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Raising eco-kids on the cheap

Raising eco-kids won't cost you the Earth. Here's G's tips for helping parents keep things light on the wallet.

Eco-kids

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Hand-me-downs

An oldie, but a goodie. Kids clothes today change style as often as the catwalks of Milan, but considering how quickly little ones get bigger, it's an awful waste of resources. So look to your friends and family for pre-loved clothes that no longer fit their children. You could even organise a clothes swap in your local area - it's also a great way to meet other parents.

Grow a family vegie patch together

Whether you've got a balcony or a large backyard, get your kids to help out growing herbs, vegies and fruit. It's a great way to get them involved in an eco-activity, you'll get cheap organic food in the process, and may even convince the little ones to get excited about eating their greens. Try tomatoes, carrots, lettuce, green beans, basil, parsley and strawberries, as they're easy to grow.

Cook from scratch

While it sounds like more effort, making meals from scratch needn't be time consuming. Make mashed food for bubs in big batches and freeze for later use. Bulk-prepared meals for bigger kids can also save on time, packaging and money. Not to mention loads of packaging and money. It's also a healthier option, especially if you use your own vegie garden!

Use the library

In the digital age, we've almost forgotten about the good ol' library, but it's a resource well worth mining for books, music and movies to keep the kiddies entertained. It's free, and ensures resources aren't wasted. In addition to traditional libraries, many toy libraries have sprung up in the past few years - a great budget option for kids who get bored of their toys quickly. Memberships can range from $15 to $200 for a year. See www.toylibraries.org.au.

Use cloth over disposable nappies

Gone are the days of bulky, cotton terrycloth nappies with oversized bobby pins. Modern cloth nappies have hi-tech designs that are form fitting for youngsters. They're also generally made from eco-friendly fabrics such as organic cotton, hemp and bamboo. Over the long run, you could save up to $5,000 per child by opting for cloth over disposable.

Get outside

Your kids might want the latest computer games, but how much time do they really need to spend indoors? Nature is disappearing before their eyes, so why not get your kids outside to enjoy the environment. Take them to the local reserve or a nearby National Park. It's free, and a great way to teach your kids about the world around them.

Get a functional pet

Who needs a dog when you could have a chook? Pet chickens take up much less room (you can even have one in a small terrace yard), get by with fewer resources, and your kids can learn about where their food comes from as they collect eggs for brekkie.

Walk to school rather than drive the car

If you live less than a 10 minute walk from your kids' school or daycare, there's no real excuse to use the car. Walk your kids there and get some exercise and fresh air, while hopefully forming a long-lasting eco-behaviour. You'll also save dollars in petrol and the wear and tear that short trips have on a car. Your body will thank you too.

Can the clutter

Think before you buy. Does your child really need the Rolls Royce of prams? Our mums got by with the basics, so why go for the frills and name brands that cost a fortune? Opt for items that have multiple uses to save you the clutter and the dollars.