Sustainable Swaps: Go green in 7 ways
One thing I learnt early on after becoming a parent was just how much waste children produce.
I’ve always done my best to live as eco-friendly as possible. I always took my own bags to the supermarket, even before bans or charges on single use bags were introduced. You’d find beeswax wrap or silicone covers rather than cling film in my kitchen. I used to pride myself on having the only wheelie bin on our street that wasn’t overflowing each week!
And then my first baby arrived. Suddenly the amount of waste we produced each week tripled and the amount of new things we needed to buy (often shipped from overseas, adding to their carbon footprint) increased exponentially. And while some of this is unavoidable (you are increasing your household by 50% after all), there are also many eco-friendly children’s products out there which can help you parent more sustainably.
If you are looking to reduce the amount of waste your family produces, your carbon footprint and save money in the process, here are seven simple swaps you can make for a more sustainable life.
Reusable baby wipes
Young kids get through a lot of wet wipes. A LOT! Aside from nappy changes, we also need wipes on hand for cleaning sticky fingers and faces after meals, and after craft time or messy play. Rather than using single use baby wipes, why not switch to cloth wet wipes?
This is one of the easiest and best swaps you can make to live a more eco-friendly life. Aside from reducing the amount of waste produced from single-use wipes, you’re also saving on materials and energy used to produce these wipes, plus the carbon footprint of shipping vast volumes from overseas. With a cloth wipe, all you need to do is pop it in the washing machine and it’s ready to use again.
Reusable wipes will also save you a lot of money. Over the lifetime of a child, probably enough for a weekend away! At an average cost of $3 a pack, and one pack a week, that’s nearly $500 in the first three years, going straight in the bin. Why not spend $30 on cloth wipes, and put the other $470 towards a hotel?!
But possibly the best thing about cloth wipes is that they are better for baby. Just wet the wipes with water, and you know exactly what is touching baby’s delicate skin. Contrast this with the list of ingredient on the packet of normal baby wipes, many of which can cause a reaction for babies with sensitive skin.
You can buy kits marketed especially for kids, such as Cheeky Wipes, which come with a container, essential oils soaking solution, and clean/dirty wet bags for use out and about. You can also buy a pack of basic cotton wipes or face washers at Mothercare, on Lazada or Amazon.
An even more sustainable option is to use fabric you already have. If you have an old towel or item of clothing, you can cut into squares (and if you’re handy on the sewing machine, stitch the edges to stop them fraying).
There’s a sticky spot - somewhere between 12 months to 3 years - where kids haven’t quite managed drinking from an open cup (without the risk of waterboarding themselves) but need to stay hydrated when out and about. And with more and more restaurants cutting down on their use of straws, this is a small but powerful bit of kit to have in the nappy bag.
Cloth nappies (We have a whole blog on it)
When it comes to family life, the single biggest swap you can make to reduce your environmental footprint and the amount of waste produced, is to switch to cloth nappies.
This is such a huge topic that there’s a whole separate blog to it. You may click on this link for more details- Cloth Nappies and everything you need to know about them. While it may seem daunting at first, it quickly becomes part of the normal routine and is barely any more work than disposables (plus you never have to worry about running out of nappies and making a late night dash to the shops!).
Reusable yogurt pouches
One thing which I think you only really learn once you become a parent to a toddler is how much kids love snacks. Time in our house is no longer measured in hours and minutes, but in the space between snacks. The pre leaving the house checklist is now wallet, phone, keys, snacks. And I’ve learnt the promise of snacks can be a very useful compliance tool when we’re out and about.
And whilst the portable nature of snacks is essential, it doesn’t have to mean that they need to come in single use packaging.
A great item to add to your snack cupboard is reusable pouches. Just like the single use yogurt pouches you might find in the store, except they have a resealable bottom which easily allows them to be filled, washed and filled again. Not only ideal for yogurts or smoothies when out and about, a bonus is that kids can feed themselves with them without (much) mess, buying you a few minutes of peace and quiet!
I know dentists recommend changing your toothbrush every 3 months, but I think most of us tend to use them a bit longer (or maybe it is just me!). But I’ve discovered that this definitely isn’t possible with toddlers. Maybe it’s the soft bristles, or maybe it’s the fact that my daughter uses her toothbrush like a teething toy, but it only takes weeks rather than months for her toothbrushes to become worn and ineffective. And that means a lot of single use plastic going in the bin.
Luckily bamboo toothbrushes are an eco-friendly alternative suitable for both kids and adults. A quick search on Amazon and there are dozens of options designed for kids, often in fun and bright colours. Bamboo is a great eco-friendly material as it’s quick to grow, highly renewable and biodegradable. There’s also evidence that bamboo has natural anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, which is a plus for a toothbrush.
Second hand not new
The sheer rate of growth and development that children go through in their first five years naturally means that they need a lot of things. Whether its clothes, shoes or toys suited for their developmental age, it seems I always have something I need to buy for my two girls.
Rather than buying new each time, I always check the classifieds first. As well as my condos group chat, Carousel and Facebook Marketplace are great sources for kids items, often at bargain prices.
The money saved really can be huge - I recently got an activity cube for my 1 year old, which retails for $150, for $10 second hand! And not only that, but I can sell on on again when she’s finished with it and recoup my money. Which means she essentially has a toy she loves for free!
The environmental impact of buying pre-loved rather than new is massive. Aside from the raw materials which go into producing an item, you’re also saving on the energy required to manufacture and transport the item, the single-use materials like plastic, Styrofoam or cardboard used to package the item and the landfill needed if the item is discarded when finished with.
And because children grow and change so quickly, items are often used for a very short space of time so are in excellent condition. Good for your kids, your wallet and the environment!
My last swap isn’t a swap at all, but a tip. If you find your bananas go brown quicker than you can eat them here, don’t throw them out but put them in the freezer. Frozen and thawed bananas are great in baking - banana bread or muffins taste so much better using frozen bananas than fresh ones. Trust me, try it and you’ll never go back.
Contributed by Rachel Ward