Most of the waste and plastic we generate is due to convenience. People lead busy lives, work long days and convenient “time-saving” products become our go-to, and eventually end up in landfill.
We want to break down barriers to living plastic-free. Life is already so mad and plastic-free can’t always be the number 1 priority. You don’t need to overhaul your life to make some swaps, and the same goes for motherhood.
When you’re exhausted, looking after your children, and also working, cooking, cleaning etc, thinking about the environment is understandably the very last thing on your mind! Firstly and most importantly, you do you. You are trying your best and if that means plastic packaged ready meals and single-use nappies, that is okay.
We’ve shared a few things which have helped our journey as mums, we hope they help you too!
Beg, Borrow or Steal (except you probably won’t need to beg or steal).
No it’s definitely not a myth, babies do grow so quickly! Your vision of beautiful clothes that they can wear on rotation is unfortunately a bit of a myth, and charity shops are so often filled with once-worn (or sometimes never!) beautiful baby clothes that only fit little ones for a week before they have another growth spurt.
Instead of stocking up on new clothes, borrow from friends and buy from charity shops. These clothes are often hardly worn, they help you save money and they can then be shared and passed on to the next baby. The NCT frequently holds Nearly New Sales where you can find pretty much everything you need second-hand if you have no hand-me-downs. And don’t forget to hold onto the clothes you baby grows out of to pass to the next new mum!
This may seem something fairly easy and achievable and not very eco-friendly, but clothing waste is a huge problem in society and the resources needed to make new clothes are huge, so a simple swap like this really does contribute something positive.
The same applies to toys! Your baby has no idea what this year’s “must-have” toy is, so don’t fret about needing to follow the crowds and buy one. Use second-hand stores and nearly new sales to find toys, and find out if your town has a Toy Library; a place where you can borrow toys for a few weeks until your baby gets bored and wants something new! For toys you’ve bought or been given, once you’ve finished with them make sure you pass onto a friend, or give to charity. This is just another way to move away from plastic toys which are used only a handful of times before finding a new home in landfill.
A few problems you might run into:
- Things break. This obviously can’t be helped and definitely shouldn’t still be used if it could be dangerous! Instead, look at the material and see if any of it can be broken down and recycled at your local recycling centre.
- Gifts. People love to shower you and the baby with gifts. This is obviously incredibly wonderful but can leave you with bundles of things you simply don’t want or need. You can try a few things; steering them towards something which would be useful, asking them to buy pre-loved items, asking for a donation to a charity or a baby bank account instead. If you still end up with a plastic palace, make sure it’s well looked after and pass it on afterwards so it can be used as many times by as many babies as possible.
- Unknown unknowns. If you are a new first-time parent, trying to unpick what you actually need for your baby is an utter minefield. Speak to your friends who have children, ask your parents, and don’t be afraid to just stick to the basics when it comes to buying new; a car seat, cot, and nappies (whether reusable or single-use). Don’t be afraid to wait until your baby is here to buy more, as you’ll quickly learn what you really do and don’t need.
Prep meals and shop locally
When it comes to weaning, variety and preparation is the key. Research different snacks and meals that are nutritious and easy to make (and also waste free!). Happy Family Organics have a whole bundle of recipe ideas which are quick and easy.
We recommend making a batch of food at the weekend and freezing it to help during the week. Our beeswax wraps can be made into pouches, or put over jars and are freezer safe.
You’ll quickly learn what your baby does and doesn’t like, so expect lots of trial and error! We also know how difficult it can be to make time for zero-waste baby meals, so don’t feel the pressure to do this all the time! When it comes to pre-made baby food, look for companies who offer good, organic meals and have eco certifications like B Corp status. We are particularly fond of fellow B-Corp Ella’s Kitchen who make tasty food and take away the pressure of making from scratch.
If you are keen to try and make your own, use your local zero waste stores and grocery stores to buy local and plastic-free food where you can. Our Zero Waste Shop Map will help you find your local store. Don’t forget to take plenty of empty jars, beeswax wraps and tote bags!
This one can seem a bit much if you are a first time mum, and it’s not for everyone.
There are lots of local resources that can inform you about reusable nappies; local nappy libraries, council schemes and nappy kit hires. There isn’t really a right answer or a best way to do it. We recommend trying different brands and methods to see what works best for you. If you don’t get on well when your first try, don’t be afraid to try again in a few months. Use the community resources available. They will have so much experience and can help with hurdles you might be facing in finding the right reusables for you.
When using disposables, look for eco alternatives that are biodegradable. It’s a better alternative as they won’t be left in landfill for the next 20+ years.
Resources and Recommended Reads
Here are a few of the websites and resources we’ve found useful which we can recommend to you:
- Mamalina is a London based blogger who focuses on sustainable living and parenthood. She is full of useful insights and ideas to help you on your journey to sustainable living as a parent. We recommend downloading her Plastic Free Parent Guide to get started when you’re expecting.
- Claudi, our workshop manager and plastic-free guru, went completely cold-turkey on plastic with her family a few years ago. She’s built the brilliant website, Pfree, full of advice and information that we recommend if you’re looking to take the leap.
- Going plastic-free doesn’t just have to be about your baby, it’s also about your lifestyle. Our Simple Swaps will help you make easy changes to become more plastic-free without any major hassle.