So today marks the beginning of the summer holidays, with lots of fun, frolics and adventures to be had over the next six weeks...
...which means that battle will indeed commence in trying to keep the house as waste-free as possible....(sigh) all those temptations, kids' magazines, ice-creams and sweeties...what is a girl to do with two constantly hungry young lads on her hands with high testosterone levels?
At least I had a practice run during half-term and will be reinforcing my plan in an attempt to keep the waste down over the summer.
So, if you're in the same boat and are slap-bang in the middle of school-holiday fun, try the following tips to keep you and your rubbish bin as sane as possible:
Tip 1: The first trick is to avoid taking the children to the shops at all costs, unless it's to try on new shoes, in which case flee the shopping mall as soon as you can. Otherwise, you will be prone to temptation for the simple sake of sanity.
Tip 2: If you must be accompanied by children wanting this that and the other, use the promise of a treat that you have already prepared at home. If it's tempting enough, they will be champing at the bit to race you to your front door.
Tip 3: Be prepared with easy-treats at home so that you can keep your promise: Even if you're not a confident cook, try simple things like mixing Rice Crispies or Corn Flakes with melted chocolate to create chocolate nests. Even better use reusable cupcake cases! Buy large chocolate bars in foil\paper wrapping which can be recycled easily rather than small bars which come in landfill-destined film wrappers. Buy sweets or candy loose in paper bags instead of those that come in small plastic bags.
Tip 4: If you find it hard to resist the Pied Piper effect of the mobile ice-cream van and its jaunty tune, make sure that you've got a tub of ice-cream at home (in a recyclable or reusable container of course). This way you will avoid the useless sticky wrappers that end up in the dustbin. Make it special. It is summer after all. Follow in the footsteps of restaurants and invest in some reusable chocolate sundae glasses, where you can hide little treats at the bottom of the ice-cream. Fresh fruit is best. Try heating up soft fruit with some water and sugar to create a fruity sauce. The kids will love it, especially if it's topped off with some grated chocolate. You may even get hooked on making the ice-cream from scratch. But if this isn't your thing try ice-pops instead, where you can make your own with fruit juice or home-made smoothies. Old yoghurt pots are good for this. Just remember to insert a lolly stick, which you can later compost or reuse.
Tip 5: If you are going on holiday or vacation, avoid the temptation to buy new toys to keep the kids quiet. Dig out some old toys that might have been buried in the bottom of the toy basket. They will be as good as new, saving you both money and extra clutter. If travelling by road, play some travel games...e.g. Road Sign Bingo, giving everyone a list of different road signs to spot, where the first to cross-off everything on their list is the winner. For younger children try Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, where they get 2 points for every lorry of that particular colour. The first person to reach 10 points can pick the next colour (change the points system to encourage numeracy skills as appropriate).
Tip 6: Have fun in the garden! If you're a real Fun-Time-Frankie, prepare to get your hands dirty! Fill up a watering can, preferably using the water butt, and find a spot of garden which can be turned into mud pie heaven. Plastic cups or plant pots are perfect for the job, but make sure that you are suitably covered up. Otherwise it will be more than your hands that will be covered in mud! After all, you don't want to stain your best clothes. That's not good for Zero Waste.
Tip 7: For adventures outside the home, gather a kit-bag that is ready-to-go with a packed lunch. Take your own drinks bottles, which can be refilled as necessary. Try to avoid the landfill-sinner cling-film and make use of washable food containers instead. Fresh fruit is better than film-wrapped snacks. Take some of your home-made goodies when you can. If you find it more convenient to buy snacks en-route, look for packaging that is compostable or recyclable and if you can't find a suitable recycling point while you're out and about, consider taking it home.
Tip 8: Use the free time to save yourself waste and money later in the year. With a whole summer ahead, get the kids to design some home-made cards. Stockpile for birthdays, Christmas and other occasions. Try to use materials that won't stuff up the recycling system at the end of the waste stream, so avoid things like googly eyes, foam shapes and glittery bits. Instead use a variety of papers cut into different shapes to make interesting features, patterns or a picture collage. You could even glue some seeds, which the lucky recipient can plant into the ground once the intended celebrations are over.
Tip 9: Ah...did anyone mention Christmas? It will be here before you know it, with more clutter hitting your kids' carpets faster than you can say Festive Greetings! So with time on their hands over the holidays, have a good clear-out and get your children to have a go at the CBBC's Clutter Nutters challenge. If your kids think you are the battiest or meanest parent on the block, then this will help your cause. Instill a competitive spirit enticing them to clear as much clutter as possible, with a trip to a car-boot sale or charity shop to follow. No doubt bribes, I mean tokens of encouragement, may be needed, but these can be as waste-free as possible.
Tip 10: And finally, remember the power of No! If your little angel has a desperate need for something that you know will be gracing your bin within minutes of play, be brave enough to say it...N.O....but be prepared for temper tantrums, pleading eyes or even threats of strike action. For that brief (but seemingly long) challenging moment, grab your confidence with both hands knowing that there are many parents standing shoulder-to-shoulder in full support of your actions. We will applaud you as you rise to defend your bins from mini waste-saboteurs. No matter how old your children are, be sure to tell them why you've said no and if you feel it helps, try offering an alternative distraction that is bin-friendly. They'll thank you when you're old and grey.
So...with my defences in place I am now looking forward to a long summer of creative fun with Mr A and the kids. Of course this all means that while I'm enjoying myself I may not have access to the computer, so be prepared for my posts and comments to be more random than they have ever been before.
You might even find me popping up in odd places, like France or indeed the Swiss Alps? Who knows where I'll end up. If I appear randomly at a spot near you, please let me know and I will come and drop off my recycling....or even swap it for some of yours.
Please feel free to have a good old poke about the site and visit some of the older links and don't be afraid to comment and chat amongst yourselves. You're very good at encouraging each other! Even if I can't reply, I have the technology to at least read what you've got to say, which means I'll never feel homesick.
So summer fun, here we come......and happy holidays to you all!