The following is a guest post by blogger Amber Strocel who contends with child-related plastic. She’s found quite a few plastic-free alternatives and would like to hear your suggestions for ways to further reduce.
I’m Amber, and I’m a married mom living in Metro Vancouver, Canada. I am a big fan of Fake Plastic Fish, so I am very excited to write a guest post! You can normally find me on my own blog at Strocel.com where I write a lot about my life in the suburbs with my two beautiful children. My daughter Hannah is four years old, and baby Jacob is 9 months. They are the light of my life, the source of great joy, the apple of my eye. All that good stuff. They also use a lot of plastic. Potty chairs, car seats, baby bathtubs, dishes, toys, the list is more than a little overwhelming.
I’ve always been environmentally conscious, or at least moderately so. I didn’t have many concerns with plastic in particular, though, until April of 2008. At that time Health Canada, a very main-stream government agency that advises Canadians on health issues, announced that it would be banning the use of bisphenol A from baby bottles and formula cans. Bisphenol A is a chemical found in certain types of plastic. I was pregnant at the time, and I had a 3-year-old. I certainly didn’t want to expose my baby or my preschooler to a potentially harmful substance. I also wondered what other chemicals might be found in the plastic items we used every day. The items my children love to play with and suck on.
When the announcement came about bisphenol A I had already been taking steps to reduce my plastic consumption, along with my consumption in general. I was using cloth shopping bags, for example, and cutting back on packaged and processed foods. I also breastfeed, which eliminates formula cans, baby bottles, and associated plastic. To further reduce our plastic use I decided to get rid of our bottled water delivery and drink tap water, and I bought stainless steel water bottles and sippy cups. I started buying milk in glass bottles. When the kid’s plastic cutlery wore out I didn’t replace them, and instead bought some small stainless steel spoons to use with the baby.
The most significant reduction I made in disposable plastic happened when I decided to use cloth diapers and wipes on my son. The disposable diapers and wipes I used with my daughter generated a lot of garbage. We used a diaper disposal system that twisted dirty diapers into long diaper sausages wrapped in scented plastic film. The ‘refill packs’ of plastic film were large, made of plastic, and non-recyclable. And of course there was the packaging and all that jazz that came with the diapers and supplies.
Even as I was working to reduce plastic, though, my preschooler was acquiring more. At 4 my daughter is very familiar with popular children’s characters, and loves them deeply. She also loves plastic toys that make noise and light up. These toys are very appealing and I would have loved them as a 4-year-old, too. Hannah is not shy about telling everyone she wants a singing doll or a trip to a fast food restaurant with its accompanying free toy. And her adoring relatives just want to make her happy.
My daughter’s love of plastic leaves me feeling conflicted. How can I strike a reasonable balance? I fear that if I take the hard line it will just mean years of therapy later. Laying the weight of the world’s problems at the feet of a 4-year-old doesn’t exactly seem fair. On the other hand, when I look at the packaging that comes with a single plastic doll, which is quickly broken and ends up in the garbage, I feel a little ill. This is not an ethic I want to support. In fact, producing mounds of cheap plastic using dubious manufacturing standards is exactly what got us into our present environmental mess.
I think a lot of parents struggle with the question of how to impart their values to their children in a balanced and reasonable way. Especially when the children are too young to really understand the bigger picture. For now I have decided that I will do my best to be a good example. I will work to reduce the plastic we consume, as well as the plastic we give to others. I will choose sustainably and ethically manufactured toys, made from natural materials. I will explain my choices to my children in age-appropriate ways. And I will understand if my children’s grandparents really want to gift them with a special toy. In the long run, I hope that my example is what they will remember, long after the cheap plastic toys have died.
But if anyone has a better suggestion for getting rid of the cheap plastic stuff that litters our house, I am all ears.