When I was pregnant with Cora I saw this cartoon and it really hit home.
It was a reminder.
I can nurture her physical and mental growth, stress about saving enough money for her education, and make a running for the best parent award. But it will mean very little if she inherits a resource depleted Earth. The Global Footprint Network reported that in 2019 it only took 6 months and 29 days for humans to use up the ecological resources that the Earth can regenerate in one year. This was the quickest consumption year since tracking began in 1970. I know that it is my responsibility as a parent to do my part in creating a better future for her. For our house, this means reducing our consumption and waste.
We started with cloth diapers and then took to step by step, room by room. It’s been an ongoing journey of learning and finding easy and effective ways for my family to adopt zero waste habits. So, around the house, these are the changes we have made.
- Reusable Containers & Refill Stores
Liquid soaps, shampoo, lotions, laundry detergent, vinegar, and cleaners – you name it, a lot can be refilled using your own containers at local dispensaries. In my case, there isn’t a refill store nearby and I can’t always drive to Vancouver. I find that buying in bulk at Costco is a good alternative. Here are some other local options that might be convenient for you:
- Beeswax Wraps
These replaced plastic wraps. These are super easy and fun for a DIY, or they can be purchased at your local organic store or dispensary.
- Swedish Dishcloths
These replaced paper towels and kitchen sponges that would get tossed every month. Swedish dishcloths dry quickly so they don’t get mouldy and can be tossed in the washing machine or dishwasher.
- Reusable Napkins
I am no sewing expert. My training is limited to what I learned in high school and a few Youtube videos. But these are so easy to make even I managed with my minimal experience. I’ve repurposed receiving blankets to make napkins and also bought really cute fabric from Spool of Thread in Vancouver. My son particularly adores his puppy-print napkins.
- DIY Surface Cleaner
Unfortunately, eco-friendly cleaning products usually carry a higher price tag and are often in hard-to-recycle plastic spray bottles. Taking 10 minutes to make some DIY cleaner is cheap and surprisingly easy. There are endless recipes on Pinterest but here are two that only require 3-4 ingredients.
- Bento Boxes
We stopped buying individually packaged snacks and started packing bento box styled lunches. Not only are these fun for kids (and me, I hate packing lunches, but I like packing these), but teachers love you for bringing less garbage to school.
- Baby Food
Making your own is easy. Don’t make the same mistake as me with my first child and purchase a Baby Bullet. A high-quality blender works just as well. Or even easier, look into BLW (baby-led weaning) and save resources and time by just feeding baby what you are eating.
Fun fact: bidets use tap water, not toilet water to clean your back end. We installed a bidet in the master and the kids’ bathroom, and it saves soooo much toilet paper. Not to mention that using a bidet is far cleaner than toilet paper.
- Homemade Soap
I make my own, but there are so many local stores that sell small-batch soaps with zero or minimal packaging. Check out Pomme in Coquitlam, Karma Suds in Vancouver, or Jolene’s Natural Soap in New Westminster.
- Dryer Balls
These wool balls replace disposable dryer sheets. They also reduce drying time by up to 25%! If you’re vegan, you can easily find alternatives that don’t use wool.
- Birthday Party Decorations
Every year I would go to the local party shop and buy plastic and paper decorations for my son’s birthday that we only used once. For his last birthday, I made a timeless bunting banner that we can reuse year after year. We also put up Christmas light inside the house. It looked way cooler than the usual cookie-cutter Paw Patrol or Pokemon birthday decorations.
- Eating Out Utensils
I almost bought 3 sets of eating out utensils, easily forgetting the buy nothing principle that’s important for zero waste. Then I remembered I had old forks and spoons hidden away in my cabinets. I keep a bag of these, including reusable straws and napkins in my car. Since they’re already in the car I never forget them and it's super easy to grab when we’re getting food on the go. I also leave glass containers in there for take-out or leftovers.
I love books, but I don’t love how much space they take up. It’s almost impossible to keep a clutter-free house with kids, so any space that can be freed up is a win for me. I donated our novels (with the exception of a few favorites) and now only purchase books on e-readers.
- Buy Nothing Group
Many Metro Vancouver neighbourhoods have buy nothing Facebook groups for trading and sharing items. This allows you to connect with neighbours, save money, and support a sharing economy.
- Tradle Baby Clothing Subscription
And last but not least is signing up for Tradle and no longer buying new from fast-fashion brands like H&M and Carters. It's a wonderful feeling to know that the baby clothes Cora outgrows will be used by another newborn.
The most important step is to not undertake this transition alone. Know that you are now part of a community of parents that are working to build a better future for their children, starting at home. Join Facebook groups like Zero-Waste Moms and Zero Waste Vancouver to share ideas and ask questions. Reach out for help when you need it and share your success. Feel proud that you are setting an example and teaching your kids eco-friendly habits that they will have for life.
Are you ready for your own zero waste journey? Remember that your journey is unique, and there is no wrong way. Aesthetic Instagram posts can make you feel like you need beautiful glass jars and perfectly organized drawers to join the exclusive “zero waste” club. The truth is you’re already in the club and the only wrong way is to not try at all. Good luck!