How to go Zero Waste, with kids

Is it possible to go Zero Waste with kids? Certainly! It’s important to define “Zero Waste” the right way, though, because I’d argue that no one on this planet is truly Zero Waste. Rather, I see Zero Waste as a movement and a lifestyle, and one that can absolutely be adopted by families and kids.

I aim to raise my son in a “low-waste” way. This will continue to shift to fit our needs as a family and change through the different stages of childhood. Currently we’re in the toddler years, but I know that we’ll have to do things a bit differently once he starts school.

I’ve created this list to help inspire you on your Zero Waste journey as a family. Please note, as always, that this list is not exhaustive, and it meant to inspire you, and not every tip is right for every child or family. I’m not perfect, and I haven’t followed each of these perfectly!

On-the-go

  1. Bring a soapy cloth in a wet-dry bag for cleaning messy hands.
  2. Bring low-waste snacks in reusable containers.
  3. Bring kids’ reusables: cutlery, plate, napkin, bib, sippy cup, straw, etc.
  4. Walk, bike, or transit when possible.
  5. Help your kids learn how to say “no thanks” to single-use plastics.

Personal care

  1. Cloth diaper.
  2. Use cloth wipes.
  3. Use solid or refill personal care items: shampoo/conditioner, soap, etc.
  4. Consider a bamboo toothbrush and compostable floss.
  5. Try some fun DIYs, like bath bombs or lip balm.

Clothing, toys, and gear

  1. Choose secondhand (when possible and safe).
  2. Support small makers and ethical, eco-friendly brands.
  3. Take, and give, hand-me-downs.
  4. Organize and attend clothing swaps.
  5. Try to live minimally, with fewer things in general. Choose multipurpose items, go without, or borrow.

School

  1. Choose secondhand or recycled school supplies.
  2. For younger kids: volunteer with your child’s school and help them adopt eco-friendly policies.
  3. For older kids: they may wish to join, or organize, an environmental club.
  4. Pack low-waste snacks and lunches.
  5. Pack a reusable water bottle rather than single-use containers such as juice boxes.

Activities

  1. Do eco-friendly crafts for little ones (homemade play dough, DIY bubble solution, eco-friendly painting and drawing, nature scavenger hunts, etc).
  2. Use your local library.
  3. Get outside into nature as much as possible, to forge a deeper bond with the environment.
  4. Prioritize experiences over “things.”
  5. Involve them in the process: take them to farmers’ markets and bulk stores, cook with them, volunteer, and chat about your family’s decisions.

Celebrations

  1. Go minimal with the gift-giving for holidays, and try to encourage your family/friends to do the same with their gifts to your child(ren).
  2. Forgo the balloons.
  3. Opt for low-waste goodie bags.
  4. Use reusable plates, napkins, cutlery, and decorations.
  5. Wrap in cloth or existing materials, like packing paper.

I’d love to hear your thoughts! What would you add?

LeahStellaPayne-Sig-BLK

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