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The eco-friendly mum, doing it for the kids

Posted by Bryony Lewis on

The sea has been part of my life in a huge way, I’ve been lucky enough to live close to the beach for as long as I can remember. I’ve played in it, swum in it, dived in it, sailed on it and sometimes just sat and watched the rhythmic crashing of the waves. I watched the BBC’s ‘Drowning in Plastic’ documentary, I read articles, watched videos and I really started to notice all the plastic packaging on our everyday essentials and how much we were throwing away. It made me pretty sad. I promised to do better, to do my bit, but then life happened, motherhood happened, and motherhood is HARD!

At the beginning of 2019, as I was coming out of the haze of the first 6 months with a new baby, I decided that instead of giving up chocolate or vowing to take up running (I suspect neither of these would have lasted the first month), instead I would try to reduce my plastic consumption. My aim is to make gradual changes in the hope that this becomes a new way of life and not a short lived fad.

I wanted to start blogging to chart the ups and downs of our plastic reduction journey with a baby and a toddler and to show that even if you are scatterbrained and disorganised, you can change small simple things and still make a BIG difference. There are lots of ways to reduce plastic use for your family in a way that doesn’t impact the already huge mental load of being a parent (and actually can sometimes make life easier and save money – woohoo!). Here are a few ways that I’ve reduced single use plastic in our house so far:

Baby Wipes
I loved the convenience of baby wipes, once I would use them for pretty much anything. Even if you’re not sure about switching for nappy changes, even just using flannels for food cleanup at home will save a huge amount of waste. With two sticky children and countless sticky surfaces to wipe, I found that using small light flannels actually made life easier. They remove food much faster than wipes (who ever heard of a child who wanted their face wiped) and as long as I clean kids then highchair then floor, I can use the same cloth and chuck it straight in the washing machine to go round with the next load.

Makeup Remover Wipes
Yes, more wipes! These were a staple in my bathroom for many years, and pretty much my only beauty regime in the early months of motherhood with both children (let’s face it, who has time for cleanse/tone/moisturise with a screaming newborn that won’t be put down). A couple of months ago I swapped these for makeup remover gel and lovely soft washable makeup remover cloths and I’d never go back now, the cloths are so much more gentle on my skin and remove all my eyeliner and mascara really easily.

Reusable shopping bags
This one is a no brainer right? Well as long as your brain is functioning enough to remember the bags! I’ve taken to stuffing the side pockets of my changing bag with lightweight fabric tote bags which works about 95% of the time and means that I usually have a bag for impromptu shopping as well.

This is where the vast majority of the plastic waste in our house comes from, we are using our local grocer and butcher more, as well as trying to find time to bake or cook from scratch (I’ve found that involving my toddler in cake baking actually turns it into an entertainment activity, which is quite handy). I’m also starting to avoid things like individually wrapped biscuits or multi-packs of tins which are wrapped in completely pointless plastic. If I have leftovers to go into the fridge or freezer, I pop them in a reusable pot, or use a washed out butter/margarine tub (I haven’t found a good plastic free replacement for this yet). I’ve bought a lunchbox with little compartments so that we don’t need to use cling film.

It has been hard to get into this new mindset, especially when I sometimes just don’t have the time or energy to search around for plastic free alternatives, but supermarkets are starting to listen to the public and are slowly beginning to implement plastic reduction strategies, so I’m hopeful that it will soon get easier to make the eco-friendly choice.

Buy Pre-loved
This is one of my favourites, as it helps reduce waste and can also save you huge amounts of money. From jumperoos to Lego, we now buy all sorts of items through Facebook marketplace and Gumtree rather than buying new. When we are finished with them, they are often sold on again or passed on to friends with younger children.

The added bonus of this is that you can buy things pre-assembled, and thus avoid trying to put them together as soon as they have been opened whilst listening to screams of ‘but I want to play with it now’ directed at you repeatedly as you try to find the correct sized screwdriver.

This has been a huge concern of mine for years, whilst I love gifting and really enjoy searching for presents for people I know well, I have definitely been guilty of buying gifts in a rush, or for someone I don’t know well that are probably hugely wasteful and are contributing to the accumulation of ‘stuff’ in someone else’s house! My go to gifts for children are now books (because no-one can ever have too many!), clothes and experiences like days out, cinema tickets or annual passes. I often go for experiences, treats and days out for adult gifts too. If I want to buy a physical present, I am trying to shop small and buy from eco-friendly sustainable companies.

Next Steps… On my hit list for the next few months are: beeswax wraps, cloth nappies (for some reason this terrifies me!) and sanitary products (I’m lucky enough to still be period free at the moment thanks to breastfeeding my 9 month old, but I plan on trying mooncups). I’ll be blogging my experiences with as much honesty as possible!

When I started T & Belle, my biggest focus was on how I could bring my designs to life whilst trying to make as little impact on the planet as possible. I searched for a printer for my greetings cards who would use 100% recycled card, sourced plastic free packaging materials and made easy swaps like replacing sellotape with paper tape. I have recently started producing my own designs on organic cotton children’s t-shirts and my first design is a reminder of why I am doing all this – to preserve out beautiful planet for the next generation. I’d love for my children to enjoy everything that the sea has to offer as much as I have over the years.


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