SMUG MONEY: What legacy are you leaving for your kids?

Written by Lisa Stanley Mann on 22nd March 2017

If you have kids, there’s a good chance that their presence has made you that bit more concerned about the environment.

Recent research from Gocompare.com Energy reveals 62% of parents ‘agree’ and ‘strongly agree’ with the statement that ‘being a parent has made me more concerned about the environment’ – a result that Jen Gale from mymakedoandmendlife.com can support: “If we carry on as we are, the planet that my kids will have to live on will be vastly different. I want my future generations to have a safe and habitable planet to live on.”

While little Theo or Theodora probably doesn’t yet give two hoots about the provenance of their baked beans, whether electricity comes from coal or wind or what their piggy bank savings will fund beyond the new Lego Batman figures or Darth Vader pencil case, one day, there’s a strong chance they are going to turn around to you and say something mortifying like: “Why do we use petrol if burning it destroys our planet?” And you will gulp and say something hopeful about the future, all the while feeling even more bad than you already do.

So why stop at rewilding, forest school, mindfulness, organic food, clothes, recycling and green energy? Why not teach them about the power of money for good, too?

When I had my first son, Seb, six years ago, I had an interest in green living – it’s hard to escape in Bristol – but it certainly wasn’t as developed as it is now. His arrival made me question everything – what I was eating, what chemicals were in the food I was preparing for him, the clothes he was wearing next to his skin, the husbandry involved in the meat we were eating and the sustainability of the fish, not to mention the ingredients of the household cleaners and toiletries we used as a family.

I’ve extended our green living to other aspects of our lives, for example switching to a renewable energy provider at home and in my (other) business. I’ve not yet managed to ditch my diesel car, though that is next on the cards, and we’ve certainly increased our cycling rate as a family.

Last on the list – money. When my Dad kindly wanted to open a  savings account for Seb, we chose a savings account from a sustainable, ethical and responsible provider, one we knew would put Seb’s money to good use and invest in things we like and that match our values. We opened a Triodos Junior cash ISA, although since the arrival of number two have switched both their savings into Stocks & Shares ISAs with WHEB via the Alliance Trust platform.

Want to leave a better planet for your little ones?

Here are five tips on being a greener parent this Mother’s Day:

  1. Reuse, repurpose, recycle, regift. Hands up, how many snuggle blankets did you get given when your child was first born? How many pieces of plastic tat does your child get every birthday?You don’t have to keep it! Embrace the handmade and homemade for gifts that are unique and show you care. And if you do have snuggle blankets or plastic tat galore to offload, you can be sure there’s plenty of families who would appreciate whatever you can give away via Freecycle or Freegle or local facebook groups.
  2. Cut down on food waste. Got a baby to wean? Why not chuck your soggy veg into their purees? If they like something they’ll eat it, right? If you can’t make the most of what’s in your cupboards and fridges then at least try to use a worktop food waste caddy and get the waste recycled. Fruit and veg that’s nearly on the turn goes straight in our blender.
  3. On your bike / scooter / feet. Kids love to get outdoors, don’t they? I know my children aren’t put off one bit by a bit of rain or mud, in fact it makes them keener to go outside. Help educate your children that the outdoors is to be embraced and protected, and nature is as good a classroom as the one at school.
  4. Consider renewable energy. These days you can actually save money by switching to one of the renewable tariffs, such as those offered by 100% renewable provider, Bulb Energy, currently offering a £50 cashback deal (we get £50 too if you use this link).

5. Where does their money go? If you, or other family members are saving for your children, you can not only get them in the savings habit but also show them the benefits of providers that invest in the real, local economy. Both Triodos Bank, whose www.knowwhereyourmoneygoes.com site shows savers exactly which businesses – from city farms, dairy farms and local day nurseries, to music studios, arts centres and cinemas – their money is helping support, and Charity Bank offer a range of savings and investment products suitable for all ages.

You can also teach your children good savings habits by investing on their behalf in future technologies such as wind turbines and solar farms. Companies such as Thrive Renewables, which owns and operates 19 renewable energy sites across the UK, even offers open days allowing your kids to get up close to or even inside a real wind turbine.