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6 Practical Tips For Parents On Living A Low Waste Lifestyle

Written exclusively for bümo by Sarah Paiji Yoo, founder and CEO of Blueland and mom to one.

"I started my personal and professional low-waste journeys while I was starting my parenting journey. This has helped me keep Noah involved and teach Noah about living a low-waste lifestyle and the environment, because in some ways, I’m learning with him. "

How I Started My Low Waste Journey

I started my low-waste journey when I had my son, Noah. While I had always thought of myself as environmentally conscious, it wasn’t until I transitioned Noah from breastfeeding to baby formula that I realized how much waste, especially plastic waste impacted the environment. Before making the switch to formula, I spent a lot of time researching the best type of water to use and that’s when I found out about microplastics. Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic debris that usually come from larger pieces of plastic pollution. Oceans and waterways are filled with microplastics that make their way back into our drinking water and our food. I learned that there were hundreds of pieces of microplastics in a liter of both tap and bottled water, the same water I was using to make his baby formula. 

This was a turning point for me. I started looking at everything I was consuming and how much waste I was producing, and how that was impacting the planet. Ultimately, limiting my own personal waste is just one small thing I can do for the environment. But limiting plastic-waste in my everyday life was really hard. It seemed like everything I was using, from personal care to cleaning products, came in plastic packaging. Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t find alternatives to plastic-packaged cleaning products, which I was using more than ever with my new baby. 

This led me to start Blueland, to make it easier for myself and for other parents and individuals to keep their homes clean and low-waste. Instead of packaging cleaning products in single-use plastic, Blueland cleaning products come as a reusable, refillable system, eliminating the need for single-use plastic packaging. I really started Blueland to fill my own low-waste parenting need, with the goal that Blueland makes it easier for other households to adopt low-waste practices. 

I started my personal and professional low-waste journeys while I was starting my parenting journey. This has helped me keep Noah involved and teach Noah about living a low-waste lifestyle and the environment, because in some ways, I’m learning with him.

My Low-Waste Parenting Philosophy

When I think about living low-waste as a parent, I try and focus on two things. I want to teach Noah habits that will help him live low-waste, and I want him to understand from an early age why we try to limit our waste as much as possible. Last year, I brought Noah to the Youth Climate Strike in New York City. It was really important for me to have him there, and even though he might not have understood everything that was happening, I wanted him to see that there are people who are fighting for and advocating for the planet. I am so inspired by youths and their advocacy for the planet, and I want Noah to be involved from an early age in all aspects of a low-waste lifestyle. 

So much of our low-waste journey starts with our home. We use as many reusable items as possible, from reusable towels (which Noah loves to help fold) to reusable snack bags (we use Stasher bags!). Reusable diapers were also a major switch that helped us cut-down on waste. Disposable diapers are a huge source of waste, and most conventional diapers aren’t compostable because they’re made of plastic, so they end up in a landfill. Instead of disposable diapers, we switched to reusable cloth diapers from BumGenius and Grovia. They’re easy to clean, and after my first bulk purchase, I didn’t need to buy more! 

Reusing everyday items helps reinforce the importance of using reusing, and gets Noah in the habit early. We buy most of our snacks in bulk, and bring Noah with us to the Farmer’s market on the weekend, where we try our best to buy foods without plastic packaging. Exposing Noah to sustainable habits early on is really important for us, so that he can grow up and continue and improve on habits that are really good for the planet.

6 Tips To Teach Kids About Low-Waste Living

There are so many ways to get your kids involved in a low-waste lifestyle and teach them along the way. Here are some of our favorite activities to do together. 

1.) Making Blueland solutions together: One thing that’s really fun for Noah is making our Blueland products. Blueland is designed to be a refillable, reusable system that saves money and cuts on single-use plastic waste. But Blueland has the added benefit of being really fun for kids! Noah loves filling up the bottles and watching the tablets dissolve, and sometimes he even joins in on cleaning! 

2.) Compost Food Scraps: In my house we keep our compost in the freezer, but we have a special tupperware container just for Noah’s food scraps. After he eats, he gets to put his food scraps in his container in the freezer. Then, we take the compost to drop off at the farmer’s market together on the way to school! We try to keep food scraps at a minimum. We’ve learned to cook only the portion that we’ll eat, and freeze meals when we make too much. But, for all our cooking and meal scraps we can’t finish, we make sure to compost them. 

3.) Upcycling for Crafts: We keep a box of materials we can repurpose or upcycle for Noah’s arts in crafts. We keep shipping boxes and tissue paper or ribbons, popsicle sticks, buttons from off old shirts and put them in a box to save for later. That way, when Noah does arts and crafts we usually don’t have to buy any new materials, reinforcing the idea of reuse, not waste. 

4.) Low-waste on special occasions: We also borrow, upcycle and reuse materials for special occasions, like Halloween costumes and birthdays. Store bought Halloween costumes tend to come packaged in plastic, and are often made from plastic too. This year, we used old shipping boxes from the office and paper to make Noah a firetruck, but I also looked on Etsy which has tons of homemade costumes, and asked friends to borrow costumes their kids had already worn. For Noah’s birthday, I reached out to a Facebook group and asked other parents if any of them had saved old decorations. Luckily, one mom had, including metallic balloons, which can be refilled! We connected and she gave me her decorations that I was able to reuse for Noah’s party, without generating any new waste. Along with the borrowed decorations, we also used compostable plates and flatware and brought it home to compost. 

5.) Reusable paper towels: In our home and our office, we use reusable cloths instead of paper towels. I wash all of them at home, and then Noah folds them with me. We use variety packs from Marley’s Monsters, which have colorful pictures and scenes that Noah likes to call out while he helps me fold them. 

6.) Books: We love reading to Noah, and Noah loves picture books. We are frequent library borrowers, and usually get a stack of 20 picture books at a time for Noah. For books we’ve been given as gifts, we swap with other families so we can exchange what we already have without buying anything new! If we can’t make it to the library, sometimes we’ll look up a book on Youtube, where the books are read aloud, and Noah can follow along. Books about nature and the environment are staples for us, so we can teach Noah about the planet. Some of our favorites are, The Lorax, The Great Kapok Tree, NatGeo Kids books, which highlight different animals, and anything from Eric Carle!  

There are so many other great ways to get your kids involved in low-waste living, but exposure is really important. My hope is that all the low-waste habits Noah grows up with will continue through his life, and he will grow up to be a champion of the planet! 1

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