10 Easy Plastic-Free Swaps for Parents

10 Easy Plastic-Free Swaps for Parents

At Naturalmat, we are big on reducing our consumption of single-use plastics and other non-recyclable or biodegradable products in our everyday lives - both as a company and as individuals.

In fact, every baby mattress we sell makes its way to you in 100% recyclable packaging - including a paper wrap that keeps your mattress in great condition, cleverly made from fully compostable potato starch!

On our Instagram, we have been collating some of our favourite simple swaps that parents (or anyone) can add to their daily routine to help reduce the amount of single-use plastic in their lives. So, we’d like to share these with you here!

1.) Scouring pads

On the right hand side of this image is a scrubbing pad made out of a material very close to our hearts - coir!

Coir (made from coconut fibres) is a fantastically versatile material that is not only perfect for making the very best natural fibre baby mattresses, but is also one of our favourite plastic-free alternatives to traditional scouring pads.

When you use plastic scouring pads for washing up, you are not only using a non-recyclable product that will eventually go to landfill, but they also release micro plastics into the water supply, which will find their way to the ocean, where they are harmful to the environment.

These coir scrub pads will also last 4 times longer than traditional sponges and scrubbers and require less soap and harmful detergents. They will remove the most baked-on grease effortlessly, but will not scratch your non-stick pans or delicate China.

There are a number of different brands available - search in Google for 'coconut scrub pad' to find one to buy online.

2.) Balloons

We don't want to come across as party-poopers, but next time you are planning a children's party, perhaps consider ditching balloons in favour of a more eco-friendly alternative?

The main issue with balloons, like all plastics, is that they never biodegrade, and instead end up on beaches or in landfill. Worse still, if they make it into our oceans they become a serious danger to marine life.

Instead, why not try swapping them out for plastic-free tissue paper pom-poms? You can buy them online or from party shops, or even make them yourselves from tissue paper and wire (there are plenty of great tutorials online, so get to Googling!)

3.) Toothbrushes

Although converting your family to (mostly) natural material toothbrushes is probably not a new idea to most of you, it is a great example of a super easy plastic-free swap.

It is recommended that you replace your toothbrush every 3-4 months, which with a plastic toothbrush means more - you guessed it - non-biodegradable products going to landfill.

Switch your family over to bamboo toothbrushes (as shown) or another biodegradable material and you can be sure that, with enough time, they will once again return to the earth - well, most of it will, we still haven't found a perfect toothbrush where the brush itself is biodegradable, but we will let you know when we do!

4.) Baby wipes

Whilst baby wipes can be an absolute lifesaver for parents in sticky situations, and a nappy bag item that is a hard habit to break, they are another example of single-use plastic products which will never biodegrade and are harmful to the environment.

​As a replacement for your pack of baby wipes, we would like to suggest the excellent Pop-in Reusable Bamboo Wipes set from @closeparent.

​Made from gorgeously soft, super absorbent and anti-bacterial bamboo, they are a great alternative to disposable baby wipes or simply use them for mucky hands, faces and noses instead

​They are just the right size to fit in your pocket so they are always on hand when needed, and when they are dirty pop them back into the tote bag.

5.) Cling film

Instead of using cling film to cover the many many bowls of leftover (or flat-out refused) food that accumulate through everyday parenting, consider switching to beeswax wraps, the reusable, sustainable and plastic-free alternative.

One massive plus point that we at Naturalmat love about beeswax wraps is that you are using 100% natural materials to cover your food, meaning no nasties are anywhere near your food - a bit like our mattresses!

The wraps are usually made from cotton cloth, but it is the addition of beeswax and other natural materials including pine wax that allows them to mirror the effectiveness of cling film in creating a sealed top or wrap to any container.

As well as being completely recyclable, beeswax wraps are also infinitely reusable. Initially, you can simply wash them with cold water and soap, but you can also refresh them with new beeswax after 2-3 months and they will be as good as new!

6.) Snack bars

A lifeline for under-siege parents, the ever-present snack bar/cereal bar/granola bar is an important tool to span the gap between meals or sometimes as a much-needed distraction, but we would like to suggest replacing your usual individually plastic packaged bars with a homemade version - no plastic waste and even more delicious!

The best thing about this plastic-free swap is that they are really simple to make, combined with the extra layer of customisation allowing you to chuck in your child's favourite flavours, and that you can be 100% sure of the quality of ingredients going into your little one's snack.

There are a multitude of excellent recipes available online - one of our favourites can be found if you search for "my fussy eater - strawberry oat bars" in Google.

7.) Coffee pods

Coffee pods are great for convenience, but not so great when it comes to reducing your single-use plastic consumption - but there are alternatives that can make one of the key lifesavers for tired parents sustainable.

Check out @volcanocoffeeworks who produce 100% compostable coffee pods, full of delicious ethically traded coffee.

​So you can get your quick and easy coffee hit, without the single-use plastic waste from traditional coffee pods.

8.) Christmas decorations

It’s a bit of a way off - but come Christmas, if you are thinking about investing in some new decorations then why not consider making some of your own, rather than going for more plastic ones?

​A fun and delicious alternative to the usual baubles can be found in the world of gingerbread, and with just a little effort and not much expertise, you could adorn your tree with some beautiful edible Christmas decorations, decorated with festive royal icing patterns.

​We love @nigellalawson's version - google 'Nigella edible christmas tree decorations' for the recipe.

Just be sure to place them out of reach of greedy little fingers, or they won't be around for long!

9.) Cotton buds

Whilst they can be good for spring cleaning your little one's ears along with a few other useful applications, cotton buds are a particularly bad example of a single-use plastic product and a good place to consider making a plastic-free swap. Plastic cotton buds have a seriously damaging effect on our oceans and in Britain alone we use over 1.8 billion of them each year.

​Sales of plastic-stemmed cotton buds have already been banned in Scotland, with England set to follow this year - but for fans of cotton buds there is no need to worry! There are a number of companies making 100% compostable versions - including these beautifully packaged bamboo cotton buds from @nonplasticbeach.

​"These vegan-friendly, 100% compostable cotton buds (or q-tip for the Americans) in a cardboard box, which is free from coatings that prevent it from being recycled or breaking down".

​Non Plastic Beach also say "We strongly recommend NOT flushing any cotton bud down the toilet, but if accidents happen and they do end up in rivers or the sea, they will eventually break down".

10.) Kitchen roll

​Although used paper kitchen roll might seem like a recyclable product, for the most part it is not and should be disposed of in your rubbish bin (there are a few councils who will allow you to recycle it within your compostable waste, but these are the minority).

​This may come as a shock - in fact a recent study showed that 34% of Britain's wrongly believe that used kitchen roll IS recyclable - and we know as well how useful kitchen roll can be for quickly dealing with your little one's spills and stains. We have done some digging and found a great plastic free and all-natural alternative that is reusable and crucially compostable at the end of its life.

​The If You Care 100% natural sponge cloths are highly absorbent, able to take in 20x its weight in water, giving you the benefits of kitchen roll in reusable form which is something that other alternatives to kitchen roll struggle with - crucially they can also be machine washed in your dishwasher or washing machine up to 300 times.

​They are available to buy from a number of online retailers.

With all the extra responsibilities parents have on their plates, it can be easy to give in and use single-use plastics out of convenience. However, all of our choices as consumers have an impact on the environment, and we should be mindful of where we can make swaps and reduce our carbon footprint. By following these easy plastic-free swaps, parents can not only reduce their own environmental impact, but also pass on an eco-conscious mindset to their children.