Zero waste and small children

On Thursday night, I watched my little friend Peyton while her parents went to a wedding. (It was May the Fourth, so I was like, Star Wars fans? But no, they just wanted to get married on an off day.) Peyton is almost 3 and a smart, good-natured kid — and, tangent, but having conversations with toddlers is just hilarious. So it was an entertaining couple hours is what I’m saying.

The girls, summer 2006

Anyway, though, as I was heating up her dinner and watching her move around the house, I realized that I had missed an opportunity on the blog this year by not talking about zero waste and small children. I mean, part of that is because mine are 12 and 17, so it’s not on my radar. But I do remember those days. Um, kind of. There are actually large chunks that I don’t due to sleep deprivation — Abby started sleeping through the night at 2 months, but Johanna didn’t think it necessary until she was 3 years. I guess that’s why we have photos. 😉

We hadn’t found minimalism yet, let alone zero waste, so my girls’ baby and toddler years — and even elementary for Abby — were “typical.” I used disposable diapers and wipes. I bought fruit snacks and drink pouches. There were plenty of Happy Meals and plastic-wrapped crap toys (well, for Abby at least. Sorry, Jo).

In hindsight, we did some things right without even knowing: We got a ton of hand-me-downs, so we didn’t really have to buy new clothes (all saved for Johanna — my optimism was rewarded! So was Abby’s, I guess, since she started talking about her sister — whom she named Pepsi Shoe Dumer Mew — starting at age 2), I liked to pack loose snacks in containers (just because I trusted the lids wouldn’t fall off and make a mess in the diaper bag), and we came to the conclusion after Abby’s first Christmas that toys and gifts needed to be kept to a minimum (waaaaaay too much stuff). We also used durable dishes for each — although this included plastic dishes, silverware and cups.

Peyton’s parents aren’t minimalists, nor are they zero wasters, and since it’s not something I talk about in real life, they don’t know that we are. But again, heating up her dinner and watching her navigate the house, I was struck by a few things: They had several reusable mugs and cups, for themselves and Peyton, and a drying rack for that purpose; she had reusable dishes and silverware and a really cool highchair with a pop-off tray liner (“Wash my tray now, Trisha! Who made this mess?” I don’t know, kid, it’s a mystery to me too); and her toys were not excessive by any means, nor was her wardrobe. And she’s already potty trained, except for pull-ups at night. (I don’t know, I was impressed by that immensely.)

So it made me kind of think about what I could have done, had I been then where I’m at now, and wondering what parents of small children do — or don’t do. (I just admitted to using disposable diapers, so clearly I am not in a position to throw stones, I’m just curious.) We did inherit actual children’s silverware from Eric’s grandma — maybe I could have looked into a second set, or been better about washing it between uses instead of opting for the pack of plastic spoons. Eric’s grandma also gave Abby a divided plastic plate — although mostly we just put stuff on her highchair tray, until she got older and wasn’t as apt to just chuck stuff onto the floor and could be trusted with our dishes … could I have gotten some kind of stainless steel bowl or plate or bento box that we could still be using to this day? Ditto for stainless steel water bottles instead of plastic sippy cups.

I mean, I honestly don’t know what I would choose today. I do better with older kids, so mostly I was just trying to get through the days back then. In some ways, durables would have made my life much, much easier. And I was at home (for 11 years, so much tougher than what I’m doing now), so I could have made more snacks and things from scratch — I actually did a lot of cooking back then but was more focused on dinner. I’m ashamed that I went for convenience over the overall health of the earth, but that’s where I was at the time, recycling everything I could get my hands on while blithely tossing what I couldn’t.

Anyway, any parents out there want to share with the group what they do on the minimalist or zero waste/minimal waste front with young children? I think that would really add to the discussion, and I’m sorry I didn’t think of it sooner.

Next up: I believe next week will be my last as this year’s blogger…