Plastic Free July is a global campaign to encourage people to keep our streets, oceans and communities plastic free! To date, they have inspired over 250 million participants in 177 countries to get involved and refuse single use plastic. Their website is full of great resources and ideas to help you reduce your plastic waste at home, work, school and your local environment.
It’s so important that we inspire younger generations to care for our planet as they grow up, so that they respect other species and our beautiful ecosystems. Plastic has had such a huge impact on the planet, especially in our oceans, so reducing the amount we consume is a great way to start to tackle the plastic problem.
In this article, I will be sharing my favourite ideas for getting kids involved in reducing plastic waste – most of these are so easy that once you make the swap, you’ll never look back and wish you’d done it sooner!
Swap your soap
Replacing bottles of soap with bars is an easy way to reduce the plastic in your bathroom. Soaps come in all shapes and sizes, and companies such as The Yorkshire Soap Co. create novelty bars that are bound to appeal to kids. They have soap in the shapes of animals, fruit and even macarons – just be careful you’re not tempted to try and eat them!
Once you’ve replaced your hand soap, why not try shampoo and conditioner bars? Some people consider soap bars to be more expensive than the bottles. The initial price would suggest that, but bars last so much longer than bottles that they will probably end up saving you money in the long-term.
Bye bye bottles
Investing in a reusable water bottle is a great way to cut down on the use of plastic bottles. There are so many amazing designs nowadays, there’s bound to be one that your kids like – whether they’re into dinosaurs, animals, aliens or just funky patterns. It’s important that children stay hydrated throughout the day, especially when they’re learning at school, so a reusable water bottle can be a very handy thing to have.
Ditch the soft drinks
Products such as Fruit Shoots and Capri-Suns are great for convenience, but not so great for the environment – or your pocket for that matter. If your children aren’t ready to switch to plain old ‘boring’ water and still want some fruitiness in their drinks, buying a big bottle of squash can seriously help to cut down the amount of plastic bottles you use.
For example, a 1l bottle of double concentrate squash contains roughly 60 servings and can be bought for just £1, while a pack of eight Fruit Shoots costs £3. That’s three times the price for 7.5 fewer servings. Buying a bottle of squash means you’ll be recycling one bottle instead of 60, and spending £1 instead of £22.50!
If your whole family have reusable water bottles, it’s easy enough to fill these up if you’re heading out for a picnic or day trip. Most reusable bottles will keep their contents cooler than plastic bottles anyway, especially if it’s a warm day!
Balloons & Decorations
When you have kids, there are many celebratory occasions you’ll have to host and attend over the years – birthdays, Christmases, Halloween parties and more. Parties are a huge source of plastic waste from balloons and decorations to party bags and wrapping paper. Involve your children with choosing items for their parties and explain to them the importance of things being reusable or recyclable – they will be much more inclined to cooperate and choose environmentally-friendly products if they have a say on what you’re buying.
There are loads of plastic-free decoration ideas such as bunting and paper pom-poms, and you can easily swap plastic party bags for paper. When it comes to filling those party bags, think outside the box. Packets of seed will encourage children to start growing their own plants, fruit or vegetables. Colouring in sheets and pencils will give them an activity to do when they get home, and why not look at including a wooden toy instead of plastic? Finish it off with a slice of birthday cake and there will be no complaints!
There really is no excuse to not take your own bags shopping with you nowadays – except if you forget, of course! Turn your shopping trip into a game and give a ‘prize’* to whichever of your children remembers the reusable bags! If you’re going food shopping, you can also get reusable produce bags for fruit and vegetables, so be sure to invest in a few of those as well.
*It is entirely up to you what sort of prize you want to give, but I think having an incentive will help to get kids into the habit of remembering things, meaning you can cut out the ‘prizes’ when it becomes second nature.
Community clean up
Children should have a safe, enjoyable environment to play in, so clearing up after yourself is non-negotiable. If you go on a family picnic, make sure you take all of your rubbish home and recycle what you can before throwing the rest away. It may also be a good idea to take an extra bag with you to clear up other rubbish you find on your picnic/walk/day out. Encouraging children to clean up the area they live in or where they have enjoyed a day out will teach them to have respect for their environment. If you need to use incentives again for this, that’s absolutely fine – it can take time to form habits, but it will benefit both them and the planet as they grow up.
It is so important that we all talk about the planet and the effect humans are having on it – after all, it is our only home. Talking with your children about the environment and how our actions affect other species can help them to understand why you’re making changes to your daily routines and cutting out plastic and other waste. Children love to ask questions and will come up with some that will challenge you – let them, and if you need some help and advice to answer them, head to the Plastic Free July website.
There are so many more ways in which you can reduce your consumption of single-use plastic, but it’s important to start small and build from there. If you try to change too many things too quickly, you’ll probably find it more difficult and will be more likely to give up. Pick one or two things to do with your children and once you’ve nailed them, add another!
For more ideas or to get involved with the Plastic Free July challenge, head to their website – www.plasticfreejuly.org/. Good luck on your plastic-free journey – I’d love to hear about the changes you make with your children. You can either comment on this article or email firstname.lastname@example.org