By Kathryn Peck
I’ll admit, as a mom of four, most of the time how much waste we produce (i.e. anything we get rid of, throw away or don’t use) is the last thing on my mind. But an eye opener for me has been the dawn of organizing and tidying up our Boston home for our approaching open house—sadly, a small 3-bedroom townhouse, which my brother recently called a “thimble,” just won’t do anymore. In my cleanup, I unearthed more tiny knick-knacks, gadgets and doodads in the kids’ rooms than I care to think about. They come from school treasure boxes, birthday parties, arcade prizes, Easter baskets and stocking stuffers, and their lifespan is about three days.
And so, armed with a laundry basket filled with long-forgotten trinkets, I started thinking, as many people have these days, about how to reduce unnecessary waste, particularly when you have children. We can all recycle smarter and donate more in an effort to reduce waste, but here are a few small, relatively uncomplicated changes that can also be made, because life is complicated enough with kids.
- Consume less. Thinking about how you purchase food, particularly kids’ foods, is a great place to start. So much of what is marketed for kids comes in snack packs, variety packs, and juice boxes with individually wrapped straws. Try to buy food in bulk with less packaging that’ll just end up in landfills and avoid single-serving kids’ beverages. And of course, ditch the plastic water bottles altogether and consider something reusable like Stojo sustainable, collapsible cups, perfect smaller sizes for kids and perfect for stowing away in your bag.
- I recently read that the average 8- to 12-year-old kid throws away nearly 67 pounds of lunch trash every year. Consider using reusable lunch and snack containers instead. One of my favorites is Bees Wrap, a reusable, biodegradable, and compostable alternative to sandwich bags and plastic wrap. They have many different sizes available but also cute sandwich wraps with a tie and button. (At the end of the wrap’s kitchen life, it can be composted or reused as a natural fire starter by wrapping it around pieces of kindling.)
- Throwing a birthday party? Rethink the goodie bags, and instead of filling them with beaded necklaces and plastic yo-yos, consider more environmentally friendly alternatives like homemade treats or simply sending guests home with a slice of birthday cake. Instead of balloons, consider using big paper pompoms for birthday décor; instead of a disposable birthday banner, consider a fabric one that can be reused.
- Keep a few reusable straws in your bag so when you’re out to eat, you can skip the disposable straws.
- When out for ice cream, opt for the cone. I used to always ask for ice cream in a cup because it was less messy on a warm summer day, but I never considered the added waste of Styrofoam or paper cups or plastic spoons.
About the author: Kathryn is the owner of Bicycle Pie and mom of 4 little ones. Also a writer, editor, and former owner of one of Boston's premiere baby boutiques, she continues to write about motherhood, children's products, family life, and all other things that test our skills and patience as parents.