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Trying to be plastic free with kids--it's not easy!!!!  RSS feed

 
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I had such high ideals before I had kids, of how I would only have wooden and cloth toys and would make sure they weren't surrounded by plastic and toxins. Then they came, and people gave us plastic toys that they love, and the dentist gave us plastic toys that they love, and the little drinkable baby food came in plastic pouches, and easy snacks came in wrappers, and I realized the "cloth" toys were made from polysester--which is plastic--, and the diaper covers were made from PUL--which is plastic. And, their booster seats and high chairs are made of plastic, and well, there's just a lot of plastic!

What tips and tricks do you have for reducing the plastic your kids come in contact with?
 
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As far as toys go, I have friends who control the plastic by being quite strict about presents.  They ask family to pitch in and help buy some high-quality, big-ticket item for birthdays or Christmas, but don't accept presents for the kids otherwise.  However, this policy has offended a grandparent and turned an uncle into a present smuggler, so success is not guaranteed.
 
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    While I don't have my own children I worked with children for 30 yrs so I know just how much plastic is all around them.  I am trying to get rid of plastic in my own life. Even that is not easy. But there are just so many toxic things in plastic that it really is scary to think about, especially around children, because everything goes in there mouth.   For me I am trying to buy stainless steel, wood, or glass items that have anything to do with food.  There are some sippy cups now made from stainless still.   Don't go with anything made from bamboo and I hate to say that because bamboo is such a good product for so many things. The problem is all the toxic chemicals that are on it from sealers to glues. Even white school glue that is suppose to be safe has unhealthy chemicals in it.
    There are more options now then there has been because people are realizing just what harm can come from having so many things  made of plastic. I liked the idea of getting everyone to pitch in on getting quality toys, even though I know that won't be easy either.  I am also starting to really look at what clothes are made of as well.  So many are made of plastic or petroleum products.   And cotton is so contaminated with pesticides.  So I have been looking for organic cotton products. There are some good ones out there. But I am lucky in that I sew, so I can make some of my own, and it's not quite so expensive.    I no longer use any  no stick cook ware. It is really not safe. I use enamel or stainless steel. The enamel is great and really doesn't stick.  My next thing is to start getting organic cotton sheets. And someday a naturally made bed.  I am trying not to stress too much about it and just slowly replace things as needed.  I stopped using any "made man" type of cleaning product.  I found that vinegar, water and some essential oils work really great.  And a salt baking soda scrub works great on hard to clean things.  And I use a natural laundry soap.
   I wish you the best of luck trying to provide a healthier life for your child. I truly commend your wanting to do so. Good luck in your journey.
 
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We started out with all organic cotton and wool fabrics, wood toys etc. 7 years and three little ones later, the plastic has definitely crept in. We try to make sure things are second hand whenever possible and I have asked grandparents to give gifts that they can do with the kids rather than stuff for them to play with. The kids mostly would rather be outside playing with mud and rocks and the animals anyway.

I often layer wool pads under the baby (for eg in a car seat) and we use wool diaper covers instead of PUL. They aren't waterproof but we use elimination communication so if there's a wet diaper it is on long enough to soak through.

I was really down about this myself for a while, since it seems like everyone wants to gift colorful plastic things at every birth(day), holiday etc. I've tried to let go a little bit and look at the positives. For eg, my 7 year old makes amazing Lego creations from his imagination. And we make frequent trips to Goodwill.
 
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Nicole Alderman wrote:

What tips and tricks do you have for reducing the plastic your kids come in contact with?



I personally create a strict boundary for what I choose and what I allow to come in from others. My extended family all knows there will be nothing plastic or toxic around the child. If they send me something plastic or with chemicals anyway, it goes back to them or to donation. Actually I have asked for no gifts at all, except seeds or organic undyed clothes or money. Usually they send money because they all know how selective I am. My mom didn’t quite understand that no dyes means no dyes, but now she’s getting it because I sent the blue things back to her.

I have basically gotten rid of everything I had accumulated before having a child. I thought I had mostly non-plastic/non-toxic things but I re-examined and out went the sleeping bag, the dyed clothes, the synthetic clothes, and all my shoes, gone. I asked myself to think about every item in our household and ask myself “is having this thing worth exposing my child to toxins?” And the answer for me was usually no.

It’s made life and living a lot simpler. We have one pot, a soapstone pot. We love our pot so much it’s like another member of the family. We have hand-carved wooden cups and bowls. It’s really easy to do dishes when everything is wood and rock! We make some clothes and all our shoes and the last time we moved, we made all our bags from felt, hand sewn with wool yarn and a big blunt upholstery needle (safe and easy for children to sew with), which will be a bone needle soon. Toothbrushes are wooden with boar bristles. I made our mattress with my child from unprocessed wool batting and wool cloth.

There are still a few plastic things in the house: an iPhone and iPhone charger; my contacts, and something else I am forgetting. I keep these in an organic cotton pillowcase up in a closet.

What I have personally found is that when I draw a strict boundary I eventually find a solution or change what I thought mattered. Shoes were the biggest challenge for a while and now we make all wool felt shoes. I chose not to care about waterproof diapers.

It’s definitely a challenge but I personally find it an enjoyable one. I also really appreciate Etsy because if I don’t make it, I can find someone who will, and almost everyone is willing to customize what they make. I ask a lot of questions like what kind of thread is used and is the cloth washed with perfumed soap.
 
Cayo Seraphim
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I should add that one benefit from being so strict about plastic/toxins is that my senses have totally changed because I’m not covered in toxic smelling things that I guess deadened my senses before. I can now be asleep on a windy beach and the small of a person 200 yards away will wake me up. More like the smell of cologne and dryer sheets on them.  I think it’s helping me understand more what it is like to have senses like animals have.
 
Nicole Alderman
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I've noticed that since I've tried to really elimiante polyester from our lives, I can usually feel whether something polyester in it. I like to get our clothes at Thrift Stores, because it's so much more affordable, and my fingers can tell the difference. Polyester feels so revolting.

My husband still can't tell. We have some polysester pants for the kids because they were free. I use them as outerlayers, with cotton against the skin. I've told him this, but he still puts those pants on against bare skin.

Which leads me to another thing that makes it hard to be plastic free: having a spouse that's not on the same page. One day my husband came home with three giant bags of cupcake toppers. He was so proud of how he'd gotten them for a dollar a bag. Why in the world would we need BAGS of horrid plastic toppers? I don't want plastic in our house. I don't want to STORE that stuff, let alone let my kids play with it. He also loves to buy hot wheels, and those are made usually half of plastic, with whatever weird paints they use. And, since so much is spent on trinkets, there isn't money for natural toys. I've been making wool felt fairies and dragons for the kids..but my kids love cars and truck much more, and I can't make those, nor do I have the time to make much of anything. It's hard.

I'm so inspired by you, Cayo! You're doing so much good for their health and the environment with your stance!
 
Cayo Seraphim
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Nicole Alderman wrote:

Which leads me to another thing that makes it hard to be plastic free: having a spouse that's not on the same page. One day my husband came home with three giant bags of cupcake toppers. He was so proud of how he'd gotten them for a dollar a bag. Why in the world would we need BAGS of horrid plastic toppers? I don't want plastic in our house. I don't want to STORE that stuff, let alone let my kids play with it. He also loves to buy hot wheels, and those are made usually half of plastic, with whatever weird paints they use. And, since so much is spent on trinkets, there isn't money for natural toys. I've been making wool felt fairies and dragons for the kids..but my kids love cars and truck much more, and I can't make those, nor do I have the time to make much of anything. It's hard.



This is really hard. And everyone I know who is conscious of toxins experiences this with spouses. When my husband and I disagree then our approach is to talk until we agree (which usually means a lot of educating on my part), or use the precautionary principle. That is to say, if he thinks it’s fine for our child to eat out of plastic, and I think it’s not okay to expose the child to plastic, and if we can’t get into alignment about it, then we choose the decision that we KNOW won’t harm the child. Not having plastic definitely won’t harm the child. Having plastic might harm the child. So we chose not having the plastic. Also, I feel it’s important to put the children’s well-being first and leave out any adult egos/issues/projections. So for example, if my husband wants to get our child a big wheel because he had one himself as a child, that’s projecting his childhood and expectations onto the child. A child can have a fulfilling and fun childhood without a certain toy. Also, having boundaries around plastic doesn’t always make other adults happy, and I know friends who have been yelled at by in-laws and called OCD for not wanting toxic things in the house. So I have had to be willing to not always please all the adults.
 
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Most of my young childrens' toys are from a toy library. It's pretty ridiculous to buy toys you know the child won't be interested in once they're a little older. They're returned a month later and they rarely notice as they're replaced by a new one.

We're actually against wooden toys generally. My children have been injured by them because they're clunky, heavy and hard. Plastic toys are softer and lighter so they're less harmful, and children love bright colours.

What's harmful about clothing dye and a tyre to swing on? I don't get it.
 
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I recently finished potty training my second (and final) child, and am now faced with a decision about what to do with  the large number of synthetic, microfiber diapers that I accumulated during their babyhood.  I was pretty saddened to discover that my cloth diapering practice caused significant harm to the environment because I primarily used synthetic, microfiber and polyester all-in-one diapers.  I washed them a million times, each time shedding microfibers into the environment.  It's really hard for me to face the fact that the best place for these now well-worn, (and probably extra microfiber shedding) diapers is the landfill.  Trolling a few cloth diapering websites (including the location where I bought my children's diapers years ago) there does not seem to be any acknowledgement of the microfiber pollution that comes from washing synthetics.  I really would like to get the word out to other parents concerned about their ecological impact that it is best to invest in natural fiber cloth diapers.  Does anyone have connections that would make this possible?  I've written to a few of the cloth diaper companies but have not received a reply.
 
Carla Blackpot
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Cayo Seraphim wrote:I should add that one benefit from being so strict about plastic/toxins is that my senses have totally changed because I’m not covered in toxic smelling things that I guess deadened my senses before. I can now be asleep on a windy beach and the small of a person 200 yards away will wake me up. More like the smell of cologne and dryer sheets on them.  I think it’s helping me understand more what it is like to have senses like animals have.

  I have also experienced this since I stopped buying stuff in plastic (which immediately eliminates an entire enormous spectrum of artificially scented products).  A few weeks ago I was visiting an aunt who was using a clothes detergent called 'Gain' or something, and I found the scent to be such a nuisance that I couldn't sleep (unusual for me-- I have young kids).  It is truly bizarre how you can catch the scent of this stuff from a long distance away, or in the water, or wherever once you 'go off' this products. 
 
Nicole Alderman
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Carla, if you want to make a new thread about the microfibers in polyester diapers, and fill it with as much information as you can, I'll try and make up a meme/graphic to go along with it, and share the thread on permies facebook page. We've got a lot of viewers there, and hopefully it'll go viral. I can also mention the thread in a dailyish, and that goes out to a lot of readers, too.

I face the same dilemma. I have a bunch of microfiber inserts that I bought for my son. I thought cloth=good...not realizing that it's polyester and made of petroleum. It's pretty much like putting plastic on his bum! I hadn't even thought of the microfibers from washing it--I was thinking of using them as cleaning rags, but now I'm doubting that. Ack!!!

More people need to know about this!
 
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It really is fascinating to think that for centuries families raised kids without plastic anything.  I grew up before plastic happened.  All the items you all are talking about were made out of wood, metal or fabric.  Wooden highchairs, wooden booster seats, cloth dolls, wooden trucks.  As a 6-7 year old we were given wood to make our own toys.  We made puppets out of socks and puppet theaters out of cardboard boxes.   We took a hammer and smashed metal roller skates, screwed on a piece of wood and had a skateboard.   We had wooden playhouses and treeforts, and old bed sheets for tents.   Our swingsets were metal frames with hemp rope and wooden seats.  We weren't lacking for great stuff to play with.

It's just that plastic is cheap and it makes toys affordable, so everyone tries to overlook the toxicity of it. 

What is probably more important in the long run is getting the plastic out of the kitchen.  Use glass.  No plastic storage bowls.  Don't buy foods in plastic containers.  Don't buy drinks that have water in them that you don't know where it came from.   Packaging is a nightmare.  Food packaged in plastic is really kind of horrifying, and it fills almost every grocery store.  It takes real effort to find cheese that isn't already grated in a big plastic bag, or cherry tomatoes that aren't in a pyramid of plastic. 

Don't use plastic straws.  There's another thing that wasn't around 40 years ago.  Straws were paper with a wax coating, and for a temporary use they were just fine. 

Maybe it just takes a different mind set that looks for the healthy version of stuff, just the way we look for the healthy version of food.

 
Cristo Balete
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One more thing I've noticed about plastics.  I've been getting some organizational trays and containers, and after a year or two they start to dissolve.  Even a few of the 15 gallon containers with lids, they start cracking and falling apart before long, even though they've been inside, away from the sun, the whole time.  I don't know how they've changed how they make plastics, but you just know that it's off gassing and dissolving? before it starts falling apart, which implies it's on us, we're breathing it, and it's in our living environment.
 
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