There wasn’t a definitive ‘light bulb’ moment that encouraged my family’s move to reduce our use of both disposable and non-disposable plastic. It has been more of a gradual transition, inspired after each of my four children’s births.
The increased responsibility to both their little bodies and to the health of the planet, spurred me to read all manner of books, blogs and magazines in search of ways to reduce our carbon footprint (and save a few dollars in the process). I’d be telling a porky if I said it’s all been plain sailing; if I hadn’t cheated a million times using the odd piece of cling wrap over my leftover casseroles or caved in to their demands to buy the latest ridiculously cute plastic toy.
However, we all experience ups and downs when we try and make positive changes in our life. To make your change to a plastic-free world a little easier, I thought I would share a few simple plastic reducing tips that have worked well for my family:
Buddy up with a friend or friends’ group to share toys or join a toy library. If your kids are anything like mine, they’ll be bored senseless with their toy purchases after 5 minutes and chuck them in a corner, never to be seen again. We’ve found our local toy library a brilliant resource to borrow fabulous educational toys and books to be used for 3 weeks then returned for someone else to benefit. This way, you’ll also save your pocket as well as the planet.
Make a set of beeswax wraps. This is my new favourite hobby. I love using leftover bits of material or old pieces of clothing, ripping them up and making super cool food wraps to cover leftovers, wrap sandwiches and cakes and much more. Your kids will be the envy of their lunch buddies with their new superhero or princess covered sandwiches. (Our beeswax recipe here)
Aim to avoid individually wrapped convenience foods. I know this is a tough one for many parents. With our time poor lifestyle, it’s often the easiest option to pack a few snack foods in plastic that then get thrown straight into landfill. Don’t get me wrong, my tribe love individual packets of flavoured popcorn and I will occasionally succumb to their pleas. However, we try, where possible, to pop our own popcorn to be sent to school in containers or paper bags.
I will also spend a couple of hours on the weekend baking (sometimes with the kids, if I dare!). Making a batch of muffins or muesli bars or a pile of tasty little protein balls to store in the freezer ready for the week ahead takes the thought out of lunchbox snacks for that WHOLE week!!! If kids still want the usual chips etc., buying a large family sized bag and dividing them into their own smaller paper bags is another way to save on all that plastic wrap.
Try to eat at home as often as you can. The amount of plastic packaging that we throw away after a night of Indian or Chinese takeaway is pretty scary. We all love to take a night off from slaving away over a hot stove (I’ll be first to put my hand up to a night of takeaway). However, committing to spending most nights eating home cooked meals will greatly reduce our nation’s disposable plastic waste. Not to mention, it is better for my family’s health and our financial well being. Instead, for a night off cooking, we will usually go out for dinner as we find it a nice change of scenery and a good way to get the kids to practise their table manners (which often get neglected at our own dining table). Oh, and no dishes to wash just totally seals the deal.
Use cloth or jute bags to transport groceries. With the new single use plastic bag ban now well and truly underway, the easiest way to cart your groceries to and from the shop is with hardy cloth bags. I’ve been caught out a few times already and have had to shove my overflowing groceries into my wicker carry basket, pick up my one year old and carry the whole lot to the car. As predicted, I’ve failed to make it and my oranges have upended and rolled out the shop door before me. So now, I try to be more prepared. Once I am home and have emptied my shopping, I send my kids outside with my 3 stylish ‘Go Natural Foods’ jute bags to put them back in the car boot for our next trip.
There are so many other ways you can cut down on plastic. The list could go on and on. To name just a few more, I reuse glass jars as storage for pantry staples; make my own cleaning products or, where possible, purchase them in bulk; and use glass or stainless steel drinking bottles and lunchboxes. However, trying to do everything in one go could be likened to climbing Mt Everest. Just a little crazy!
Instead, start small. Any step will still lessen your family’s plastic exposure and environmental impact. For our family of 6, it’s most certainly been one small step for human kind, one giant leap for planet Earth.
By Emma H for go natural foods