Zero-waste? “Yeah, just wait ’til you have kids.”

My wonderful sister was helping me in a brainstorming session, and she asked some great questions to get my eco-inspired ideas flowing.  One thing that came up was something, since starting this journey, that challenged me.  I thought of several things, but one thing in particular stood out to me.

I started my zero-waste journey about six years ago, and at that time, hardly anyone in the Kootenays (that I knew of) had caught onto this eco-movement; I can see grandparents sitting there, rolling their eyes.  There were no zero-waste or refill stores, and hardly any cafes or restaurants were changing their packaging, offering incentives for customers to bring their own packaging, and some businesses even flat out refused my own containers. It was a challenging time, because I kind of felt like a crunchy freak, and it took a while for me to own it.

So, then THIS PHRASE.  I have heard it several times throughout the last six years, whenever my lifestyle choices came up in conversation, or people were curious about plastic-free/zero-waste/low-impact living (how many different ways can I label this?).  Some of you who are part of this movement may have heard this before:

Yeah, just wait ’til you have kids. 

I did my nervous laugh and let it slide, but I often found myself thinking about it afterwards.  Just wait until I have kids.  Well, why should that be any different?  Then I thought, BOY, it MUST be different, and all of my zero-waste-ness fill fly out the window because… because… errrmmmmm…

I couldn’t find a because.  A child is a person just as an adult is a person.  A person can live as zero-waste as their municipality “lets” them (in terms of composting, recycling, etc).  Was I delusional?  Was I going to get a hard wake up call one of these days?  Would I let something I highly value and work hard at slide away?

Well, then I had a baby *applause*.

AND TO BE FAIR to the phrase-users, for the first month of being a first-time parent (gah!), I did use disposable diapers before switching to cloth diapers.  And then…  Well, I still couldn’t think of a because!

Because not much changed.  And in the two years my wonderful child has been around, I did not abandon my environmental efforts because it is the way I live, and now my child is being included in that.  I still do not fully understand the aforementioned phrase.  Let’s think about some things that may cause copious amounts of garbage when having a child:

  • disposable diapers and wipes
  • packaged snacks and food
  • tags and wrapping of clothing/other baby items

This is how I avoided that:

  • cloth diapers and DIY wipes (yes, I realize that some day-care centers do not accept non-disposable diapers, if day-care is something that is necessary)
  • nursed as long as possible, then child ate what family ate, and snacks for on-the-go were unpackaged foods from home (fruit, veg, bread, etc)
  • second-hand and hand-me-downs (not just clothes)

I may need some insight here.  What creates the most garbage for you if you just analyze what your children use and produce?

My point… it is possible.  Whatever choices, habits, and lifestyle patterns you have, your children will become part of that because it is the family’s norm. You model that for your children.

Just wait ’til you have kids. Well, I did, and my values did not fly out the window.

What do you think of this phrase? Agree? Disagree? Bit of both? What is the biggest challenge for you?



  1. That phrase makes me want to punch people, so I think you’ve hit on a great topic! I was told that same thing specifically regarding growing and cooking my own food, but I still do those things as a mother. It’s just not helpful any time someone gives a future parent ominous “advice”. It’s not even advice, really, so much as a judgment. More helpful would be to ask the zero waster how they plan to continue or modify their practices once they are a parent; then everyone learns more in the process. One of the biggest challenges for us has been managing what others give us as gifts. It’s so incredibly, painfully awkward for my husband and me to refuse gifts once they are being given. So…we basically don’t. We try to get the message out preemptively to avoid receiving junk, but it still happens, especially now that our son is school-aged. Kids seem to be magnets for other people (even strangers!) to give junk to–junk food, plastic trinkets, you name it. Hold on…is that what they were telling us to wait for–the deluge of junk people think we need to let our kids accept? That, I will admit, is something I could use training in how to handle as a parent, because I fail at it. Low-stakes handouts from strangers I will shun, but a gift-wrapped present from a grandparent? Hard to feel okay saying no.

    Liked by 1 person

    • What a great thing, if people rather would ask how to continue this lifestyle once children are in the picture. Gift receiving is a tricky one. My family is quite small, so gifts are minimal as is, and I have been quite clear about my expectations; would I refuse a gift from my 92 year old grandmother for her great grandchild – no, I sure won’t, but everyone else is pretty aware. I was proud of myself though the other day: my stepmom wanted to give my daughter this sticky magnet calculator that she was playing with. “You take that home with you!” she said to her. At first I did nothing, but then I said she has so many toys already, if we could leave it there to play with. I didn’t know what a two year old would really get out of a calculator, and clearly it was just clutter she was ok getting rid of. No thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

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