Guest Blog from Kate & Ann-Marie @Rowdykind- Struggles & Solutions to being Sustainable with Kids
Struggles & Solutions to being Sustainable with Kids
We all know that living sustainably is a really big challenge in today's world, but we constantly hear from our Rowdy Kind Families that being sustainable with kids feels darn right impossible at times. We wanted to try to help in any way we could… So, a few weeks ago we asked:
“What is your biggest struggle with being sustainable with your kids?”
We received well over 100 responses via email and social media. Here are the top 4 responses, and some ideas from us on how to make them just a little bit easier.
Struggle #1 = Toys
“We don’t want them - but they just keep showing up!”
Whether they come as birthday gifts, with magazines, a trip to the beach, or just every time a grandparent or friend shows up. You all told us loud and clear you want the onslaught of plastic toys to stop!
Unfortunately we can’t hold the family meeting for you (wish we could!), but here are some great alternatives for your war on plastic toys. Maybe drop a subtle hint and send them this list for the next time!
Why not rent?
Kids grow and learn fast and when it comes to toys they like to change it up. But that doesn’t mean you have to keep buying! Companies like Whirli, Toy Box Club, and Lazy Horse Games offer a subscription model on toys and games, so you can enjoy as many as you’d like for a flat rate! We are just getting through a pandemic, so you may be thinking “ewww germs” but don’t worry their websites list clear cleaning & disinfecting policies so it’s nothing to worry about. I’m not sure about you - but our minds are blown.
Show second hand toys some love!
Some toys are loved hard, and some are hardly loved - but there’s no doubt that many toys are suitable to live a second (or third) life with another family after yours is done with them. Whether it be coordinating a consistent hand-me-downs funnel with your friendly neighbours, or spending some quality time on sites like: Preloved.co.uk, Oxfam, Gumtree, or Facebook Marketplace. There are tons of ‘like new’ toys out there looking for a second home at a discounted rate!
New yet eco alternatives:
Can’t convince the family to rent or repeat? If they must buy new, point them in the direction of more eco-friendly alternatives! Here are just a few examples of toys and stores we know and love:
- Envirotoy: a curated website of plastic free toys options for kids (even the packaging is plastic free), including some great bath toys.
- Rudi & Bear: beautifully toys, handmade & hand painted in their seaside workshop at Bude.
- Scrunch: a brilliant alternative to the cheap plastic alternatives, Scrunch makes beach buckets, spades, and even gardening toys out of silicone. They ‘scrunch’ down so they're easy to pack for play!
Sometimes you just need something right now to solve a gift gap, or you (or a relative!) wants to share a little something special. Ask them to focus on:
- Books or a magazine: Most, such as The Week Junior, no longer wrap themselves in plastic, even when they're delivered to your door.
- Experiences not things: not buying a £10 plastic toy every month would give you £120 to spend on an AMAZING day out together once a year, or a quarterly trip to a local museum or attraction on the train or bus, or even a special night in with the latest release on Sky or Amazon. It's a cliché, but it's a true one, that our time together matters most!
- Instead of plastic toys from each child at a birthday party, suggest that the class club together and buy a voucher (or even just give cash - maybe it feels icky but some appreciate the freedom to choose) to the birthday kid so they can buy one big item they really want.
- and, gulp, I can't believe I'm saying this but.... digital gifts. Five years ago this wouldn't have crossed my mind, but today a digital download - game, book, movie or in-app purchase - might be appreciated all-round more than the plastic toy.
What did we miss? Would love to hear about your sustainable approach to kids toys and the eco-friendly brands you know and love!
Struggle #2 = Snacks
From Crisps to Cookies, Yogurt to Sweets, and even Fruit & Veg - this was the most popular response to our question. How can we snack more sustainably when everything is packaged in plastic? As busy parents we don’t always have the time to DIY our own plastic free snacks, convenience = survival! And when the kids want a cereal bar, they want a cereal bar - am I right?!?!
Some Tasty Solutions:
Plastic-Free Packaged Snacks:
Okay, plastic free packaged snacks are hard to find, no question. But keep your eye out as new companies keep popping up like: SNACT which uses ‘ugly’ fruits and backyard biodegradable packaging for their snacks, hüüg who makes a range of vegan and gluten free bars in compostable packaging, and PLAYinCHOC who offer sustainably and ethically sourced chocolate (which is also dairy, nut, gluten and of course plastic free!) that is delish!
Another great alternative is to buy in bulk and package your own (I know what you're thinking… I don’t have time for that, but hear me out...). With a single trip to your local bulk food or zero waste store, you will find a plethora of snack options: pretzels, nuts & granola, cereals, chocolate buttons (for special occasions!), even cookies, and crisps in some cases! No zero waste store - no problem, buy the ‘Family’ size at the supermarket and make that one piece of packaging go the extra mile. You can fill up some cute Marie Kondo style tubs and have your pantry looking FRESH, and all you have to do is pop single portions into a reusable container (like a used yogurt container, stasher bag, or Huski Home lunch box, or use a ziplock bag over, and over and over) and BAM packaged snacks are ready for camp! BONUS - it's generally much more economical.
Forgotten Cupboard Staples:
But, you don’t always have to search out and buy the latest snack trend innovation (which are often premium priced) or go out of your way to pop by a zero waste store, there are also store-cupboard, super simple snacks that maybe you’ve forgotten about!
Toast. Yes, it doesn’t feel like a snack, but it’s nutritious, fills the hole, and each portion isn’t wrapped in plastic film. Dress it up with jam, peanut butter, hummus, nutella or just butter and you’ve got a variety pack! Also, if your kids’ up for it - dive into the array of bread choices out there: raisin bread, cinnamon swirl, ancient grains - the choices are endless! Combine it with a quick switch to bakery bread and the plastic problem is solved.
Popcorn. Whether you pop the kernels yourself or stretch one bag across multiple rounds of snacking - it really is easier than you think. You can even make it ahead of time and stash it in a sealed container for a couple of days (but let’s be honest, it probably won’t last - just like at the theatre).
DIY-ing your own snacks is a chore that many parents don’t want to take on (definitely not us). BUT, what if we make it a team effort? Circle up that parent group and have a bake-a-thon one weekend. Everyone pulls out grandma’s recipe for cookies, muffins, squares, dried fruit or whatever it is and make a BIG BATCH - then everyone swaps and all of a sudden your freezer is full with a variety of homemade snack options! Yummmm.
Plastic Free Produce:
What about the Fruits & Veggies’? They often come with plastic tagging along too! Here are just three great options we found for the naked variety!
Oddbox - rescue wonky or surplus produce! This is a great value option, and it feels like Christmas as they deliver in the middle of the night!
Riverford Organic Farmers - are trailblazers in sustainable organic farming, with a claim to fame of reducing like-for-like supermarket plastic by 80!
Organic Delivery Co - allows you to select an option for an entirely plastic free box!
Plus of course, fruit, from the loose produce section! I mean technically, fruit is “pre-wrapped”, why do we need plastic on it at all? The issue is probably explaining to your kids why this is better for them and the planet than the pre-dried, sugar-added, plastic-wrapped version. Tackle that conversation, they might surprise you when you explain why it’s best.
Summer Snack Ideas & Family Fun in One!
DIY Ice Cream. Believe it or not, making your own ice cream at home is quite easy (and the kids love it!). No, you don’t need to go buy a fancy ice cream maker - all you need is a few household ingredients, a metal tin (like our tins!) a bowl with a lid and about 20 mins of your kiddo’s patience! For full instructions click here.
Berry Picking. A fun day out, PLUS you will have zero plastic PLUS tired kids PLUS you can very easily freeze whole berries and sliced fresh fruits. They will keep for 12months plus (from personal experience) so all year long you can dip in, whizz them up and ta-da plastic free fruit snacks, smoothies, baked goods….. It’s a WIN-WIN-WIN!
When did we stop making our own popsicles? It’s SO FUN to do and results in endless creativity from your littles: Fruit juice, smoothies, full berries, dare we experiment with some mint leaves? All you need is an ice cube tray or any freezer-proof pot, wooden popsicles sticks and an imagination! It’s basically a snack and art project in one 😉
There’s no doubt that a hunger for plastic free snacks puts you in a bit of a pickle, but it’s not about pearfection (you see what I did there) and we hope these idea’s help to spark some positive change in your snack game.
Let us know what you think and make sure to share any extra ideas that we should include!
Struggle #3 = Clothes
The fashion industry has a bad reputation when it comes to sustainability. With kids, the term “Fast Fashion” also has a whole other meaning: they also wear out and grow out of their clothes FAST. Here are some solutions we found to soften the sustainability vs clothing issue.
Mend & Repair:
Think repair first instead of replace! Did you just make a face? Don’t worry - we’re not handy with a thread and needle either. So why not cover up that hole with some hard-wearing patches! You can get standard iron-on squares that can be cut to size (support a social enterprise and get them from https://stitchedup.coop/ ), or go for a funky design your kids will love, made by a small company - this Etsy page gives you lots of options. You can either iron on or do some rough-and-ready stitching around the edges to keep them in place - or even both for extra security.
Does the situation require some thread? Perhaps you have a button or hem issue on your hands? Your local dry-cleaner or stitch fix type shop often have quite affordable rates for children's' clothing and depending on the issue at hand it can be well worth giving the item in question that extra breath of life!
Show some Love to Preloved:
Some parents are lucky, they already have a steady stream of hand-me-downs established from friends, cousins, or siblings. But if you haven’t got an already established clothing ‘gravy-train’ set up, that doesn’t mean you can’t partake! We asked our followers who responded to our question where they ‘get the best pre-loved duds’ and here are the most popular recommendations:
- Vinted - a whole community for pre-loved fashion, not only can you buy, you can also sell your preloved clothes (adults too!)
- Fara Kids - Their 41 shops offer a wide range of Kids clothing (and toys too!)
- Sweet Pea Preloved Clothes - around since 2010, they offer a wide range of childrens preloved clothing, high street to designer, newborn to 12 years at a fraction of the retail price.
- Facebook Marketplace
- Your Local Thrift & Charity Stores
Rent, Frock, Repeat:
Is your little in a growth spurt or perhaps flexing their inner fashionista? Perhaps renting is the better fit! From everyday clothes, to special occasion and designer labels, here are just a few of the options for you to explore:
- The Little Loop - the UK's first rental marketplace for kids clothing
- Bundlee - A sustainable subscription for modern parents. Rent your baby's wardrobe and swap as they grow!
- Graceful Changes - making beautiful, organic clothing more affordable for families
- My Wardrobe HQ - is the UK’s first fashion rental marketplace, offering high end labels.
Create a Capsule Wardrobe:
There are different methods or ways to approach creating a capsule wardrobe, but the main benefits are the same: you’re likely to spend less on clothing, have less clothing pieces overall (saving space!), and save time on picking outfits and doing laundry (are you sold yet?). Not to mention the most important feature, which is showing our children that we can survive - no, THRIVE with less!
This article from The Green Parent gives some great tips on how to get started, as well as a capsule list for the upcoming Fall/Winter season should you want to take on the challenge!
So there you have it! Kids fashion is a sustainability challenge, no doubt - but there are some options out there for you to try. Of course, buying pre-loved may not always be an option if you are on the hunt for something specific or for a special occasion, but buying second-hand for the rest of your kiddo’s closet will free up some budget to buy these new and special pieces from ethical and sustainable brands, and once they’re done their job at your house don’t forget to pass or sell them on!
Struggle #4 = The Bathroom
Our final major sustainability with kids' challenges came to us in the form of a room… the bathroom to be exact! From Top to Tail, Teeth to Toenails, sustainable options are few and far between, but here are some of our suggestions on how to green up your little’s loo.
One of the biggest challenges in the bathroom, is not just the amount of plastic a bathroom ritual can require, it’s the fact that most Brits don’t properly recycle their bathroom waste. That’s right we recycle approx. 90% of our kitchen packaging, but only 50% from the bathroom.
Our #1 tip for making an impact… Add a recycle bin to your bathroom!
Next, it’s time to reduce some of the plastic items that come with this territory, it’s not easy, the bathroom is a plastic labyrinth!
In the Bath:
- Getting Clean: Well…for kids in the UK there’s only one plastic free choice really. And that’s your’s truly - Rowdy Kind, the UK’s first zero waste skincare brand for kids! Our range covers everything from Hair to Toe, plus some bubbles for fun - Check it out!
- Hair & Everywhere Bars
- Haircare Collection
- Bath & Body
- Toys: It’s extremely hard to find plastic-free bathtub toys, but from natural rubbers to rubberwood - have hope, there ARE options from some great brands out there!
- Quut - design and develop sustainable, strong and smart toys. All products are BPA, Phthalates, latex free and recyclable.
- Begin Again - At their Colorado workshop, their team of toy designers love the challenge of creating memorable play that is made from plants instead of plastics.
- Plan Toys - operates based on their “Sustainable Way” promise - which includes Sustainable Material, Sustainable Manufacturing and a Sustainable Mind.
Many of these are available at known retailers across the UK such as Babipur and Kidly, as well as our friends Envirotoy - a UK based independent shop with a Plastic Free Promise (even the packaging!).
*** Stay tuned… we will be offering some soon too!
This is an area where LOADS of parents want to make a change, but are really nervous about making the right choice - teeth aren’t something you want to experiment with! We felt the same, so we spoke to a Dentist, asked the NHS and got in contact with the British Society of Dental Hygienists and Therapists.
Here’s where we netted out:
Visit and Listen to your Dentist first!
Number 1: less than 60% of kids visit the dentist every year. So before you make any switch in your little’s dental routine, get those pearly whites looked at by a pro and ask their advice!
Studies have shown that for manual toothbrushes it’s not the design that matters, but the technique (read here). So if your kid is an awesome brusher with a plastic toothbrush they will do a great job with a bamboo one too! The crucial issue we were told was brush head size, it must be small enough to reach comfortably into the cramped spaces at the back of the mouth. Our sustainable swap recommendation is Truthbrush for a beautifully designed mini bamboo brush!
BUT what if your kiddo isn’t getting passing grades on their brushing? That’s why many dentists continue to recommend electric toothbrushes for kids. Happy days! There are now heads for your electric toothbrush that tick the sustainability boxes (or are a big improvement - and progress is half the game)! LiveCoco operates their own closed loop recycling system for electric brush heads, including for kids. If your kid is a little older they may be very comfortable with adult brush heads, in which case Truthbrush makes a fully bamboo sonic head.
In the search for sustainable toothpaste, the issue of fluoride came up in our research… a lot. Although some people are worried about fluoride, we were told by the experts that fluoride is a must-have in a kids’ toothpaste, and definite no-no’s include abrasive alternatives such as baking powder or charcoal, or whitening toothpastes.
The NHS recommends fluoride at a minimum of 1000ppm for kids up to 6 years old, and this recommendation is backed up by many studies (*Watch out, many eco alternatives do not have this amount!) There are some great resources and visuals HERE on how much toothpaste children up to 6 should be using.
The challenge becomes finding a sustainable solution that will also do the proper job! But there are some options out there to improve your paste:
- Terracycle now accepts toothpaste tubes, and with drop off points all over the country you can still use a kid-appropriate toothpaste and not send the packaging straight to landfill.
- Happier provides a familiar, yet superior, solution to single used plastic tubes - their toothpaste tubes are aluminum! The cap is still plastic, but they offer pre-paid postage to return them for reuse - brilliant!
- From 7 and up your child can use a toothpaste with a stronger concentration of fluoride, up to 1500ppm. If you’re keen to ditch the tubes, these Eco-Living toothpaste tablets are made in the UK and have fluoride at 1450 ppm.
If you’re worried about Fluorosis, studies show that your child would have to swallow toothpaste regularly in order to have this impact their teeth. Dr Anne-Marie Glenny said, ‘the risk of tooth decay and its consequences such as pain and extractions is greater than the small risk of fluorosis. Children would have to swallow a lot of toothpaste over a long period of time to get the severe brown mottling on the teeth.'
The NHS recommends kids regularly floss from 12 years old, and many dentists recommend starting even earlier to get in the habit. Luckily, you can now get bamboo floss picks and interdental brushes which in addition to not being made of plastic have a blunter end then the plastic ones so your kids are less likely to do inadvertent damage to themselves with the pointy bit!
Other Bathroom Bits & Bobs:
Though kid specific solutions can be a bit harder to find, they also use less products in the bathroom overall (Phew), bathtime cleansing and oral care are the biggies! But, to finish off here are some final options we found to replace the remaining plastic bits and bobs:
- Hairbrushes - Swap to bamboo.
- Hair ties - Yep, these have plastic too!
- Sun Cream - Okay, this could be a whole other blog, reef safe, not reef safe, cancer causing ingredients - sunscreen is a whole other can of worms.
- Face Cloths & Wipes - I’ve never gone through so many paper towels as when my toddler started eating.. Wowza. The smart swap here is to buy re-useable faceclothes and wipes which are readily available online and in store.
- Diapers - I know what the cloth bum mums are thinking right now… “BUT WHAT ABOUT DIAPERS.” The reality is, this wasn’t something that parents flagged to us as a struggle. Perhaps because there’s already a well known solution (cloth!) that people are well aware of. So we didn’t dive into diapers this time (teeth was a big enough adventure for now).
So that’s a wrap on our four part Sustainability Struggles & Solutions blog series! We hope you learned half as much as we did researching for it.
Thanks for following along with us!
Kate & Anne Marie