Parenting kids come along with lots of stuff, and unfortunately a lot of it these days tends to be plastic. I was completely overwhelmed with plastic after my first child, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Families with little ones everywhere are hopping on the zero-waste bandwagon and showing it can be done. I have even better news for you – you don’t have to go zero waste to reduce your family’s plastic use.
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Little steps you take every day can potentially make a big impact on your children’s health and the health of the planet.
In this post, I’m going to share simple ways to reduce plastic use that you can start right away. You’ll be so glad you did.
Why Should You Reduce Plastic Use?
Environmental Reasons to Reduce Plastic Use
An obvious reason to use less plastic is for the environmental impact:
- Shoppers use 500 billion plastic bags per year
- Plastic in landfills can take 1,000 years to decompose, and even then, it breaks down into toxic chemicals
- Plastic production uses toxic chemicals that contaminate our air, soil, and water
- By 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish
Just thinking about the impact of plastics on our beautiful earth and its living creatures can make you second guess using plastic items out of convenience.
Health Reasons to Reduce Plastic Use
If you need a reason that hits closer to home, just look into the faces of your children. All parents want their children to live long, happy, and healthy lives.
It’s why we do things like pay more for organic produce. But if you’re buying your kids organic fruit and then wrapping it in plastic, that doesn’t make much sense.
A recent study found that 70% of plastics used every day were toxic in some way. Most plastics contain unknown chemicals that can have effects such as causing cancer, disrupting hormones, and reducing fertility, just to name a few.
Bisphenol A, or BPA, is just one example of a chemical in plastics that has been shown to be harmful. But just because a product for children says BPA-free does not mean it doesn’t contain a host of other chemicals that could have unknown or harmful effects on the body.
Is it worth the risk when there are plastic alternatives available?
By making some simple switches in the products you use every day, you’ll be teaching your kids a great lesson about being thoughtful about what they put into their bodies and release into the earth.
If they ask why the products they use every day are different than what other kids have, feel free to share with them a few of your personal reasons.
How to Reduce Plastic Use
Now let’s get down to it. Even if you pick just a few ways to reduce plastic use from this list, it can make a difference in overall exposure over time.
These swaps are designed to be easy for families to integrate into their lives, and they focus on many of the things we use frequently or handle every day. I hope you find several easy plastic-free swaps that will suit your family.
1. Reusable cloth bags for groceries
Go for simple organic cotton or sturdy canvas. They’re sturdy and they’re washable!
2. Bars of soap
Swap out liquid soap in plastic bottles for good old-fashioned bar soap. It lasts longer and gets the job done. You can find handmade and all-natural soaps locally.
3. Bamboo toothbrushes
Ditch the plastic toothbrush for one made of bamboo, a natural and sustainable resource. This item gets handled so frequently and goes in the mouth.
4. Wooden toys
Wooden blocks, wooden animals, wooden dolls, wooden cars—there are so many options available as plastic alternatives. They are of higher quality and just as adorable as their plastic counterparts.
5. Paper sandwich bags
90% of what I pack in my kids’ lunches does just fine in a paper bag. If needed, there are wax-coated paper sandwich bags available. They work great.
6. Cloth lunch bags
Switch the vinyl lunch bag to a cloth version. Paper lunch sacks work OK too, but cloth will be more durable and reusable.
7. Cloth diapers
What would you rather have next to your precious baby’s skin practically 24 hours a day for a few years—organic cotton or plastics? Bonus: you’ll save money too.
8. Metal or glass bottles
From glass baby bottles to glass or metal water bottles, there are plenty of non-plastic options available. Glass water bottles often have silicone wraps to prevent breakage, and they can be quite durable.
9. Beeswax wraps
Plastic wrap is another product that comes into contact with our food. Swap it out for a safe and reusable beeswax alternative.
10. Whole fruit
Teach your kids the pleasure of enjoying whole fruit. Whole fruits are just as convenient as sliced versions wrapped in plastic. Bite into an apple or peel a banana or orange, then enjoy!
11. Wooden hairbrush with natural bristles
This one just feels good: go for an all-natural hairbrush for your little one.
12. Wooden child’s furniture
Just as there are children’s tables, chairs, and stepstools made of plastic, there are also durable (and beautiful) wooden options. You can buy them used if cost is an issue. You might even be able to pass them down to your grandchildren.
13. Cloth dolls
Choose a doll made of cloth. They are cute, cuddly, and safe for your little one.
14. Children’s tableware
Children’s cups, plates, and silverware are so frequently made of plastic. Even supervised little ones can learn to safely drink from a small juice glass. When they’re ready, you can also get them using ceramic or wood bowls and plates and metal or wood silverware.
15. Natural fiber clothing and outerwear
Avoid synthetic fibers and go for natural alternatives like cotton. Consider a durable wool coat and mittens. Look at shoes made of materials like canvas, leather, cork, and natural rubber.
16. Glass baby food jars
Glass baby food jars are still very abundant so it should be easy to pick them up, even right off the grocery store shelf. Steer right past the plastic variety.
17. Reusable straws
If you must use a straw, try an aluminum or bamboo variety, which is readily available nowadays. You can keep them in a pouch in your bag for easy access on the go.
18. Shampoo & conditioner bar
These are just like a bar of soap but formulated for your hair. Lather up and get clean tresses without all the plastic. Shampoo bars are a popular alternative.
19. Glass leftover containers
Ditch the cheap plasticware used for leftovers. It’s a mess to store anyway. Invest in some nice glass or ceramic varieties. This is especially important for whenever you’re reheating food. You won’t have to keep track of a million different lids if you just use your beeswax wrap.
20. Natural art supplies
Skip the plastic markers and mechanical pencils and go for tried and true wooden varieties. You can also stick to paper and a wooden easel rather than opting for bulky plastic art accessories.
21. Paper school folders
Colored folders are on the supply list every year for practically every elementary student. A really simple switch is to pick up paper ones rather than plastic.
Free Your Family From Plastic
If you’ve noticed a theme from these plastic-free swaps, it might be that ways to reduce plastic use often take us back to the way generations before us lived. There’s nothing wrong with that!
Wood, glass, metal, and cloth options can be just as or more durable than their plastic alternatives. They’ll be friendlier on the environment and your children’s developing bodies.
I hope you’ve seen how simple plastic alternatives can be just as easy for families. My motto as a parent is definitely to keep it simple.
If you have found other easy ways to reduce plastic use for your family, please share them in the comments below.
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About the Author
Gina Morris is a mom of four who writes on the Steps to Self blog. Her passion is helping moms attend to themselves and live their best life. Gina’s interests include mindfulness, green living, minimalism, and positive parenting.
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