any of you will remember the Green Cross Code Man from your childhoods. Or maybe I’m just showing my age by admitting to remembering so myself! He was a fun way of teaching us how to be safe around traffic. Being the traditional time for fresh starts and resolutions, the New Year provides the perfect opportunity to adopt a Greener Cross Code and pledge to make small changes for the benefit of our environment.
Rannva Danielson from Friends of the Earth told me, “It’s kids today who’ll be the adults suffering the effects of climate change in the future. It’s crucial they understand that their actions can make a difference, and the best way to show them is to lead by example.”
A Greener Cross Code can involve promising to make as many or as few changes as you like. The most important thing is to only pledge what you think is achievable. Most families could not survive without a car, for example, so there is little to gain from promising never to use one during the next twelve months. However, if every parent promised to walk their children to school and back just one day each week, we would see a real fall in carbon emissions.
Another point is to make the code fun. That way, instead of feeling like a chore, whatever changes we promise to make will bring fresh pleasures into our children’s lives. As Rannva said, “It doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. From recycling and bike riding to growing your own vegetables, getting kids to go green can be great fun, and often much easier than you might think.”
Rannva Danielson had these
1) Go bike riding more often.
Encourage children to cycle to school with you.
2) Teach your children how to recycle.
3) Eat seasonal and locally produced food. Farmers’ markets are great for this.
4) Cook more home-made meals. Classic winter dishes like turkey pie or bubble and squeak are perfect for saving money and cutting down on wasted food.
5) Grow your own fruit and vegetables.
6) Go camping in Britain rather than flying abroad for the summer holidays.
7) Save energy by turning down the thermostat and employing jaunty draught-excluders to block out the cold. Switch to energy efficient light-bulbs.
Of course, Rannva’s magnificent seven are only her ideas. If you are
going to make a success of your Greener Cross Code, and be able to keep to it throughout 2012, it is essential that you make your own choices.
Once you have decided what to put in your code, it is best to write it down as a reminder of what you’ve pledged to do. If your children are old enough, ask them to join in. Small children are far more likely to want to keep to the changes promised if they take ownership of the process from the very beginning. They should be given the responsibility of designing, drawing and colouring in a poster detailing their code. They can even be trusted to think up one of the pledges themselves, if you’re feeling particularly brave or committed!
Hampshire MP Chris Huhne is Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. He believes tackling global warming is as politically important as national security, schools and hospitals. Alongside the work the Government is doing, Chris recognises the vital role families have to play. His top tip for writing an eco-code is to consider how to cut down wasting energy.
He said, “Think about how much money you’re wasting by leaving lights on in empty rooms, by not insulating your house, by boiling too much water in the kettle and by setting the heating too hot. Act on this, and when energy prices are high, you can save a lot of money this way.”
Chris’ own New Year’s resolution is to try and cycle into work more often. He said, “It is cheap, quick and a great way to start the day.”
A former Green Party councillor, Katie Dawson is also the mother of three children aged twelve, nine and five. She agrees that promising to make small changes is a very positive step towards helping improve our environment. Amongst her suggestions for a Greener Cross Code is that old favourite, Grow Your Own.
She told me, “Everyone should try and grow some insect-friendly flowering plants or vegetables. Children really love to grow plants from seed, and learning about food-growing and the importance of insects connects children to nature. It helps them to understand that humans are part of an ecosystem.”
Another of her ideas, relevant to those living in urban areas, is to use local shops whenever possible. She explained, “Using local shops not only helps our high streets thrive, which is convenient and saves car journeys, it also has the massive benefit of
rooting our families in their
communities. This is particularly helpful, as when children get older and can walk to local shops and facilities by themselves, they are known by a large number of local people who will look out for them.
“However, my absolute money-saving and green tip for new parents is to use cloth nappies. It will literally save you hundreds of pounds per baby. Like lots of people, I was initially put off the idea of washing dirty nappies as opposed to chucking them in the bin, but they are so easy to use and wash. Just 60 degrees in a normal washing machine. It saves you a fortune, is no extra inconvenience and saves a mountain of highly un-biodegradable waste going to landfill.”
Ultimately, whether having a
Greener Cross Code will be a success or not will be down to you. Will you be one of those people who joins the health club in January, only to stop going in March? Or the kind of person who is still hitting the treadmill in December, having burnt off all their wobbliest bits?
Whatever you choose to do, good luck! And here’s hoping we can all make a small difference in 2012.