Low waste parenting

Many aspects of parenting can become low waste with the inclusion of a few simple but clever solutions and products.

A small knitted piglet soft toy is sitting on grass, surrounded by dandelions.

We know this can sound daunting, but by considering some of the key areas which generate high levels of waste, a life of reusable over disposable could be the way forward for you and your whānau.

Nappies
Lunch box and portable food ideas
Personal Care for Wāhine
Low waste parties
Toys
Low waste arts and crafts

Nappies

Throughout a child's life they will go through around 5,500 disposable nappies, making up about 50% of household waste with just one baby.

To minimise this waste you could give cloth nappies a go, modern versions are really easy to use and simple to clean. Even taking a small step like aiming to use one cloth nappy a day will help decrease your waste and save money over time. Check out Waste Free with Kate for all the information you need.

A good switch for wet wipes is reusable cloth wipes and warm water and when you’re out and about pre wet these wipes and carry them in a sealed reusable container. 

We know being new parents can be overwhelming and using reusables can seem like a step too far and that’s why we support Kate Mead's (also known as "The Nappy Lady") two hour workshops on "Waste-free Parenting". She’s done the research for you and shows you all the shortcuts, including:

  • investigate the styles of cloth nappies that are now available
  • get some advice on how to choose and use cloth nappies
  • get tips and hints on the best way to wash modern cloth nappies.

Workshops are held throughout the Wellington region, and entry includes a gift bag of zero waste goodies including a couple of cloth nappies. Get more information and find out how to book on Waste Free with Kate.

Lunch box and portable food ideas

Here are a few tips to reduce waste for packed food:

  • Use a lunch box with built in compartments, this way you can do away with plastic wrap
  • Instead of using glad wrap or plastic zip bags, wrap food in wax wraps or pack in a reusable pocket or leave it loose
  • Making your own snacks is healthier, cheaper and will reduce packaging waste. If you double the recipe and freeze, you will soon build up a healthy stockpile, this will make packing lunches fast and easy. For recipes, try the Rubbish trips crackers, dips and muesli bars or Love Food Hate Waste fruit bowl muffins. Check out some inspiring packed lunch ideas from Waste Free with Kate.
  • Baby food can be easy to make, you can often blend up parts of your main meal then decant into reusable pouches or into an ice tray and keep in the freezer. Check out some tips from Love Food Hate Waste
  • Do away with single use suckies and buy big containers of yogurt to decant into reusable pouches. 
  • Don't forget to pack your reusables when you head out on adventures: water bottle, coffee cup, reusable cutlery, cloth napkin, handkerchief and a container for takeaways. 

Personal Care for Wāhine

Sanitary products account for 6% of Wellington’s general rubbish to landfill. If you are keen to make a switch to reusables, there are some good options available.  Although there is a higher initial cost to purchase these items, they will save you money over time. For more information refer to Waste Free with Kate. The below products are available online or at many of Wellington’s bulk stores:

  • Reusable breast pads
  • Reusable cloth menstrual pads
  • Menstrual cups
  • Period underwear 

Low waste parties

Kids’ parties can be time consuming, expensive and generate a lot of waste, here are a few tips to minimise this:

  • Organise your party at home or a picnic in the park rather than a hosted, catered party 
  • Add a note on the invite suggesting second hand presents or a donation towards one big present are welcome. Consider giving experiences over things ie tickets to the movies or a music event, bowling, laser strike
  • Keep the food simple, a combination of fresh and things you can prepare in advance and freeze. A good line up is: vege sticks with dips, pizza cut into small squares, a fruit platter, some fun decorative sweets and cake!
  • Avoid single use cups and cutlery, usually there are plenty of helpful hands to help wash up your reusable plates at the end of the party.  
  • Aim for reusable decorations, either buy them or make your own, keep them in a box and you can pull them out year after year. Use old fabric to make bunting and even a fabric ‘happy birthday’ message. Flowers are a great decoration, tied to string as bunting or displayed in lots of little vases. Avoid single use items, such as balloons, a ribbon on the mail box will do just fine. 
  • Buy or make party games that can be reused or play activity based games. Try pass the parcel with secondhand books or toys, use old wrapping paper, pillow cases or napkins and ribbon for the wrapping; music based games like musical chairs or statues; or treasure hunt with food treats.
  • Don’t feel pressured into making elaborate goodie bags, just a piece of cake as your guests leave is perfect. 

Toys

Rather than buying new toys, consider:

  • Buying less toys and put your savings towards fun family experiences like tickets to a musical event, learn to cook workshop or a tramping weekend. This can lead to more quality time together and less focus on ‘stuff’.
  • Joining your local Toy Library
  • Buying second-hand toys online, from the The Tip Shop or your local op shop. This will prolong the useable life of these items and save you money!
  • Repairing the toys you have, for instance check if you can get your old scooter or bikes fixed at your local bike shop or look online for parts and fix it yourself.

If you choose to buy new, consider:

  • Buying toys made locally from natural products such as wood, cotton or wool. This will mean at the end of the toys life it can be composted – no waste!
  • Choosing quality over quantity, these quality items are more likely to hold their value and be easy to hand on or on sell. 
  • Products that are proven to be easily repairable.

Low waste arts and crafts

It is really easy to make a low waste arts and crafts kit for your family, here are a few tips: 

  • Use natural materials such as leaves, sticks, wood, bamboo and flax, these can be composted once the piece of art is at the end of its life.  
  • Try making your own art supplies. This can be a fun and educational project in itself and the end result will be cheap, healthy, compostable and free of plastic packaging. There are lots of recipes online for sugar based glitter, watercolour paints , paper making  and glue.
  • The Tip Shop or your local op shop are great places for scouting for materials, and who doesn’t like a family trip to the op shops?
  • For all those abandoned masterpieces you could implement a box of paper which is still Good On One Side (GOOS box). This can be used for scrap paper, paper mache projects or making new paper. 

Check out One Planet for more ideas and information about sustainable crafting and activities.