Below are some useful tips and tricks to reduce your reliance on plastic when it comes to parenting.
- Diapers: Use cloth diapers if at all possible, or if you use disposables, choose brands that are certified eco-friendly (e.g., that carry the green Nordic Swan Ecolabel).
- Baby wipes: Buy a set of washable, reusable washcloths instead of disposable baby wipes.
- Baby toys: Choose toys made from natural materials instead of plastic. Resist buying new toys. Choose used toys instead available at consignment stores or thrift stores.
- Children’s birthday parties: Use our own dishes and utensils instead of disposable. If you need extras, borrow them instead of buying disposable. Choose washable, reusable tablecloths and decorations made from paper instead of plastic items like balloons.
Every child will require around 5000 diapers during their early years. Disposable diapers are typically plastic-intensive items, they are not eligible for recycling and each one take several hundred years to break down in the environment. The production of disposable diapers, the waste generated by them and their packaging give us an excellent reason to consider switching to reusable cloth diapers. This is especially true of Iceland where we have plenty of water and clean energy to power our washers and dryers. Remember to choose eco-friendly detergents.
The use of cloth diapers has increased greatly in the last few decades. On Facebook you’ll find a number of message boards and groups dedicated to cloth diapering as well as sales sites for cloth diapering retailers. For a comprehensive intro to cloth diapering, check out this roundup (in English) for parents interested in making the switch. Likewise, this guide (in Icelandic) is distributed at Iceland’s primary care clinics and includes information on local retailers and recommended detergents available locally.
Most parents rely on baby wipes when cleaning their children, at diaper changes as well as wiping sticky fingers and faces. Baby wipes are typically made of polyester or polypropylene, which are plastics. Likewise, the packaging for baby wipes are almost always plastic.
Baby wipes must never be disposed of in the toilet, even if the product claims to be “flushable”. These products clog sewage systems and take a very long time to break down in the environment. These wipes can, however, be replaced with reusable washclothes, which can be laundered (often along with cloth diaper inserts). Some choose to wet their clothes as they use them. Others choose to place them in a container and wet them all the once with a prepared solution.
Homemade solution for baby wipes: to 2 cups of warm water add one tablespoon of gentle baby wash and one tablespoon of oil, like coconut oil or sweet almond oil. Place the laundered clothes in a container with a lid and pour the solution over the clothes. Allow to soak up the solution and cool. Pour off any excess liquid if necessary.
Many baby toys available are essentially disposable, made from cheap plastic. Avoid buying such items. What’s more, the packaging for these plastic toys is often more plastic. Parents should pay attention to the various markings on plastic toys and be aware of what they mean.
An increasing number of toys made from natural materials, like wood, are becoming available again. In Iceland you’ll find a good selection of wooden toys. Many choose to buy used toys through Facebook and other sites or thrift and consignment stores, like the Red Cross.
Children’s Birthday Parties
Many children’s birthday parties included themed items based on a cartoon character the child likes. Decorations often include balloons, a plastic table covering, straws and disposable cups, plates and utensils made of plastic. Instead of generating so much waste, consider using a washable tablecloth, paper decorations instead of balloons, reusable banners, whether paper or cloth, and simply use the plates, cups and utensils you already have at home. If you need extra cups, empty jars work well and you can decorate them for the party.
The beloved cartoon character can still make an appearance on the cake or with paper decorations. if you’d like some inspiration, take a look at these ideas for a plastic-free kid’s party.
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