Single-use plastics are a major source of pollution. We dispose of 50 billion plastic bottles every year and cities are starting to ban plastic bags because of the damage they’ve caused to the environment. As plastic degrades, a process that can take 500-1,000 years, it breaks down into tiny particles that float through the ocean and endanger marine life. The particles not only harm marine life, but they also emit toxins that contaminate fish, and eventually, humans.
Adults are taking action to fix the damage we’ve done and help leave behind a cleaner planet for the next generation, but it’s also important for children to get involved in these efforts. By teaching them the importance of eliminating plastic and seeking out other options early on, it will help them adopt new, more eco-friendly habits that they’ll carry into adulthood.
Teaching Children About Our Plastic Problem
It can be hard for young children to understand the magnitude of our pollution problem and why they should take action to reduce plastic use. You can help by making a conscious effort to reduce plastic use around the home, and by involving them in hands-on activities that teach them about the issue and what they can do to help.
- If you live near a lake or ocean, participate in a beach clean-up so they can see the impact of plastic waste on our environment and how it harms wildlife and marine life.
- Getting kids involved in recycling efforts can also help teach them about waste and how much trash we generate over time.
- Take your children grocery shopping with you and explain that choosing items with less packaging is better for our planet. Make it fun by letting them help you find plastic-free alternatives and pick out snacks from the bulk bins.
- Offer to help out on a class field trip to a recycling facility or plan an in-class activity that teaches children about plastic pollution.
- Teach the importance of reusing what you already have instead of buying new, including toys and school supplies.
Packing An Eco-Friendly Lunch
School lunches often consist of sandwiches in plastic zip bags, pre-packaged snacks, and juice boxes, and most of that packaging can’t be recycled, adding to our ever-growing trash problem. Help kids become plastic-free by opting for reusable containers instead. They cost more than disposable options up front, but you’ll save money in the long run. These versatile containers can also be used for road trips, sleepovers, and camping trips, making them well worth the investment.
- Reusable fabric wraps work well for sandwiches, wraps, and snacks. You can find varieties that fold out like a napkin or contain a zip enclosure to keep loose snacks from falling out. They’re washable and have a toxin-free lining to make them easy to clean.
- Stainless steel containers are another great option. They’re lightweight and come in a variety of sizes to hold everything from sandwiches and salads, to snack mixes and condiments. You can also find lunch kits that stack neatly together, eliminating the need for lunch bags to hold everything.
- Reusable bamboo utensils are portable and work well for soups, salads, and yogurts.
- Include a small stainless steel travel cup with a screw-on top for juice and water throughout the day.
Planning Plastic-Free Birthday Parties
From party favors to cutlery and decorations, birthday parties are a big source of plastic waste. Store aisles are filled with theme party options that are fun and convenient to buy, but you can easily swap these items out for eco-friendly alternatives without sacrificing the party favors and colorful décor.
- Instead of filling goodie bags with toys, choose plastic-free party favors like sidewalk chalk, colored pencils, natural crayons, homemade play dough, or homemade cookies and gummy bears.
- Trade the plastic party favor bag for recycled paper bags that have been decorated with colorful drawings, scraps of fabric or colored paper. Let children decorate their own bags as a fun activity, and then let them choose which party favors they’d like to take home.
- Skip the flimsy plastic banners and make a customized banner out of cloth or recycled paper instead.
- Latex and Mylar balloons (even those labeled as “biodegradable”) harm wildlife when animals ingest the balloon pieces or become entangled in the ribbon. Swap out balloons for colorful paper decorations or utilize the natural elements of your backyard to create a fun and inviting space.
- For party ware, use biodegradable drinking straws in fun colors, and compostable cups, plates, and silverware.
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