This month, Britmums have been promoting the #brightFuture Challenge, sponsored by Unilever, and asking parents to share the everyday actions they take as a family to help make the world a better place. That might seem like a very tall order but Unilever’s brightFuture initiative focuses on small changes that can make big differences.
We received some products from Unilever's key brands, along with news of the actions they have put in place to do their bit. For example, Domestos has committed to helping 25 million people gain improved access to a toilet by 2020, which will help protect people from preventable diseases, reduce mortality rates, reduce school dropout rates and improve quality of life. Persil has backed a global initiative ‘Learning for Tomorrow’, partnering with UNICEF to help give children in some of the world’s toughest areas the opportunity of a quality education. The Dove Self-Esteem Project has worked closely with leading psychologists, academics and experts to create materials and resources that help young people develop a positive relationship with their appearance. The project has now reached over 19 million young lives.
Well, here at The Madhouse, we may not be able to achieve anything on that scale, but we do already do a few things that hopefully make the world a brighter place for everyone, including us. From a personal viewpoint, it also makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside knowing that you're taking steps, however small, to make a positive difference. Unilever's research shows that most parents (between 70-80%) believe that, compared with themselves, their children will live longer, have a better education and better job prospects, and will enjoy life more, even if they will have to work harder to reap the rewards of the greater benefits ahead. 83% of children continue to feel optimistic about their own future and 59% feel optimistic about the future of the environment, while six out of ten parents say that they have started to live in a ‘greener’ way at home at the suggestion of their children.
Our first positive step is an acronym that will probably be recognised by any of the growing army of geocachers in the world - CITO, which stands for Cache In Trash Out. There are events put on throughout the year where geocachers can meet up and tidy up a park or other outdoor area, working together to clean up litter, plant trees, remove invasive species, build trails and generally help protect the natural environment. We've never made it to an official event because there haven't been any locally, but we do frequently uncover old cans and plastic bags or bottles when looking for geocaches and we always go out of our way to put them in a bin. Our school also takes part in an annual beach cleaning project, heading to our local beach with gardening gloves and bin bags to collect up any man-made debris littering the beach.
When I was a kid growing up in the seventies and eighties, whenever anyone talked about "doing a good deed for the day", they always listed helping an elderly person across the road or carrying their shopping home. These days, they'd probably scream blue murder thinking they were about to get mugged if you approached them in the street without knowing them, but it's still a lovely idea to look out for the elderly neighbours who live in your street. We've unofficially adopted an old lady who lives on the corner of our street and, over the years, she's become not only more frail but also more alone, as she remains completely housebound. She has a cleaning lady who comes in once a day during the week, but at the weekend, if we don't pop in for a chat, she can go for a whole day or even weekend without seeing anyone at all. I always like to check she's warm enough in the winter and hydrated enough in the summer, but sometimes, all it needs is a friendly face, a gossipy chat about the neighbours or, on her low days, a shoulder to cry on. Some weeks, if it's been a busy one, going visiting is the last thing I feel like doing but I know it does make all the difference in the world to her. I'm also a great believer in karma so when I'm old and wrinkly, if my own family lives far away, I hope one of my young neighbours will take me under their wing too !
Back to our own home ! When I started the #KitchenClearout linky, it was to force me to clear out some of the things lurking at the back of the cupboards because I was fed up of things falling out when I opened the doors ! Over time, it's turned into more of a way to reduce food waste, using up leftovers or odds and ends of packets in new and tasty ways. How many times do you buy an ingredient - often it seems to be dried fruit or an exotic spice - then leave the rest lurking in the back of the cupboard when you don't need it any more? I now have a stock-take every couple of months, making a list of things that are in the cupboard, freezer or spice rack that I don't know what to do with, then I google them, looking for recipe inspiration. This helps reduce food waste which is always a good thing. There are also some things that I know I'll never use - they may be products that I've received in foodie blogger hampers that aren't to our taste or impulse buys that turned out to be a bad idea. If I know we'll never eat them, I put them in food collection points in supermarkets. I know some people request all the free samples of things like pet food, nappies and wipes to add them to the charity collections too.
Finally, one of the green things that we do is walking everywhere rather than going by car (or, if we're in a hurry, we'll use the bus). Walking is not only great exercise and better for the planet, it's also part of the fun - we spot so many things that we'd never see in the car, such as insects and flowers, new parks that we'd never noticed before or intriguing short cuts that often lead to mini adventures. The Madhouse kids have always walked everywhere, so they'll happily walk several miles, as long as they're warned in advance, we take snacks and drinks and we make several stops on the way at play parks and sweet shops.
What about you ? What are the little steps that you take as a family to change the future for the better?
Disclosure : This post is an entry for BritMums #brightFuture Challenge, sponsored by Unilever.