I’ve been at this low waste/better living lifestyle for over nine months now & just like anything else new it’s been a lot of trial + error. I would love to be one of those people who can store their years trash in a mason jar but, I’ve been given the task of not only reducing my own trash but 5 other people. A giant man child & four kids ages 1-8.
I’ve learned + failed a lot but one thing is for sure, I haven’t given up and I don’t see myself ever changing my life back to my previous ways. I live consciously, smarter + healthier not only for the planet but my family. So here are some of the top things I’ve learned with my kids while we cut down waste.
- Get them involved + educate them. Some of our biggest changes have been food. Now more than before, we let them help make the grocery list, pick out the foods, load + unload groceries and they help cook! Being involved in the process gets them excited (and prepared, no surprises!) for meal times. They still don’t eat everything we cook but they are learning valuable skills & up for at least trying some new foods. Watching documentaries and talking about the problems has been something I’ve incorporated as well. Explain why we are making these changes, or explain why I don’t want to buy certain foods/items anymore. Educating them on they WHY is just as important as getting them involved.
- Stop buying cheap toys. Do you buy those $5 + under toys that make your kids so happy and you buy them because it’s super cheap? We aim to cut that out by giving choices. Sometimes I offer a treat, like ice cream. Others I offer to save the money + use it for something else they would want more (some kind of activity usually gets them) still other times I just tell them flat out no without offering anything in replace. These toys are negative on our waste build up – they are mostly plastic or have plastic packaging + usually end up in the trash in 6-12 months.
- Preparation is key. Going out for the day to explore or just run errands? Fill up your water bottles & bring some snacks! Don’t forget reusable bags, containers, or whatever else you may need to use! You don’t want to hit that 2pm snack time and wish you brought some fruit/veggies/leftovers for them instead of stopping at a drive thru during your weekend errand run. This becomes more of a routine the more you go out with the kids. You know what each kid will be satisfied with, which containers you can pack what in best & you’ll start coming up with all sorts of ways to reduce snack time trash while being outside of the home!
- Purge but don’t replace. Most of my mom friends clean out their kids rooms before Christmas + birthdays to make room for all their new toys. I now purge monthly, go in their rooms (or have them do it) and take a small (or large) bag of toys and/or clothes out. But, don’t replace them. Don’t buy a new remote control car, or 2 more baby dolls or 5 more shirts (unless they need them in the next size up of course.) Just small purges once a month make a big difference. My kids actually don’t mind throwing a bag of toys together to give away! We normally donate to churches, other families or goodwill depending on what it is. We try very hard not to toss anything in the trash and give it a second home.
- Don’t expect others to follow the same life you do. Birthday parties, school events, friends + family are not required to live like you do (though they should 😉 ) Don’t get frustrated at the knick nacks, plastic junk & misclleaneous waste that comes through your home from outside guests. Let your kid enjoy the kids birthday party without fretting. Allow things to slide from outside sources & purge in your own home as necessary.
- Buy what you can second hand. This year I bought most toys + clothes second hand for the kids Christmas presents. I not only cut down on buying presents in general but was more conscious of what I bought. I really thought the kids would notice the drastic changes from previous year but they said it was the best Christmas ever! Now I put more thought into gifts to be sure they will be used, are practical & shop more eco-friendly overall.
- Don’t feel “weird” for being different. Sometimes it can feel awkward or even lonely in a social setting. Someone calls you out on being a low waste/environmental loving person, all of the sudden questions + unwanted attentions being thrown at you. You don’t want to seem to different or “extreme” to the other kids families + make your kid seem like an outcaste. Hold your ground momma. Know what you’re doing is important & tell those other moms your why & what you do to cut down waste with confidence. Know there’s an entire community that has your back + going against the social norm is exactly what we need to be doing.
- Aim for experience gifts over possessions . Try to buy tickets to events, movies, kid play facilities, or museums. Anything that you can physically take your kid too where they can learn, view, interact + experience something new. These gifts are so much more valuable to growing + educating kids, my kids personally love outings as a family over playing with toys any day.
- Turn off the screens + get outside. How does this pertain to low waste? Because screens use electricity 😉 We aim every weekend to spend a day outdoors. Nature trails, beaches, walking in the neighborhood, at a friends pool, etc. Take the time to turn off screens and spend time together in the sun. If it’s a rainy/lazy day we play board games, sometimes on the back porch other times inside.
- Keep experimenting + don’t give up. Don’t be discouraged when your kid goes two nights in a row not eating dinner (happens here.) Or when your spouse comes home with 3,000 sq. ft. of saran wrap when you haven’t bought/used any in 4 years (also happened here.) These people who do low waste & over achieve + set high expectations are not usually only single people without families but they are experienced, they have been doing it for a couple years already. I’m not even in a year yet and have already learned + grown so much. We can only do better from here!
Like each person in our family, each family unit is unique. What works for us may need to be approached differently than others. The point is to try, make efforts, see which area’s in life you are accumulating the most waste in + figure out what works best for YOU to cut it down! There is no one right solution, but there are plenty of choices we can make to be the difference the world needs.