It is unfortunately one of our main environmental challenges globally: plastic pollution. Especially our oceans and the wildlife in them are threatened severely by plastic pollution. Plastic is ingested by sea creatures and it also poses a threat through entanglement (animals getting caught up in loops, ropes, plastic bags etc.). It is estimated that in 2050, if calculated by weight, there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans, a frightening prognosis!
I know from my own experience that the magnitude of this problem can be overwhelming, worrying and disheartening, but there is so much we can do in our everyday life to be part of a positive change and be good role models for our children. Simple changes to our habits and behaviours can make a big difference, we just have to make a start and teach our children from a young age about the importance of reducing plastic waste.
A simple way of explaining the problem of plastic pollution is that all the plastic waste that is not recycled will stay on our planet for the foreseeable future (hundreds of years!!) as plastic is largely not biodegradable. This means that with every piece of plastic, we are adding to this mass of permanent waste. We don’t want to frighten our children or confront them with information that is much too abstract for their little heads to comprehend, but with examples from our immediate environment we can show them why it is so important to be mindful of taking care of our planet. Point out rubbish floating in the stream or lying around at the beach. Even take initiative and do a clean-up in your neighbourhood or street. Schools often have great projects such as cleaning up the park, stream, beach or playground. Often waste products can be creatively used in art activities. Children experience first-hand why it is important to reduce rubbish, recycle and re-use.
Here are some concrete tips for reducing plastic waste step by step:
- Plastic bottles are one of the major culprits for plastic pollution. Instead of buying and using plastic bottles, install a drinking water filter to your water supply and use re-fillable bottles.
- Use baskets and re-usable bags for your shopping.
- Start growing some of your own vegetables, especially children love to get involved in the process and it is important that they learn about the origin of our food. It’s great for them to see how much care and work is needed, but also how much fun and satisfaction is brings to produce healthy food.
- When going shopping seek out produce that isn’t wrapped in plastic. Local farmer’s markets are a great way to invest in local businesses and reduce plastic waste at the same time. They are also a very sociable outlet and children can learn a lot about food production and where their “daily bread” comes from.
- Use re-fillable bottles and containers for children’s lunchboxes, rather than individually wrapped and often processed food and drinks options.
- Choose cosmetic products that don’t have microbeads as one of the ingredients.
- Bring your own travel mug for takeaway coffees.
- Use compostable bin liners.
- Invest in re-usable silicone or metal straws if your children still prefer to use a straw for certain drinks.
- Choose takeaway food and/or outlets that use environmentally friendly packaging or bring your own re-usable containers.
- Opt for fully compostable teabags or loose tea leaves, I didn’t even realise until recently that most “mainstream” teabags contain plastic.
- Wherever possible choose clothing made from 100% cotton, many other materials contain microplastics that get into the water system through washing.
- Bring back plastic containers from food producers to be used again (ie fruit farms etc.)
- Where possible buy re-fill packs.
- Re-usable beeswax food wraps are a great alternative to clingfilm.
- Switch to compostable toothbrushes.
- Buy wooden alternatives such as wooden hairbrushes, dishwashing brushes, cooking utensils etc.
- Support the small but ever growing “green businesses” to ensure more choice and affordable prices in times to come (supply and demand principle).
- Encourage you children’s schools to opt for environmentally friendly resources and materials such as wooden colouring pencils instead of markers or twistables, cardboard folders instead of plastic folders etc.
- Try some of the great “solid” cosmetic products now widely available such as toothpaste tabs, shampoo and soap bars.
- Most importantly let your local shops and supermarkets know that reducing plastic is important to you and take part in initiatives such as days when customers are urged to leave behind all plastic packaging in shops to underpin our desire to buy plastic free produce.
Even if we can just start to make a couple of the above changes, it’s a step in the right direction. We want our children and their children to live happy, healthy lives on our planet Earth, let’s be proactive and be part of a positive change!!
For more information on mindful parenting and education and a practical everyday approach that can be applied by anybody and tailored to your individual circumstances take a look at my new book “Roots and Wings – Childhood needs a revolution”, a handbook for parents and educators to promote positive change based on the principles of mindfulness.
Thanks so much for your interest and support! 😉 Alex
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