Photograph by Randy Olson, Nat Geo Image Collection
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This family in Roubaix, France weighs their trash each week as part of efforts to reduce what they send to a landfill. But reducing plastic waste can be even simpler.

Photograph by Randy Olson, Nat Geo Image Collection

Easy ways families can use less plastic in the new year

You and your kids can make a difference in the fight against global plastic pollution. And it can be fun.

This article was created in partnership with the National Geographic Society.

Most people’s New Year’s resolutions are all about self-improvement: exercising more, saving money, learning new skills. This year, enlist your family in a group resolution: reducing your single-use plastic waste.

Think of it as a resolution to shed some pounds: scientists estimate that some 18 billion pounds of plastic waste flows into the oceans every year. And as passionate planet protectors eager to find a tangible way to help save the planet, your kids won’t likely let you shrug off this resolution.

Here are three ways to resolve to use less plastic in 2019 as a family.

Have more fun

Resolve to entertain more by hosting a plastic-free party, whether it’s a birthday bash, holiday celebration, or even a New Year’s Eve gathering.

Unleash your kids’ creativity by putting them on decoration duty: Replace balloons (which marine animals can mistake for food) with cut-out paper decorations like bunting, streamers, and confetti. If you were planning to celebrate with glitter (which is, unfortunately, just tiny pieces of plastic), consider purchasing a natural option made of eucalyptus plants.

Eat healthier

Resolving to shop smarter is healthier for you and the planet.

Try to avoid snacks that come wrapped in individual plastic and instead grab popcorn kernels and banana chips from the bulk section of the store. Shop with reusable bags for whole fruits and vegetables, grab some canned beans, and fill a bring-your-own container with a grain (like couscous or brown rice) from the bulk section.

Back at home, help kids cook a meal free from single-use plastic. If fish is on the menu, use an online guide like Seafood Watch that takes into account the practices used to catch that type of fish, in order to cut down on the harm caused by abandoned fishing gear.

Save money

We all want to resolve to spend less money, and plastic is a great place to start: Help your kids host a toy swap with their friends instead of purchasing brand-new items, and take them to your local library to browse the DVD collection instead of buying the plastic-wrapped discs. And don’t forget about the plastic packaging that engulfs almost all items that you purchase online—consider your plastic resolution a barrier to impulse shopping.

Then give old pieces of plastic a new job (and avoid buying a new item), like using newspaper sleeves to pick up pet poo.

Want more ideas to activate your kids in the fight against single-use plastic? Visit for ideas and to take a Planet Protector pledge.

Allyson Shaw is an associate editor with National Geographic Kids.
National Geographic is committed to reducing plastics pollution. Learn more about our non-profit activities at This story is part of Planet or Plastic?—our multiyear effort to raise awareness about the global plastic waste crisis. Learn what you can do to reduce your own single-use plastics, and take your pledge.