A Realistic Guide to Zero Waste Living with Kids

by: Charise Rohm Nulsen
As a parent, it’s hard to imagine a world without paper towels, diapers, and wipes, but the good news is that you can still apply zero-waste principles to your life in very realistic and doable ways.
zero waste living with kids

Have you heard of zero-waste living? The idea is to reduce your carbon footprint and live a more sustainable life. As a parent, it’s hard to imagine a world without paper towels, diapers, and wipes, but the good news is that you can still apply zero-waste principles to your life in very realistic and doable ways.

More: Natural(ish) Parenting: A Lesson in Flexibility

Use reusable bags for groceries and snacks

It can be hard to remember to bring those reusable bags to the grocery store when we have so much to keep track of, but here’s a statistic that might motivate you to find a way to make it happen. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, Americans use 100 billion plastic bags per year, and the average American family will take home almost 1,500 plastic bags per year.

Many of us have reusable bags in our homes, but the hard part is keeping them organized in a way that makes them easy to grab and remember for shopping trips. Check out this pin for organizational tips for those bags:

All of those individually sized snacks in plastic bags that often accompany kids’ lunches and snacks on the go don’t help the plastic problem either. Not to mention that it’s always more expensive to buy the individual snacks rather than buying in bulk! There are so many adorable reusable snack bag options that are also the perfect size to hold a sandwich. They are easy to clean, and your child can have fun picking out patterns for the snack bags when they pick out a lunch box at the start of the school year. A win-win.

Use a reusable water bottle

With water filters and options galore for reusable water bottles, there is just no need to be buying large packs of individual throw-away water bottles these days. Billions of plastic water bottles are sold each year in the U.S. and way too many end up in our oceans and landfills. No matter what your preference for water bottle is-- fruit infused, extra cold, or cute and fun, you’ll find a recommendation for a great one in this pin.

Compost the easy way

As parents, we are tired, and we drink a lot of coffee. Think of all of the coffee grinds and coffee filters you go through. Think of the banana peels and egg shells and half-eaten meals left by your kids that go into the trash. Composting is an easy and productive way to put all of that food waste to good use, and the good news is that many areas now have composting services where you bring your compost out to the curb for pickup in the same way you put the trash out. In the spring, you’ll receive bags of rich soil made from compost for your gardening efforts too! Check out whether there’s a company in your area that offers this wonderful service. If not, composting is not as hard as you think. The pin below shares composting basics and an easy printable list of composting dos and don’ts to get you started.

Reusable cloths can replace so much

Think of all of the single use items that you use on a daily basis that could easily be replaced with cloth. No, you don’t have to ditch all of those items completely, but with a few centrally located pails specifically for used cloth, you might find yourself using less paper napkins, tissues, makeup removers, wipes, and paper towels. Simply keeping cute-patterned, reusable cloths in sight in key areas of the home can save a lot of trees.

If you can only commit to one act of cloth, consider placing one in your child’s packed lunch instead of including a paper napkin. Once you get into the habit of including a cloth and real utensils and a reusable snack bag and water bottle, you’ll be amazed at how you’ve lessened your carbon footprint through the singular focus of changing how you pack lunch.

Use stainless steel straws

There are so many reasons to use straws. They help with drinking smoothies on the go and with increasing our water intake. Yet, if there was ever a time to change our straw habits, it is certainly now. According to For a Strawless Ocean, if things don’t change, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050! Stainless steel straws are so easy to clean and they don’t change the taste of what you are drinking like plastic sometimes can. There’s also the added bonus of keeping your drink especially nice and cool. Once you start using stainless, you won’t go back to plastic!

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the magnitude of our planet’s problems and all of the ways that we can supposedly make a difference. Like any new thing that we would like to tackle, simply choosing one new way to help at a time and sticking with it until it becomes a habit is the way to go. Challenge yourself to make your own small effort towards a zero waste lifestyle. It will feel good to know you are doing your part to protect our beautiful planet for your children and family to come for generations, and you may be surprised at how little effort it takes.

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