There’s so much that you don’t know to expect when you become a parent — the constant worrying, the effects of extreme sleep deprivation, and the boundless joy you get from a smile on that tiny little face. We’ll add one thing most new moms and dads are unprepared for when they have a kid: the sheer amount of plastic involved in parenting.
Honestly, it’s unbelievable. It doesn’t take long to find the obvious offenders like plastic bottles and cups, but when you start talking about microplastics, you suddenly feel like you’re drowning in plastic. And in a way, you are. The whole world is drowning in plastic, and we have to take action to stop the detrimental effects on our environment and health.
Taking action is what moms and dads are for. Parents like you all over the world are finding new and inspiring ways to reduce the plastic use that comes with parenting. In this post, we’ll take a look at some of the best ways to reduce plastic use as a parent. Keep reading.
Parenting and Plastic Use
When you first become a parent, a lot of your instincts go on automation, because you’re operating in a state that feels like survival mode. You’ve got a baby who is hungry, crying, screaming, or some combination of those at most times of the day. Some of your old habits, such as actively trying to reduce your plastic use, might get put on the backburner.
You’ve got plastic toys to buy, plastic bottles to fill, plastic utensils to feed with, and diapers. And make no mistake — those disposable diapers contain plastic, too. Around 30 billion diapers find their way into landfills in the U.S. and Canada every year, and they bring with them 90,000 tons of plastic that will break down into microplastics.
Microplastics find their way into waterways, oceans, the food and water supply and, in a sadly ironic twist, back into our babies. A 2021 study found that babies’ poop contained more than 10 times the amount of health-harming microplastics found in adult waste.
In other words, plastic pollution is a problem that parents have a vested interest in solving, whether they know it or not. Here’s how you can be a part of the solution:
How to Parent with Less Plastic
Plastic doesn’t have to be a part of parenting. Every little step you take to reduce your plastic use makes a big difference, and there are plenty of steps to take throughout each phase of your child’s development.
While You’re Nesting
Your eco-friendly mom or dad identity starts forming well before you actually give birth. Before the big day arrives, you know you have to get your hands on the essentials, such as a stroller, a set of bottles, a breast pump, a high chair, toys, clothes, books, and a trove of diapers and wipes. While you don’t want to go anywhere near used diapers, you can find most of those other things used.
Why does that matter? Because you give items like strollers and clothes (which are themselves a huge contributor to the microplastics problem) a second life when you buy them secondhand. That means fewer new plastic items are created, and fewer microplastics find their way into our oceans.
When baby has made their big entrance, the plastic use starts to ramp up in a big way. That means this is the perfect phase to start looking for plastic-free alternatives to common baby items. Here are some examples:
– Diapers. The problem with disposable diapers is not just that they contain plastic — it’s the sheer number of them. You can do your part to cut down by ditching the disposables and opting for cloth diapers. They take a little getting used to, but it’s worth the peace of mind you get from using less plastic, as well as the massive savings on your diaper bill.
– Bottles. Bottles don’t have to be plastic, and really, they shouldn’t be. At most major stores, you can easily find alternatives made with glass, stainless steel, or even bamboo.
– Wipes. Those “gentle” baby wipes might not be so gentle on the environment. Most wipes contain microplastic fibers, and that includes many so-called flushable wipes. Brands like Burt’s Bees and Earth Friendly Baby have taken notice of this issue and developed both reusable baby wipes and disposable wipes that are certifiably free of microplastics.
Diapers, wipes, and bottles continue at least partly into toddlerhood, so you’re already kicking off this new phase with some solid anti-plastic measures in place. But now, you’re dealing with the endless toddler curiosity that leads parents to hoard toys and books to keep their little ones occupied.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of commercial kids’ toys are made of plastic. You can look at whatever Fisher-Price behemoth your bundle of joy is obsessing over in Target and know that it’s going to add a pop of primary color to a landfill one day. But on the same aisle as the big plastic toys, you’ll often find a plastic-free alternative: toys made of wood and metal. Sure, these toys may be a little more old-school, but they’re classics that have been keeping kids entertained for decades.
This is also the stage where your little one starts eating a lot more foods. Here are a few simple tips to reduce plastic consumption as it relates to your toddler’s eating habits:
– Opt for glass baby food jars instead of plastic pouches.
– When possible, prepare food at home rather than buying it in readymade packaging.
– Buy reusable plastic-lined cloth or beeswax baggies instead of the disposable ones.
Before you know it, your baby has leveled up into a full-grown kid. That realization is always a little jarring, and it comes alongside the potentially more upsetting revelation that you’re about to send your child to school every single day.
It’s the natural cycle of being a parent, but it can sting a little. Elementary school comes with its own set of plastic concerns. For example, your child is going to start eating lunch at school. Your school may or may not be environmentally conscious or have a recycling program, but you can take charge of this matter by packing your child’s lunch.
Of course, you have to find the time to do that every night, and you have to make the right choices to ensure that you’re actually making an impact on the amount of plastic your child is using. For instance, if you send Lunchables and individually wrapped bags of Goldfish or Oreos in the lunchbox every day, you’re adding to the plastic problem — not taking away from it.
Here’s the better way: Go natural and healthy. Fruit is 100% plastic-free, healthy, and a hit with kids. Instead of plastic-coated juice boxes, pack a reusable bottle filled with your child’s favorite drink. And if your school doesn’t recycle, tell your child to bring home the unavoidable bits of waste so you can recycle them yourself.
Teen Years and Beyond
By the time your child becomes a teen, you’re an eco-friendly parenting life veteran. You’ve been doing this no-plastic thing for over a decade at this point. But don’t get too cocky — teens have a way of teaching their parents a thing or two, often with plenty of sarcasm involved.
Adolescents are leading in environmental activism in incredible ways. They have the energy and passion to fight for what they believe in, so if your child starts talking to you about how you can do better for the environment, listen to them. And know that you did something really, really right.
Take the Kids to the Beach Plastic-Free with FiveADRIFT
Anywhere along that journey, it’s always a good time to explore the great outdoors as a family. When you do, you can make that a plastic-free adventure by packing beach towels from FiveADRIFT. Our soft, durable and downright luxurious towels are free of plastics and sustainably produced.Your purchase with us goes double in the fight against plastic pollution. Every single dime of profit our company makes from these towels goes to nonprofits focused on ocean conservation. That way, you can have fun with your little ones at the beach with the confidence of knowing that you’re a part of the solution to the plastic problem. Shop for sustainable towels now.