Guest Post by Sarah from Fully Nourished Health and Wellness Coaching

Looking after our planet is crucial because it’s the only home we have – and it’s in trouble.

If we don’t step up and cut down on personal waste, and make choices that reduce industrial waste, this trend will only continue, and get worse. As parents, we have the responsibility not only to be more mindful of our waste so that our children can have a more sustainable future, but we also have the responsibility of raising the next generation to be more connected to the earth so they can continue this throughout their life, for the generations to come.

Here are nine ways you too can get started on becoming a low waste parent and encourage your children along the way:

REUSABLE CLOTH WIPES AND NAPPIES

Whilst changing nappies has become more convenient with the introduction to disposable nappies and wipes in the last few decades, the landfill problem is increasing. Did you know a staggering 3.75 million disposable nappies are used each day in Australia and New Zealand, with conventional disposable nappies estimated to take up to 150 years to break down?*. That’s not to mention the harmful chemicals used in a lot of these products, that end up in our waterways. Cloth nappies have come a long way in the last decade. There are now modern cloth nappy options available, which makes nappy changing easier with not needing to fold a nappy square. They can last across multiple children and will cost about half as much as the disposable nappy/wipe route, albeit a bigger cost upfront. Buying as local as possible and ensuring your washing methods are also sustainable (cold washing and line drying is best) are also important.

BIODEGRADABLE LUNCH BOXES AND TABLEWARE

When choosing tableware and lunchboxes, although most of it is usually reusable, it is important to choose things that are biodegradable or recyclable so that when they are at the end of their lifespan, they can easily breakdown or be repurposed and not contribute to landfill. Look out for products which are natural, renewable, non-toxic and biodegradable. Also, keep in mind what disposable items you use at kids birthday parties. Avoid plastic plates and cups and look for biodegradable options, which are made from plant waste materials.

DITCH THE PLASTIC SHOPPING BAGS

Keep reusable shopping bags in your car. You can also find ones that tuck up small into a little pouch that you can keep into your purse. This is an easy way to cut down on excess waste. Also, your reusable bag will be sturdier and cuter than any bag you’re handed at a store! Make this fun with your kids and pick out matching bags you can sport to the market on the weekend.

CARRY A STAINLESS STEEL OR GLASS DRINK BOTTLE AND COFFEE CUP

There are many floating islands of pollution, predominantly plastic, in the oceans – one the size of Mexico was discovered in 2017*. This is because it takes 450 years for the environment to break down the plastic that is used in plastic bottles. A whopping 90% of plastic isn’t recycled, and instead ends up in landfills, discarded, and swept into our planet’s waters. Plastic water bottles are one of the most commonly used plastic items by everyday individuals – so do your part and stop carrying them around! If you have a stainless steel or glass option on hand, this will be an easy thing to do. If you have young kids, get them involved with choosing their own drink bottle they can carry to school.

DON’T BUY PREPACKAGED FRUIT AND VEGETABLES

Rather than falling into the convenience of buying store bought baby food pouches, you can buy some reusable pouches and make your own baby food. You can also give the glass jars (from your sauces or olives) another life and use these for storing foods in the fridge and taking them out with you when you leave the house. When doing your grocery shopping, stop putting everything in plastic. This is another easy way to cut down on your contribution to plastic reserves are on the planet. Not all produce needs to be in a bag. In fact, lettuces do better in cloth bags! There are many reusable ones on the market. Other produce will do fine just tossed into the crisper bin. For everything else, opt for paper bags instead of plastic.

RECYCLE

Get picky about your recycling and make sure you are recycling everything you can. Your local council can provide you with what you can and can’t recycle – you’ll likely be surprised to find out how much of the stuff you usually toss in the bin is recyclable! And it makes a big difference. For instance, recycling paper saves 70% of the energy that it takes to make new paper. Get your kids involved by setting up a recycle centre in your home. Use colorful storage bins and teach your kids which materials are recyclable and explain the importance to them. Fun fact: on average, 50% of the garbage in your bin could have been recycled – so why not start!

START COMPOSTING IF YOU HAVE A GARDEN

Composting is a great way to enhance your soil if you’re a keen gardener. Learning how to compost is challenging but fun! It will decrease the waste in your rubbish bin each week and will give your gardens soil some added nutrients and support. Get the kids involved by encouraging them to take the kitchen scraps out to the backyard compost regularly and show them the process of it breaking down overtime and then using it on the garden. If you don’t have the space to start a veggie garden, you could just start a small potted herb garden.

EAT MORE PLANTS AND GO ORGANIC

Conventional farming of livestock is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gases. Focus on grass-fed meats if consuming animal proteins, and even better if you adopt more of a plant-based diet to reduce impact. Big industry produce-farming depletes water resources through irrigation practices. As mentioned above, grow your own produce if you can, even if that’s just herbs on your balcony. This cuts down on energy use for transporting the produce to the grocery store. Shopping at organic farmer’s markets where produce is coming from local areas is also a great way to reduce energy waste. Organic farming practices also cause less soil depletion. Getting your kids involved is easy, take them along with you to the markets and teach them why it’s best to support these practices. Have them interact with the farmers and get them asking questions about the produce. You can also encourage them to choose a new fruit or vegetable on each outing which they haven’t tried before. And also get them involved in the kitchen and teach them how to prepare healthy plant based meals, if age appropriate.

DECREASE PLASTIC USE WITH TOYS

As we know, kids learn best through play, particularly nature-play. Rather than following what society and mainstream advertising tells us about needing a house filled with large plastic toys, find more sustainable options which encourage creativity. Kids tend to feel overwhelmed when they have a large number of toys with flashing lights, noises and moving parts. Communicate this to your family and friends as a lot of toys are received as gifts. Say it often, be loud and proud.
“Buy experience gifts, wooden toys or books for my kids, please!”. If you are given plastic toys, when your child has outgrown them, ask which ones they would like to donate or pass on to family or friends. This is an empowering process and will also teach them about sharing and kindness. Although the initial outlay of buying wooden toys can be more, this is easily justified by their multitude of uses. They will encourage your child’s creativity as they curiously explore and come up with new ways to play with them, when means they will last longer.

To raise a generation more connected to the earth, we must lead by example. We have made the choice to raise our children how we see in alignment with our beliefs and it is important to be open with them on our journey as we learn and teach. This will raise inquisitive kids with open minds who will continue learning about how they can live a healthier, more sustainable life. Taking this journey will not only teach your child how to be more sustainable to the earth, but also foster other important life skills such as mindfulness, food preparation, sharing and kindness, to name a few.