Baby shower gift ideas

18 August 2017

If you're hosting a baby shower, mother blessing, push party or babyq to celebrate the arrival of a baby, there is high chance someone will bring along a present. Rather than say no gifts to avoid the waste and plastic, I generally find it easier to offer family and friends options, because there are people that want to give. It's in their nature. I say work with them, not against. Not only does it stop me from receiving something I don't want, it's also another way to share the zero waste and plastic-free lifestyle too ;)

My pregnancy nausea prevented us from hosting a babyq (bbq for the baby...get it? Very popular atm). We did begin the planning of a special day. The Builder saw sense pointing out that it would not be overly joyful if I'm laying on the couch for most of the party or randomly vomiting because someone smelt weird. This happened more than I like to remember. Had we ended up hosting our baby shindig, we would have kept it zero waste by choosing food in bulk, making things from scratch where needed or purchasing in our usual reusable containers, borrow decorations, use real plates and glasses, no plastic straws and compost our food scraps. It would not have been too different from any other event we had hosted.

This list of zero waste baby gift ideas was carefully picked to help ease parents, like us, as we stumbled into the new role. Since we were able to acquire most of our baby's needs like clothes, wraps, blankets, prams and furniture from family and friends, we did not need anything specifically for the baby. This list revolves more around the parents. Perhaps I should have given the blog post a different title... anyway, let's begin before said baby wakes up from his nap ;)

Food

Cooked food that can be heated up in a pinch is a new parents ultimate gift. It's so important a breastfeeding woman eats and not skip meals. They are required to up their calorie intake even more than pregnancy. A fun gift would be to put together a menu option or food tickets so the parents can call them in. Like an UberEats, but by family and friends. Think simple dishes full of roasted root vegetables, slow cooked meals, soups, rice, fruit and desserts. I'd advise against anything that could cause colic (gas) if mum is breastfeeding. For inspiration, look up anti-colic diets. Food can be divided up in glass jars as individual meals, ready for the freezer.

Nappy cleaning services

If you know parents that are doing reusable nappies, also known as MCN's (modern cloth nappies), this gift would be AMAZING. Dirty nappies are picked up, washed, dried and dropped back to the tired parents. This is the kind of gift that could woo parents into trying cloth nappies too. Many of the services offer gift vouchers. If this is a gift that you think would be a hit (I can guarantee it would!), do double check what detergent the nappies are washed in. Us eco mama's don't want anything too harsh that will end up close to our baby's bottoms.

Cleaning essential wipes

If they are using cloth nappies, chances are cloth wipes will be on the agenda too. Cleaning Essentials have put together a glass jar for making zero waste, safe and effective eco-conscious DIY reusable wipes. I love that the instructions are on the jar, meaning there is no risk of ever losing them. The jar has three sets of instructions ranging from gentle, all purpose and heavy duty. Once the jar is not needed to make the baby wipes (gentle), it can be transformed for use in the home (all purpose or heavy duty). It's easy and compact, making the jar ideal for parents to take out of the house with them.


Toilet Paper

The gift of toilet paper? Am I that sleep deprived to make a crazy statement? Maybe, but hear me out. Toilet paper is right up there with food as an essential item for new parents. The focus for the first year is on a new tiny human, not keeping the toilet holder stocked. Day to day chores like buying toilet paper is going to be far down the list of things to remember. And if a parent can save some extra time not shopping for an essential item like toilet paper, that is a gift in itself. Now i'm not suggesting you run off to the supermarket to buy a trolley full of loo rolls. There is a far smarter and discreet option called toilet paper delivery.



Who Gives A Crap sell a box of 48 rolls for $48 made of either recycled paper (post-consumer waste, like texts books) or bamboo (tree free!). Each rolls is individually wrapped in fun, reusable paper (a law requirement they are individually wrapped). 50% of all profits are donated to Wateraid to build toilets and improve sanitation in developing countries. Who Gives a Crap are one of only a small handful of companies (another one is Pure Planet) that sell toilet paper plastic-free. Those paper wrapped toilet rolls by Safe found at the supermarket has a thin layer of plastic. Gift vouchers are also available.

Use this link to receive $10 off your first order.

Hand cream

If the parents have committed to cloth nappies, they will be rinsing and washing often, potentially resulting in dry hands. I love to take five minutes once bub has goes down for his evening sleep, to rub a decadent smelling moisturiser over my hands to keep them soft. It's a nice ritual and helps me relax. Etsy offers beautiful ready made options, like this lemon myrtle cream. Get more personal by creating a DIY blend using ingredients from Biome. In each Biome store, or via their online store, you can buy the ingredients in handy reusable glass jars. If you are lucky to live close to their Balmoral store, all ingredients can be picked up in bulk from the naked beauty bar. All of Biome's products are 100% palm oil free too.

Massage

I have yet to meet a mum that does not have a crick in their neck and ache on the body either left over from pregnancy or bending over and picking up baby all day. While those babies start off small in weight, they grow quickly and pretty soon you're carrying around 8kg. Taking a break for an hour to relieve the aches and pains will not only be good for the body but also for the mind.

Photo frame

I didn't think we'd be taking as many photos as we have been. I plan to be in the moment but then part of me wants to record everything because they grow so quickly. Sometimes I wonder if we even took enough photos in the first week! Lucky, second hand stores have plenty of photo frames to put the memories into. 

Offer your time

Offering services like cleaning dishes, vacuuming, going for a walk with the new parents or just visiting to watch baby while either mum or dad can have a shower, meal or nap is a thoughtful gift. The parents will also appreciate the chance to have an adult conversation. I know it helps me.

Put together a hamper

Pick up a secondhand basket from the local charity store and begin filling up with items from the list above. Before leaving the charity store choose some children's books and clothes that the new parents might like too. You could even tuck a list of baby friendly cafes in their neighbourhood into the hamper. Baby friendly = space for prams and comfortable seating to feed in (ie, seats with a back on them). Cafes won't actually turn a parent away! Don't forget to add in some hankies for the new parents too. You can read why I think they are a wonderful zero waste gift to pass along here.


Looking after the wellbeing of a new parent is important. It might feel more traditional to lavish the baby with gifts, but honestly their needs are primarily the parents. If the parents are doing well physically and mentally, the baby will be well looked after. I look forward to reading other gift ideas you may have in the comments below. Tifl has not woken yet from his nap, so i'm going to tempt fate by making a cup of tea...
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Recycling is not the solution, but we can't abandon it yet

9 August 2017
Last Monday night Four Corners reported on Australia's supposedly unravelling recycling and waste sector in their episode aptly named 'Trashed.' It left many people wondering if we should bother recycling.

Recycling is not the solution, but we can't abandon it yet

This is last weeks recycling. I was inspired by fellow zero waste blogger Lindsay who back in April let us peek into her recycling. While she provided a month's worth, I thought it best to stick to a week. If I committed to a month, I'm not sure i'd remember to photograph it! I walked out of a cafe the other week without our babies pram, only the baby. Just an example of where my brain is at for you all. I had intended this post to follow the format of Lindsay's, but with the recent recycling industry scandals it's morphed into something different. But first, let's have a look at what I added to the yellow bin:

  • Two pizza boxes – We rarely ate takeaway before baby arrived. Oh how sleep deprivation changed that. They make the BEST vegan pizza. 
  • Postal satchel – I bought my son extra nappies from a Facebook Buy, Swap, Sell. I had asked for a paper satchel...
  • Foil – My mother-in-law dropped off cabbage rolls on a plate, wrapped in foil. 
  • Scraps of paper – I write shopping lists and dinner schedules on the back of envelopes my husband’s work receives. 
  • Toilet roll and packaging – WGAC and Pure Planet toilet paper.

The story ran by Four Corners has been one of many investigations into the recycling industry over the last few months prompted by several factors, notably dangerous fires at recycling facilities. In July one such broke out at a facility in North Melbourne. Cardboard, paper, plastic, glass and aluminium stockpiling went up in flames, sending debris from the fire across the metropolitan region. City residents, especially those with children, were advised to stay inside. Homes close to the fire were evacuated, with some residents ending up in hospital due to respiratory issues. My husband told me that it smelt horrible and could taste chemicals at the back of his throat. This was the fourth fire at the facility in the past year, with many questioning if the blaze was an accident or a way to deal with the stockpiled recycling. Prior to the fire I had heard rumours of companies stockpiling recycling here in Victoria, but not at the amount Four Corners uncovered.

The zero waste philosophy puts recycling as a last resort. It's not a system that works well enough for us to rely on it. It has become a bandaid, masking a rather horrible reality. It's also a business, the value of materials dropped into those yellow bins each fortnight is driven by market prices. If the value is low, it won't be recycled right away like most Australians think.

Let's take a look at the most common materials recycled. Recycling aluminium is 95% more efficient than using virgin aluminium. Metals have always had high market value. Recycling plastic is 85% more efficient, but China who have previously taken most of it, is no longer wanting to buy our plastic to recycle. This is mix of low oil prices and the plastic we recycle is not to a high enough standard or sorted properly. Paper is 50% more efficient, but can only be recycled up to seven-eight times. Lastly, recycling glass is 40% more efficient.

Four Corners obtained a report suggesting that in NSW glass recycling might need to stop. Too much of it is being stockpiled, obviously waiting for its market value to increase. This may have sounded alarming, but they did not explain how it could be fixed. The obvious would be to cut back on our glass consumption by encouraging reusing and refilling by businesses. Another option is changing how glass is collected for recycling. Preferably glass should be sorted by colour and intact. It's easier to recycle glass this way. Our glass is mostly commingled and broken. If done right, recycling can work well enough to recover resources. Due to the low prices for recycled materials vs raw materials, waste recovery businesses don't want to invest in the infrastructure to set these systems up. 

Recycling is not the solution, yet we can't abandon it. If we removed it or halted materials like glass from the recycling process, there would be HUGE leap in valuable resources dumped into landfill. I could only foresee a domino effect happening. Any confidence in waste recovery would be lost and people might stop trying to keep resources out of landfill by any means. Recycling is not perfect, but it's much smarter option than landfill.

So back to the issue; should we continue recycling if the industry is in such disarray? My answer is a loud YES! Please keep recycling, but continue to use it as a last resort. To me, I see recycling as a necessary bridge we have to use until a new direction is built. Learn the correct way to recycle in your council area. Each council and State deal with their recycling differently. Last nights episode only focused on a small part of the recycling industry. There are places in Australia that are doing it right. There are good people in the recycling industry. Truly!

When I'm invited to give talks on reducing waste, part of the discussion covers recycling. I encourage people to look at their recycling bin as much as I do for their landfill rubbish. Understanding how a system works, especially a flawed system, will give the extra boost to make changes. Part of recycling smarter is using less resources at the start that require recycling. Less new packaging, more reusing.

But until reusing is the social normal everywhere, there are other ways we can improve the recycling system. Below are a couple of ideas, but i'd love to hear yours too.

Write, email and call State and Federal Members of Parliament

The recycling industry clearly needs regulation. Tell them we want to make it mandatory that a certain percentage of our packaging requires Australian recycled materials. Businesses could be given financial incentives from the government for choosing recycled products over non recycled. If you have more ideas, tell them! Your voice does matter on these issues.

Try to refuse, reduce and reuse

We are recycling more and more, yet our buying habits have not decreased. What we need is more focus on refusing, reducing and reusing. Less consumption = less recycling. Plastic bags, plastic bottles, plastic cutlery, plastic takeaway containers can all be replaced with reusables.

As you can see from the contents of our recycling, we can improve on the refuse, reduce and reuse. We'll admit to buying items in glass as well, especially beer and the odd stir fry sauce (more so now with a baby...). The Builder is going to save up for keg of beer from Kegs on Legs and we'll make more of an effort to cook sauces from scratch and freeze. Instead of getting takeaway, we have decided to try planning dinner a little earlier, and walk to the pizza store on days that neither of us feel like cooking. The emphasis is on try. I'm well aware life happens, some choices are easier than others and everyones lives are different. Refuse plastic packaging, buy in bulk where you can and don't forget the reusables. We can all look in our recycling bins and see what we can all try to do differently.

Support companies that reuse and refill

There is a growing number of companies that champion the refill revolution! Responsible Cafes will help you find venues that encourage the reuse of coffee cups. TAP. Wines in Melbourne are installing wine on tap in restaurants, saving MANY glass bottles from going to recycling. St. David's Dairy is now offering drive through milk refills. The Vegan Dairy will take back glass jars for reuse. Zero Waste Beauty is also offering a glass return program.

Speak up

If you want more of these types of service, speak up. Plant a seed. Drop an email to a company that you think could offer a refill and reuse service. We need more places to offer refill and reuse options if we want to break free from our reliance on recycling.

Support bans on single use plastics (eg. bags, single-use plastic takeaway) and cash for container schemes

Search for groups in your area that are working on these campaigns or start one up. Jump into a zero waste Facebook community to find one or ask your local council.


While the show did not offer any advice on what we can do as citizens, I did appreciate that it shifted responsibility to those at fault. Consumers shoulder too much responsibility when it comes to doing the right thing. We can't blame ourselves for this if we've been led to believe that everything going into our recycling bins is taken care of responsibly. We can control what goes into our bins, but we have no control once the contents is picked up by the trucks. But that doesn't mean we don't have a role to play. With knowledge comes caring, from caring comes change.

How did you feel after watching Four Corners 'Trashed' program? Were you angry? Disappointed? What other ways can we as citizens help create change? I'd love to know of other businesses that refill in your area too. Share away :)
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Raising zero waste children

4 August 2017
Raising zero waste children

To prepare for our role as parents, we decided to attend the hospital's parenting class. Before the lesson began our facilitator asked if anyone had experience looking after small children, infants or babies. Neither of us could raise our hands.

My experience with babies prior to the birth of my son was limited. Time spent with the offspring of family and friends mainly consisted of cuddles, usually under supervision of mum and dad. I knew next to nothing about what a baby needs. To say I felt unprepared going into parenthood would be a gross understatement. Turns out parenting didn't solely consist of changing nappies, washing clothes and cuddles...there was this whole development thing, making choices that will shape his whole life. And it starts from the beginning.

Within minutes of leaving the parenting class, we begun asking each other questions on how are we going to respond to certain scenarios when they arise. One particular area we circled back to a few times was our lifestyle; how would we deal with this as parents? How can we get prepared? Will living zero waste turn him into a barry no friends at school? What will other parents think of us?

I decided to dedicate a blog post on the subject of raising waste wise children. I need a year of being a parent before I'll feel close to confident writing on the subject myself. So I invited three mothers living zero waste, Lauren, Tammy and Meredith, to share how they do it and pass on advice. Grab a biscuit and a cup of tea, it's a good long post packed with sageness.


Lauren - Hobart, Australia. Mum to three; primary school and high school age.
Blogs at Owlet.com, runs online store Spiral Garden, co-founder Zero Waste Tasmania

Our children have been totally on board from the very start of our move towards zero waste living. We’ve always been honest with them about the state of our environment, and human impact on it, but we balance this with a good dose of nature appreciation. We feel that encouraging a love of the natural environment can result in a passion for protecting it, and so far this has worked well. They’ve gone on to become advocates in their own right, approaching businesses and community groups to ask them to reduce their waste output, and engaging their peers and family members in discussions around waste and environmental concepts. They’re informed and, for them, zero waste living has become normalised.

A post shared by owletmama (@owletmama) on

A key for us in finding a good balance for our family is discussing issues in partnership and giving our children the space to voice their opinions, and make their own decisions. We take them shopping with us and involve them in the process. We encourage them to explore and find out more about things are produced and transported, to ask questions and learn more before making a decision. This means our children are responsible for the choices they make, rather than feeling like we won’t allow them to do or have something they want. We also encourage them to find other ways to make, replace or acquire the things they want. They’re amazing second hand shoppers! And they make their own toys, or we find compostable versions of the things they really want. We’ve learnt alongside them much of the time, and engaged them in processes around the home, like composting, animal care, cooking and preserving. Our children have found our solutions-based approach to living without waste to be encouraging. Often children (and adults, too), can feel the problems of the world are just too overwhelming, but by encouraging our children to become change-makers in their own right, they’ve found strength and positivity and an enthusiasm for zero waste living.


Tammy - Gippsland, Australia. Mother to two, both in primary school.
Writer, speaker and sustainability consultant at Gippslandunwrapped.com

What I’ve learnt along the way, about parenting, is that children will do what you do, not do what you say to do. Any parenting expert will tell you that and I see it happen in my family, sometimes in positive ways and sometimes in ways I don’t want to admit too (anyone else notice their children acting like mini-mes?). Research also shows that leading by example is an important part of creating change because it establishes new social norms, that is, it helps make desired practices commonplace. So, to raise mindful and intentional consumers, I concentrate on being a mindful and intentional consumer myself. Obviously, I also guide my children by discussing my values with them as opportunities arise and this is how long term values are developed in children.


It’s long term, sustainable results that I am after, so I don’t get caught up in achieving some idea of perfection for every situation we encounter. Perfection isn’t sustainable and such expectations create a lot of anxiety and often a sense of failure. Anxiety is crippling many children today so another value that I try to model and instil in my children is that we can strive for awesomeness but still be imperfect. The focus becomes more about the journey rather than the destination and we celebrate achievements. Besides this, kids go through different stages as they develop into adults and that involves testing boundaries, taking risks, understanding the consequences of their own decisions, finding their own path and working out what is meaningful to them. I give my children some space to do this. It will make them more independent, resilient, confident and wise in the long term.

When it comes to influencing others, who can influence my children, I do much of the same. For example, I volunteer at kindergarten, school, and extracurricular activities so that I can have natural conversations, lead by example, and help implement changes. Again, my kids see me take action on things I believe in and sometimes have the opportunity to join in.

Adjusting my mindset to be about the bigger picture of zero waste and plastic free living, rather than the everyday detail is working for us. Prior to this it was becoming clear that I was turning my family off environmentalism. Obviously, there can be more household waste than I would prefer but there is less stress and arguments and I do see my kids developing skills and making decisions that show they are becoming more and more mindful consumers.


Meredith - Vermont, USA. Mother to two; toddler and baby. 
Writer and speaker at meredithtested.com

Hi! I’m Meredith from www.MeredithTested.com, mom of two little girls. We currently live in Vermont, USA. I’ll give away the ending right away: Being a parent presents some of my biggest zero waste challenges, but also my greatest inspiration and motivation. I considered myself eco-friendly and a mindful person before my oldest daughter was born, but she turned my earth-loving world upside-down. My motivation was locked in more intensely than it ever had before. I needed to provide a healthy, safe and non-toxic environment for her both within my home and out in the world. We used cloth diapers from the day she was born and were frankly shocked at how easy they were to use and maintain. We realized that diverting that much waste from landfills was awesome, and having a significant impact on our home environment too.

We didn’t have to take out the trash as much. We weren’t required to buy a special plastic contraption to hide the smells of dirty diapers. And we never had to take an emergency trip to the store at 11pm to buy a new box of paper disposable diapers when we ran out.

Similarly, I find that for a lot of things from diaper balm to crackers, once you have a simple recipe down pat and the basic ingredients on hand, making things from scratch can be easier than having to run out to the store or worry about finding the right brand. I can and do make a lot of things from scratch, but to avoid burn out I purchase certain items (hopefully in plastic-free packaging) if needed.

Reducing waste while caring for babies and kids is different than when you’re a single person or couple. It’s true that we all have busier seasons and days or weeks that are more stressful than others, but kids add an additional layer of the unknown. Whether its medical needs or schooling, trash-filled situations are sometimes harder to avoid and daily control can go out the window fast.


While I’ve been quite vocal on my blog and social media about how you can stick with your zero waste goals even while doing tricky things like traveling with kids, the truth is that they seem to positively attract trash. From plastic packaging on well-meaning gifts from family and friends to stickers and balloons foisted on them by strangers at the market. We appreciate the generosity and while we definitely prefer plastic-free, secondhand presents or experiential gifts (or, frankly, none at all!) we haven’t turned anything down. Except that pack of stickers from the grocery store that I was able to quickly say “no” to before my daughter noticed they were on offer.

My top 3 tips for living zero waste with kids are:

  • Bring wipes everywhere. A pile of cloth wipes and a little spray bottle with water or a mix of water with a touch of Castile soap is a must. Avoid disposable paper napkins and tissues (that don’t really work that well anyway), and packs upon packs of disposable wet wipes.
  • Live by quiet example. This advice is really a reminder for myself. I love chatting but I can sometimes go overboard sharing why I love having a plastic free and low-waste home. Family, friends, and acquaintances you meet through your kid’s school, playgroups and other activities might not be familiar or understand your lifestyle. Lead by quiet example instead of giving a mini-presentation when someone asks about your stainless steel bento box. And of course do your best to answer questions or share your experiences and reasoning if asked.
  • Go with the flow and let some things go. Having kids is taxing enough without putting extra unrealistic expectations on ourselves. I challenge myself and I try hard to stick to my zero waste goals, but at a certain point it’s okay to throw in the towel. Your mental and physical health and the health of your family comes first. Staying up until all hours of the night making DIY diaper balm or bread or … whatever when you really need sleep isn’t going to help your family in the end. If you’re a new mom who needs to give your baby formula, don’t let the packaging or any part of it make you feel guilty. Just feed your baby. If your child needs medicine but the packaging is plastic, definitely go for it anyway. If you need to buy certain foods for your family in packaging on occasion, that’s fine. In the end “going zero waste” is about an overall commitment and mindfulness, and I truly don’t believe there are “fails.” If you’re trying to make this lifestyle work in the long term, you’ll have to compromise a little. Or sometimes, a lot. Forgive yourself, re-focus and move on.


When I read each of their responses, I immediately saw the theme of leading by example. From day one, children are watching, processing what they have seen and wanting to mimic in their own way. From bringing this post together I learnt many helpful hints on raising zero waste children and I hope you have too, parent or not. What tips would you share to a new parent?
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