From the shiny crib to the endless amounts of baby clothes, we all know that starting a family is not cheap. But have you ever considered how much waste raising a child creates? According to NRMA, it is estimated that more than 200,000 child car seats are disposed of every year. Most of them are sent to landfill, despite at least 90 per cent of the materials being recyclable!
I spoke to Erin from The Rogue Ginger, who is currently raising her 14-month-old son on a zero-waste lifestyle. In our interview, she talks about the stigma attached to buying second-hand items and the influence we have as mothers to change the habits of our children.
L: Why did you decide to start living a zero waste life?
E: I watched a documentary called 'The Clean Bin Project' in 2013. One movie watched out of pure boredom opened my eyes to the staggering impact our consumption of plastic has on the environment. I wanted to do something and this led to participating in Plastic Free July. I used my blog to track the challenge of reducing plastic and saw so many benefits, so I decided to continue. After one year of reducing plastic, I was seeing a huge reduction in what I was throwing into my bin - pretty much nothing! It was around this time that I discovered the zero waste lifestyle and attempted the framework to suit my life.
L: Why do you think it's important to reduce the amount of waste you create whilst raising a child?
E: Children are constantly watching and learning from their parents. The habits they pick up are a direct result of what they see us doing day-to-day. Choosing to reduce waste by visiting a toy library, opting for experiences over material items, shopping second hand and saying no to single-use plastics will have an insanely positive impact on a child. These kinds of actions also teach a child to share, respect the things they use because others will be using them too, and learn how their choices affect our environment and other living beings.
L: What are some easy changes that any parent can make to reduce the amount of waste when raising a child?
E: Join a Facebook group in your area! I have a list on my blog. There is also the Minimal Waste Families Australia Facebook group, for more family focused topics. It helps to have the support of others wanting to make changes like you. Have discussions about how living this lifestyle makes you feel as a person. Introducing children to their power and reminding them they can choose how this world will be, provides them with confidence in their actions. Look at your savings made throughout a month. If you get three takeaway coffees each week, look for a cafe who already does, or ask your local favourite to, give you a 20c discount for bringing in your own cup. Buying second-hand, borrowing books, magazines, tools and toys will also help save money and teach kids to value our resources too.
L: What are your thoughts on the baby industry?
E: Personally, I don't think we need to buy everything brand new for babies. They grow so quickly and are in and out of clothes, shoes, socks, blankets, beds, toys and books very quickly. For example, a plastic baby bath can only be used on the child for a few months before they become too big, yet I see them constantly on the side of the road during hard rubbish removal. The second-hand baby market is huge but I wonder if there is a stigma attached. Some of the items like our change table and cot had teeth marks or paint missing from wear and tear, but were in perfect condition otherwise. Same with the clothes and shoes we received. Not only would we reduce waste associated with making these items, we'd also save money and maybe even take better care of our stuff!
L: How do you try to inspire others to make more conscious choices when raising a child?
E: I try to lead by example. Everyone is on their own journey and have varying obstacles that can make reducing waste hard for them. Nobody’s life is the same. My aim is to show others how I do it, the issues I encounter and the many different benefits of leading this lifestyle.
L: In general, what has being a mum taught you so far?
E: Becoming a parent has been a wonderful but also, at times, tough role. You are constantly learning and I've learnt to be more flexible. I love how much joy can be found in the simplest of places and things.