With the magnitude of stuff that comes with babies and children you might think that living more sustainably with kids is impossible. All that stuff comes with a lot of waste – and many children’s products are typically plastic based or disposable.
Here are a selection of swaps you can make to start reducing waste! Be sure to check out the shop for our featured products that can help with your sustainable living needs.
1.Reusable drinks bottles:
Instead of endless plastic bottles or cups, opt for a reusable stainless steel bottle. They are durable, and you can find ones that maintain the temperature of the drink inside, so your little ones can have a refreshing drink throughout the day. They’re great for around the house as well as out and about, where you can refill them with water, same as you would your own bottle.
2. Bamboo toothbrushes:
Every year over a billion plastic toothbrushes are thrown away worldwide, ending up in landfill, in the sea or washed up on a beach. Using a bamboo toothbrush with a biodegradable handle is a small change but together we can make a big difference. Toothbrushes are not recyclable and their packaging may not be in your area either. With how frequently we switch them out, a sustainable option is necessary and it’s one of the easiest swaps. And they’re not just for adults too, we stock both baby and child sizes as well as our adult brushes. My eldest loves brushing with her “dee-eth” with her bamboo toothbrush. We also have a selection from FETE in a variety of colours to pique little ones interests- mine love picking out a different colour to last time, when it comes to replacing them.
3. Plastic Free Lunches
Children’s lunches are massive sources of plastic waste – from the plastic lunchboxes themselves, to plastic tupperware, ziplock pouches, clingfilm, snack packs and individually wrapped plastic food packaging.
Several alternatives include:
- Silicone reusable food pouches, we make our own smoothies and then refill the pouches, so we can take them out and about with us, or as a quick and easy snack for our toddler to grab from the fridge. When you’re finished, wash them out (ours are even dishwashable) then they’re ready to use again. You could also try our reusable snack bags.
- Wax Wraps to replace cling film or foil, to wrap sandwiches and the like. Seal in freshness without the unrecyclable plastic.
- You can buy larger quantities , bulk buy, or visit a refill shop to obtain snack items with less or no plastic. Then divide these up in to portions yourself instead of purchasing individually wrapped varieties.
- Avoid the plastic lunchboxes and opt for a stainless steel version, or one of our Huski Home rice husk lunchboxes, made using the by-products of the rice industry.
4. Bamboo Tableware:
When it comes to feeding our small ones, many of us ask ourselves “what is on my child’s plate?” – Is it nutritious? Is it a choking hazard? etc. But many of us rarely ask “what is my child’s plate made of?”. The majority of kids’ tableware products are made from various forms of plastic that can contain BPAs and other potentially toxic chemicals. BPA has been known to leach into foods and liquids it comes in contact with, especially when these plastic products are heated.
Bamboo is a great alternative to plastic kids’ tableware because of the non-toxic factor. Since bamboo is grown without using pesticides or chemical fertilizers, bamboo plates are non-toxic from the get go.
Additionally, the inherent strength of bamboo makes bamboo plates durable without risking bending or cracking, while also being lightweight. Bamboo kids’ plates are also non-stick as well as heat, stain, odour, and water-resistant – all important factors during mealtime!
5. Wooden Toys
Having more durable wooden toys, which are better for the environment, and can be beautiful additions to the home, is a more sustainable choice then their weaker, more easily broken, plastic counterparts. Also, if you opt for open-ended toys, like wooden rainbows, stacking blocks and ‘loose parts’, there are lots of different ways a child can play with them, hence they get bored less easily. We also have some beautiful wooden Montessori learning resources.
6. Reusable Straws:
With children, especially small ones still learning to use cups or being given glasses while eating out, straws are often necessary. However, plastic straws generally can’t be recycled, so straws have to be sent to landfill, where they take a long time to degrade, can leach chemicals like BPA, break down into microplastics, and can be ingested by wildlife. There are however alternatives( which can be easily taken out and about to be used on the go):
Bamboo Drinking Straws can be reused hundreds of times and can be composted at the end of their life cycle. Our bamboo straws are an eco-friendly and sustainable solution to plastic, made without the need for any harmful pesticides or chemicals. The entire process is safe, non-toxic and completely organic. Each straw is 100% organic, handmade and biodegradable. Our toddler gets on with them just fine.
Silicone Straws tend to be light and durable, made from 100% Pure Food-Grade FDA/LFGB certified Silicone, they come with a lifetime guarantee from ecoLiving! They are also a great option for children who love to chew straws, as they are chew-proof, so no more cracked, flattened and ruined plastic straws.
7. Shampoo/Conditioner/Soap bars
Let’s face it kids get dirty a lot, there’s painting, splashing in muddy puddles, playing in the garden, baking, sensory play and just plain life, like food or drink spills. That’s a lot of reasons to need a bath or a hair wash, and that means you get through a lot of bubble bath, soap and shampoo etc. All of which you can purchase in bars instead, drastically cutting down your plastic usage. With the added benefit of less chemicals and harsh ingredients on your children’s skin.
8. Ethical Clothes/Preloved Clothes
Opting for second-hand clothes is both financially beneficial and eco-friendly. Charity shops, facebook selling groups, local swap meets, nearly new sales, and hand me downs from friends and family are great options to get ‘new’ clothes for your little people – who we all know are constantly in need of clothes as they grow so fast. Most of our children’s wardrobes are second hand – purchased from local selling sites and gifted from family (some of our daughters clothes have been worn by 3 or even 4 of her cousins first – now that’s getting the full use out of an item) Then when she outgrows them, what we don’t keep for her baby brother to wear later, we sell on local groups or donate to charity. And only when a garment can truly not be reused in anyway, either worn or repurposed, then it is sent to textile recycling at The Tip.
Those clothes that we do purchase new for our children are made of sustainable materials, so they have less impact on the planet, and also usually last longer as well. This includes bamboo, hemp and organic cotton. Babies skin is thinner than adults skin so GOTS certified organic clothing and bedding is very important, especially for newborns. Because they are very durable and quality garments, there is usually plenty of life left in them once our children outgrow them so we can sell them on or donate them for another child to wear. This keeps items away from landfill and extends their life – it also means one less garment being made and the impact of the production that goes with that.
9. Cloth Wipes
Most baby wipes are made of non-biodegradable materials and obviously can only be used once. They are a massive source of waste at landfill and also despite not being flushable (even the “flushable” and “biodegradable” varieties are not truly suitable to be flushed) they often end up clogging up our sewers and waterways.
Cloth wipes are more cost-effective, create less waste in the landfill, and help you avoid the use of irritating soaps and chemicals on your baby’s delicate bottom.
Cleaning up with cloth is as simple as just add water and wipe, though many people use homemade wipe solutions and you can purchase store-bought solutions if you prefer. You can keep them in special wipe boxes, or just use wet bags for on the go. They are available in a variety of materials, cotton is the usual go to or for luxury feels, you can buy ultra soft minky, velour, or bamboo cloths.
10. Cloth Nappies
Get eco-friendly by opting for washable cloth nappies instead of disposable nappies. Disposable nappies are made of synthetic materials, filled with chemicals, so besides being non-biodegradable, they can be harmful to your child’s tender skin. And obviously, you can only use them once.
A cloth nappy is a reusable nappy, usually made from cotton or other natural materials. The picture that might come to your mind when we hear the term are those squares of cotton that our mothers used. Now I’m not talking about terries or the endless soaking and boiling of previous years. Modern cloth nappies are easy to clean, dry pretty fast, have poppers or velcro (no fiddly or sticky pins) and come in a multitude of prints and designs. As far as cleaning goes, nappies and many wraps just go in the wash at 40 or 60. No need to soak or to boil wash.
It can sound surprising that cloth nappies are more cost effective than disposables because they can call for a hefty initial investment (though you could always purchase preloved from selling sites to save money). But in the longer run, they turn out to be less expensive than disposables, even better if you can reuse for more than one child, and you can always sell on afterwards.
Most estimates of how much you will spend on disposable nappies are around £850-£1,100 per child. If you choose to use a nappy disposal system, it adds in the region of £200; otherwise you’ll need to add the cost of nappy bags.
However, we paid just shy of £300 for our daughters nappies, they were brand new and are a popular and fairly top end quality brand, we also bought additional spare inserts. She has been using them for 2.5 years and our son has been sharing for the last 6 months. If they were in disposables that could have been up to 7,200 nappies between them so far. That’s a lot of plastic off to landfill, not to mention a lot of money. And while our daughter has started potty training and wont be using nappies much longer, our son will be wearing them for around another 2 years, after which we can sell them on and get some money back. Yes you have the costs of washing but if you wash your nappies two or three times a week at 60 degrees, and take into account the cost of electricity, water and detergent, then the grand total is about £1 a week, or about £130 over two and a half years.
So disposables could’ve cost us £2000 for our 2 children, instead of the £300 we spent on cloth nappies and maybe £260 on washing, as we do wash ours more than twice a week as we have two in cloth. That’s a saving of up to £1440, and we still have the potential to make some money back when they sell on.
According to WRAP, the UK adds 3 billion disposable nappies to landfill every year, so making the switch to reusables can really make a difference. They are not as hard as you think and most local councils offer a nappy voucher incentive when you buy your first set of nappies. I would highly recommend ‘The Nappy Lady‘ she has all the advice you need and offers a great support service too.