Zero waste parenting - What is it and how do we achieve it?

 Zero Waste Parenting or Eco-parenting as i like to call it..

is a planet friendly way of raising children amidst the environmental issues we face today. Starting with the things babies need right from when they’re born have alternative options that can have a lower impact on the planet. But truth be told, they’re not what you will find in most supermarkets, baby shops or in commercial advertising, making them a not-so-obvious option. You will only find these options if you go looking for them!

We understand that parenting is hard as it is, and then you add trying to be eco-conscious into the mix and its overwhelming just to think about. So we’ve broken down why its important to try a little harder and laid out options in front of you to take the worry of time consuming research out.

This guide is to put together all of the things we, as parents, can do differently with our children to bring them up in an environment that’s not wasteful.

The reason we need to change our ways as parents 

First things first is to understand why we need to be less wasteful by understanding the enormity of the issue.  We currently produce two billion tonnes of waste per year between 7.6 billion people according to Sensonseo Global Waste Index 2019. Wealthy countries like the United States, Canada and members of the European Union produce 34% of the world’s waste. An estimated 13.5% of today's waste is recycled (which is shockingly low) and 5.5% is composted. The report estimates that between one-third and 40% of waste generated worldwide is not managed properly and instead dumped or openly burned. 

If you live in Australia like we do, here is something that astounded us- A report by the Environment Department and Blue Environment Pty Ltd found that in 2016-2017 Australia generated an estimated 67 million tonnes of waste, almost 2,700kg for each person!! Of this amount per person, 103 kg of it is plastic.

We’ve also found out that only 12% of the plastic Australians put into their kerbside bins is being recycled. We may have nailed the waste segregation bit in our homes, but the stuff in our recycled bins seems to be sitting in large warehouses instead of getting recycled. The good news is that waste per person is going down, but the bad news is that the population is increasing so more waste is being generated in total. This is where we can come together to make a difference.

Zero waste parenting continued...

Coming back to global issues of waste- according to a report from the World Bank, by 2050, the world is expected to generate 3.40 billion tons of waste annually, increasing drastically from today’s numbers (as aforementioned). Only about 13.5% of today's waste is recycled and 5.5% is composted. The rest ends up in landfills, releasing toxic gases and contaminating ground water (which we ultimately drink) or dumped into our oceans, harming marine life and making its way back into our food chain, or burned, causing air pollution and release of dioxins associated with cancers and reproductive and hormone malfunction. 

 

IT IS TIME WE DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS! You might have heard the famous quote- Change starts at home and it couldn’t be more true so let’s dive into what we can do as parents, in our homes, to reduce the waste parenting creates!

How can we achieve zero-waste parenting?

First up we have the worst culprit- Nappies/Diapers.

Disposable diapers take between 200-500 years to decompose and even then, leave fragments of micro plastics behind so they’re never fully gone.

If your baby wears diapers for at least the first 30 months, you’re going through 6000-9000 diapers on average.

The eco-friendly alternative- Reusable cloth nappies/diapers

With a simple google search, you’re guaranteed to find numerous brands offering really cool and trendy reusable options. The maintenance is simple- rinse well after every use and then machine wash (in cold water) with minimal detergent and dry in the sun. We’ve summed up some of our favourites-

My Little Gumnut- mylittlegumnut.com.au

EcoNaps- www.econaps.com.au

Multi brand stockist- thenappylady.co.uk

Baby wipes-

Most baby wipes aren't biodegradable at all. It could take over a hundred years to decompose a little. Even worse, people often flush them down the toilet so they end up clogging sewers and harming marine life when they reach the ocean. 

The eco-friendly alternativeBiodegradable wipes made of organic cotton/bamboo or reusable cloth wipes. 

Next up, we have another item that is constantly being bought in households with kids- plastic toys!

The eco-friendly alternative- Wooden toys or toys made from natural, biodegradable materials like bamboo, organic cotton, hemp to name a few.

For convenience of low price points, easy production and logistics, plastic became a popular choice for kids toys many years ago. We have now learnt from accessible information sources that toxins can leach out of these plastic toys when kids put them in their mouths (which happens more often than we would like) causing big health risks.

Our favourites for eco-friendly kids toys are-

Timber Love Co- timberloveco.com.au

Little Big Learning- littlebiglearning.com.au

Poppy’s Little Treasures- poppyslittletreasures.com

Bella Luna Toys- bellalunatoys.com

Another Eco-Friendly Alternative for the pocket conscious too- Toy libraries and toy swaps

Borrow or hire for a minimal fee. Toy swapping/hiring is a simple but effective way to empower and educate children on how their actions impact the environment. And let’s face it- kids get bored of most toys so quickly so a constant change of toys is always stimulating for growing minds. There are businesses that do this and are becoming increasing popular in most countries. There are loads of forums on facebook too that you can join and be a part of. Just type in ‘toy swap {your suburb name}’ and you’ll most likely find something.

 

Toy Libraries Australia www.toylibraries.org.au is a fantastic place to look for toy libraries in your area (if you live in Australia).

There’s also an app for swapping toys- ellaslist.com.au

Children’s clothing-

Now this is a whole issue of its own-textile waste. What’s cuter than little baby clothes and shoes?! But we need to draw the line somewhere. You’ve probably been victim to a little late night online shopping while breast feeding- who hasn’t! But the textile industry isn’t a great one at the moment being one of the largest polluters in the world and every little purchase we makes counts. There’s a few ways to help with those retail temptations though-

No.1 - Make wiser choices- Voting through your wallet is very real and plays a bigger role than you can imagine. For most businesses, every sale counts and it predominantly drives their practices. Therefore, buying from brands that provide sustainable options for kids using eco-friendly fabrics, is a much wiser decision that’s going to hurt the planet less.

No. 2- Knowledge is key in driving this change towards eco-parenting and in this case, shopping wisely. Read books about sustainable fashion during these times of retail temptation. A Conscious Closet by Elizabeth Cline is a great place to start. Overdressed is another great book by the same author. To die for by Lucy Siegle and Wardrobe Crisis by Claire Press, are some others. And remember, all this information applies to your kids’ wardrobes too. In this case- Don’t start them young!

No. 3- Accepting second hand clothing from family and friends- Do this as much as possible and don’t be ashamed to put the word out so your network is aware that you are open to accepting used clothes.

No. 4- Clothes swapping forums- There are plenty of these forums on Facebook. Just like the toy swap search, you can easily find one near you with a quick Google/Facebook search.


No. 5- Sew your child’s clothes yourself from old clothes. Some of our mums and most of our grandma’s have done this. It might be time to renew this tradition, we think! What’s more unique than custom, hand-made clothes?!

Food for children-

You’re at the supermarket doing your weekly shop, you see the baby food section stacked with easy to use, individually packed sachets, tubes and tubs, and you go for it! No shame- we’ve all done this at some point.

However, to move towards a more waste free life, pre packed foods need to be fed less to your child, and home cooked food needs to be made priority. Agreed it takes a little pre-planning and effort but its well worth not adding to the already exisiting food packaging problem that makes up most of the solid waste that leaves our households.

The internet is a great resource for what foods to make for various ages/stages, when to pre-prepare and how long they’ll last in the freezer. The fresher the better but anything is better than pre-packaged preservative loaded food bought from that supermarket isle.


These are the four main changes that can be made to raise a child in a more eco-centric way. Like everything else in life, a habit takes a couple of months to form with a little dedication and mindfulness. You’ll be a lot happier every time you see less rubbish leaving your household-we promise!


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