From disposable diapers to new school supplies, countless items of clothing to even more snacks, raising kids in today’s world involves a lot of stuff…that is often made of or wrapped in plastic.
Though true zero waste parenting, or plastic-free parenting, is impossible, we strongly believe that it’s our responsibility to instil sustainable living principles in our children, do want we can to limit our waste and consumption, and raise a new generation of eco-warriors.
Ready to join us? Keep these 6 R’s of zero waste parenting in mind.
(P.S. While we’re gearing these tips to parents, they really can be applied to anyone!)
Yes, kids need and use a lot of things and it’s especially easy to get sucked into the vortex of all the things you “need” when first having a baby. But, just like you refuse to take unnecessary plastic bags at the grocery store, you can refuse to follow what today’s consumerism and capitalism says you “have” to have. This also can include telling friends and family that your family will not accept unnecessary toys or plastic gifts, refusing to fall into the convenience trap of buying packaged goods at the store or disposable decorations for holidays and more.
For us “reduce” naturally goes hand-in-hand with “reuse.” By choosing reusable goods instead of disposable items, you’ll not only reduce what you consume but also naturally reduce your waste. This could mean switching from disposable nappies to reusable cloth ones, investing in reusable cotton produce bags to bag up groceries or reusable bamboo straws instead of single-use plastic ones, reusing clothing or toys from friends and family instead of purchasing new ones…the list goes on!
Moving toward a more sustainable and plastic-free parenting lifestyle means you’ll need to rethink many behaviours, purchases and ways of doing things that have become habits over the years. Instead of automatically buying individually packaged jars of baby food (or squeezable plastic pouches that are nearly impossible to recycle) or snacks, try to make some of your own baby food and store it in reusable glass containers. With older kids, have a snack-packing party every Sunday where they fill up reusable bags or containers of snacks they’ll want for the week that you’ve purchased in bulk. (Have kids in school? Check out these tips on packing zero-waste school lunches.)
Go through the two rooms in your home that often produce the most plastic and waste – the kitchen and the bathroom – and rethink the items you use on a daily basis. Can you make any zero-waste swaps, like using bar soap instead of plastic-bottled body wash? It’s hard to live zero waste – in fact, it’s impossible! – and it gets even harder when you’re trying to take care of other little humans. (We still have those days where we have to grab something plastic-wrapped to go on the way home for dinner…) If you want to try and preserve the Earth for future generations, then we all need to rethink how we live our lives.
Recycling facilities and programs vary greatly from place to place. Research what’s available in your area then work to make recycling easy and accessible in your home. Learning about what materials are recyclable and how to sort recycling from a young age will ensure that it becomes the norm in your household and a regular part of your child’s routine.
As kids grow bigger and older, they’ll grow out of many things, such as clothes, toys, cribs, car seats and more. Make an effort to pass on what you can to other parents – this will help reduce what others need to purchase and ensure products are reused again and again!
6. Role model
This is the most important thing – regardless of their age, children are constantly learning by what they see us do and say. By modelling the beliefs and behaviours that you want to promote, they’ll learn by example. This is true for everything from brushing teeth every night and treating others the way we want to be treated, remembering to bring reusable produce bags when shopping to refusing single-use plastic products whenever possible. If you want to live more sustainably and pass these principles onto your children, teach them through your actions.
What are your own tips and tricks for zero waste parenting? (Also, if you’re looking for plastic-free, zero-waste product alternatives, check out all our sustainable goodies here!)