By Jessica Page

As someone who considers themselves pretty eco-conscious I sure was shocked by how much my plastic consumption sky rocketed with the addition of one tiny human into my life.

Since reducing ocean plastic pollution is the mission of my fledgling sustainable fashion brand, I always feel slightly (OK, a lot) guilty, and even somewhat fraudulent, when I look around me and see just how much plastic has somehow crept into my life and my home. Be it through well-intentioned gifts from relatives, that adorable party bag my two-year-old treats with the same reverence as I might give a Gucci or Hermes, or all manner of other kiddy-related paraphernalia that seems to litter every corner of my house.

What is Plastic Free July?

Plastic Free July started in 2011 as part of the Plastic Free Foundation and this July I wanted to take a good hard look at the products my family and I use on the daily, and challenge myself to really reduce, re-use and recycle my way to ‘plastic free’, or as close as I can get.

Is it impossible? Only time will tell. In case it inspires anyone else on their journey, here’s what I’m implementing in my own home during July.

9 ways to go plastic free, as a parent

1. Plastic-free poops!

Bet that got your attention! I’m lucky enough to have just seen the other side of the potty training journey with my two-year-old, although we still use nappies at night time. And like many other families, we still pop those nightly ‘presents’ into a nappy bag or our twist ‘n’ click nappy bin, where they are wrapped up in a long, airtight sausage of… yep, plastic. I’m also embarrassed to say we haven’t joined the cloth bum club… Yet! To kill two plasticky poopy birds with one stone, I’m experimenting with cloth nappies for night time this month, and using standard toilet paper rather than baby wet wipes, which can clog up our pipes and play havoc once they reach the ocean.

2. Getting packed, prepped and ready to eat!

The amount of plastic snack wrappers littering my car, my cupboards, my handbag and literally all over my home would be enough to make even the cookie monster cringe! Instead, this July, I’m recruiting my little girl as my chef’s helper, and using our weekends to bake and cook ahead together. It’s the perfect winter activity, and little egg muffins are an amazing way of using leftovers for a double plastic saving win.

Jessica Page launched Little Fishy Swim when her daughter Lila was a baby, and all the gorgeous swimmers and toys are made from recycled plastic.

3. Plastic-free shopping

I’m generally good at bringing my own tote bags to the shops (especially now single-use plastic bags have been outlawed in many settings in NSW) but this month I’m going one step further, bringing my own net produce bags, and actively picking out plastic-free packaging and shopping from markets for my fresh produce. Market trips are a great day out for your little ones, so this is another fun way to involve my kids in going plastic free for July.

4. Sustainable purchasing decisions

Talking of shopping, this month I’m giving my toddler some skin in the game by taking her out to choose her own reusable bottle, lunchbox, tote and even re-usable portable cutlery set. By making her feel invested in the process, and giving her the responsibility for remembering them when we go out, I hope to not only positively reinforce green habits, but also build her sense of autonomy.

5. Recycle and play

One man’s trash is a three-year-old’s treasure! If your kids are old enough for basic arts and crafts, there are plenty of ways to turn your household’s plastic waste in awesome play-things. The Recycle & Play movement has so many ideas (just search ‘recycle and play’ on Pinterest) or check out our ocean-themed ebook for plenty of ideas that use items you likely already have in the bin or store cupboard.

A beach clean up is a great way to get kids outside and help the planet too.

6. Embrace ‘green’ brands

Whether choosing toys in natural silicone or FSC-certified food, or clothes and swimwear made of recycled plastic bottles, there are plenty of green brands that either eschew plastic, or even help remove plastic that’s already out there in the ecosystem, as part of their manufacturing and sustainability initiatives. Seeking out green brands when buying for your kids means no-one goes without, and the planet doesn’t miss out either.

7. Let nature be your playground

If you look around you with a child’s eyes, you’ll see there are ‘toys’ just everywhere! Despite the erratic weather, when my toddler is bored and asking for something to play with I’m looking outside before looking to the toy box or kids store. A beach day is always a good idea, unless it’s torrential, and your local park will be full of natural treasures to collect, inspire the imagination and more.

Donating toys or swapping them with friends is a good way to recycle old toys and find some new gems.

8. Do a toy swap

During school holidays it can be tempting to head to the toy aisle to look for ways to entertain the kids. However, it’s a perfect time to introduce the idea of give one / get one. If your children can donate one un-used toy to someone more needy, they can trade it in for something ‘new’, all via the local second-hand store. Alternatively, organise a toy swap among their friends and make a play-date out of it. That’s a win for the environment, and your back pocket!

9. Join a beach clean up

Whether you take the kids on a pre-organised clean up, or set one up yourself, this is an amazing way to get kids out in the great outdoors, and start important conversations about conservation. A little competition never hurt anyone here. See which of your little beach scavengers can fill a bucket first, or who can collect the most bits of plastic, and reward the winner with an ice cream or hot treat.

It’s certainly not as easy to go plastic-free as a parent, I’m sure there are plenty more ways to rid plastic from our home this July, but that’s certainly enough for me to be getting along with. How about you: are you attempting Plastic Free July with your kids this year?

About the author

Jessica Page is a mum-of-one and founder of Little Fishy Swim – an innovative kids’ swimwear & toys company, based in Bondi Beach. With the aim of removing 1 million plastic bottles from the ocean by 2025, their adorable ocean-inspired swimwear and toys are made from recycled plastic bottles, with $1 per purchase returned to Australian ocean clean-up charities