Going Low Waste With Kids
Updated: Jun 11, 2019
“Zero Waste”- personally I prefer the term ‘low waste’ or ‘trying my best’. Do what you can, when you can- tick one thing off at a time and keep moving forward!
So, how do you go ‘low waste’ with kids? Kids make so much waste! You find out your pregnant, then next minute you’re drowning in a sea of plastic- toys, disposable nappies, rockers, swings, cups and plates- you name it, kids will have it. And if they don’t have it, someone will gladly give it to you as a hand-me-down when they try to 'Marie Kondo' their own homes. And this is all before they start bringing art projects home….
I’ve learned a few things in my stint so far as a Mum that I thought I would share. Here are two of the ways we keep our landfill waste down as a family of five.
I’m four years and three kids deep into mothering, which is prime time to have a huge collection of plastic junk and toys…. except I don’t. By nature I’m what some may call ‘stingy’ I like to call myself frugal. I only buy something if it’s really needed and I know it will last. And, to be honest, every time over the years I have bought something my kids didn’t really need I have almost instantly regretted it. Kids don’t need much; they need an outdoor space and an imagination. Of course, my house isn’t completely devoid of toys (I’m not that mean!) - I’m all for toys that boost imagination and give me 10 minutes of peace! (wait- lets make that 20).
We utilise our local Toy Library every fortnight, op-shops for classic bargains and have open arms to awesome hand me downs (I have learned to say “no” to a lot of things over the years!). The toys we own are very few- dress-ups, cars, books and blocks etc as well as a tramp, sandpit and a playhouse outside.
Purchases are saved for birthdays and Christmas only (as a general rule) and we try to buy handmade/ NZ made or second hand things. We have had a few presents given to the kids over the years that have lasted less than a month (sometimes less than a week!) before having to go to landfill - now I ask for either no gifts, or for something that considers the environment like a book or a second hand toy. I find most people are really respectful of this- last year my eldest was given a pumpkin and a watermelon seedling for his birthday, which he absolutely loved!
I’ve also seen the great idea of asking each guest to bring $5 to contribute towards one big gift, which is opened on the day of the party. I think this is an awesome idea. It’s an easy gift for parents and you get to choose what your child is given!
Our local Toy Library costs $40 per term (less for those with community services cards) and its awesome! We get 4 toys and 1x book/DVD/ puzzle every fortnight. We’ve had an ride on roller-coaster, Thomas train tracks, a huge wooden knights castle, play kitchens, and a pirate themed water table to name a few.
These toys would cost hundreds to buy and my kids would get bored of them within a month or so. The toy library keeps it new and exciting, without cluttering my house or costing me a fortune. Each toy is used by hundreds of families, over many years so that’s a major win for the environment!
It also changes my kids perspectives on ‘things’ being something they need to purchase in order to feel good about themselves- something that as an adult I am still trying to un-learn!
I totally get it, life is busy and kids are hard. Lunches take time and energy so packaged food can be a lifesaver! My tip would be to switch one thing at a time- make a big batch of plain popcorn for the week and cut out chips. It stores easily in an airtight container and can have toppings added in the morning (or the night before). Our favourites are butter/ salt or flaked nutritional yeast (from Bin Inn). The next week, make a big batch of muffins for the freezer and swap them for the muesli bar or biscuits.
Lunches for us are simple and consist of the same rotation of things. Homemade popcorn, muffins (which is a great way to use up any old fruit and they freeze well too), lots of different fruit and veges, sandwiches wrapped in a Honey Wax Wrap, boiled eggs, leftover pasta, Bin Inn banana chips/ pretzels/ dried fruit, plain yogurt with frozen berries, homemade jellies (super easy!) and maybe some cheese.
A good idea is collecting fruit when it's in season and freezing it to use later on in baking. Apples, feijoas, lemon zest, courgettes, pumpkin etc. Even better if a friend has fruit on their trees going to waste. Last year we traded some Honey Wax Wraps for excess feijoas and we are still using them in our muffins this year!
Those are just a couple of ways we reduce our landfill contribution. Yes, we send rubbish to landfill- we are not ZERO waste. We do everything we can, when we can. If things don’t work for us due to family life or time (like my soap making equipment that’s sitting dusty on a shelf!) I go back to it when it seems more achievable. And as my kids get older, my child free hours will increase, my brain can start to regenerate (that does happen- right?!) and I can make even more changes. Small steps to a better future.