Zero Waste at Home: 7 Ways Parents Can Do It
Going zero waste is an uphill task as it is. But it can be an even bigger ask if you have kids at home.
Just think how many paper towels, diapers, wet wipes, and food packs you buy and use when you have even just one kid.
And don’t get us started with the number of toys scattered around the house.
But before we delve into how to practice zero waste at home with your kids, let’s learn a bit more about the why.
Typical Family’s Carbon Footprint
We bet you want to know: do household footprints really matter? Don’t offices and factories do more damage than, say, you and your toddler?
You might be surprised.
Here are key facts about how much we really impact the environment while living a typical family life:
- Households generate more than 60% of all greenhouse gas emissions and between 50-80% of total resource use globally.
- US and Australia emissions are currently at 16 tons per person, and 7 tons in the UK. Research says that if the world wants to avoid severe global warming, C02 emissions must fall to 2 tons per person.
- Across homes worldwide, food is the biggest contributor to carbon footprint (36%) followed by services (23%) and purchasing manufactured products (17%).
- Of the Western countries, France, Sweden and Japan stand out for having lower impacts compared to others because of their available hydro and nuclear power.
- Having one fewer child saves around 58 tons of C02 emissions per year.
Okay, so maybe that last fact is moot for us now, seeing as we have kids in tow.
But the researchers wanted to emphasize that the more people there are, the more resources will be consumed and the higher the footprint.
It’s not “a sacrifice message” or about controlling how people live – it’s about knowing the scale of the climate challenge right now.
The good news?
Even though things like advertising, culture, and consumer behavior influence us all, as parents, we still have within our families a whole lot of control over what we consume and how we consume!
Zero Waste At Home: 7 Tips for Parents
Okay, so we know that being eco-conscious at home is a big deal. What now?
Going zero waste is a big lifestyle change, but by involving the whole family instead of going at it on your own, it can actually be a lifelong learning experience.
Here are a few ideas we can share:
1. Forget wet wipes and go reusable
Changing diapers, cleaning all the gooey sticky stuff off your kid’s hands (and face, and hair, etc.) – these are the least glorious things parents do ALL THE TIME.
No wonder wet wipes became such a popular option. It became the go-to for fathers and mothers dealing with the mess.
But wet wipes have become so insidious. If you notice, they’ve come up with different kinds: personal care wipes, makeup wipes, household wipes – even pet wipes (if anyone knows the differences among these, do tell).
With the sector expanding up to $4bn by 2021, we might eventually see more “innovations” on the market.
Whatever form wipes come, stop using them!
They are almost always non-biodegradable, they contain plastic, and they block sewage networks when people mindlessly flush them down the toilet.
Use reusable wipes instead. There are lots of options, from cotton, flannel, hemp wipes – these will reduce your non-biodegradable trash for sure.
2. Gift experiences, not toys
Yes, the pandemic has thrown us all a curveball. Kids are stuck at home, without the usual outings and social playdates.
Still, there are ways to emphasize experiences more in your child’s routine than material toys.
If you have access to nature, maximize it. Something as simple as taking walks can be an interactive and beneficial experience. Check out which plants and animals abound in your area.
For older kids, maybe create a composting project together? Not only is this tactile for our young ones, but can also instill a sense of environmental advocacy in them.
Any form of quality time spent in your small patch of land (if you have in your home) can help them appreciate the natural environment at any age.
And by the time children are allowed to freely go in public spaces again, choose dates (museum, concerts) and trips instead of gifting material items.
3. Keep your reusable items accessible
How many times have you forgotten to bring those reusable bags when going to the store? No worries. As a parent you’re already stretched to the limit most days, it’s hard to keep track of everything.
Photo source: https://pin.it/6I3YpJA
But if you want to make strides, tweaking your home environment could help the environment!
Hang reusable bags somewhere they’re easy to grab. Assign a place for reusable bottles, so they’re always ready to be grabbed if you’re going out. Keep your colorful reusable rags in areas where you’ll use them.
Just to give you an idea: if we all opt for reusable bags while shopping, imagine how much we’ll shrink the 100 billion plastic bags used every year!
4. Choose bulk and packaging-free
Take note: if you can, try to buy in bulk. It’ll always use less packaging and be cost-efficient. But only if your budget permits it, okay?
Transitioning to a package-free pantry takes effort and upfront cost, but if you have the means, it will certainly cut your purchases and the footprint these products entail.
Fill reusable jars and containers with a week’s worth of favorite snacks. Opt for raw, whole foods instead of processed products. Bring your own containers when shopping. Shop for food sold without packaging. Support local farmers if you’re nearby – these are only a few ways to minimize your food-related carbon footprint.
5. Remedy old fruits and vegetables
We have a love-hate relationship with fruits and veggies. We love to eat them, but why do they have to go bad so fast?!
One useful hack (especially if you have kids) is to puree that less-than-perfect produce. Apples are perfect for this.
Smoothies also work.
For most fresh produce, like bananas, don’t be too hasty in throwing it away. Simply cutting off the brown or bruised spots makes fruits and vegetables perfectly edible.
6. Wrap like the Japanese
Want a sustainable way to pack lunches or wrap gifts?
Take a cue from the Japanese. Their Furoshiki style is a traditional method of wrapping packages and other essentials.
Furoshiki refers to both the method and the cloth itself, which is any square-shaped piece, preferably with a decorative design. The Japanese use the method to carry food, bottles, books, clothes, and other everyday necessities.
It’s become so popular that it has also been used for gift-wrapping.
Practice the Furoshiki style here. You could even turn it into a craft activity with your kids – let them choose recycled textile, or create their own art onto the cloths before practicing the wrapping techniques.
7. Play with biodegradable items
This may be simple, but we think it will save a whole lot of paper in the long run.
Try crafting using leaves, branches, vegetable stalks (you didn’t use for cooking stock), and other biodegradable items.
There are always fallen leaves, flowers, and vegetable cuttings you can play with.
Decorate a picture frame, make them confetti, or use them to paint different shapes (citrus and bok choy cuttings make pretty interesting patterns).
These won’t add to your footprint like paper, glitter and plastic will.
With the rate of household emissions and waste being created, it seems like zero waste should be a necessary endeavor for all families.
Making the change as a parent might seem overwhelming. But, there are ways to start.
The key is to begin, experiment, and keep on doing what works for your brood.
You won’t get it right in a week or a month; the important thing is that all of you in the home is set in following through with sustainable practices.