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Ditching the disposables leads to zero waste lifestyle

Published: 26 June 2017

When Coralie and Stephen Archer went along to an Auckland Council Waste Free Parenting workshop, they thought they’d come away with a few useful tips.

Little did they know it would start them on a journey towards an ambitious goal– for their family of six to only fill one rubbish bin for a whole year.

The Archers attended a Waste Free Parenting workshop, run by Kate Meads aka The Nappy Lady, shortly after the arrival of their third child. At the time they were filling two rubbish bags to the brim every week.

“I’d say we were pretty wasteful,” says Coralie. “We used disposable nappies, recycled a small amount, used heaps of plastic wrap for everything and never really gardened.”

During the workshop, they were introduced to a selection of environmentally friendly, reusable options and came away inspired to look at ways they could reduce their household waste.

Disposing of the disposables

The result has been a total transformation of their approach, starting with a switch to cloth nappies. Coralie says moving to cloth nappies was surprisingly easy and that she was even able to continue using them when she returned to fulltime work.

“Thanks to the support of our son’s teachers we were able to have him in cloth nappies at day care – it even inspired other families to start using them. The biggest challenge was coming to terms with the additional washing. We did find all the information on how to store, clean and prep the nappies a bit overwhelming at first. But once we figured out what worked for us and got a handle on it we didn’t want to go back to using disposable nappies.”

The Archers purchased second-hand cloth nappies for the same cost as two months’ supply of disposable nappies for two children – approximately $200 – and they are still in use over two years later.

Look at reusable options

Auckland Council supports parents to make informed decisions about nappy options through Waste Free Parenting workshops.

As Auckland moves to become a zero waste region, Auckland Council is keen to reduce the number of nappies and other sanitary materials that go to landfill.

Sanitary waste makes up about 10 per cent of landfill waste, nappies are a significant part of this and they do not break down in the landfill. According to 2012 research, one in ten Auckland households have children at home who use nappies, and three-quarters of these use disposable nappies.

On average, a baby is changed around 5500 times in the approximate 2.5 years he or she is wearing nappies.

Something for all the family

Coralie is amazed at how one workshop has drastically changed their way of living. Once the Archers saw the difference using cloth nappies had made to their household waste they were keen to make more changes to their lifestyle.

“We recycle as much as possible including soft plastics. We are growing some of our veggies and feed our scraps to our worms or chickens, or put it in the compost. We fix what is broken instead of binning or replacing it, and we try to avoid buying junk that breaks quickly and usually ends up in the rubbish.

“Since making these changes, we feel much better knowing we are teaching our kids to think more about the impact that we have on the environment. We are feeling happier, we are keeping costs down not buying junk, and it is satisfying seeing less waste leaving our property.”

Follow their progress

The Archers are currently working towards becoming a waste free household and are documenting their journey via their website “Practically Green”.

Coralie says they want to show how each small step builds up, the fun side of the challenge and the inevitable slip ups along the way.

“We know it’s unlikely we can be completely waste free, we are just trying to be Practically Green.”

Attend a Waste Free Parenting workshop

Auckland Council runs Waste Free Parenting workshops throughout the Auckland region.

The workshops are 2.5 hours long and cost $30 ($35 for couples). We run some workshops in conjunction with other events, so associated costs may vary.
Attendees receive a free cloth nappy pack worth $90 (one per family), and a light morning tea or supper.

Get more information including dates, locations and bookings on the Waste Free Living website

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Environment Family Waste