Having children and living a zero waste lifestyle are two concepts largely at odds with each other. I’m making a commitment this year to drastically reduce our household waste — especially plastic — live minimally, and still have time for the important people in my life.
There are several things to consider when you’d like to live a zero waste lifestyle as a mother: price, time, and results.
Everyone has their reasons for living the way that they do. The desire to live zero waste often leaves families caught in the balance between wanting to model good behavior for their children and needing convenience items just to keep their heads above water.
Being zero waste doesn’t have to add extra steps in your day, and if it does – that’s not sustainable for mothers.
I realized just how much garbage my family was producing after spending a few weeks in our RV moving to Park City, UT. You get a better sense of how you are contributing to this enormous problem when forced to carry around your waste.
Scary fact: the average American family produces 6570 lbs of waste per year that ends up in our landfills.
Now, it’s hard for most people to picture their waste in terms of pounds so for reference, our family produces a tall kitchen bag of garbage every day. Every. Single. Day.
Have you ever measured how much garbage your family is producing or tracked it over time?
Have you ever taken a look at what you’re throwing away?
Follow along with me as I trial methods, products, and solutions to reduce my family’s unnecessary waste and share what works and what doesn’t.
Our family will never be perfect, but doing the best you can is always better than doing nothing.
I’m sure that some of my solutions will be things you’ve heard of before but we need MORE people talking about this and offering easy ways to convert families to this lifestyle in order to make a difference.
Take One Step At A Time Toward
your Zero Waste Motherhood
What are these blogs going to cover?
We’re going to tackle five big changes you can make to reduce your waste: food, travel, kids, beauty and cleaning.
Who is this series for?
When I started looking at ways to reduce our waste and especially go plastic-free, I was inundated by bloggers who were tackling the problem at an individual level. This series is for the mother who is on the fence about whether she can make a difference. This is for the overwhelmed mother- busy with a job and multiple kids.
This is for the realistic mother who knows there aren’t enough hours in a day to source moss to use in lieu of toilet paper or extra days in a childhood to make up for that endeavor.
Attempting all of this at once is insane. Focus on one area at a time and get to a point that you are comfortable and habitual before moving on to the next step.
Now, let’s get you some results this week- who wants to wait until the next blog to tackle this problem?! Not me.
Here are some quick zero waste swaps you can make today that have big impact:
Use What You Have
It’s time to KonMari– or do whatever you need to do to pull everything out of every drawer and sort into like items. Take a look at what you already have. Your first step is to finish your current products, give away ones you really don’t want and think of ways to reuse the containers.
Your pantry isn’t going to look like Khloe Kardashian’s. Believe me, I want that too, but there is a huge difference between trying to be zero waste and trying to have an Instagram-worthy photo of your organized home. Personally, I don’t have the money to buy all the beautiful jars, nor the time to empty all of the grocery containers into my pretty jars.
Ditch Plastic Wrap and Sandwich Bags
These are the perfect leftover container, snack pack, and lunch bag solution. On any given day I have 1-3 in my purse with snacks. They are lightweight, dishwasher-friendly and come in lots of helpful sizes and shapes.
Ditch plastic wrap, sandwich bags and plastic tupperware with these little gems. We’ve survived for over three years with just three stasher bags: the extra-long, the stand-up and the sandwich bag. We’re adding two snack bags and another stand-up because we’re hiking a lot these days and their portability can’t be beat.
Skip the Produce Bags
The plastic bags that you put your fruit and veggies in at the store are totally unnecessary- you’re going to wash your produce anyway. If you MUST bag, grab these produce bags. Not only can you shop with them, but you can wash and store food in them in your fridge.
Covid-19 Note: Grocery stores aren’t allowing bags from home. I simply put the fruits and veggies directly in the cart with no bag — even after checkout — and then load my bags at the car.
Reusable Grocery Bags
This is totally not a new concept but if you haven’t yet pulled together a stash of bags to take with you to the grocery store- now is the time. I recommend an assortment of canvas bags that you can wash, one or two waterproof bags/insulated bags to transport meats or things that sweat in, and a heavy-duty canvas bag for anything in glass jars like the extra large, open top Lands End Canvas Tote.
Replace Paper Towels
Kids make a lot of mess which means a lot of paper towels. I’m not saying there aren’t a few times you’ll want paper towels around (potty messes come to mind) but keeping a stash of smaller size dish and cleaning towels in your kitchen will absolutely cut down on your waste.
Scour your house- I’m sure you have an old towel you can cut up to use. I love these linen towels with the loop from Ikea. Or, these will work perfectly if you need to bigger arsenal.
Invest in UPF Clothing
We’re all spending lots of time outside which means we’re using a TON of sunblock. When you have kids, you realize quickly how amazing aerosol sunblock sprays are- especially if you have to reapply on the beach. Why don’t kids like extreme exfoliation on their delicate skin? Weird. Not only are the aerosol sprays bad for the environment but even the lotions have harmful effects for marine habitats. This is all in addition to the waste you’re creating.
Instead of spending tons of money and time using sunblock all over your body, purchase a UPF 50, long sleeve, loose-fitting shirt for each member of your family that they can throw on when they are going to be outdoors.
For myself, I have this cute dress from Coolibar from a past trip.
I plan on seeking out more eco-friendly ways to find UPF clothing but it is a bit trickier with second-hand or repurposed sun protective clothing. You need to care for it properly to get the benefits. In order to get the longest life possible from your UPF clothes, wash in cold water only and air dry out of the sun.
Lets do this!
Becoming a zero waste mother isn’t going to happen overnight. If it was as easy and convenient as the products made for motherhood on the market everyone (I hope) would do it. By breaking down the steps, sharing zero waste hacks, products and methods that will save you time, I hope we can all make the commitment to more sustainable habits.
Are you going to challenge yourself to take on these zero waste swaps this month? Are you in for the five big steps toward making your motherhood zero waste?
Leave a comment or reach out to me @thegordonfamilyadventure.
If you love to travel with your kids, make sure you check out my latest post on how to have the best, kid-friendly RV trip in Utah’s National Parks.