Having kids comes with this whole entire life you didn’t know existed before you became a parent! There are so many decisions to make, so many things to consider and remember. Whether you are picking out the perfect school, trying to make up your mind on a car seat, or simply figuring out which colour cup your toddler will drink his water out today! It isn’t easy!
Convenience is a parent’s best friend! And boy we get convenience shoved into our faces everywhere we go. We can leave the house without a single thing. A few minutes down the road we can buy everything we need for a day out. From a ready-made picnic to water in non-spill sippy bottles and salads that even include a fork! Hey ho – what a time to be alive!
Convenience comes with a cost
However, this type of convenience comes with a hefty price tag. It is no secret that plastic pollution is a serious problem we are dealing with. Plastic doesn’t go away – it will not degrade. After many hundred years it will break down into lots of teeny pieces. But it will not go away and what’s worse, a lot of it can’t even be recycled at the moment.
It is commonly believed that reusable and plastic-free alternatives are expensive and come with a huge workload. The last thing you need when you are already on a tight budget and can’t see the end of your to-do list. However, in most cases, you are not really adding any extra-work or spending huge amounts of money. Instead, it is all about creating new habits and awareness.
Here are seven easy plastic-free swaps you can do, without adding to your workload!
Plastic Free Swaps: 1. Say No to Plastic’s Big 4
When it comes to waste from single-use plastic, there are four particularly big offenders. They are known as Plastic’s Big 4: Plastic bags, disposable coffee cups, plastic bottles, and plastic straws! The answer: Reusables! Have your own shopping bags in the car for your grocery shop. Throw a small cotton bag in your handbag or changing bag for those impromptu runs to the shop. Same goes for a reusable coffee cup! Some of these are even collapsible to fit into your bag or glove department.
Instead of buying a plastic bottle filled with water every time you are out and about, plan ahead and bring your own. The network of water refill stations is expanding daily. For Ireland, you can check an up to date map on Refill.ie! So even if you head out with an empty reusable bottle, you can fill it up on the go. Reusable Straws made from stainless steel, silicone or even bamboo are available from youme.ie. You can also buy them in a lot of supermarkets, healthfood stores and sometimes even in the middle aisle of Aldi and Lidl!
Plastic Free Swaps: 2. Glass instead of Plastic
This one is an easy one! When you are doing your weekly grocery shop simply buy ketchup, mayonnaise, nut butter and similar in glass jars; instead of plastic containers or squeezy bottles. Most supermarkets have those products available in glass and while it doesn’t make a huge difference in terms of effort and taste, it does make a difference in terms of plastic waste! A lot of times I have also found them cheaper than their plastic counterparts, so WIN-WIN!
Same goes for food storage by the way. Single-use plastic, like clingfilm, is easily replaced by beeswax wraps or re-purposed jars!
Plastic Free Swaps: 3. Bamboo Toothbrush
Think about how often you change your toothbrush and now multiply that over the course of your life. It is estimated that on average you go through about 300 toothbrushes in a lifetime. An awful lot of plastic waste that will never ever leave this planet! There is a natural alternative though: Bamboo toothbrushes! Granted, they are not available in many supermarkets but can be ordered online (even in bulk to keep postage emission low); or you can purchase them in many healthfood and zero waste shops!
Plastic Free Swaps: 4. Cotton Wipes
Did you know that wet wipes are mainly made out of plastic? Most brands are not made from natural but synthetic fibers. Hence they are clogging up sewage pipes and cause all sorts of problems. Better options are available: Either purchase wet wipes made from natural fibers, such as Jackson Reese or opt for reusables! Reusable cotton wipe kits can be ordered at Fluffybums. However, you can also cut up old clothes and towels made from cotton. Use them with just water or add a few drops of coconut oil and/or essential oils. Wash with your usual laundry and reuse as often as you like!
Tip: If you are interested in using cloth nappies, have a look at this post about how to get started with cloth nappies! For tailor-made advice head over to the Nappy Camper!
Plastic Free Swaps: 5. Eco-Friendly Party Supplies
Especially, when you have kids in school you will be planning, what feels like, a million parties. Inviting a horde of little people into your home; making sure they are all entertained and leave with a smile on their face is enough, without even considering the loads of dirty dishes they will leave you with. Naturally, you look towards disposable tableware and decorations. But – yes, you guessed it – mainly plastic! Unless you order your supplies from Planet Sustie. Cups, plates, cutlery and everything will be delivered to your door and is made entirely from biodegradable material! Or why not rent a reusable Party Box from Jiminy.ie! You can even add some toys and get your entertainment & your tableware sorted in one eco-friendly go!
Plastic Free Swaps: 6. Plastic-Free Toys
Toys! The house is full of toys! And the worst thing is: with every Birthday, Easter and Christmas it is only going to get worse! When my kids were still little, I could see this spiraling out of control very quickly. As a result, I have decided to invest in open-ended toys mainly made from plastic-free or recycled material. Yes, toys made in Europe from responsibly sourced wood are more expensive than toys made from cheap plastic in China. BUT – and this is a BIG BUT:
- They last longer, as they are of better quality
- In the unlikely event of them breaking or getting damaged, you are dealing with a company based in Europe
- Open-ended means they can be played with by children of different ages. Instead of having to change the toys; the kids just change the way they play with these toys as they get older.
- They are more eco-friendly not just because they are plastic-free. But also because they don’t have to fly around the world to get to you
So, essentially, you are getting more for your money and have a lot less clutter and broken toys at home. Our favourite toy brands include Grimms Holzspielzeug, Bioblo & Binabo! To be honest though: My kids also love playing with egg cartons, cardboard boxes, sticks, and stones. So you don’t have to spend anything at all!
Plastic Free Swaps: 7. Compost, Recycle and Dump Responsibly
Living an eco-friendly lifestyle doesn’t just mean to be conscious when buying things! But to be equally conscious when getting rid of things. Starting a compost in your garden is a great way to not add organic waste to landfill. If you can’t have your own compost or don’t want to dump food waste in your garden; you should contact your bin collectors and ask for a brown bin. Any organic waste will be collected in the brown bin and composted in large composting centers.
Since plastic bags or bin liners are not allowed to be disposed of in the brown bin, you need to collect any organic waste in paper bags. I have been using Obeo boxes. I leave them on the countertop and fill them over a couple of days; before dumping them in the bin outside. They are a water-resistant paper bags wrapped in cardboard. This means there is no smell (even during the summer!!), no fruit flies and no soggy bags!
Composting and recycling correctly reduces the amount of waste an average family sends to landfill every week by up to 40%! So even if you are busy and not in a position to make any other swaps; you can still reduce your waste by disposing of it responsibly!
Every little helps – #togetherforanewtomorrow
No matter how big or small of an impact you think you are making with everything you do. EVERYTHING makes a difference. Every straw not used, every plastic ketchup bottle not bought and every teabag placed into the brown bin makes a difference!
Come and join us on Instagram! Tag your swaps, efforts, thoughts, successes, fails or worries around sustainable living to #togetherforanewtomorrow – inspire others and be inspired!
If you want to learn more about a certain area of sustainability or specific products; please get in touch by email or just leave a comment below!