The more we follow their story, the more we are impressed by how quickly they change their habits and make sustainable swaps in life. They call themselves Fairly Ethical Family, but they are definitely more than that! We can hang up on their page for hours browsing through the photos with tonnes of useful information captured below them. So we decided to get to know this amazing family better.
Emma, you say that you are a mother and father team. It’s so cool when the whole family is engaged. But who was the first to start thinking about sustainability in your family?
Me! I instigated a lot of our changes mainly because I do most of our shopping, and running the house. When I first started making the changes, I was off on maternity leave so I definitely had more time to look and to consider different options!
Can you remember what was the first step you did towards a more conscious lifestyle?
Our first step was to move towards more reusable products, and that started very early on with the kiddos. We tried reusable nappies with our first and, hands up, we failed miserably. I just couldn't get my head round it, so I was just using them at home, and then, as little man got bigger, I found it harder to find clothes to fit (in hindsight, I should have looked for looser, harem style leggings, but that's not where my thinking was). We have always used reusable swim nappies (both kids started swimming at about 4 months, so happy with that swap!). We were always happy to accept and pass on any clothes, or indeed, any other baby items that we could because it meant that our pennies could go on other things, which was always appreciated! I guess taking it up a notch was when master 5yo was weening and I used reusable pouches for his homemade fruit purees etc, and these went then to the childminder with custards, yoghurts, smoothies etc in them. Then came the (unfortunately plastic) reusable water bottles and reusable sandwich bags - these bags have been through so much, and although will need to be replaced soon, they have been fab purchases. As for the water bottles, they weren't as successful as they were constantly breaking, so we replaced them, in December 2016, with stainless steel Klean Kanteen bottles and these are still going strong. We have just continued to build on each change - my thinking was to conquer one, then move to the next and see how far we get.
From your Instagram page, we know that you use organic and eco-friendly toiletries like hard lotion and shampoo. From my own experience, they tend to use up faster than usual ones. How does it affect the family budget?
Definitely more expensive in the toiletries department - I guess my shampoo bar is lasting probably no more than 6-8 weeks, whereas a shampoo bottle for the same price would probably last a lot longer. Soaps too seem to disappear - hubby was just saying today that there was one he had really liked, but with the shower water running over it, it was disappearing quicker than he was using it, so that's hard. The toothpaste is also more expensive and will not last as long as the equivalent of conventional tubes. But that is the choice we have made - to use fewer chemicals, better natural products in more sustainable packaging that can either be reused at home or easily recycled. For lots of other changes, I don't find them more expensive over the course of their lifetime - for example, I opened our 2nd Who gives a crap kitchen roll yesterday - I got this in a trial pack in January I think, and because we use reusable kitchen towel, we do not buy regular kitchen roll anymore. We use the Cheeky Wipes we had for the kids as well as some lovely others (made by a WAHM - they were a treat) but by what I would have spent over the same time on kitchen roll, the reusables are of much better value. And myself and little miss 2yo use family cloth for our wees which means our toilet roll is going much further than ever before and another saving (pop into the wash, dry and ready for use again. Simple).
So, if you spend more on toiletries now, are there any things you spend less on now than before you started your sustainable journey?
As I said, the switches to family cloth and reusable kitchen roll are great. We also use Ecoegg and refillable Bio-D liquid for laundry and we are without a doubt using much less of that than ever before. Since last summer, having bought the eco eggs, we have bought a 5l container of Bio-D that I have filled my 750ml ex-Ecover bottle twice now - previously we would have used a lot more than that. And with our reusable water bottles and coffee cups, I cannot remember the last time I bought water or tea out anywhere - when we go out, several water bottles are filled, flasks are filled so that is definitely saving me a lot of money and has pretty much paid back for the initial outlays. Same with the kids' stainless steel bottles - I would have had to replace plastic bottles several times over by now, whereas with the stainless steel ones, they have lasted a year and a half. I guess also, with using reusable sandwich bags, homemade beeswax wraps and food wraps, we are not buying cling film, tin foil or using sandwich bags.
To what extent children are involved in what you do in terms of being eco-friendly and ethical?
Kiddos are definitely very supportive of all of this, and they are starting to understand why we are doing things, especially the older kiddo. He will openly tell people we are trying to save the world, refuse plastic bags because we don't need them and shout loudly about people using single-use plastic or dropping rubbish. He recently spent some time at a recent festival sorting out their bins with the recycling without being asked to do it. He is very passionate and is only too happy to have his water bottles, reusable lunch bags, stainless steel straws, bamboo toothbrush, beeswax wraps. For his Christmas present for his teacher, he asked to get her a nice stainless steel bottle, beeswax wraps and wrapped them up in a cotton produce bag. They both frequently come with me to get our fresh fruit and vegetables and they are both fighting overfilling the produce bags!
I’m [Zarrina] now trying to become a more waste-free person. But if I’m doing pretty good with saving electricity or not using plastic straws and cutleries, I am still really bad in saving water while washing dishes. I’m working on it though. What areas of your life you think need more improvement in terms of sustainability and what are you really good at?
Definitely room for improvement in many areas of our lives, but you just have to keep chipping away at it all the time. We don't have a composter here any longer (we used to have an allotment pre kiddos but have no time now), but I do throw any food that needs to go out onto the potato and rhubarb patch so at least it's a bit of informal composting! Being a busy working mum can limit the amount of time I can dedicate to planning meals and lunches and I find there are times when I have to just buy what I can for convenience sake - and when that happens, I will do the best I can to be as close to zero waste as possible, but I acknowledge it isn't always perfect, but then, nobody is. But I think if you are helping with many aspects of your life, and you are making a difference, you cannot beat yourself up - you need to continue to live and function with the resources you have to hand and time is one of those finite resources. In an ideal world, I would bake our treats each weekend, meal plan, buy all the ingredients over the weekend, and prep all my lunches, but in reality, I love spending time with the kiddos over the weekend, and I think that's a very limited opportunity to do that too, so we do the best we can within the parameters of our life, and hope that one day, we will be able to make a greater contribution. Another area I need to get better with is making better choices in terms of our clothing - we are all happy to wear preloved clothes and the kiddos, in particular, are well kitted out. I would love to be able to kit all our wardrobes out in better, more ethically made clothing, but again, costs can be prohibitive and we just have to work within our budget and do the best we can at that point.