Guest post written by Anne Marie Wright founder of Rowdy Kind.
Rowdy Kind (The UK’s first zero waste skincare range for kids) recently reached out to all of their fans and followers and asked one simple question:
“What is your biggest struggle with being sustainable with your kids?”
They received well over 100 detailed responses from families sharing their stories and struggles with sustainability for kids, so they decided to dig into the top four issues in search of some fresh ideas to make these challenges just a little bit easier. Check them out below!
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. Families told us loud and clear they 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 household war on plastic toys.
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… A gift idea that literally keeps on giving!
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: an independently owned, curated website of plastic free toys options for kids (even the packaging is plastic free).
- Rudi & Bear: Home of Ned the Robot, handmade & hand painted wooden toys made at 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!
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?
Plastic-Free Packaged Snacks:
Another great alternative is to buy in bulk and package your own. 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.
DIY-ing your own snacks is a chore that many parents don’t want to take on (neither do we!). 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?
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.
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. 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 we did there) and we hope these idea’s help to spark some positive change in your snack game.
Struggle #3 = Clothes
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! 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.
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:
We asked our followers who responded 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.
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:
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!
But what about bath toys?! It’s near impossible to find a plastic free option out there! Don’t worry – we’ve got you covered there too. Check out our newly launched range of Plastic Free Bath Toys!
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!)
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:
- Happier provides a familiar, yet superior, solution to single use plastic tubes – their toothpaste tubes are aluminum! The cap is still plastic, but they offer pre-paid postage to return them for reuse – brilliant!
- 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.
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.
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, like one from the wide variety offered from Peace with the Wild
- Hair ties – Yep, these have plastic too! Try these plastic free ones from Tabitha Eve
- 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. We recommend you check out Shade for a natural, high quality, and of course plastic free option!
- 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.
- Toilet Paper – Not kid specific, but another plastic wrapped culprit. Luckily more and more options are popping up such as: Who Gives a Crap (We do!) and Bumboo.
- 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).
That’s a wrap on our four part Sustainability Struggles & Solutions blog series (check out the full version here)! There’s no question that sustainability for kids has some challenges, but we hope that you can take away some new ideas to make them just a little bit easier going forward.
Thanks for following along with us!
Co-Founders Rowdy Kind