Kids have rights AND responsibilities. Yep, even the little ones.

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We do all we can to give our children the best, most comfortable lives we can – but the danger is that they take such life for granted. It becomes a problem when they develop an unearned sense of entitlement. When they start becoming stroppy and shirking age-appropriate responsibilities, or carelessly wasting resources, we parents draw our hair in desperation. What have we done wrong? we berate ourselves. How could they have turned out as these ungrateful, irresponsible little brats?

The answer may be surprisingly simple. We’re not doing anything wrong by providing our kids with food, shelter, clothing, good schooling, love and care. We’re performing our parental responsibilities, and just because not all children have access to these basic rights doesn’t mean ours shouldn’t. What we also need to provide for our kids are responsibilities to go with these rights.

Responsibilities go hand in hand with awareness. There’s a drought going on in our country. There are people starving within a ten-minute drive from most of our homes. Many children don’t have access to good schools. People treat each other with apathy and cruelty.

Young kids may not be able to solve many of these problems, but they need to be aware of them. Mindful citizens are bred from mindful children. They need to learn not to waste resources and to show appreciation for the opportunities that they have available to them.

Mindful citizens are bred from mindful children

After a particularly hair-pulling week with my ungrateful brats – er, I mean darling children – I decided to take action. I screamed them to bed without a story, slammed the door on them, and locked myself in my office to try to calm down. Then I opened my computer and began typing. I typed lists. Lots of them. I itemized the things my kids had a right to expect, and then wrote the responsibilities that go with them. Without standing up to their (age-appropriate) responsibilities, I decided, they lost their rights.

I stuck the lists in the form of posters all over the house: one about food in the kitchen; one about hygiene in the bathroom; one about education above the school bag hooks; etc. When the kids woke up in the morning, they were wide-eyed. The two literate ones read them out to their little sister, and they began discussing the ideas in hushed voices.

Things have changed somewhat in the Veggietot household. The posters are now looking a little dog-eared, but the principles have made their points. I now say things like, “If you don’t take care of your clothes and put them away nicely you will lose the right to have them” – and I get a perceptive response! At first I actually confiscated the items in question, including their beds when they started treating them as trampoline-rocket-launches at 10 pm one evening. The boys spent a night on the cold passage floor, but they got the point. Fast.

People have reacted to my approach variously with appall and applause. For the latter, here are the signs to print and plaster around your home:

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Cauli greens

Do not throw away cauliflower leaves! They’re full of vitamins and flavour. Chop them up – including the thick spiny bits – and follow me to Yum Land with this easy application:

Sauté 1 chopped onion with 3 cloves of crushed garlic until soft. Add washed, chopped cauliflower leaves and cook for about 5-10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Serve with anything (we had lemon-and-parsley butter beans and boiled baby potatoes)

Sautéed cauli greens

Seriously. You never knew this could taste so good. And to think you’ve been throwing out this wholesome, delicious packaging for years!

 * save money * add variety to your 5-a-day * reduce your garbage                * eat healthy * high yum factor *

The Key

In this frenetic world we seldom feel (or are) fully in control. We do what we can to try to stay on top of things, and leave the world a better place than we found it, but life sometimes gets the better of us.

Like this morning. Once again, I found myself looking for my keys. This   ALWAYS happens to me! It’s usually the last thing I do before I walk out the door, so I’m generally in a rush, shouldering a handbag, laptop bag and nappy bag, with a toddler on my hip and dragging one of her brothers in each hand. That is NOT the time to start having to run up and down stairs, scouring every cluttered surface for my keys.

So I made a decision. I may not be able to prevent deforestation of the Amazon today. I may not have time to found an organization to distribute food to all the starving orphans in Africa. I might not even get to the bottom of the festering mountain of laundry that’s waiting for me in the back room. But I can sort out one thing: my keys.

I went out and bought a hook. I returned home and put it up on the wall. And I hung my keys on it. From now on, the keys will go from my hand to the hook to my hand, so I’ll never have to waste time scratching around for them while my toddler unpacks the nappy bag and the boys are late for school.

There’s still a lot that needs my attention, but at least now I won’t be frazzled and late, so I may actually do a better job of it. The key, I think, is to take things one step at a time.

I bought this hook from Owen, a wire artist on Mackeurtan Avenue (outside Checkers). This business is his only income to support his family, so in doing some good for myself, at least I’ve helped do some good for others too. He has some really beautiful stuff, and he also makes to order. If you pay him a visit, tell him I say hi 🙂 

tiny ways to make a difference 2

Say “no thanks” to straws.

Most cafes, restaurants and even takeaway joints offer a free straw with every drink you order – even a glass of water. They’re mostly unnecessary (I know few people who use a straw every time they have a drink at home). By saying “no thanks” to little lumps of plastic several time a day, you’re keeping plenty of non-renewable, non-biodegradable matter out of the carbon cycle.

It’s such an easy little way to make a huge difference.

Some things to think about:

Every straw is made of plastic (non-renewable petroleum-based, and not biodegradable). Most are wrapped in paper which – although eventually biodegradable and possibly pulped from sustainable sources (though we don’t know) – still takes energy (usually non-renewable coal-based electricity and petrol) to manufacture and transport to you, and since it’s highly likely that your scrunched-up straw wrapper will blow away in the wind or be soiled by food or drink before you leave the table, it is unlikely that even the wrapper will ever be recycled.

Try this:

You could do an experiment: physically or mentally keep track of every straw you use for a while (a week, a month, it’s up to you). You’ll be shocked at how quickly they add up and create non-renewable, non-biodegradable clutter in the world. Do you really need this in your life? I don’t. I now enjoy my drinks out just like I enjoy them at home – from the glass. And they’re just as delicious.

Spread the word:

I make a point of saying to the waiter, “Thanks, but I won’t need a straw. They’re terrible for the environment anyway. Maybe you could mention that to your manager? Thanks so much!”

Occasionally I get an odd look, but usually this is met with a smile and understanding. Sometimes I even get special treatment on return visits (“Hello, Straw Lady! Come sit over here by the window!”)

Go ahead. Make a difference.

What are your favourite tiny ways to make a difference?

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Recycling is good. Well done you if you recycle! But can you do more? Here’s a really easy way to get even more bang for your carbon-saving efforts.

Before tossing large boxes (like cereal boxes) in the recycling bin, I cut them up and pop the larger pieces in the arts and crafts basket. That way, when my little ones want to create a masterpiece there’s always something to draw/paint/dribble on, I don’t have to worry about getting to the stationery shop as often, and fewer trees are hacked down in the name of finger painting.

Of course, it’s not to say you won’t still recycle the boxes. (Unless you are one of those parents who keeps every single thing your little poppet has drawn/painted/dribbled on EVER, in which case I suggest you sell your car and convert the garage into storage. The environment will thank you anyway for getting rid of the car.)

Most kiddies paints, inks and glues are water-based and so fine to chuck into the recycling bin. Cellophane, glitter, leaves and twigs, etc not so much, so I usually pull/cut those bits off first.

I just think it makes more sense, if I’m recycling the cardboard anyway, to let the kids have their way with it first, rather than recycling the cardboard as well as perfectly good virgin paper, which costs more trees, money and effort to procure.

What are your favourite tiny ways to make a difference?

Veggietots Quick Guide To Saving Water and Energy – Today!

 

There are lots of things that we can do to save water and energy, but many of us put them off because we don’t have the money for a hybrid car, the time to take a course on permaculture, or we don’t know where to start with making major green renovations to our homes.

 

But sometimes, our behaviour is so automatically ingrained that we don’t even think about it, so we miss great opportunities to save energy.

 

Here are my top ten quick, easy ways we can all save energy every day, without investing in any special products or making any major changes to our schedules.

 

Before you flick on the light-switch… check if the curtains are open.

 

Before you turn on the fan/heater/air-con… check if the windows and doors are open/closed.

 

Before you turn on the oven… take a second to consider: is there anything else you can throw in to multitask (bake some potatoes, roast some veggies, or whip up a tray of baby food)?

 

Before you run the washer/dishwasher… is it full? Could you wait until a few more things have been loaded? And on that note, before you bung laundry in the tumble dryer… is it sunny out? With our glorious sun, it almost always makes sense to hang your clothes rather than tumble them.

 

Before you walk away from the TV/computer/sound system… have you switched it off? At the wall? Appliances still use 10% of energy when they are in “standby” mode, according to the green book.

 

Before you toss that thing in the trash… can it be re-used? Recycled?

 

Before you flush… assess the damage. Is it really worth 5-6 litres (or more) of clean water, or can you let the yellow mellow? (And while we’re in the bathroom, remember not to let the water run while you’re brushing your teeth!)

 

Before you leave the house in the morning… have you turned off the geyser?

 

Before you reach for the car keys… could you use a nice walk?

 

Before you put that item in your shopping trolley… is it made from sustainable sources? From where has it been transported? Is it heavily packaged? Is there another product on the shelf that might be a greener choice?

 

What are your favourite water- and energy-saving tips?