Becoming a waste-free family

When a new baby arrives in the house, so many things change. Your routine turns into "What routine?" Your total outlook on life changes because you have a little person to love and protect. However, among all this chaos, our waste increases by about 50% because of the disposable products we tend to use for babies. Fortunately, this can be easily changed, simply by making a few lifestyle changes to become a waste-free family.

Over the years, as your baby grows, so do the things we waste. Disposable nappies, single-use products, food scraps from half-eaten foods, plastic and packaging from toys... The list goes on. Sadly, one of the things we seem to have lost touch with is where all of this unnecessary waste ends up. The answer is: In a landfill, which is like a time capsule of our obsessively plastic-packaged, disposable generation.

Our Disposable Planet?

We seem to think that it will all go away one day and we continue to fill up our precious planet with rubbish that will become a problem for future generations, including our kids and grandkids. Who will tidy up the 8 million tonnes of plastic going into the ocean every year? Who faces the potential of contaminated land and unswimmable lakes and rivers? Future generations, that's who.

Our grandparents were frugal and didn't waste anything, our parents were the beginning of disposable products but were still keen to recycle and recover products, and our generation have created a monster that our kids will be left trying to fix once we are all gone. The great thing is that this can be easily changed!

It's important to know what a landfill is, why we need to proactively reduce waste and recycle properly, what happens when you flush so-called "flushable" products down the toilet and, most importantly, why we need to make some serious changes in our behaviour towards waste. Here are some top tips for reducing waste that are simple and should be day-to-day no-brainers for you and your family.

1. Flushable Products

Flushable liners, flushable wipes, sanitary products, kitchen paper towels, and anything that is not toilet paper are not flushable! They block the council sewer lines. If you do flush any of these products, the potential is that they get stuck in the sewer line and cost a fortune to tidy up. Or if they do get through, they get scooped out at the wastewater treatment plant and are sent to landfill.

2. Takeaway Coffee Cups

A person who has one takeaway coffee per day (Monday through Friday) will send 260 coffee cups to landfill per year. Get a reusable cup and reuse it hundreds of times, or take an extra 10 minutes out of your day and sit down and drink it at the caf (from a washable mug!) and read the paper. Here's a cool NZ-made reusable cup to check out.

3. Leftover Kids' Food Scraps

Kids take one bite, or slobber all over their food, and then we throw it away. The best system to dispose of used food is a Bokashi bin. This is the only system that I know of that you can put meat scraps, raw and cooked meats, and slobbered-on foods into. It is a simple two-bin system that doesn't smell and breaks down food really quickly in a small space.

4. Reusable Nappies

Cloth nappies have changed, and so have washing machines. They are simple, easy-to-use products that contain poonamis quite well. Modern cloth nappies are easy to wash: Just rinse them in the sink in your loo, then chuck them in your washing machine at the end of the day.

No more pins velcro and domes are here to stay! They are easy to put on and they come in loads of funky colours and prints. There are also lots of fabric choices: Bamboo and hemp (great for sensitive skin), cotton (durable and super-absorbent), and even microfibre (fast-drying). Plus you can save a fortune! Check out The Nappy Lady website for more information.

5. Take Your Own Bags to The Supermarket

Reusable bags just make sense! Once you have seen the amount of plastic bags floating around a landfill, it is quite disturbing. You may have recently seen the whales and giant turtles that have died and had stomachs full of plastic bags. They look like jellyfish in the water, so sea creatures eat them, thinking it is food. Past generations never used plastic bags, but we seem to get one in every shop we go to.

6. Reusable or Paper Straws

Plastic straws are in the top 10 of marine debris waste items. They are hideous things that are creating such unnecessary waste! Get a few stainless or glass straws or use compostable paper straws for kids' parties. Find out more here.

7. Waste-Free Lunch Boxes

Why should a school or daycare have to deal with all of our single-use packaged items every day? Schools all over the country are working on being waste-free. With all of the amazing lunch box options available these days, reducing lunch box waste is so simple! Get a bento-style lunch box, which means the food doesn't need to be packaged in plastic wrap. Buy food in bulk and pack it straight into the lunch box.

Schools are also concerned about the high-sugar foods we are giving our kids. When we were kids, lollies and chips were only for birthday parties, but now they are day-to-day products. Scale it back and give the kids real foods that are not processed, like fruit, sandwiches, and a home-baked biscuit.

Kate Meads, aka The Nappy Lady, is a waste-free and eco parenting advocate who runs workshops in conjunction with local Councils to educate and empower parents to make sensible changes to live more sustainable lives. Find out more and book your ticket to one of her local workshops here.
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