Family homes tend to be packed with ‘stuff’, and a lot of that stuff ends up being thrown away.
n fact, every person in the UK throws away their own body weight in rubbish every seven weeks, according to research by Hillarys, and YouTuber and CBeebies TV presenter Maddie Moate thinks it’s time children and their families thought more about what they discard, and how it can be reused instead.
So Moate has written a book Stuff: Eco-Stories of Everyday Stuff, revealing the ingenious ways people have made, used and re-used the items around them, and explaining how kids can do it too.
“Being more eco-friendly at home needn’t feel like an inconvenience,” stresses Moate. “There are lots of fun, simple things we can do with young kids that will help keep them busy and inspire them to be mindful about the stuff we use and the green spaces we share.
“I recommend starting with sustainable habits that enhance your life rather than leave you feeling inconvenienced. Ultimately, though, I think one of the simplest changes we can all make is to buy less and reuse more.
“Before shopping in the sales, let’s ask ourselves whether we really need it. And when we spring clean, let’s ask our friends and family if they want our unused items before we take them to the tip.
“Valuing our stuff and treating it with respect will help us get more life out of it, and the longer we can make use of something the better.”
Here are 6 simple ways Moate suggests children can start to re-use ‘stuff’ and help the environment…
1. Create a ‘reuse bin’
You may already have separate bins for rubbish and recycling, but Moate stresses that lots of our recycling can be reused before we get rid of it. “Why not start a reuse bin?” she suggests. “This can be a place to put clean recycled materials that can be used again for things like arts and crafts.”
2. Become a water collector
Moate points out that in some parts of the world, fresh water is considered a luxury and a precious resource. “To help us conserve water, encourage kids to collect rainwater in old containers and use it to water the garden or house plants.”
3. Go on a rubbish ramble
Grab a pair of gloves and a bucket, and go on a rubbish ramble, suggests Moate. “When litter ends up in our natural ecosystems it can be harmful to wildlife and can take hundreds of years to break down,” she says. “We can do our bit by helping clean up our local environment when we’re out and about.”
4. Open your own bee café
Bees will travel up to two miles in search of flowers loaded with nectar and pollen for food, explains Moate.
“Over the years, we’ve destroyed a lot of our native wildflower habitats and this makes searching for food pretty exhausting for our pollinator buddies,” she says. “We can help them out by planting a bee café to help them refuel. A bee cafe is a one-pot stop for our pollinator friends no matter where you live.”
Wildflowers bees enjoy include cornflowers, viper’s bugloss, poppies and dandelion, and Moate adds: “I really love bees, so planting wildflowers not only encouraged pollinators but also made my garden more exciting.”
5. Craft your own recycled paper
You’ll need: old paper, a bowl, water, tea towel and a rolling pin.
How to do it: Get some recycled paper and tear it into tiny pieces, and then mix the pieces of paper with some water in a bowl, and squish it all together until it’s really mushy. Squeeze the mushy mixture into balls of pulp, and place each pulp ball on a flat surface and put a tea towel over the top, before using a rolling pin to flatten it and squeeze out the excess water. Leave the pulp to dry and you’ve made your own paper!
6. Construct a compost bin
“Composting at home is great because it reduces the amount of food waste we send to landfills, which create huge amounts of greenhouse gas,” says Moate. “You don’t need to have a garden to start composting either, you can make a mini-compost bin in something as small as a plastic bottle.”
You’ll need: an old plastic bottle, scissors, a pin, tray, brown/green waste, a spray water bottle and kitchen towel.
How to do it: Wash an old plastic bottle and peel off any labels, then ask a grown-up to help you cut the top off the bottle and use a pin to poke some holes in the bottom for drainage. Place the bottle on a plastic tray and add a layer of brown waste – like shredded paper, torn-up egg cartons and crunchy old leaves. Spray the brown layer with water till it’s damp, but not too soggy, and then add a layer of green waste – like vegetables, food scraps and grass cuttings. Place the tray and composter somewhere warm like a sunny windowsill, and give it a stir every day and add a little more water to help micro-organisms break the contents down into compost.
Lay a sheet of kitchen towel over the top to keep it damp, and continue to add layers of brown and green waste, but remember it will take time for everything to decompose. When the layers have transformed into compost, you can add it to the soil around plants to give them a healthy snack packed with nutrients.
Stuff: Eco-Stories of Everyday Stuff by Maddie Moate, Puffin, £12.99. Available now