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I want to be an eco-warrior but the SUV is so handy when you have kids


It’s not easy being green,” said Kermit. And for parents, it seems, he was both absolutely right and absolutely wrong. We know exactly what we need to do, of course. We need to switch to a green electricity provider, get a hybrid, stop throwing away so much of our… Hello? Still there? Or have you had to fling the paper down to deal with a critically urgent yet hitherto unmentioned school project (Easter bonnet — chuck palm oil and plastic at the problem)?

If so, welcome to my tribe — the Green-In-Principle Parent. We’ve long known our credentials to be critically injured. No amount of plant-based burgers or Prius charging was ever going to touch the annual 58 tonnes of carbon we created simply through procreation. Last year, however, the first rigorous study was conducted into whether parents counterbalance the carbon emissions of their children.

I had hope. Parenthood, after all, is a transformative experience that makes you fear for the future, abhor your past habits and radically overhaul your lifestyle. Or it might, if it weren’t for all the Easter bonnets. Because, of course, the essence of parenthood is having far less time, yet way more calls on it. And carbon-intensive goods are just so, extremely convenient. Blink, and you find yourself worrying about the polar ice caps from behind the wheel of the SUV you bought because Susie has swimming at four, Sam does ballet at 5.15 and the 327 bus is notoriously tardy…

Thus the study does not conclude well for our tribe. Parents may worry more, but we also emit 26 per cent more carbon than those without children. That’s why eco-warriors tend to be child-free, or children themselves. It’s also why I was mesmerised by activist Swampy and his 16-year-old son occupying the HS2 tunnel under Euston. While the better half of my brain was moved to consider their ecological concerns, the more persistent part was screaming: “With your kid? And… how did that end? Nostalgia for your 1997 hunger strike?”

We’re all going to have to do something radical though. According to the Climate Change Committee, the average UK household needs to slash its carbon footprint by 3.6 tonnes by 2030 to meet our targets. So, spurred on by Swampy, I’ve set a resolution. Over the next year, my family will halve our carbon footprint. Unfortunately, that’s where any resemblance between me and that committed environmentalist ends. My children are in primary school and their lives revolve around a love of plastic and hatred of vegetables. Then there’s my great British reluctance to cause a fuss. I squirm at the prospect of being the mother who allows only wooden toys. I don’t want to end up on @overheardinwaitrose: “Darling, think of the food miles on those damsons.” Maybe it would be easier to retreat to a tunnel after all…

Great news! An Australian police commissioner has proposed an app allowing people to record consent before sex. For years, I’ve imagined a person could think they want something then, later in the process, realise otherwise. Now that’s cleared up, I am bursting with ideas. How about a marriage app? At the altar, both parties swipe left, rendering it impossible to fall out of love. The data shows you consented “til death do us part”. Goodbye divorce! Or an addiction app: who needs AA? Just tell the app you’re quitting. And there could be a pet app — for parents whose children promised to walk the puppy “every day, forever”… We’ll run them like test and trace. What could go wrong?


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