7 tips for an eco-friendly beach visit (with kids)

By Francisca Joyce, Mama Qucha

Unusually mild Autumn weather has meant that we have spent quite a lot more time at the beach than we usually do. This has got me thinking about how easy it is to not be eco-conscious at Sydney beaches, as everything can pretty much be bought at and disposed of at the numerous shops around and on the way to the beach. Being eco-conscious at the beach usually means thinking ahead of time, and packing appropriately. The following are some quick tips I’ve put together for an eco-friendly beach visit with kids (with Sydney beaches in mind).

1. Take public transport or walk
If you can, and if it’s not too far, taking public transport to the beach is by far the best option in Sydney. It means you save on petrol, and avoid the crazy parking at Sydney’s most popular beaches. It also means you’ll only take what you need and avoid over-packing.

2. Bring your own reusable food containers and drink bottles
This is an easy one to do, and becomes a cheaper option with the refillable drinking water stations popping up around Sydney beaches. If you use a stainless-steel flask, it also means your drinks are better insulated than single use plastic bottles. Pre-packed food wrapped in something that doesn’t take up much room, like beeswax wraps means that you save time on looking for food options at the beach and you don’t have to look for a bin to dispose of single use food wrappers and containers.

3. Bring reusable wet bags
We find that with kids, everything ends up not only wet, but sandy. We’ve found that waterproof wet bags are necessary to keep our beach bag and dry clothes clean and dry. Unlike single use plastic bags, wet bags are durable, sturdier, reusable, and there is less chance of them blowing away into the ocean at the beach. Bring along wet bags that are large enough to fit your beach towels, swimmers, and anything else that will get wet at the beach.

4. Use towels made of natural fibres
Although it might be tempting to bring smaller more compact microfibre towels, I don’t think many people are aware that these towels are made of micro petroleum-derived fibres, and therefore when washed, microfibres are shed down the drain and contribute to plastic pollution in the ocean. We prefer more eco-friendly options such as Turkish towels and Brazilian Cangas – both lightweight towels made of cotton. Cotton is a natural fibre which biodegrades in nature, and won’t contribute to plastic pollution of the ocean.

5. Take 3 for the sea
This is another easy one to do and the premise is simple: Take 3 pieces of rubbish with you when you leave the beach, waterway or... anywhere and you have made a difference! By taking 3 for the sea, you have become a part of a movement of people connected to the planet, and are helping to conserve the environment and protect wildlife.

6. Bring reusable swim nappies for your baby / toddler
This is by far our favourite eco-tip as it is so easy to do. Disposable swim nappies are so wasteful, as you have to throw the swim nappy away after a swim, even if it’s still clean. You may also find them inconvenient, as you have to hold onto them after each use and dispose of them at the nearest bin, further contributing to plastic waste in landfills. We prefer reusable swim nappies, as they are convenient, less wasteful option and can be wrung out after each use and popped into a wet bag or the water-resistant bottom compartment of the Mama Qucha Beach Backpack. We bring two reusable swim nappies for each beach visit just in case, but so far have never had to use the spare one.

7. Avoid coral-harming sunscreen
I myself hadn’t realised until recently that most sunscreens contain benzophene-3 (oxybenzone) and octinoxate, chemicals which have been found to increase coral bleaching and harm marine environments. Hawaii passed a law last year (which takes effect in 2021) to ban the sale of sunscreen containing these two chemicals, as studies found high levels of oxybenzone in bay waters west of Hawaii’s Big Island, with one of the five sites tested showing chemical concentrations of oxybenzone to be 262 times greater than levels considered high-risk by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This is also the highest concentration of oxybenzone that has been measured in the world, and has been attributed to the sample being taken at a popular swimming spot and where people enter the water. When buying sunscreen, we will now look out for these harmful chemicals and avoid them if possible.

Thanks so much for reading this far, and I really do hope you’ve found these tips useful. Even using one of the above tips makes a difference! And really, they’re not that hard to do. How helpful are our tips above? Do you have any eco-friendly tips for the beach that we haven’t mentioned above? We would love to know.

Note: The views and advice expressed on this blog post are those of the author and are not representative of the Pregnancy Babies & Children's Expo.

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