Plastic-Free Parenting

Caring for children can bring a whole new set of plastic pitfalls into your life. The good news is, there are easy alternatives that can also save you cash, so you can be kind to our planet and to your pocket.  

Read on for our top tips… these have been curated by the City to Sea team members with children and are based on their trials and experiences.  We hope you find them as useful as they did! We also encourage you to consider one of the biggest steps you can take - which is to talk to your children about plastic pollution and help them become the future change makers.

Baby Basics

  • Borrow or buy second-hand. Babies need a huge amount of kit - although not half as much as the adverts will have you believe. From buggies and bouncers to bath seats and highchairs, there’s a lot that can make your life as a parent easier. But most of this is made from plastic, and only used for a few weeks or months. Borrowing from friends or buying pre-loved online will save you heaps of money and prevent your baby’s tiny tootsies from making a huge plastic footprint. When you no longer need all this stuff, you can sell or pass it on or give it to a local baby bank. 
  • Choose a reusable nappy. Disposable nappies and wipes contain huge amounts of plastic. With around 5,000 nappy changes before the average baby is potty-trained, investing in a set of reusable nappies and wipes is good for your bank balance and the planet. If you feel daunted by switching completely to reusable nappies, try starting by using them around the house. Even a small move like this can save thousands of nappies going to landfill! The same applies to using reusable wet wipes which is another huge issue! Check out our blog on reusable nappies to see which ones we got on with.   

Food

  • If you have time, make your own food and snacks from scratch. This cuts down on packaging, plus you have peace of mind from knowing exactly what your kids are eating. For inspiration and nutritional info, hit the internet or the library & borrow some recipe books for weaning and beyond. 
  • Buy loose or buy in bulk. Feeding hungry children means you will be spending more on food. This means it is even more important try cut out plastics from your shop. Try a zero-waste shop if you have one near you or consider ordering a box scheme that comes without pointless packaging. You could even get together with friends locally to form a buying cooperative with wholesalers such as Suma to buy your staples in bulk, with less packaging. 
  • Choose reusable food pouches and pots. Pouches and individual snack packs are super convenient when you’re out and about, but difficult to recycle. You can buy washable and reusable pouches to fill with your own purees or yoghurt and save and reuse small jars or pots to take snack portions of fruit, veg, cheese, rice cakes – whatever your little one fancies - out and about. 

Clothes

  • Hands up for hand-me-downsthe clothing industry has a huge environmental footprint, not only from the production of the clothes themselves but also the processing, packaging and transport involved. Kids grow out of clothes so quickly that buying from new cost parents and the planet dearly. Say yes to offers of hand-me-downs, check charity shops regularly and keep an eye out on buying and selling groups for bargain bundles.  
  • Keep it naturalsynthetic fabrics such as acrylic, polyester and nylon are made from fossil fuels and are now known to be a major source of microplastic pollution. The small fibres released when they are washed, make their way through watercourses and into the ocean. Where possible choose natural fabrics, and only wash clothes when they really need it 
  • Get crafty with costumesok, so not everyone has the time or inclination to rustle up hand-stitched creations every time World Book Day or Halloween comes around. But it is possible to resist the allure of cheap, synthetic single-use costumes - look around your home to see what can be imaginatively re-purposed and get the children involved in a craft session, or ask around friends with children to see what you can swap or borrow. 

Toys

  • Beware ‘pester power’ marketing: any shelf of magazines for kids will be plastered with giveaway plastic toys, typically used for 5 minutes before being thrown away to become yet more plastic waste.  
  • Get creative: You can find a huge range of ethical, beautiful and plastic-free toys from specialist retailers such as Babipur. But you don’t have to spend lots to have fun at playtime: raid your recycling bin for cardboard boxes and tubes for junk modelling or have fun outside gathering pinecones and sticks or setting up your own mud kitchen. Avoid buying any plastic toys such as Lego new, look for reuse options like second-hand sellers or toy libraries. 
  • Spread the word: When birthdays or Christmas come around, children can be deluged with plastic toys from well-meaning friends and relatives despite your best efforts. Talk with them in advance to explain that as a family you are trying to avoid plastic and suggest alternatives that your kids will love. 

Travel

  • Get ready to Refill: Take reusable bottles for all the family to Refill on the go when you’re travelling. The free Refill app lists thousands of refill stations where you can top up.  
  • Pack with surprises: Having a small bag of novel activities really helps to keep everyone entertained on a long journey. To keep it plastic-free choose colouring books and pencils, story and sticker books, and borrow (or buy at a charity shop) a few small toys and puzzles that your little ones haven’t played with before.
  • Plan your pitstops: Options for eating and drinking on the go often include single-use plastic packaging, and plastic toy giveaways from fast food chains. Think ahead about what will be available where you stop, and pack your own food and snacks if you can to save pennies and plastic. 

Share your #PlasticFreeParenting tips

Got a hot tip that we’ve missed? Share it with us on social media. We want to hear from you – what works and what couldn’t you do without?  

Want to do more?

Check out our top tips for living with less plastic here. Or, find out how to support our campaigns here. 

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Reusable Nappies

If you have children, choosing reusable nappies and wipes makes a huge difference to your plastic footprint during their early years. Even a small change will have a big impact: swapping just one disposable nappy a day for a reusable could prevent over 900 nappies going to landfill! When I found out I was expecting my second baby, I knew that using reusable nappies was one positive change I definitely wanted to make. 

Nappies and plastic: the facts  

Plastic might not be the first ‘P’ that comes to mind when you think of nappies, but in fact a standard disposable nappy is around 50% plastic. When you consider that the average baby will use around 5,000 nappies, it really hits home that your baby’s precious little peachy bum could create a mountain of avoidable plastic waste. Choosing reusable nappies is kinder to the planet and kinder to your pockets too, with the Money Advice Service calculating that reusables could save you nearly £1,500.

What you’ll need: the essentials

Switching to reusables is easy, and you just need a few basic pieces of kit: 

  1. Reusable nappies (also called ‘cloth’ or ‘real’ nappies) – you’ll need around 20-30 of these, and you can build your collection over time to spread out the cost. While many nappies are sold as ‘birth to potty’ they won’t fit skinny babies like mine until they are a few months old, so investigate newborn nappy options for the early weeks if you plan to use reusable nappies from the get-go.

  2. Nappy bucket and mesh liner – gone are the days of soaking nappies in a stinky pail of water! Dirty nappies can be stored in a dry bucket with a clip-on lid to prevent any smells, and with a mesh liner it’s easy to chuck them in the washing machine with minimal handling.

  3. Wet bag – a small wet bag makes it simple to use your nappies out and about, storing wet and dirty nappies without leaks or smells until you get home.

  4. Reusable cloth wipes – reusable wipes are an easy addition, as you can just wash them along with your nappies. You can buy a set, or make your own by cutting up pieces of old towel. They will last for years and can be re-purposed as face wipes or cleaning cloths once your children are potty-trained. Re-use an old tupperware or takeaway box to carry damp wipes around with you ready for use. 

Choosing reusable nappies

All-in-one, pocket, pre-fold? Cotton, bamboo, microfibre? The range of nappy types, styles and materials available can be bamboozling for a beginner. Add to that the fact that babies come in all shapes and sizes, and it can be tricky to know where to start. The great news is that all this variety means that you will be able to find nappies that are just right to suit your baby and your lifestyle.  

Nappy libraries are amazing services, usually run by volunteers, where you can get friendly expert advice on reusable nappies and borrow nappy loan kits to try different styles and see what works for you and your baby before you start buying. Contact them well in advance of your baby arriving as they often have waiting lists. 

If you can’t get to a nappy library or there isn’t one near you, The Nappy Lady offers a free personal recommendations service when you fill out an Advice Questionnaire – and you’ll receive a 5% discount code to use if you decide to order. 

One of the most widely-available nappy brands in the UK is Bambino Mio, who offer a range of nappies and accessories in cute prints and patterns. I loved their all-in-one nappies which have a winning combination of good fit on my baby, great leak-proof absorbency, and easy-to-adjust velcro fastenings. They are a winner for childcare settings and grandparents too, as they go on just like a standard disposable nappy. Bambino Mio’s gorgeous roll-top wet bags are perfect for taking your nappies out and about, so you don’t have to compromise when you have a busy day 

Saving your pennies (and the planet too)

You can cut the environmental footprint of your nappies even further, and save even more money, by buying pre-loved nappies via local buying and selling groups (often on Facebook). By buying a mix of pre-loved and new nappies I was able to kit myself out with 25 nappies for around £120. You can use these groups to pick up other bits of kit too, such as buckets and wet bags. 

I’m a total convert – and it really is true, there is no more satisfying sight than a row of nappies gleaming in the sun on your washing line! Why not let us know your top tips for choosing and using reusable nappies? 

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