An (almost) zero waste home - Kids

They may be proportionately small, but kids have a tendency to attract a whole lotta stuff and waste into your home. Being an aspiring minimalist and zero-waster, I've had to come up with a few simple strategies to help me and the little humans navigate things.


I’ve found that more is not more when it comes to toys. There are only so many things kids can play with, and they’ll often get sick of toys pretty quickly.

We limit the quantity of toys we have to one toybox. We go for quality toys that foster imagination or get them active, and will often try and source them secondhand.

Every other week we will visit the toy library and rent a few items to give the kids some variety (on alternate weeks we’ll go to the book library).

If you have older kids, consider a sharing or swapping circle with friends and family.


A philosophy of less is more works when it comes to clothing too. We keep it simple by sticking to what the kids actually need – they always end up wearing the same favourites anyway. Reducing the amount they have, makes it easy for them to find things, it keeps their drawers tidier, and has the awesome benefit of keeping our washing pile manageable!

I mainly buy secondhand or am given hand-me-downs from friends and family. When I do buy new I’ll choose good quality items that will last. For things like gumboots and basics I will go for unisex options that will do both my kids, and can be easily passed on when we’re done with them.  For any items that are past the point of no return, I cut them up for cleaning cloths (natural fibres can then be composted – just make sure they don’t have any added synthetic materials, buttons etc.).

If you’re still at the nappy stage, moving to a reusable cloth option will save you a heap of money and waste. It doesn’t have to be an all or nothing game, even using one cloth nappy a day will make an awesome difference! Check out The Nappy Lady and Raising Ziggy for lots of great tips and resources to get you started.


For kids gifts we mainly focus on experiences rather than things – think movies, shows, adventures and lessons. We’ve created simple traditions like grandparents giving them winter pajamas at Easter and taking them shoe shopping for their birthday. We’ve also had older cousins choosing a toy they have outgrown to pass down – the kids love it!

On my phone, I keep a list of things my kids need or really want – so that if I ever need ideas I have them at hand.  At the beginning of each birthday party season, my kids and I get prepared by making a batch of birthday presents for their friends. Some favourites have been terrariums, bath bombs and upcycled bunting. It takes us a couple of hours (versus a rushed shopping trip before every party), is a fun activity to do together and the kids love giving something they have made.


I bring my kids with me on the journey by having conversations with them. I explain the choices we make and why we do things. I’m constantly amazed at how much they understand and engage in our choices. I know I can’t control everything they do and so I’d way rather give them some perspective to help them make their own decisions.

Things don’t always go to plan, but I’ve learned to let it go and just keep focusing on making one small change at a time.

Keep getting ideas and inspiration

The zero-waste movement means there are more and more cool people coming up with cool products and solutions. For lots of ideas, inspiration and conversation, join the Zero waste in NZ! Facebook page and use the search function.

Small changes, big impact.


This is part 6 in our 6-part series by behaviour changer Nic Turner of Mainstream Green. Check out Nic’s other (almost) zero-waste home articles where she shares simple ideas and inspiration for living with less waste.