If you’re anything like us, becoming a parent made you more aware of the importance of leaving the world better — and cleaner — than we found it! In addition to reducing our family’s environmental footprint, we want to raise our children to be aware of how our choices impact the planet. While it’s true that most pollution and waste are caused by large industries, there are still meaningful things we can do as individuals and families to help produce less waste and reduce our impact on the environment.
Making a greener, cleaner home doesn’t have to mean a dramatic lifestyle change! Just one small change at a time can add up over the course of months and years. Here are a few suggestions for easy swaps you can make to reduce your household waste (and, in some cases, support woman-owned small businesses at the same time!):
How often do you reach for a paper towel without thinking about it? In the U.S., we use about 6.5 million tons of paper towels every year! Bring some green (or any other color in the rainbow) to your kitchen by swapping paper towels for cloth “unpaper towels” made by Marley’s Monsters. They’re beautiful, easy to use (unlike some other paper towel substitutes, they don’t have to be snapped together), and come in tons of colors and prints.
You can’t beat the convenience of a disposable baby wipe, but they are a huge waste generator, and even some “green” brands contain microplastics. Cloth wipes might sound like a hassle, but you’d be surprised how stress-free they can be! We love this blog post from The West Coast Mommy breaking down her tips and tricks for using cloth baby wipes.
Cotton swabs and rounds
Technically, cotton is biodegradable, but single-use cotton swabs and cotton rounds are super resource-consumptive, from cultivation to manufacture to transportation. Fortunately, reusable options abound from companies like LastObject, MakeUp Eraser, Saie, and Marley’s Monsters. Keep a mesh bag in the bathroom to collect your reusable rounds, then simply toss them in the laundry with your other towels (skip the fabric softener)!
Did you know that the cleaning products you buy are mostly water? Just-add-water products like Blueland’s detergent tabs and cleaning concentrates do all the same work as liquid cleaners, but they have a dramatically smaller shipping footprint and reduce plastic waste.
We all know that plastic bags are terrible for the environment. Bumkins’ reusable snack and sandwich bags are easy to use and reuse (just pop them in the dishwasher or washing machine), and the prints are adorable in a lunch box or diaper bag!
This can be a tough one, especially once your kids discover YouTube… the hard truth is that plastic toys are, ultimately, not good for the planet, even though there are so many wonderful plastic toys that we love (can you imagine a world with no Legos?). Toys can be a great place to start the conversation with your children about waste, and to shop intentionally. High-quality plastic toys that will get years of enjoyment are a better choice than the trendy must-have toy of the moment that will be ignored six months from now, and there are many more sustainable toys, too. We adore Candycar, Green Toys, Hape, Brio, the beautiful Waldorf finds at Bella Luna Toys, and browsing the consignment selection on Toycycle.
As you start to change out household products, your children may notice — and that presents another great opportunity to talk to your kids about climate change and the environment! Young people are some of the most passionate advocates for change, and it’s empowering for them to know that they can make a difference by making good choices.
If those conversations inspire your little ones to find more ways to make a difference, we love the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, our featured charity for the month of April. The Sheldrick Trust works to protect the wild African animals that children love, like elephants and rhinos. Smart Money Mamas picked the Sheldrick adopt-an-elephant program as one of its top charities to help get kids involved in giving!