Plastic Free Living with Children

Plastic Free Living with Children

25 tips for a plastic free lifestyle with children

It seems a little daunting. How can we be as plastic free as possible and eco friendly with small children?  Well, when I see the reality of how plastic is obliterating our environment, I think about how my children will have to deal with it if we don't do something about it now.  And then it helps me change my habits because I just can't be irresponsible about it anymore.  As mothers in 2019, it is now our job to teach this young generation from the very beginning how to be eco-conscious in their every day lives.  If we establish this now for THEM, we have engrained into them a lifetime of choosing the earth over plastic and convenience.  They have to be the generation to be this way and we have to be the generation to teach them.

So, I established habits when Soleil was a baby, and almost 5 years later, I have even more information to do things even more better with my second baby on the way.  I am thrilled to establish even better habits for our family.

Here are my top eco-friendly habits, and I am also including a ton of suggestions a received from my Instagram Mama Community when I posed the question over there:

plastic free living : teach your toddler how to drink out of a glass at restaurants

As soon as Soleil was old enough and strong enough to lift a cup to drink, I started giving her glass and aluminum cups to drink out of - without a lid or a straw.  This established early on her ability to not have to drink out of sippy cups, and better yet, she didn't need to use the styrofoam or plastic single use kid cups restaurants always bring your child.  And that was the reason why I started this habit, because I just didn't always remember to bring her own cup with me at the time.  This was my way of eliminating the issue all together.  Still to this day (she is 4.5 now) when we sit down in a restaurant, we ask for a short tumbler glass for her, and no straws for anyone.  You have to specify quickly, otherwise the busser usually comes to your table with all the plastic.

plastic free living : establish from the very beginning with your kids that you are a no balloons or straws family because they kill mother ocean and all of her animals

This one can be very easy, it does not have to be difficult.  Simply tell your children point blank, as if talking to one of your adult friends, that we do not use balloons or straws in our home because they kill Mother Ocean and her animals.  They understand quickly and will start to quote you on that, to you and to random people (even better!).  If they throw a fit, stand your ground, stay calm, and it won't take long until they understand.  They will get plenty of balloons at all their friends' parties, just never at your house!  I feel no shame in that at all.  My husband pulls countless balloons out of the ocean daily while he is working at sea.  We see the problem first hand, so we are especially sensitive to it.  I think that if you can expose yourself to videos and blog posts and documentaries about the state of the ocean and the war on plastic, all it takes is for you to see it with your own eyes and it will haunt you forever.  Expose yourself, educate yourself, make the changes even if you don't see the problem in your own daily lives.  

plastic free living : Use reusable products for your kids lunches instead of plastic baggies and plastic utensils 

There are so many reusable products and tubberware on the market that you can keep forever and pack all of your kids snacks and lunches in them.  If you are worried about your kids losing them at school/preschool, write their name on them.  At the end of this blog post I have a list of products and the links to their websites so you can buy them now.  The list of products all comes from recommendations from real life mothers who use them and suggested them in the Instagram post.

plastic free living : Shop at Local farmers' markets and/or sign up for csa boxes. it's the easiest way to avoid plastic wrapping and the healthiest way to feed your family.

This is by far the easiest way to reduce your plastic food waste. Now that it is on my radar, when I walk into any grocery store, all I see if the endless plastic.  You just can't escape it, right?  Well, buying local produce and foods can help big time.  CSA boxes are Community Supported Agriculture boxes, and usually they get delivered weekly to your door.  How convenient!  In Santa Barbara I use Farm Cart Organics and I absolutely love supporting another family owned business, feeding my family with produce that looks and tatses way better than any store bought food, AND nothing is ever wrapped in plastic.   


My favorite book I got from my midwives when I was pregnant with Sol was called "Save Your Baby, Throw Away All Your Equipment."  I would link the book here but its hundreds of dollars on this internet, and there is a stack of free ones at my birthing center. This book was a huge wake up call for me.  Come to find out, most of the contraptions and rockers and toys and gadgets and gizmos are actually bad for your baby's physical development.  American Society tells us we need all those things, and these companies invent super expensive products that you might might might use for 3 months IF your baby even likes to be in them.  It is such a huge waste!  Sol was either on my chest horizontally in a sling until she was big enough and strong enough to go into a carrier, or she was next to me in a bassinet until she was crawling. 

So, from my experience this is what you truly need for infancy:

A WRAP/SLING TO WEAR YOUR BABY, SWADDLES, SMALL AMOUNTS OF ORGANIC CLOTHING, A PUMP, ECO BOTTLES, ECO/REUSABLE DIAPERS, WIPES, RASH CREAM, NIPPLE CREAM, MY MOTHERSUN BAMBOO NURSING TANKS, A DIAPER BAG, A BASSINET, AND A CHANGING PAD.  If you choose to not co-sleep with your newborn, then you would need a crib and organic sheets, and I highly recommend getting used, borrowed, upcycled, or antique cribs. 

Most parents will say that they never even get through half of the clothing and products they are gifted because the baby just grows so fast.  So, I am going to be super clear when I do my registry this round that I keep it very minimalist and very conscious of the products I actually do put on it.  Check our my Minimalist Registry Blog Post Here.

plastic free living : prepare before you leave the house: pack your reusable coffee mug, water jug, grocery store bags, reusable silverware, and straw

This one is pretty self explanatory.  In the quotes below from all the mamas on Instagram, some of them mention the brands they use and I include a list at the end with links to all of the products that I personally use and what the mamas recommend.

reduce your waste : shop for your children at rad consignment stores and circulate gear around your mama group.

Why buy new stuff at full price when there are so many trendy consignment stores out there for a fraction of the price?  I buy a ton of Sol's clothing, bathing suits, and shoes at a local consignment store and I spend almost no money on designer brands.  And they always have used Vans and Converse which I love.  My two favorite consignment stores in SB County is Onederchild in Buellton, and Happy Little Hippo in SB. Also, get in the habit of passing your clothes along to mamas in your friend group.  Get your group in the habit of circulating clothes and baby gear around so that the whole group reaps the benefits of upcycling used (usually barely used) kids gear.

Real life plastic free suggestions from real life women in my mothersun instagram community, this stuff is so good:

Cloth diapers!!! Invest in good water bottles and @stasherbag bags. Carry @togoware and straws. Make your own cleaning products and/or buy bulk and refill. Ditch swiffers and go old school broom and good mop. Ditch paper towels, which may seem crazy but we haven’t used them in close to ten years! I also make my own milks...almond, cashew, oat etc. those wax coated cartons are not recyclable...and we go though so much. Store in glass bottles.


Our oldest started kindergarten and I am determined to never send her to school with ziplock baggies for snacks and lunch. I love our @planetbox lunch box. I also have reusable snack bags that I send her snacks in & a resuable water bottle. We do our part with our @chicobag grocery bags & @hydroflask and @yeti cups at home too. I use a lot of mason jars for storage.


Zero waste lunch boxes, metal h2o bottles, farmers markets, no plastic bags at stores (including for produce but if necessary reuse bag for walking dog), no utensils on takeout, no straws, don’t buy individually wrapped snacks, pick up trash whenever wherever seen, when safe and especially plastic, don’t buy things..... or reuse packaging for recycled art and school projects, make party confetti out of leaves, participate in beach and creek clean ups, volunteer at local aquarium.


I also never use paper towels or paper napkins...cloth are pretty, reusable and you can make them or buy them at thrift stores and change up your decor for basically nothing!


My husband and I work hard to ditch lids on cups when we don’t have a reusable cup, shop local produce that’s not wrapped in plastic, carry reusable bags to pick up trash on beach walks, use biodegradable doggy bags, buy food in bulk and refill!


Invest in a compost and use that to reduce your household waste. Paper towels can decompose in there along with all your kitchen waste. Obviously the compost will not solve all your waste, but reducing what goes in your trash bin is a good start and you get fertile soil in the process


On the cloth diaper note, @tinklebellediaperservice is a great local service/option!


I reusable produce bags, I also use these for items I get from the bulk bins (nuts,lentils, chocolates). Purchasing and recycling your dairy products in glass has helped reduce some plastic in our home as well.


Find a local zero waste, unwrapped store to provide you with laundry soap, cleaners, etc, bamboo toothbrushes, reusable snack bags, and everything everyone else said! Use mason jars to store and transport your products too!


Cloth diapering including reusable wash cloths as wipes. Check craigslist or thrift stores before buying any needed baby gear, there’s ALWAYS items you can find that are like new. Reusable lunch containers and snack packs. Reuse any bread bags or anything that comes from the store in a plastic bag. Hand-me-down clothes, kids destroy their clothes during playtime, no need for fancy new ones. Recycle old sheets into cleaning rags instead of paper towels. Hang your clothes to dry in the sun!!


Always carry reusable water bottle and mug, for kiddo too. When we dine out, ask for no plastic water cup when we are seated for her. Bring reusable cutlery in my purse for places that use plastic utensils, that includes a straw (ask for no straw). Have a set of small bamboo containers for snacks and leftover. Shop at farmers markets with reusable produce bags. Try and make things from scratch more often to avoid excessive recycling, support businesses that allow return of glass bottles to be reused.


This past summer we bought kayaks and we started taking the kids out to our lakes and rivers and doing cleanups. Our 7 year old really got into it and noticing how terrible littering is and how it affects our wildlife. We make it as fun as possible so it’s never seen as a chore, and now we love getting out of the house and exploring places we never knew around us ️

We have been a cloth napkin family for years and it makes a huge difference in our home. Every family member has their own and we use them all week (sometimes 2 weeks!) and then I wash them. We are metal straw users, reusable coffee cups, water bottles, mesh produce bags, waxed paper wraps and I save all glass bottles from things we buy and reuse them to hold anything and everything in the house. I cut up old linens for rags and I have a reusable ceramic coffee cup that I love from @carmiclay. Getting our produce from @farmcartorganics has reduced the amount of packaging we bring in.


Cloth diapers! I was shocked at how much we loved using them. Recently, thanks for great friend’s recommendation, I switched to reusable period cups. I love @sheThinx.


Ditch the microwave! Everything is over packaged anyways plus eating food that’s zapped is gross! We haven’t had a microwave in over 13 years. Also those individual/ single serve coffee things, just use a reusable coffee canister and grind up your own coffee.


Here in SB, if you have the kind of plastic that can not be put in recycling, you can bring them to @sbchannelkeeper or @ablittsfinecleaners - here is info:Many plastics are not being recycled by local trash companies, including single-use plastic retail bags; bread bags; thin plastic produce bags; plastic wrapping around packages of paper towels, napkins, diapers and bathroom tissue; bottled water case wrap, dry cleaning bags, plastic newspaper bags, and the plastic air pillows that come in packaging, according to Ablitt’s owner Sasha Ablitt.Ablitt wants people to save these plastics for recycling by bringing them to Ablitt’s Fine Cleaners, which is serving as a drop-off location for these plastics. Ablitt’s has a baling machine onsite that will compress these plastic overwraps for pickup by an award-winning company called Trex.


I’m one of the crazies that practices #eliminationcommunication I know, in its full-on mode it is DEF not for everyone, us included. We use cloth diapers as backup and are not about getting obsessive or stressed. It’s not getting our son to pee or in the toilet or be out of diapers early. It’s about living in a way that makes sense for us to minimize our waste and consumption and try to take care of his little baby butt in a proactive as opposed to reactive way. I probably wash one small load of diapers every 4-5 days and we’ve never used a disposable.


Just threw a bday party for my 6 year old and didn’t use any single use products. A little more dishes but in the end very minimal waste. I was super excited.


Eco Friendly Companies listed in this Blog Post:

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