Zero Waste and Kids: How to Start and What to Expect

Pile of waste at city landfill. Waste management, ecology conceptThe most important thing to remember when it comes to “Zero Waste” is that the goal isn’t actually zero waste but rather the intention to reduce your carbon footprint. That task becomes increasingly more difficult when you have children. Zero waste as a concept is definitely something you can do and should do with kids.

In Canada, the Leblond family has reduced all their waste produced in a year to fit in a large pickle jar. According to Today’s Parent, the Leblonds started out small and worked their way to a minimalist lifestyle that works for them.

Reducing your waste comes with some drawbacks. For one there is a large possibility you will struggle to reduce your reliance on packaging when shopping. Not every city has access to zero waste-friendly food co-ops. And not everyone can immediately create a compost bin in their apartment. The important thing is doing what you can with what’s available for you. All that being said, here are some things you can do to start.

Have the Talk

The first thing to do is talk to your kids about your plan. Make sure they understand why you want to reduce waste and what that means for the environment. There are a lot of environmentally inclined children’s books that can help a lot. If you instill this attitude in kids early, they will be environmentalists their whole lives. If you don’t explain what you’re doing and why they may only notice that things are different and never connect the dots.

Learn About Your Waste

The first step in any waste reduction is to produce less waste. Start by refusing things you don’t need, like straws at a restaurant and shopping bags at the grocery store. Next, think about what changes you can make at home to create less waste. Do you throw out a lot of leftovers? Do you throw away a lot of kitchen waste? Think about starting a compost bin, and make less food at each meal to reduce the amount of food that goes uneaten. Recycle what you can, and not just to the recycling bin. What can you reuse in your home? Toilet paper and paper towel rolls are a great starting point because they make great craft projects for kids.

Shop the house for what you need. You would be surprised how much stuff you have accumulated over the years. It’s likely you don’t need to buy something new because you have a perfectly functioning version hiding in the back of your closet. At the same time really take inventory and get rid of what you’re not using. Living minimally is tied to zero waste, it doesn’t mean you have to get rid of everything. But if you have a habit of building up stuff for no other reason than you like stuff, your kids will develop the same habits. When the Leblond family assessed their life choice, they had to figure out what would happen upon living minimally. So far, they say everything is much easier to clean and their house doesn’t stress them out nearly as much.

Create Waste-Free Activities

Do things with your kids. This may seem obvious but a lot of kids spend more time indoors on devices than they do outside. Rather than buying new toys for your kids all the time and creating waste give your kids adventures. Free adventures. Go for a walk in the park, play at a playground. Explore the outdoors. On average, only 43% of six to 11-year-olds get 60 minutes of daily exercise. Spending time with your kids while they’re exploring the environment that you’re teaching them to protect is the best.

Transitioning from being materialistic to a more adventure based life experience can be very difficult. Take your time, and don’t start by just getting rid of toys. As you grow and learn, so will they.

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