Kids are notorious for waste, whether it’s a half-eaten apple or plastic toys that don’t last. For a family, becoming zero waste can be challenging and take time. But, there are lots of things you can do to influence your child’s behaviour and help foster a zero waste lifestyle change.
What is Zero Waste?
The zero waste movement focuses on the “5 R’s” – Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot.
Refuse – say ‘no’ to single-use items like plastic straws, plastic bag or takeaway coffee cups
Reduce – limit how much you buy or throw away
Reuse – use again and again
Recycle – find another purpose by making into something else
Rot – compost
10 Tips to Go Zero Waste With Kids
1. Nude Food
An easy place to start going zero waste is with your child's lunchbox.
Packaged muesli bars, plastic-wrapped sandwich, a small bag of popcorn?
Take one food item at a time and look for a package-free alternative.
Bake the muesli bars at home, shop at a bulk store, purchase whole foods from your local farmers market or use reusable containers.
Not only will this lead to a zero waste home, but you'll also save money and eating healthier.
Image from Nutrition For Kids
2. Reusable Food Packaging
There are now so many fun and convenient zero-waste alternatives for food packaging that kids will love.
Try beeswax wrappers instead of plastic food wrap or reusable sandwich bags you can throw in the washing machine after using.
For young children buy squeezable pouches you can reuse for yoghurt, purees and smoothies instead of the single-use options at the grocery store.
3. Reusable Water Bottles
Plastic single-use water bottles are an environmental hazard and removing them is an easy step towards zero waste living.
Allow your children to choose a quality stainless steel water bottle that they take with them everywhere.
Not only is stainless steel more durable and eco-friendly, but it also won't leach toxic chemicals into the water, especially when exposed to heat.
4. Upcycle Packaging
When you do have cardboard or plastic packaging, consider if you can upcycle.
Can you house something else in the packaging like storing pencils in a plastic yoghurt container or using a mason jar as a vase?
Can the material be used for a craft project? Can you use your egg carton or plastic milk bottle to grow seeds or small plants in?
5. Start A Worm Farm
A fun way to get kids outdoors, exposed to dirt and go waste-free is through a worm farm.
This is a great way to reduce your family's food waste and an educational tool in compostable items.
Ask your children's help to build the worm farm and give them the responsibility to keep the worms comfortable, well fed and alive.
6. Bamboo Toothbrush
Another easy way to introduce waste-free living in your home is to swap your plastic toothbrush for a recyclable bamboo toothbrush.
These may be a little more expensive at the grocery store, but you can buy them cheaply online and in bulk.
While these toothbrushes aren’t available in bright colours, a fun activity for kids is to paint the end of the handle so that they can identify which toothbrush is theirs.
7. Switch to Cloth Nappies
Single-use nappies end up in landfill and take a long time to decompose.
Switching to cloth diapers can be a way to reduce your family's daily waste, especially if you have several young children.
Don't worry, reusable nappies have come a long way since the days of a piece of cloth and a safety pin.
Modern washable nappies are available in bright colours and patterns and with easy to removable liners. They also have adjustable snap fasteners so you can use them again and again as your child grows.
8. Walk or Ride
Going zero waste isn't just about reducing how much you throw away. It's also about reducing your carbon footprint.
Too often we turn to the car as a convenient way to get from A to B, especially when we're in a rush.
Before you start up your car, consider can you walk or ride your bikes to your destination.
It's not only a great way to reduce your omissions, but it's also fun, a great way to get kids moving and increases their vitamin D exposure.
Is your child's room overflowing with toys? Do they have piles of clothes they never wear hidden in their wardrobe?
Spend an afternoon on a weekend or a day in the school holidays making donation piles of quality toys, books and clothes that can be given a new life.
My favourite times to do this is before birthdays or Christmas where your child's focus will be on the new gifts not the old. This also fosters the spirit of giving in your children.
10. Visit the library
Instead of buying books, magazines or DVDs, visit your local library and browse through their collection.
Libraries a valuable resource for sustainable living and an exciting place for children to explore.
Not only can your child pick up lots of books, but they can also get involved in the many activities hosted in the library.
About The Author
Sarah Appleford is a bachelor-qualified nutritionist, mother, passionate foodie and founder of Nutrition For Kids. Through 1:1 consultations and workshops, Sarah’s mission is to inspire children to lead healthy, happy lives. She wants to help remove the confusion and equip parents with the tools and knowledge they need to nourish their kids with a whole food diet.