Would you try plastic free parenting? We all know by now that human beings – the doofuses – are producing too much plastic waste. The oceans cannot survive under the shadow of our single-use water bottles, the birds are being strangled by our six-pack holders.
As a parent the prospect of leaving the planet in such an awful mess for your children is a pretty gigantic worry. But the thought of doing something meaninful about it not only seems kind of daunting (how can one family make a difference when faced with a floating plastic island the size of a small country?) but also self-sabotaging.
Because there’s no escaping the fact that plastic has made the largely-thankless and difficult task of being a parent so much more manageable. The wipe-clean high-chair and the wind-up mobile, the unbreakable sippy-cups and the slide in the garden they hurl themselves down with the glee. The toys, the toys, the toys. Modern family life without plastic seems almost unimaginable.
Even if we actively choose to eschew plastic in some areas (wooden toys, wooden highchair, wooden everything), it sometimes feels like the choice just isn’t ours to make in others. We can raise our children to be gluten-free vegetarians, to drink oat milk and wear vegan shoes. And yet trying to live entirely plastic free is almost impossible. Order something online and it comes bundled inplastic padding. Buy their favourite snack and it’s wrapped in plastic. The buggers have even been putting it in the tea bags.
But as insurmountable as the problem seems, doing nothing also isn’t an option. Because doing nothing is actuallly doing something, but not in a good way. If we start small, make even the tiniest of changes, we are making a small dent in the problem. And that must surely be better than no dent at all? Here are some achievable ideas for living a more plastic-free-ish family life.
- Ditch the cling film. Store leftovers in the fridge old-school style, with a saucer lid over then. For packed lunches and things that require a flexible wrap, try the beeswax sheets. They’re reusable and totally natural, and come in a range of pretty prints and sizes. Tin foil and greaseproof paper are also reusable and recycleable. And choose a metal lunchbox over a plastic one – so much for stylish, too.
- No more plastic bags, not even the ‘for life ones’ Jute or canvas bags are now readily available everywhere and like lunchboxes, look way cooler for not being plastic.
- Wipe out the wipes. A tough one, especially if your child is still in nappies. But most wipes, even the ‘eco-friendly’ ones, are made with polyurethane and other plastics, plus they aren drenched in chemicals with names like sodium hydroxymethylglycinate. If you are at home, you can use water and a damp flannel when changing nappies. Even just making this one change will reduce the amount of wipes you’re getting through. It is also possible to make your own wipes using bamboo cloths and natural cleansing agents like witch hazel and aloe vera (the internet is heaving in recipes). Bamboo wipes are an expensive layout (expect to pay around £20 for 20 wipes) but they are also washable and reusable forever.
- Used toothbrushes was up in their zillions on UK beaches. But dentists recommend nylon bristles over natural ones (such as deeply unappealing pig bristle suggested by some die-hards). Want to save the world but still have nice teeth? Go for an electric toothbrusg with replaceable heads and a handle that the family can share for years.
- Introduce yourself to your milk man. They deliver milk to your door in recycled glass bottles, and drive a zero-emissions electric truck. They are the leaders of the new world.
- Bulk-buy stores are cool again! Shopping in bulk for your essentials like flour, pasta, nuts and dried fruits means less packaging all round. You can find your nearest one with the zerowastehome.com/app.
- Veg boxes schemes are a great way to avoid buying the plastic-shrouded veg from the supermarket, and make the torture of dragging yourself around Tesco slightly easier to bear. If you do your supermarket shopping online, always choose the no-plastic-bags options with your delivery, obvs.
- Embrace your civic side and sign up for your local toy library. Borrowing and returning plastic toys means you’re putting less money behind the manufacture of new ones (and saving yourself a fortune.) Plus you don’t have to look at that Happyland Cherry Lane cottage in your living room for any longer than is necessary. Check your council website for details. Vintage toys (like the old Fisher Price treehouse et al) have the double advantage of being stylish and long-lasting.
- Children love bathtime but sometimes it can be hard to see them under all the plastic toys. Bath toys are only fun because they do fun things like float or pour the water out in funny ways. Substitute some of the plastic with natural/non-plastic things like colanders, natural sponges, sea shells and rubber toys. With small babies, you can swerve the plastic bathtub completely by simply getting in the big bath with them.
- Banish single-use plastic water bottles from your lives. Send the children to school with reusable water bottles. And encourage them to ask for tap water if they need a drink. Cut those lunchbox-sized, sugary drinks out completely – it will save you a fortune, as well as the planet.