Great Health Guide



- Dr Ash Nayate

Does over indulging children cause excessive waste?

Sustainabl­e living is not just a millennial trend. Families are embracing the low waste lifestyle too. ‘Raising children’ is no longer synonymous with an excess of toys, clothes, books and gadgets. Today’s families are more aware than ever of the environmen­tal impact of plastic waste and fast fashion. Families are leading the charge on living the low waste-way with kids.

1. Nappies.

Each year in Australia, a staggering two billion disposable nappies end up in landfill, taking up to 500 years to break down. Many families are now opting for re-usable cloth nappies, often made from sustainabl­e materials like cotton, bamboo and hemp.

Cloth nappies have come a long way in recent years and parents do not need to be origami masters to fold them properly. While the old-school cloth squares are still an excellent and economical option, modern cloth nappies are just as userfriend­ly as disposable nappies and come in various styles that are customizab­le for different needs. In Australia, there are plenty of local cloth nappy businesses that manufactur­e nappies in Australia or overseas, using documented ethical factories.

It’s important to acknowledg­e that cloth nappies still have an environmen­tal footprint, due to the water, electricit­y and detergent needed in washing and drying. However, this is still more environmen­tally friendly than disposable nappies. Despite their frequent washing, the water demand of cloth nappies is around two and a half times less than disposable­s. Factor in the water and power needed to produce disposable nappies, as well as the raw materials like petroleum and chlorine used in manufactur­ing the materials for disposable nappies.

But what about the ‘yuk’ factor? It’s true, with cloth nappies we get far more intimate with our baby’s waste than we may like. However, practicall­y speaking, there’s not a whole lot of difference between cloth and disposable. Both require solid waste to be removed, even with disposable­s - solid waste should never go into landfill. The only difference is that disposable nappies go into the bin, while cloth nappies go into the washing machine. With a good washing routine, check this website to see how cloth nappies become just another heavily soiled load of laundry.

Cloth nappies can seem daunting at first. Like with most things, there is a bit of a learning curve. Luckily, thanks to the internet, there are plenty of experience­d parents online who are willing to share their advice.

2. Toys.

When we think of kids, we think of toys. And if toy companies had their way, it would be an endless sea of toys gracing every child’s bedroom from now until eternity.

It’s tempting to buy our children the latest toys. After all, a child’s greatest work is play. However, all too quickly, the toys end up in the back of a closet and forgotten. The mountain of toys that accumulate­s in many homes, often unused, represents tremendous amounts of raw materials and resources used in the manufactur­ing process. So how can we adopt living the

low waste-way with kids and their toys?

The solution? Toy libraries. Toy libraries are exactly what they sound like - a borrowing service for toys. They’re a centralize­d space where toys can be rotated through many families, eliminatin­g the need for each family to buy their own. Toy libraries may include musical instrument­s, jigsaw puzzles, board games, doll houses, building blocks and ride-on toys. Families can borrow items for a few weeks, by which time the thrill of new toys has worn off. Toy libraries are also a great way to test more expensive toys, like scooters and balance bikes, before investing lots of money.

3. Clothes.

Clothing is often another source of waste for families. Kids grow so fast and it seems that they outgrow things as quickly as we buy them. Knowing the high turnover of clothes, many families turn to ‘fast fashion’ to save money while keeping up with growing kids.

Unfortunat­ely, cheap clothes for ‘fast fashion’ that are produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends, often come with a hefty ethical cost in the form of cheap labour, often done by children in the poorest parts of the world. These children are invited to farms and factories with the promise of generous wages, comfortabl­e accommodat­ions, a proper education and three meals a day - but instead, get sent to live in appalling conditions where they are exploited and have limited access to education.

A $5 shirt may seem like a bargain to us, but the real cost is to the people who work for next-to-nothing to produce it. Supporting ‘fast fashion’ often means supporting the child labour industry that accounts for approximat­ely one tenth of the world’s children who are kept in slavery.

Purchasing pre-loved clothing not only keeps clothes out of landfill, but also means opting out of supporting child labour. Thrift stores are an excellent place to find pre-loved clothing in good condition and as a bonus, at a fraction of the price of new.

The low waste-way with kids, doesn’t require zero waste, although that certainly may be an admirable goal. Every little bit makes an impact. If full time isn’t possible, then part time is better than nothing. Best of all, our actions teach our kids how to be stewards of the environmen­t which means they will be more likely to adopt low waste habits into their lives.

Dr Ash Nayate is a clinical neuropsych­ologist specializi­ng in brain function and resulting behaviour. Ash has almost 15 years’ experience working with children and families, supporting them to feel happier, more confident and resilient. To contact Ash please visit her website.

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