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Okay, let’s face it. We have more than a little problem with plastic. Globally, we produce around 300 million tons of plastic every single year and considering the fact that much of that plastic will become single-use, disposable products, we find ourselves faced with a whole lot of waste. Adding to the sheer volume of plastic trash we create is the other troublesome fact that this material does not biodegrade, rather it just continues to break into smaller and smaller pieces over its lifetime. With 270,000 tons of plastic floating on the surface of the oceans and over 700 marine species who are in danger of extinction due to plastic Pollution, it seems abundantly clear that we’ve got to make a change.

As Green Monsters, we make it a habit to do all we can to reduce our impact on the planet. We buy organic, we eat for the planet, we know how many Earths we use. We reuse, reduce, refuse and recycle. We’re not perfect, we’re people, and some of us are also parents, so that means passing on our eco-conscious conscience to our progeny. Being a parent is _________ (you fill in the blank) and sometimes it isn’t easy passing the eco-torch. Any parent will tell you that explaining to a toddler why the straw from her juice box might end up in the nostril of a sea turtle is nothing short of complicated. Some things you just don’t do. You could try, but what adult would feel good about guilting a two-year-old out of a juice box, especially when she’s informed you that she’s just learned how to poke the straw in “all by myself!” Parents are no match for a toddler with a newly found sense of independence — at least, I’m not.

Juice boxes, individually wrapped snacks, plastic party favors, and bottled water are, at times, unavoidable and even more so when it comes to a child. These things become necessities to them even though we can live without them. It can be frustrating, but it can also be an opportunity to get creative.

Think Outside the Juice Box

1024px-Beach_at_Msasani_Bay,_Dar_es_Salaam,_TanzaniaLoranchet/Wikimedia Commons

Kids like to mirror what their parents do; it makes them feel good to be like you (at least when they’re young), so even though the odds are in favor of that juice box, there are ways to mitigate plastic use and teach children that plastic isn’t the way to go. Lead by example and get creative.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s possible to say “no” to that juice box, sort of … a very fun and messy alternative to the juice box is skipping the straw and squeezing the juice out into a cup. Travel cups with reusable straws are also a great alternative because your kid can still claim their independence by putting it together and using their helping hands to fill it up. It’s all about practice and building our own parenting skills to guide our kids away from the plastic dependency we grew up with.

Make It Fun!

Separating trash from recycling into different bins is a game to a toddler. It also encourages independence, which leads to confidence; fine motor skills, holding the items and putting them in the bins; and thinking skills, which bin does this go into? It also gives space for a dialogue about recycling. Making up silly songs while recycling is also a great way to start that conversation. Be sure to include your child in taking the recycling out. It’s an adventure! Sure, it might take little longer to do, but it’s worth it. You’ll get to spend some extra time with your kid, get some fresh air and help them with an accomplishment. High-fives all around!

Reducing dependence on processed and packaged foods is paramount to reducing plastic use. An easy fix? Bake with your kids. An afternoon of baking is worth the mess in the kitchen! It is so much fun and just like taking out the recycling bins; it’s more time spent with your child and another way to build your child’s independence.  Looking for ideas to make with your child? Try these Cranberry apple breakfast cakes or red velvet cupcakes.

Keep Up the Good Work

There are a lot of ways to avoid or reuse plastic in our lives. Skip the plastic bag and get your child excited about bringing their very own bag to the grocery store. Start a garden and use some of your recyclables as seed starter containers, it’s an activity that will keep giving. The little things that we do with the little ones in our lives can lead to the formation of good environmentally-conscious habits in the future.

Nobody’s perfect, but crushing plastic for our children’s sake is important and raising plastic-independent kids is crucial for mitigating plastic Pollution. It’s a small world, and plastic is a global problem. So don’t lose sight of the bigger picture — a cleaner, safer world for all of our kids.

So Green Monsters, how do you teach your kids to avoid plastic?

Let’s #CrushPlastic! Click the graphic below for more information.


Lead image source: Joe Diaz/Flickr