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Embracing togetherness with family at dinnertime is a worldwide tradition spanning generations and a multitude of cultures. Sharing a meal with good conversation is a valued part of our social wellbeing, yet a recent survey1 by Maple Leaf Foods shows that this coveted time of togetherness is another aspect of our lives negatively impacted by screen time. Eighty-six per cent of Canadians say they’d like to spend more time together away from screens, yet perhaps unsurprisingly, 48% of Canadian families often watch TV while eating meals. Is your family one of them?
This common practice, taking place in approximately 5 million Canadian households, is just one example of electricity generation that may seem minimal, but collectively has a negative impact on our planet. In fact, it would take planting trees across more than 50 hockey rinks to offset the amount of CO2 generated by just one hour of TV watching by Canadian families.
Why not challenge yourself to a disconnected dinner hour spent away from screens and distractions? Besides enabling positive family bonding, breaking away from screens for an hour a day is just one example of a little change that can have a big impact on the environment.
So put the devices away, turn the TV off and try these 6 fun ideas below to disconnect from screens to reconnect with one another during dinnertime:
1 – Engage little helpers
Reconnecting starts with food prep. Give everyone a role to prepare the dinner you will all enjoy, from Fridge Finder to Produce Washer. You may find you have a budding chef in the house who can hone their skills helping you in the future!
2 – Make table setting an event
Get your kids involved in setting the table while they wait and let their creativity flow. They can pick themes, colours and make centrepieces to complement the meal. A simple way to create a unique dining experience without leaving your home.
3 – Say ‘no’ to notifications
Dinner is served! But keep devices out of sight, out of mind. Place all handhelds in a basket in another room, on silent. Removing this core distraction is the best way to reconnect during dinner.
4 – Create a conversation jar
The magic of reconnecting during dinner without distractions lies in conversation, but not all families find it easy to talk about themselves, or with others. A simple activity is to create a conversation jar containing questions on strips of paper, which everyone contributes to. During dinner, questions are picked from the jar and answered one by one from everyone around the table. The key is to make the questions fun, interesting and even random to make everyone comfortable and share a laugh or two!
5 – Embrace the eco-friendly
Nobody likes washing dishes, and many don’t know that handwashing often uses excessive water. Next time, save water by washing all dishes at once in the dishwasher on its eco-friendly setting. To save on food waste, plan how you will use your leftovers so they don’t just sit in the fridge and get tossed. Meal prep with your kids to ‘upcook’ leftovers for another meal in the week to reduce food waste. When grocery shopping for your next ‘Disconnected Dinner’, look for products made by carbon-neutral companies, like Maple Leaf Foods.
6 – Bond beyond dinnertime
Your dinner hour may be over, but that doesn’t have to mean screen time continues. Knowing the impact using screens has on the environment, engage your family in post-dinner activities to keep them engaged without distractions. Introduce them to a retro game from your childhood, start a family jigsaw puzzle, or get outside and take a walk together.
Remember, if we all step up for sustainability together, we can make a big impact on the planet for future generations.
BIO: Joe McMahan is the Vice President of Sustainability at Maple Leaf Foods, where he leads the company’s environmental sustainability initiatives. Maple Leaf foods is the world’s first major carbon neutral food company and sets bold, science-based targets to reduce carbon emissions.
About this Study: These are the findings of a study commissioned by Maple Leaf Foods among a nationally representative sample of 1508 Canadians who are members of the online Angus Reid Forum, balanced and weighted on age, gender, region and education. For comparison purposes only, a sample of this size would yield a margin of error of +/- 2.4 percentage points at a 95% confidence level. The study was conducted in English and French on January 27, 2023.
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