Do you know about Plastic Free July? Latest studies are showing that we are consuming a credit card worth of plastic every week!!! It is more important than ever for us to move away from plastic.
Scary fact: every little bit of plastic ever made, still exists today. They may not be in their original form, some are “downcycled” (made into a low grade product for one more use), but most are broken up and floating around in our environment. That is a disturbing thought…every little bit of plastic ever made is still here!
The issue with most plastic products is they NEVER break down. They will continue to pollute our environment for hundreds of years to come. Scientists have predicted that by the year 2050 there will be more tonnes of plastic in our oceans then tonnes of fish! 2050….that is a mere 31 years away. Can you imagine your child snorkeling the barrier reef and seeing more plastic then fish? If there is even a reef still to be seen!
I am sure you have heard all about “Eco July” or “Plastic Free July”. But what is it really all about?
Eco July is about raising our awareness and accountability of our environmental impact. It is about taking small achievable steps to eliminating our reliance on single use plastic. It is also about showing our children, and future generation, how to be more conscious of their impact on mother nature, to live more lightly.
Being an Eco Aware Family
Parenthood is a particularly difficult time to live sustainably. We have so many disposable products being pushed at us, and life is so busy trying to fit everything in, it is hard to find the time and energy to avoid the easy plastic options.
The key is to be aware of the impact of your decisions, then take small steps, and do one thing at a time. Incorporate one thing into your life at a time, make it work for you, and then look at what else you can do next. If you try to go green all at once you will likely find it overwhelming and give up on it entirely as hippy green nonsense!
This July, try these easy eco alternatives
The focus of July is the increasingly massive problem of our use of plastic and the waste it produces and how to change our behaviours to lessen the impact on our eco system. The team at Milk and Love spends a lot of time examining how to live more lightly during motherhood, and sourcing products to help us live a more environmentally sustainable way.
As we've said before (and will continue to say!), you don’t need to make big drastic changes to begin with. The goal is to start off small, with achievable changes that you can sustain for life. You gradually become more aware of your environmental impact, and take steps to reduce it. Your children will learn from you how to live a more environmentally aware life. Every change makes a difference.
Here are our top 8 plastics to focus on:
1. Choose clothes made with natural fabrics, instead of synthetic fabric that you will wear over and over.
In Australia alone, they estimate that more than 500,000 tonnes of textiles and leather end up in landfill every year. If the fabric is polyester, which is essentially plastic, then it takes approximately 200 years to break down. Many people dump bags of hardly worn cheap polyester clothes at second hand shops, thinking that the clothes will go to others in need. Unfortunately no one wants to buy these cheap, ill fitting synthetic clothes, and they end up in the bin, with second hand shops overwhelmed with the sheer volume of fast fashion they receive.
As Vivinne Westwood was famously quoted "Buy less. Choose well. Make it last. Quality, not quantity. Everybody's buying far too many clothes." Choosing good quality clothes that will last instead of disposable cheap clothes is a great place to start! As an extra bonus, you'll probably feel more stylish and comfortable wearing good quality clothes made with natural fabrics too!
2. Make your next celebration eco friendly by saying no to balloons, glitter, plastic party favours and plastic plates and cutlery, and saying yes to item made of natural fabrics, or that can be reused.
There are so many unnecessary plastic items available for parties. Especially for kids parties where certain themes are followed. Kids certainly don't need all of those little plastic toys that tend to be found in the party aisle.
Try using paper decorations, paper bag party favours, paper plates and bamboo cutlery instead. Steer away from buying single serve packets of food for parties, buy one big pack and put it into a bowl. Invest in a drink dispenser that can be filled with water instead of lots of small bottles of water or soft drink.
Use a fabric table cloth instead of buying a plastic one use table cloth. Although this can make the clean up more time consuming, with extra items to wash - it makes a huge difference to the amount of waste after the party.
3. Choose toys made with natural fabrics over synthetics. Wood instead of plastic, cotton instead of polyester.
Choose toys made with natural materials (such as wooden toys and cotton soft baby toys) over plastic and ask friends and family to help you reduce plastic in your house by choosing the same. You can also join a Toy Library, or buy toys second hand.
4. Next time you're looking for a new handbag, belt or shoes, see if you can either buy second hand, make do with what you have, or find an option made with natural products (e.g. canvas)
With the second hand market becoming more and more popular it is definitely worthwhile buying from someone who has used, loved and looked after an item that still has lots of life left in it.
It is worth noting that "vegan" leather may be kind to animals, but it isn't kind to the environment. It is often plastic and won't break down. If you have to buy a synthetic item, try to make sure you buy one that is well made that will last for longer. It is far more worth while to buy a second hand item at a great price that has so much more life left in it.
5. Buy products in bulk where possible to reduce individual packaging or visit your nearest eco shop for refills in existing containers
A lot of eco grocery shops allow you to take your own containers or reusable bags and fill up with the amount you'd like. This is great for reducing the packaging. It is also a great idea to save jars or containers from packaged goods to then use to store these items in your pantry or fridge - ie Jam jars, yoghurt tubs, coffee jars etc.
6. Carry a reusable water bottle or use public water bubblers and stop for coffee instead of getting it to take away (and slow down at the same time!)
Another big offender is single use plastic water bottles and take away cups. They clog our drains, litter our streets and end up in our oceans. Unfortunately take away coffee cups are lined with plastic, and they can't be recycled.
There are a couple of things you can do to reduce your usage of plastic water bottles:
1. Re-acquaint yourself with water drink fountains in public spaces!
There are studies that suggest that the chemicals leaching out of the cheap plastic that are used in making disposable bottles make it lower quality than water directly from a tap (regardless of the marketing messages on the front!). The recommendations when drinking from public water bubblers is to let the water run for a little bit before you drink, and don't touch the bubbler with your mouth while you're drinking.
2. Keep a reusable water bottle on you that you can refill anywhere. We love these double lined stainless steel water bottles that keep water colder for longer. Shop reusable water bottles.
If you're trying to reduce your take away coffee cups there are two options:
1. Use a reusable coffee cup and pop it in your bag, so you don't forget it! We love these stainless steel coffee cups that look so stylish AND keep your coffee hot for much longer.
2. Alternatively, take a moment to actually drink your coffee at the shop - sit down for 5 or 10 minutes and take a moment to yourself to enjoy your coffee and your surroundings. It's a lovely way to slow down a little bit and be present in the moment.
7. Swap plastic straws for silicon, stainless steel or none at all
Straws are another easy culprit for unnecessary plastic. Plus they have a tendency to escape bins and landfill and cause harm to our marine and land life. You can ask for your drink without a straw when you're ordering.
HOWEVER, if your kids love them (as mine do), you can buy some stainless steel ones or silicon ones that have a much longer lifetime. You'll also need to get a straw brush to keep them clean.
8. Use more reusable products over disposables where possible (think breast pads, wipes, nappies)
Buying items that can be reused is a great way to reduce your environmental impact. Within Motherhood we could help so easily with just a few of the things we use so often such as breast pads, wipes and nappies. Although initially it is more of a financial outlay, in the long term it will save you money.
Continue your journey with like minded parents
To continue to move towards a more sustainable lifestyle we encourage you check out some of these resources below. If you have other resources, please share in the comments below!
ABC's War on Waste resources for information on Australia's waste problems and ideas to overcome.
Join our Milk and Love Mums facebook group for all sorts of conversations about breastfeeding, gentle parenting and reducing waste.
Together we can help to make the world a better place for our children, and our children's children. What small steps do you think you could take to help?
About the author
Rosanna is a mum of 4 who has always loved fashion, lives for school holidays, and finds it impossible to put down (or not binge watch) a good story. She loves to help customers create a functional wardrobe that makes it easy and enjoyable to get ready in the morning, while have something to wear for every occasion, and most importantly, feel lovely and stylish. Read more about Rosanna here.