Saving the world from climate change doesn’t just fall on our shoulders. The burden may feel heaviest on us as we need to keep the world a safe place for our children and our children’s children, but this fight is a multi-generational one. How, however, do we get our free-spirited, social media-loving, tech crazed kids to settle down and recognise the importance of sustainability? Well, we love a good chat, so we cosied on up to Karen Holt, also known as Urban Earth Mama, who is all about ethical, conscious and slow living, and mama to her gorgeous (and very well-dressed) toddler, India.
Karen tells us all about her transition to a sustainable life, how she’s raising India to be a super-greeny chick and gives us her tips on how we can all be a better mama to Mama Earth.
A few years ago, you transitioned to a more conscious lifestyle. What, in your own life, led to this change?
It happened over a long period – years ago, when I became a yoga teacher, I really started to explore the more spiritual side of wellness. I started thinking more about what my choices were costing the Earth, not just my health. Once I started learning the whole thing kind of unravelled, and I realised I couldn’t turn back, instead, I kept looking for ways to tread lightly and make more conscious choices.
What kind of practices are you implementing in your own home?
In our home we try to reduce our waste as much as possible, we use reusable bags, drink bottles. We eat plant-based food, and we compost our scraps. My dream is to be able to have a garden where we can grow fruit and vegetables and live off our land as much as possible. When it comes to little ones, it’s easy to generate a lot of waste, so we’re always trying to be conscious when it comes to things for India. We use reusable nappies, and we consciously choose clothes and toys that are ethically made and support our efforts to raise a mindful being.
Are you actively raising India to be conscious of the world and sustainability?
Yes! This is something very close to our hearts. She already helps with little things day to day, and now she’s starting to understand more we’re having conversations about why we do these things. Of course, there are things she does that she doesn’t yet understand like why we pick up rubbish off our beach or why we eat plant-based food. But she’s only two, and we will keep having the conversations with her as she grows and understands more.
What things are you doing to ensure you instil good habits in her?
I honestly believe it’s the little day to day things that help instil good habits. We talk every day about where our food comes from, we take walks in our village and see bananas growing, and I can see her making that connection with her food. We do bulk food shopping together. We prepare and cook our food together, and we talk about foods that are good or bad for her tummy. Most of all, I realise that she copies everything I do! So if I want her to be more conscious and have good habits, I have to have them myself, every day.
Are there any activities that she seems most engaged in when it comes to a sustainable life?
Honestly, she loves anything that gives her some autonomy. She’s a fiercely independent two-year-old, and she loves to get her hands dirty. Whether it’s in our little garden, hanging the reusable nappies outside, or if we’re at the shops or in the kitchen, the more involved she is, the happier she is! I think it’s easy to think it’s faster to get things done without our little ones, or that maybe they’re too young to understand, but the truth is they love it, they love feeling a part of what we’re doing.
What tips do you have for parents just beginning the transition to an eco-friendly lifestyle?
Start slow with small changes and don’t worry if you make a mistake like forgetting your reusable bottle. We can only do our best, and that’s enough. I used to feel overwhelmed and wonder if my little acts were making a difference, but now that I have a little one watching my every move I realise how important these little acts are for her future.
Are there any starter products or projects you’d recommend?
Start by making the switch to reusable water bottles and cutlery to take out with you. It’s such a simple switch to move away from single-use plastic. We see plastic cutlery and bottles wash up on our beach with the tide, and it breaks my heart. It reminds me that taking my water bottle in my bag each day is worth it.
What can families living in a very urban environment, like Hong Kong, do to help their children be more aware of sustainability?
No matter where we live, it’s important that we keep the conversations going with our kids. Involve them in what we’re doing and respect them enough to tell them the reasons why. One of the reasons I started my Instagram with the name ‘Urban Earth Mama’ was because I wanted Mums out there to know that you can live in a big city and still have all the earth mama vibes. You can still compost and use cloth diapers, and more importantly, you can consciously slow right down through intentional practices like meditation when living in an urban environment.
You were recently in Phuket. How did your family enjoy it and was there anything you all connected with?
We had such a wonderful time in Phuket; we already want to go back there to experience it more! I think we really connected with the pace of island life. I grew up in New Zealand with the beach on my doorstep, and I live on the beach now, so whenever I am near a beach, I feel at home. There’s something about being near the ocean that puts a smile on my face, and I feel the busy pace of life slow down.
While there, you stayed at Villa Shyine. What was your experience there like? Anything you loved?
Villa Shyine was a dream place to stay! From the dreamiest pool to the coconut trees all over the property it was amazing. We loved how the whole villa opened up and let light in and for us, we love to cook so the kitchen was such a treat for our family and something you can only get staying in a villa instead of a hotel. It is such a perfect space for families – India was so happy exploring and swimming the days away!
What lessons on sustainability can children learn from travelling?
I think one of the most important things we can teach our kids is mindfulness and especially when travelling how we can be more mindful with each step we take. When we travel, we have the beautiful opportunity to experience different cultures and natural environments, and it’s our job to make sure we preserve both those things wherever we go. Leaving places how we found them, reducing our waste and treading lightly is important to us. It’s my hope that India’s children and their children will see the wonders of the world as we are able to, whether that’s swimming with tropical fish or learning from locals about their culture we have to act in a way now that preserves what we have today for the children of tomorrow.