Reducing Plastic Usage
Before having children of my own, I’d seen a friend in the UK using cloth nappies, and my interest was piqued because of how cute and how cool they looked. I decided to give them a go when I got pregnant, and because I’m so stubborn and have an extremely addictive personality, I preserved and am about to start cloth journey number 2. What I didn’t realise was that these cloth nappies would lead me down a path to try to eradicate as much single use plastic as I could from our daily lives. I’ve become 'that eco person' in your friend group.
My avoidance is far from perfect, but there have been so many easy swaps I’ve been able to make. There is so much conflicting information out there about the best way to 'save the planet', but my focus is about avoiding waste by either stopping a certain product/practice or by switching to a reusable alternative that I’ll hopefully be able to use for years, and then maybe hand on to somebody else.
One last disclaimer: I believe there is a right time, place and circumstance for disposables, and nobody should be beating themselves up over it. Many of us, however, have grown up in such a disposable world that we use them as the default. If we all switched back to reusable products as default, and only disposable when absolute necessary, it can make a difference.
So here are some of the swaps I’ve made over the last few years since becoming a parent.
Reusable Cloth Wipes
As a parent cloth wipes are probably the easiest, quickest and biggest change you can make. I promise that when it comes to cleaning up messy bottoms, cloth wipes are SO much better than wet wipes.
I started with Cheeky Wipes, from the UK (like me). They do ship to Singapore. I started with one of their kits for our bottom wipes, which has been great.
Check out their poo demonstration here (don’t worry, it’s fake poo!)
Right now as I only have a night time cloth bum, I wet the wipe as we go. When I’m back to having a newborn, I’ll make up 20ish wet wipes at a time and leave on my changing table. I started with a solution of chamomile tea and coconut oil, but I think for round 2 I’ll probably just use water! I love the cheeky wipes small wet bags that come with the kits for out and about.
But you can, and I did, create your own kit which would likely work out cheaper. What you need:
Two boxes, one for clean, one for dirty. Bigger one for dirty. I got Tupperware from Fairprice.
Wipes - you can buy these from so many places, including IKEA. Terry cotton or something with “grip” is best for bums. You can use small flannels, or cut up/sew an old towel (this would be far too much effort for me though!).
Small wet bag - if taking out and about, can buy from many baby/mum shops.
We did this for our face/hands/highchair/table wipes that we keep in our kitchen.
I also use wipes for makeup remover, I rub coconut oil on my eyes to melt my stubborn make up, rinse my face and wipe away with a small cloth.
Our hands/face wipes and my make up wipes go into the normal laundry. If you’re using cloth wipes on bums and not using cloth nappies, put them through a 30 minutes short wash first to rinse off most nasties before throwing in with your main clothes wash. If you are using cloth nappies, just throw them all in together.
Postpartum and Period Products
When I first saw these products I immediately texted my friend “As much as love our cloth nappies, what the **** are these reusable menstrual pads?! And WHY?! And what the hell is a menstrual cup?!?”
So if the idea of these products grosses you out, I get it and I’ve been there. Having used both since though, I would never go back. Now knowing what I do about what’s in these disposable products, I’m annoyed I ever did use them. For me this one isn’t so much about saving the planet as it is about saving myself!
Again I picked up my pads in the UK but there are so many places in Singapore where these are available. Mine are a brand called Imse Vimse, and I’ve found them very comfortable. I’ve got some night time/postpartum one and I’m very much looking forward to a less crunchy and sweaty PP experience this time around. In Singapore, a quick Google shows lots of different options, including LiveLoveLuna.
For washing, as soon as possible after use give it a cold rinse, and then store in a wet bag in your bathroom until it’s time to throw them all in the washing machine. Just unzip the wet bag and put it in the machine. No need to remove the items from the bag, your machine will do that for you.
Once everything is (relatively) back to normal for me postpartum, I’ll be getting back to my moon cup. This is definitely something that you literally have to get to grips with, but once you’ve got it, it’s a great product. Lots of options in this area too, here is a great quiz to take to see which one might suit you. There are also reusable cloth tampons out there as other option, but I’ve not tried those.
Milk and Breast Feeding
First tip is reusable breast pads to catch those leaks, again I used Imse Vimse, have heard great things about the Close Parent ones, and again there are lots of options available in Singapore. These can go directly into your laundry basket, really simple and a lot more comfortable for you.
I’ve also tried to switch to non (single use) plastic pumping sessions using reusable bottles/pots rather than bags to store and freeze milk. There’s a local Singapore bottle brand called Hegen, which have great adaptors for breast pumps so the milk can go straight in there to be stored. Because of their shape, after you’ve finished using them as milk storage or bottles, they make fantastic snack pots, so they will last you for years.
Sterilization tablets are not required in most circumstances, there are lots of different options for steam sterilizers or boiling water in a pot is also an option. I’ve also ditched ziplock bags and use a little reusable food bag to store my pump parts in between uses at work, the brand is Keep Leaf, available from Lazada.
Food/Drink on the Go
An obvious one but a good one, especially with water bottles. There are SO, SO many options available on every corner, and this doesn’t necessarily have to be plastic free. The point here is to avoid single use, not buying a bottle of water, juice, milk etc when you’re out and about. Reusable straws are also readily available, or just don’t use one!
Same goes for your coffee after a sleepless night with your little ones. To get myself into this habit, I had to go on a disposable cup ban. Soon I was in the habit of either drinking my coffee in store and using a mug, or I take my reusable coffee mug/flask.
My favourite brand of bottle is Klean Kanteen, I’ve found the insulated bottle and tumblers great at keeping my drinks very cold or very hot, but there are plenty of other brands which do the same. They are available in Singapore, on Lazada for example.
A decent lunch box for your little ones could also be useful and can help avoid eating out, my favorite is an OmieBox which has a section to keep hot food hot/cold food cold.
A must have for your changing bag is a decent wet bag which will keep dirty things tucked away from everything else, avoiding using a plastic bag. Also great if you’re going to the beach or for a swim to stick wet stuff in when you’re done. Especially useful if using cloth nappies or wipes, but generally handy as a parent either way. Available at most mother/child stores.
I confess that I’m a bit of a toy addict. Here are a couple of places to buy great, long lasting and ethical toys in Singapore:
The Better Toy Store (branches in Tanglin, Paragon, and Jewel)
Playhao (branch in Forum on Orchard Road)
We’ve found that one of our favourite brands for wooden toys is Plan Toys, which are based in Thailand. Many of their toys are available at The Better Toy Store, and you can also get them via RedMart. PlanToys uses reclaimed rubber trees for their toys, and they are colourful, so well made and the company has many great ethics.
This is a whole topic in itself, so I’m not going to go into too much detail here. Modern Cloth Nappies are often very different to what people have in mind, and once you’ve gotten into a good washing routine, they can be much easier to manage than you might think. If you start researching, it can be daunting because there’s a huge industry and community around them; the amount of jargon and acronyms is insane, but once you know the basics it’s really not as nuts as it sounds.
This is a great area where even switching to the reusable alternative part time can make a big difference. If you want to get more information, I’d recommend starting with the Cloth Diapering Singapore group on Facebook, or ask anybody you know that uses them to give you some tips. I promise it’s a topic they would love to talk more about.
Some Other Not Parent Related Swaps
Loose tea (yes your tea bags have plastic in them) with reusable tea bags or a tea strainer
Food bags and wax wraps rather than Clingfilm
Reusable shopping bags
Glass jars rather than plastic bottles (ketchup, mayo etc). Keep the jars and take them to the zero waste store
Other Generic Tips
Don’t be afraid to say no to free stuff that you don’t need. At the hospital when you give birth, say no to all the free samples in plastic bottles. When you take your kids to events or appointments or restaurants, really consider if you need to take home that free balloon or happy meal toy (I’m guilty when it comes to balloons!)
Speak to your day care provider about your plastic free needs. Provide them with a wet bag for spoiled clothes, and if they still put the clothes in a plastic bag and then the wet bag, tell them! Explain that wet bags are water proof and you do not want the plastic bag to be used at all
Say no to the add ons. E.g. if you absolutely need to buy a fresh juice from a hawker stall, say no to the straw and the plastic bag it comes with and the lid. Make sure to tell auntie/uncle when you order.
I find groceries a tough area to be completely zero waste, but some options are boxed vegetables deliveries, or even better if you have the time, use your local wet market. Take your Tupperware to the butchers/cheese counter etc. Avoid all pre-cut fruit in the supermarkets.
Seems obvious but don’t throw out/replace what you have already with the latest cool “zero waste” product; use what you have until it’s at the end of it’s life
Join the Zero Waste Singapore group for more ideas.
This blog was written by NMSG member Amy and as with all our blogs, neither the author or the NMSG are affiliated with any of the products mentioned. We just want to share top tips and honest feedback with our members!
Amy is originally from the UK and has been in Singapore for just over 10 years now. "I'm a single mum by choice; I have a 3 year old daughter and her brother/sister is on their way and due in September. I enjoy the supportiveness of the NMSG network, especially in the first few months with a new baby, which helped me to get out and meet other new mums whilst I was on maternity leave".
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