This Friday (22 April) marks the 52nd annual Earth Day, a global movement that aims to activate positive environmental change for our planet. If you find those words alone slightly overwhelming, you are not the only one.
The huge and unfathomable task of solving the climate crisis to build a sustainable future for our children IS overwhelming. Even the idea of changing your family lifestyle to live in a more sustainable way can feel daunting, but it can be much easier than you think.
Our advice is to focus on simple swaps, replacing your everyday disposable, single-use items with reusable, eco-friendly alternatives. Creating a completely zero-waste lifestyle is frankly unrealistic for most families, but you’ll be surprised how much waste you can avoid with just a little effort.
The best place to start is your bins! Look at what you throw away on a daily basis and figure out which items could be switched for reusables instead. Here are our top tips for easy, sustainable swaps for families (and where to source them).
1) Investigate reusable nappies
This is the big one for families with babies and small children. Suggesting reusable nappies is easy for me to say when my youngest (and final!) child is now out of them, but if I had to do the baby days again, it is definitely something I would consider.
One child can use up to 4000 nappies before being potty trained and each nappy can take up to 500 years to breakdown in landfill. The numbers are quite frankly mind boggling. Aside from the environmental impact, reusable nappies can also save families hundreds of pounds.
Dacorum Borough Council runs a reusable nappy scheme, which encourages local residents to make the switch and offers discounts on relevant products from approved partners. Local cloth nappy library Stork and the Bees runs online workshops, as well as hiring out nappy kits so you can try different brands before investing.
2) Switch to reusable wipes
This goes hand-in-hand with nappies, of course, but just how often to you find yourself reaching for the wipes? Children are grubby and wipes are an essential item in every parent’s arsenal to counteract the grub.
While I confess to still using disposable wipes when we’re out and about, I have switched to reusable wipes at home. They are brilliant for mucky faces (and bottoms!), far more kind to delicate skin and will save you money in the long-term.
The Dacorum Reusable Nappy Scheme includes access to a discount with Cheeky Wipes, but you can also find reusable baby wipes from local suppliers, such as Watford-based Jefferson Crafts and Aylesbury-based Eco Bonobo.
3) Switch the way you store food
If your freezer looks anything like mine, it’s full of a hundred little bags of batch-cooked Bolognese, while the fridge contains countless bowls of baked beans and other bits of leftover/rejected food.
Disposable plastic freezer bags and cling film can take decades to decompose in landfill. Ditch the freezer bags in favour of re-purposed and reusable containers. My husband’s favourite “posh yoghurt” pots make very handy, stackable freezer storage, as do the tubs you get from takeaway restaurants.
These 100% organic cotton, non-toxic, reusable vegan food wraps from G. Grace and Sons in Tring are an excellent alternative to cling film. They come in three sizes and are perfect for covering leftovers and wrapping the kids’ packed lunch. The company also plants a tree for every pack sold, so it’s even more virtuous!
4) Try buying pre-loved clothes
The stigma of buying clothes second-hand is not what it once was. The myth of moth-eaten threads has been banished with the dawn of great quality charity shops, pre-loved clothing apps and social media groups selling barely worn clothes from top brands.
Aside from saving your family money, buying second-hand fights the unsustainable fast fashion industry, extends the life of the item to keep it out of landfill and reduces water, carbon and waste footprints. Pre-loved children’s clothes in particular are often like brand-new.
Start by searching “pre-loved clothes” on the groups section of Facebook, download the Vinted app or scour your local high street charity shops for hidden gems. Waste Aware Hertfordshire also runs regular clothes swap events where you can pick up pre-loved clothes free of charge.
5) Try more eco-friendly bathroom goods
When I started paying attention to the bins in my house, the bathroom was one of the biggest culprits when it came to disposable plastics. From the shampoo and bubble bath bottles to the toothbrushes and toothpaste, it’s all heading to landfill.
I’m particular about my shampoo and conditioner, but I’ve discovered that many of the big brands have started selling recyclable refill pouches so you can re-use the plastic bottles you already have.
The Aylesbury Eco Shop does a great range of child-friendly, plastic free products, including the KinKind Shampoo and Bodywash bar, bamboo toothbrushes and vegan nail brushes. Check out BuzzHub’s blog on local shops to see where else you can find refillable household products.
6) Celebrate in a sustainable way
With the Jubilee Weekend fast approaching, many families will be planning big-scale celebrations, from barbeques to street parties. If you’re in charge of organising tableware and decorations, avoid buying disposable and single-use items if you can.
Paper plates can’t be recycled once they’ve been used and can take 5-20 years to breakdown in landfill. Likewise with plastic cups and balloons (even if the claim to be biodegradable). Use crockery you already have or ask guests to bring plates, cups and bowls with them.
For larger parties, get in touch with Little Kits. We offer reusable party kits, including decorations and tableware. You simply hire it, enjoy it and return it for the next family to enjoy, producing absolutely zero waste in the process. For more tips on how to throw a low waste party, read the Buzz Hub blog here.
So, when you start to feel the overwhelm creeping in, remember that small change can make a big difference. If we make these simple, everyday swaps, we are doing our little bit to activate positive environmental change for our planet. And on that note, I’m off to implement my own advice!
Beth Roberts is co-founder of Little Kits, a Tring-based business that supplies complete children’s party theme kits for hire across Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire. The themed party kits are curated by Little Kits to save you time and money. They contain all the tableware and decorations you need to throw a stylish and stress-free celebration with zero waste.Visit www.little-kits.co.uk
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