We all know that eco products and alternatives to plastic are often more expensive, especially if you want something that is good quality and will stand up to the less-environmentally-friendly counterpart. It also especially applies to products that you might get through quite often (such as toothbrushes - I know my son loves to chew the bristles on his bamboo toothbrush and the plastic ones are so much cheaper....) - but there are changes and swaps you can do as a family on a budget.
Here are four ideas for families with young children and a limited budget, to get you started on your eco journey without it costing the earth - pun intended!
1: Make your own cleaning products
Okay, okay I know you think they don't work and are just not as good, or are a hassle to make when you can just grab what you are used to off the shelf in your local supermarket. But, next time your bathroom/kitchen/multi-surface/glass cleaner runs out, just take a moment to rinse out that bottle and pop in a homemade recipe (there are a million that you can Google and we'll blog about our favourite soon) including easy to find and cheap ingredients like vinegar, bicarbonate of soda, lemon juice and essential oils. Using homemade cleaning product recipes means saving not only money (most recipes like this work out to be less than 1€ to make) but saving more plastic from being thrown away too - a win win for the environment.
2: Ditch the juice boxes and water bottles
Yes, I know it might sound easier said than done, but it only takes a small shift in habit to make you realise that we do things we're programmed to do (and because others do it too) when really there is no need at all. I gave my son juice boxes while he was young until one day I thought, hang on a minute, there's really no need for this. He has a reusable bottle that most days I put water in but some days he has juice from a larger carton, mixed with water. This not only again saves money as it's a much more economical way to buy juice, but it also saves on so much unnecessary packaging that would otherwise end up being thrown away. While tetrapaks can be easily recycled here in the yellow containers, it's even better to not create the waste in the first place. The same goes for water bottles in our house. They are banned! We all have reusable ones and drink filtered water from the tap. Once you make that shift, you'll never go back.
3: Time to replace the wipes
Living with small children can make you want to be within arm's reach of a wipe at all times. But if we could replace them, or at least drastically reduce our use of them, then we will be doing the planet a favour and our shopping bill too. It's much easier to implement while at home, so make that the place to start. Keep your stash of flannels to hand, instead of that plastic packet. Get used to popping them in the wash everyday (and if you have small children you'll likely be washing every day anyway!) so you won't notice the extra laundry. Just a damp flannel can sort some general wipe-ups but for the more sticky or icky needs, we recommend using a little coconut oil on a soft flannel or cotton wool which won't irritate the eyes of little ones. I managed to wipe away the most stubborn of black pirate face paint from the eyes of my 5yr old using coconut oil on cotton wool - he sat there with no complaints and even said how nice it smelled! If you can live without those baby wipes you'll again reduce your household waste as well as your grocery shopping bill.
4: Snack time
One of the ways you can greatly reduce your waste and use of plastic is with snacks. It's so tempting to buy the packaged snacks for those out-and-about moments when the little ones catch you off guard with being hungry. But do they really need cheese in shapes or strings or with things to dip in it - all inside plastic packets? You can re-create those snacks at a fraction of the cost. You can buy the little bread sticks for a few cents and a pack of soft cheese for 1€ and just make your own! You can cut your block of cheese into chunks and throw in some grapes. We've all got a cupboard full of an insane number of various sized tupperware pots that we've accrued over the years... now is the time to put them to proper use. And if you don't happen to have lots of tupperware pots, you could invest in a set of small stainless steel ones which can be bought locally or online and will last years and years but have an ultimately better legacy on the planet than plastic.
These are just a few ways you can get thinking about how to be more eco, reduce your waste and unnecessary packaging, use less plastic but not break the bank in the process. Comment below with your favourite eco tips for the budget-conscious.