Earlier this week, we discussed the proliferation of plastic in the home. As the rate of plastic production and consumption increases, it becomes even more of a concern for future generations. Because most plastic is produced from chemicals derived from fossil fuels, it never truly breaks down or disappears. All of the plastic that has ever been created – over 8.3 billion tons – is still present in the world today, whether it is recycled or ends up in our oceans and waterways. Knowing that plastic pollution is a problem, it’s important to teach children about the importance of reducing, reusing, and recycling as much plastic as they can so that future generations can live in a cleaner and less toxic environment.

While kids definitely have a say in the food, clothing, and toys that they use, the majority of purchasing power lies in the parents’ hands. Here are a few actionable steps to limit the amount of plastic in the lives of your children:

  • Become a master chef. By getting them in the kitchen, you can have more control over your ingredients while also teaching the value of wholesome ingredients. Batch recipes for granola bars and breakfast muffins are plentiful, and it keeps snack time plastic-free and money saving.
  • Sharing is caring. Some libraries and daycares offer toy-share programs. Similar to borrowing books from the library, your kids can play with new toys while avoiding buying new, often plastic-containing, toys. Check with your local Buy Nothing group or ‘shared economy’ page to find options near you.
  • Creative crafting. Rather than heading to the local craft store for supplies, encourage your kids to get creative with the objects around them! Broken crayons can be melted into paint, newspaper and magazines can be collaged, and cut up packages can become sculptures.
  • Kid-friendly reusables. It can be hard to trust a little one with glass or stainless steel for water bottles and containers. A great and popular new alternative is slicone, a more durable and long-lasting material, for reusable snack bags and bottles.
  • Fruit and veggie central. Easier said than done, we know. By choosing produce over processed snacks, you eliminate the need for plastic wraps and bags.
  • Party sustainably. For your next birthday party or gathering, consider some alternatives to the typical plastic toy goody bags. Baked goods, books, craft supplies, or plants can be just as memorable and often less likely to be thrown away!
  • Fountains are friends. Most schools have some form of water fountain or hydration station. Taking advantage of this free resource lowers dependence on single-use beverage containers.
  • Dirty diapers. The EPA estimates that over 4 million disposable diapers – which contain plastic linings – are used each year. The cloth diaper movement is making a comeback, with support groups, soft fabrics, adorable designs, and the convenience of washing machines.
  • Trash troopers. Bring the neighborhood kids together for a fun day outside doing a litter cleanup as a way to intercept any future ocean plastic.
  • Hand-me-arounds. Local clothing swaps with friends and schools can be a great opportunity to keep up with your growing child and make sure they are still able to switch up their wardrobe! No swaps nearby? Thrift stores are growing their kids’ sections.
  • Set an example. By recycling in your home and teaching your children the proper ways, you are setting them up for a future of more conscious consumerism and waste reduction. Check out the Recycle Smart website for more information on what to recycle in your community.
  • Teach what you preach. Check with your students’ teachers to see if they are a member of the GREEN TEAM, a free environmental club for K-12 teachers in Massachusetts that integrates knowledge of plastic and waste reduction into the curriculum through lesson plans and action.

Now that your home and family is plastic-free, time to tackle the office!