Living waste-free with kids
We’ve decided to chat to our favourite plastic free and zero waste blogger Erin Rhoads, who is also proud mum to two little ones these days. Erin has been blogging about her zero waste lifestyle since 2013 and we LOVE the practical tips that she writes about, to make the journey realistic rather than impossible! So if you’ve ever liked the idea of reducing your waste as a family and simplifying your life, read on for some great tips from Erin on getting started.
What led you to starting your zero waste journey?
It all started after I watched my first eco documentary The Clean Bin Project in 2012. I was shocked to learn the impact our modern consumer throwaway culture was having on the environment, animals and people. From plastic water bottles, electronics, clothes, food – basically everything. Inspired by the stars of the documentary, Jen and Grant, I knew I could do something and started reducing my single-use plastics and it continued from there.
What sorts of new challenges popped up once you had children?
Navigating motherhood hasn’t been too hard but thats not to say there haven't been challenges. I had already shifted my mindset and habits by the time I became a mum, so I didn't need to alter a lot. My motto is to always do the best you can, with what you’ve got, where you are.
Choosing the right cloth nappy was a difficulty and I wish we had hired a cloth nappy library to trial different styles first. Luckily everything else was relativity easy. We made sure family and friends knew not to buy us anything since there is already so much baby and children stuff out in the world waiting to be reused. We signed up to our local toy library instead of buying new toys. Shopping at Op Shop for clothes. Practiced baby led weaning rather than buy packaged baby food. Set up a reusable party kit which other parents can do via the Party Kit Network. There is a helpful Facebook group called Minimal Waste Families for anyone who would like to join and chat/seek guidance from like minded parents.
Which areas can families easily change their habits to start reducing waste?
There are so many places to start – and this in itself can be overwhelming. Instead go slowly and swap items as they run out. This is more sustainable rather then throwing out stuff and replacing with eco friendly alternatives. For example, when your shampoo bottle or body wash runs out switch to a shampoo bar and bar of soap. Need to top up your pasta, check out a bulk food store. Period coming up? Try cloth pads, period undies or a menstrual cup. Want to halve your landfill bin, start composting or set up a worm farm.
To help other families I shared my tips and tricks to reducing waste in my book 'Waste Not: make a big difference by throwing away less' available at your local library and bookshop.
How can parents get children involved in reducing their family’s waste?
I'm a believer in leading by example, making it fun and never shaming our children. Get them involved in setting up a compost bin or worm farm, explaining the benefits and how this action can help reduce big stinky landfill sites. Let them help pack the reusables when heading out the door for the day. Do a park clean up together. Younger kids will absorb habits and conversations into their own everyday actions. With older children I suggest watching a documentary together and then easing into any changes, encouraging open dialogue and tackling problems together. Many schools discuss these issues so children won't be unaware of what can be done at home to reduce waste.
What are your top 10 tips for living waste-free with kids?
- No comparison to other “eco” parents and no guilt. Parenting is hard and each family is different. Every step you take does make an impact for the better.
- Get composting! Kids eat so much food so keep those scraps from food prep and those half eaten apples out of landfill. The worms will love you for it.
- Write up a waste hierarchy to put on your fridge for a daily reminder. We have Rethink, Redesign, Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Rot (Compost) and Recycling.
- Organise your bins to help reduce what goes to landfill and label everything clearly. In our home we have a compost bin, kerbside recycling bin, and a box dedicated to items that can be recycled but not through the yellow recycling bin. This box has items like soft plastics, batteries, pens, worn electrical cords, clothing and broken shoes that can be recycled at various locations. Visit your Council website to find out where to recycle beyond the kerbside bin and Planet Ark's recyclingnearyou.com.au for help
- Bookmark BYOContainers.org to help you find places to buy food, cleaning and personal care products package free.
- Reduce single-use plastic by setting up a zero waste kit. Ours include a reusable drink bottle, lunch containers, cutlery wraps, reusable coffee cups, and wax wraps.
- Do a waste audit together with the family. Look through the bin or write down each item that goes into the bin. This will help the family understand what they are throwing away and a conversation starter to work out solutions.
- Join the local libraries. Beyond the usual book library check out toy libraries, kitchen libraries, and tool libraries.
- Go nude for school lunches. There are many ideas out there to help reduce packaging in school lunch boxes. Get the kids involved on different meal ideas.
- Look for secondhand items at op shops, Facebook marketplace, eBay or simply asking family and friends.
This blog was written for Rudie Nudie by Erin Rhoads. Erin's Instagram is @therogueginger