Eco parenting

It isn’t always easy being green, especially when trying to factor environmental issues into planning days out or buying food for the family. Parenting shouldn’t be a guilt-ridden experience, especially during the summer, so let’s start this series by talking about ways to make these things fun as well as good for the planet.

On a sunny day, a cooling swim at Brockwell Lido is a must. Heated purely by the sun, this listed art deco treasure is affectionately known as Brixton Beach. Enjoy hearty breakfasts of free-range bacon and egg baps and organic porridge, or service a thirst with organic lemonade and fair trade cola. The numbers 3, 37, 68, 201 and 468 buses all stop outside, whilst Herne Hill Train Station is only a short pushchair ride away.

Eco-friendly lunches and afternoon teas, the best in London according to Time Out, are found at Beas of Bloomsbury. This small boutique cafe isn’t ideal for toddlers as there are no highchairs but it is a perfect place for new mums to meet up for a guilt-free treat. With organic, locally produced food where possible, 100% green energy and composting of leftovers, this is as environmentally friendly as the capital gets. They even grow their summer salads and herbs on their own rooftop garden.

Dinner at the Larder Restaurant, within Notting Hill’s Daylesford Organics, is a delicious blend of fresh salads and vegetables grown in their Pimlico kitchen gardens and meat sourced from their own estates in Staffordshire and The Cotswolds. There are highchairs and children’s menus. There are excellent shops at both locations, selling their own fresh produce, homebaked organic bread, handmade cheeses and organic beers and wines.

The Rhug Estate in North Wales supplies the organic meat for the traditional butchers counter at Planet Organic’s Westbourne Grove store. With three other stores in the capital, and an online home delivery service, Planet Organic claims to be the UK’s largest organic supermarket. Their other three stores are found at Muswell Hill, Islington and Torrington Place off the Tottenham Court Road.

The largest organic supermarket chain in the USA is Whole Foods Market, and they have five stores in London. As well as their flagship store in Kensington High Street they can be found at Camden, Clapham Junction, Soho and Stoke Newington. As might be expected, everything can be found underneath one roof.

You may wish to visit somewhere smaller of course. There are so many organic shops and cafes in London we could not hope to list them all. The website is very helpful in finding such places. Especially so as customers have left honest, and not always favourable, reviews to help you choose where to spend your money wisely.

Farm shops are difficult to beat when it comes to soothing fears over the safety of the food we give to our children.

Okay, so there aren’t any real farms in London, but combining shopping with a visit to beautiful Surrey or Hampshire makes for an enjoyable day out.

Newlyn’s Farm shop near Hook sells its own beef, lamb and free-range pork and has been voted Hampshire’s best meat supplier. For something very different visit West Lea Farm shop near the famous watercress beds of Alresford and buy their delicious homemade watercress soup.

Near Haslemere, Applegarth Farm shop sells the best local produce, including artisan cheeses and pies baked nearby. There is a pet’s corner with bunnies and friendly chickens for children to play with and a stunning tree house. Fanny’s Farm shop in Merstham has a fantastic tree house which sits twelve people and can be booked in advance to celebrate new births and children’s parties.

Nothing is fresher than food harvested by hand at a pick-your-own farm. From May to October at Garsons in Esher great fun can be had picking whatever is in season, whether it be May asparagus, the first strawberries of June or the beans, beetroot and carrots of mid-summer. Organic manures are used and chemical pesticides usage minimised in favour of natural controls.

When planning any days out this summer, let environmental issues influence your planning. Whilst sun-screen is a must, especially for children’s delicate skin, please remember that the chemicals in conventional creams leave behind nasty residues in the sea. At mineral-based alternatives can be bought which may be kinder to young children’s skin.

Are car journeys really necessary to ferry the family to the seaside? Dad Jason Torrance, Campaigns Director for the Campaign for Better Transport, says “Switching to more environmentally friendly forms of transport is key to ensuring that we are able to tackle climate change and ensure our children have a future.”

Far better to travel by train then, with the added advantages of no traffic jams or fights for the last parking space within five miles of the front. With children under 5 travelling free and advance tickets as cheap as £10 return from London Victoria to Brighton it is also a far more economical option.

Beautiful countryside like the New Forest or Isle of Wight is far better explored without a car. This summer the ever popular New Forest Bus Tours will be taking families around the national park’s major sites. 2010 prices weren’t available as we went to press, but expect to pay approximately ten pounds for an all-day hop-on service. Children under five travel free.

Not only does the usual driver get to enjoy the forest’s unspoilt views, this option presents the opportunity to take a drink in one of many lovely, traditional pubs. The bus stops at Brockenhurst railway station, with mainline trains to and from Waterloo three times an hour. There is the added bonus of avoiding the dreadful summer congestion on the M3.

Portsmouth and Southampton Ferries to the Isle of Wight are also reached by train from Waterloo and the short trip across the Solent is a pleasant excursion for all. Once on the island, travel by bus to all its attractions. For £10, with children under 5 again free, families can take as many bus journeys as they wish for 24 hours. A 48 hour ticket for those staying overnight is just £15.

For many new parents the idea of ‘going green’ conjures images of hard work, dirty nappies and expense. I hope we have shown you during this first in our series that it can be fun as well.