and is healthier. We also did our food shop this week at an organic market, which was cheaper and much more fun (if more time-consuming) than shopping in a big supermarket.

The meat and vegetables were about 50% of the supermarket price – and it was locally sourced. Plus the kids certainly took more of an interest with all the food laid out on the stalls rather than vacuum-packed in plastic.

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Day 2: Sharing bath time

Usually Patrick would have a shower while the two girls have a bath, but this week I’m doing them all together to save water. Thankfully, I’ve got a bit of a bribe up my sleeve to stop the kids complaining about having to get in the tub together – a selection of yummy bath products. These are free of a whole host of scary-sounding ingredients, including sodium lauryl and sodium laureth sulphate (the stuff that makes products foam up but can be a skin irritant) and parabens (good for destroying bacteria but another skin irritant).

Once out of the bath, it’s clothes on quickly as we’ve turned the heating down a notch (a saving of around £40 per year). We’re all putting an extra jumper on and no one is complaining – well not much anyway!


Day 3: Experimenting with reusable nappies

I’d thought about using reusable nappies when the children were born – I even bought a few – but never actually got round to trying them. Now I wish I had – they’re brilliant!

Poppy looked a bit baffled to start with – she couldn’t understand why I was putting a liner inside her nappy. The nappies definitely look bulkier under her and Isla’s clothes but they soon got used to them and they were really easy to use.

Poppy needed changing a couple of extra times each day and I guess the nappies don’t soak up the wee to the same degree as disposable nappies. But as she is nearly ready for potty training this is probably a good thing.

Isla seemed very happy and there were no leaks. Changing them when they’ve done a poo is a little more real, shall we say, than with disposables, but actually not too bad. You take the flushable liner out and throw it down the loo – so at least most of the poo goes where it should do rather than sitting around in a bin, smelling.

I don’t think these nappies would be much fun to use if your child had a tummy upset, but with all the organic vegetables we’ve been eating that wasn’t a problem!

Apparently, you can save around £500 per child by using reusable nappies. The reusable wipes also worked well – they’re bits of cloth that you wet, wipe and then chuck in with the nappies to wash.


Day 4: Laundry day – with no tumble dryer

Switching the washing machine dial down to 30°, rather than the usual 40°, could apparently save me up to £18 a year. It’s definitely worth doing, especially as everything came out just as clean as usual.

As the tumble dryer eats electricity, I experimented with hanging the clothes out all over the radiators. The house looked a bit of a mess for a while but if I can save around £75 over a year it doesn’t feel so bad.

When it came to adding detergent I experimented with using a number of different greener options.

First off I tried Ecover products. These are completely biodegradable to save on packaging, you can get the packs re-filled at health food stores.

Although the products worked out more expensive than my usual brand, they did the job just as well and didn’t have such a chemical smell.

Re-usable Ecoballs are another option. They’re little plastic balls that produce ionised oxygen to clean clothes without detergent – and you can reuse them up to 1,000 times. The clothes were lovely and clean, but I must admit I missed the nice smell you get from using detergent.


Day 5: Avoiding the car

We’ve been trying to avoid using the car this week, with mixed results.

It’s about a two-mile walk to Patrick’s school. He enjoys the walk, but it’s a bit harder for Poppy – she’s at that age where she doesn’t want to be in her buggy, but she can’t walk very fast and keeps falling over! Although this does slow us down somewhat, it’s good for the kids to get exercise in the mornings before school and when I arrive at the gates to see all the other mums struggling with car seats and hauling buggies out of their cars I feel quite smug!

A trip into town to visit the market with a double buggy on the bus is less successful though. The kids enjoy riding on the bus, but getting on and off with a big buggy is a nightmare, especially on the way back when all my shopping is dangling off the handles. I’d rather walk – even if it means getting wet.


Day 6: Recycling old clothes

One of those charity bags came through the door, so today the children and I had a good sort through some stuff to give away. Patrick was quite grown up about it, but he insisted on hanging on to a lurid turtle he won ages ago.

Inspired, I started to think about bigger items we might not need. A friend suggested putting them on Freecycle. It’s a really useful website, divided up into local areas, where you can advertise things you don’t want – as long as you’re not asking for any money. Anyone who wants your item will come and pick it up. It certainly saves a trip to the dump!


Day 7: Will we keep being eco-friendly?

Well, we’ve managed seven ‘greener’ days. I’ve enjoyed it so much, I wish I’d done it ages ago.

My favourite change was cooking from scratch. Tony liked that we were saving money and Patrick enjoyed his trip on the bus (he was the only one).

Being green is very satisfying and feels like the right thing to do for the children. Everything I did this week – apart from going on the bus – I will carry on doing. We’ve had more exercise, created less waste and saved money. We’ll celebrate with a free-range chicken and a bottle of organic wine!


Our green shopping list

  • Green baby snug-to-fit organic nappies, £8.99 for pack of six
  • Flushable baby liners, £4.75 for 200
  • Flushable toddler liners, £2.75 for 100
  • Washable baby wipes, £8.99 for 12
  • Ecoballs, £34.99 for three
  • Organic cotton fleece dress, £14.99

(all from Green Baby)

  • Family organic box, £22
  • Baby Box, £10
  • Plum Baby Purées, from £1.99
  • Organic chicken, £11.15 for 1.6kg
  • Organic wine, from £5.80

(all from Abel & Cole)

  • Non-bio washing powder, £3.98
  • Fabric conditioner, £1.38
  • Multi-surface cleaner, 94p

(all from Ecover)

  • Halo baby bath, £3.49
  • Zingy Orange hair and body wash, £2.99
  • Melon Mango Mayhem shampoo and conditioner, £2.69
  • Berry Burst shampoo and detangler, £2.69
  • Toothy Fruity toothpaste, £2.29

(all from Halos n Horns)