Reuse and reduce with kids


In an ideal world we would live in a way that doesn’t create waste in the first place. Sometimes that thought sounds as distant as outer space, but reduction and reusing are strategies that are a bit more accessible. These are some of the things I try to encourage my family to do, and at the same time teach the kids how to save natural resources, protect the environment and save money.



  • Always bring your own bag when you do shopping and let your kids bring their bag too. I am happy to see that free plastic bags have now been banned in my home country! Take along your reusable water bottles rather than buying water in plastic bottles.
  • Teach them about saving energy and water: When brushing your teeth, close the tap and turn off the water while you shampoo your hair in the shower to preserve water. Turn off lights and AC when not in the room. Try to use fans instead of AC. Bike short distances instead of driving.
  • Explain to kids why straws are bad for the environment and try to encourage them to not to ask for straws in restaurants. Use reusable straws at home.
  • Use libraries as much as possible: here is our list of kids’ libraries in KL. Buy an e-reader and e-books for the kids instead of “real” books and magazines. This one is painful for me because I love the feel of a real book, but now that the kids are learning to read and go through books like socks it makes so much more sense. If you have a library card from your home country, check their services – many have digital books to loan.
  • Swap toys with friends and neighbours instead of buying new ones. This works especially with babies and toddlers! The novelty of the toys will give you a break – but also will wear down quickly!
  • Compost your biodegradable waste.
  • This one does not reduce the amount of toys produced, but batteries in them: encourage kids to use solar powered toys instead battery-powered ones. For example this Solar powered robot is one of the solar powered toys available in Lazada. Lego and solar panels are a great match, as seen in this blog. If your kids are into the more complex STEM and Lego, consider this solar panel that provides sufficient power to operate the LEGO Energy Meter and motors.


  • Reuse printed paper and explain why. Also explain to kids why they don’t need to use thousands of sheets of paper, whether it’s for drawing or drying their hands in public toilets. You can show them this video.
  • Make crafts from used packaging, cardboard boxes, toilet rolls etc. We have collected some nice ideas on our Pinterest page! This post has great ideas for using plastic bottles in crafts.
  • Encourage the kids to wear second hand clothes and to pass their clothes to relatives and friends with younger kids.
  • Upcycle kids’ clothes if you are good with the sewing machine.
  • Reuse old newspapers, for example as seedling pots.
  • Have a look at the website of Biji Biji, a Malaysian social enterprise that turns junk into most amazing usable things. They also run workshops – a different birthday party perhaps? – and have open workshops.
  • Get involved with Free tree society. It is a volunteer organisation that takes seeds, sprouts them, looks after the seedlings, and then give away healthy little plants for free.

If you are interested in a trash free life, you should read Trash is for Tossers – even if you feel the challenge is too big, there are many great ideas that can be easily applied. No trash project is another diary about living without creating trash and Zero Waste Hong Kong has recently moved here in KL!

Read our earlier post on the first of the three Rs, recycling, here.

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  1. Yes! If we could reduce waste in the first place, we’d be much better off. There are studies that correlate simplifying our lives by having less things with increased mental well-being. Good for the earth – and good for our minds too. 😉

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