From the day your baby is born a plethora of plastic items are marketed to you, starting with the inevitable joy that is nappies and moving on to dummies, wipes for convenience, pouches of food, ready-made formula, baby wash in plastic bottles, plastic toys, breast pads and sanitary products… the list is endless before they even reach 1 year of age. So in this post, I want to look at some ways you can easily reduce plastic usage.
Unfortunately, plastic comes hand in hand with convenience and as a parent the plastic, often more convenient, options are often welcome when you’re struggling to cope with your new everyday demands.
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It can be overwhelming when we look at our true plastic consumption. Trying to work out how to stop it all in one go can too much so the best way to reduce your plastic is to do it in a way that is sustainable for you.
Really break it down, don’t try and do everything overnight. Accept that change takes time and for a change to become a regular habit we must do it in a way that suits our lifestyle and is realistic.
Inevitably as with many more ethical choices cost is something we need to consider. Some items are more expensive, but they may last longer. Other items may be a big outlay to start with but actually save money in the long term.
To help break it down and make reducing plastic less overwhelming here are my top tips.
Tips to reduce plastic usage
- Consider your nappy usage
- Replace your disposable wet wipes with washable ones
- Update your bathroom buying habits
- Refillable products are fantastic options and plentiful
- Look for plastic-free food
1. Consider your nappy usage
Don’t worry I’m not going to suggest going commando and not using nappies, though ‘elimination’ in this was is a thing for some people. The main two choices of nappies are disposable or reusable.
Disposable nappies are certainly the most convenient and cleanest option, the nappy gets dirty, you take it off, put it in the bin never to be seen again. The only thing you have to clean is your baby’s bottom, possibly their legs, tummy, surface and your hands too if there’s been an unfortunate incident!
It is a very easy option. As long as you remember to buy the nappies you always have them sat there ready to go no matter where you are, you don’t really have to think about it.
The other option is reusable nappies, definitely nowhere near as convenient as disposables but much kinder on our plant. There are many different types of reusable nappies so that in itself can be confusing and overwhelming and make it very easy to just decide to stick with the disposables, but help is at hand.
Many towns have groups set up to help you work out the best nappy system for you and some even offer a loan of nappies for you to try before you buy. Additionally, some companies offer discounted trial packs so you can try their range before making a bigger investment.
People do sell on nappies second hand so it’s always worth looking out for these bundles, some may be as good as new and make it a more affordable way to buy them.
There are many hacks to assist in making reusable nappies more convenient especially when out and about. For example, you can buy wet bags designed specifically to store any dirty nappies in, there’s also particular soaks you can buy for dirty nappies in between washing. You can buy reusable and disposable liners to help keep things less messy if you wish to.
Long term reusable nappies will save you money but they can be a large expense when you first buy them. It can be a bit of trial and error to work out which ones suit you and your baby best, some may leak others will be perfect.
For this reason I think it’s good to remember that just because you want to go the reusable route doesn’t mean you can’t use disposables from time to time. Think of it as reducing waste, you don’t have to be perfect you just have to do the best you can as you work out what suits you best.
Here’s a couple of links to companies you may wish to take a look at:
2. Replace your disposable wet wipes with washable ones
Wet wipes come with nappies and children who inevitably know how to get themselves messy and sticky. Wet wipes are having a huge environmental impact on the planet with people using them to not only wipe hands but to cleanse their faces, clean their kitchen floors and bathroom – whatever happened to the good old fashioned flannel?
I was wary of wipes from day one as I don’t like the idea of the chemicals that may be in them touching my daughter’s skin. I therefore looked into options and had a large stash of Cheeky Wipes ready from birth, over 3 years later those very same wipes are still going strong, alongside my bamboo breast pads that are now used for cleaning and as face wipes.
As with nappies disposable wipes are extremely convenient, you just pull one out it’s wet already, you wipe and bin. Reusable wipes need a bit of planning but I promise you once you are into a routine they are fantastic.
I actually ended up preferring them. Using them is all about organisation. I had clean water by the nappy changing station and a pot with water for the dirty wipes to soak in, I used to put some tea tree and lavender oil in this water, as with reusable nappies you can also buy soaks for them. Every couple of days the wipes would get washed on a high wash with the reusable nappies.
When I was out I had a wet bag with wipes in that were already wet and ready to go, then I had a wet back for the dirty wipes. I kept a couple of wet bags ready as obviously these too need regular washing.
Reusable wipes are kinder on the planet, kinder on my daughter’s skin and very versatile – they do make excellent blankets for her small cuddly toys!
Despite my love of reusable wipes I did have some disposable ones, I chose Water Wipes as the kindest disposable available and had them ready for emergencies, like I said above the main thing is to be trying to change and thinking about your choices, getting in to habits that will become long term ways of living. The odd slip up is nothing to beat yourself up about, but please do remember never flush them down the toilet.
3. Update your bathroom buying habits
The bathroom was the first place I started with my plastic reduction, it is certainly one of the easiest with many options available.
I started with a stock take of what I used that was in plastic containers and what items I could consider replacing them with, cost is again something we need to consider when looking at doable swaps.
Why use shower gel when you can use soap? There are some really amazing smelling soaps available now, my favourite is the Goat Soap Co. They are local and the soap is divine!
A few other items you can swap are:
- Toothpaste for toothpaste in a glass jar or tooth capsules which come in aluminium containers.
- Plastic toothbrushes for bamboo toothbrushes.
- Shampoo and conditioner in plastic containers for shampoo and conditioner bars
- Tampax and sanitary towels for a Mooncup and reusable cotton pads
- Plastic razors for wooden razors which have easily changeable blades
- Toilet rolls wrapped in plastic for a more eco-friendly option like Who Gives a Crap
- Plastic cleaning spongers with coconut or other plant-based scrubber
4. Refillable products are fantastic options and plentiful
Most products come in their very own plastic containers but there are other options. Some people are even making their own, if you want to try this there’s various articles online, courses and your local zero waste shop may be able to assist.
If you have a zero waste shop make use of it. I now get the following refilled when needed from my local zero waste store which means I’ve managed to cut down on a huge amount of plastic.
- Cleaning fluid for kitchen, bathroom, living room etc.
- Washing up liquid
- Laundry liquid
- Hand wash
- Dried fruit
- Nuts and seeds
- Granola and muesli
- And so much more…!
If you have a local store I encourage you to visit it. It can be overwhelming when you first go in with so many choices and not being sure where to find what you want, and maybe not even knowing what you want.
However the people who run these shops do so because they care about our planet and they care about helping you make sustainable changes, so talk to them. On your first visit say hello to the person behind the counter, explain what you are trying to change and I have no doubt they will give you a guided tour of the shop and where to find everything!
5. Look for plastic-free food
So much food is wrapped in plastic these days so consider your options.
Again zero waste stores are invaluable as a way to shop for food without the plastic. You take in your Tupperware, they weigh it and then you refill it with whatever it is you need.
Milk is something that is becoming more available in glass, you may be able to get it delivered or find a scheme in your area. This goes for dairy milk and plant milk – there’s some amazing initiatives starting out at the moment.
Fruit and vegetables from the supermarket normally come all wrapped in shiny plastic so consider taking your own hessian bag to the supermarket to fill with loose options only or visit a local greengrocer/market stall and buy loose from them filling your own bags.
When you cook a meal consider batch cooking so you have some meals in the freezer, this will mean you get a store of useful quick meals when needed but can also help reduce food waste which in turn reduces the amount you might by in plastic.
Don’t be afraid to buy plastic Tupperware if you actually need it. Buying what you need is fine, and Tupperware lasts a long time so it is a good investment. Same goes for plastic bags and pouches. You can buy ones that are reusable.
For example, I purchased some plastic zip lock bags as they are versatile for many things, they are also reusable.
I clean them out and use them over and over again. I also reuse packaging that my food does come in, for example when I bought some cheese as I couldn’t get to a deli to buy it unwrapped I kept the resealable packing and use it to store and freeze food. Cereal wrappers make excellent bags for freezing too.
Tips for reduce plastic usage: Final Thoughts
These are just a few simple changes you can make, there’s many more but this is probably enough for most people to be getting on with.
At the end of the day you need to be realistic about what you can manage.
Choose the options that are easiest first and let one habit bed in before starting on another, this will help you to make a more permanent sustainable change.
Always remember by being aware and trying to make changes our children will see it as the norm too and hopefully grow up to live their life in a way where they are more permanently ensuring a reduced plastic consumption. What we choose to do sets an example that will be copied by the next generation.