A Sustainable Chat with Laura Callaghan
Laura Callaghan is Founder of Plastic Free Baby, an online store dedicated to plastic free products for babies and kids. I recently sat down for a sustainable chat with her to find out when she started her sustainable journey, why plastics can affect your fertility and her top tips for a sustainable Christmas.
When did you start your sustainable journey?
I became a vegetarian really young, aged around 5, when I realised that the ‘lamb’ on my plate was the same as the farmyard animals I loved so much! It was probably tricky for my mum having to cook for a fussy veggie as one of 3 children, but she made it work.
My eco journey widened out when I was trying to have a baby. My idea for Plastic Free Baby started when I was when struggling to conceive my son (Finn, who turns 3 the week before Christmas); I began to read up on the possible reasons for this difficulty. I read that some plastics contain toxic chemicals that can have a direct and scientifically proven impact on fertility in men and in women. This was a shocking revelation to me.
Prior to my pregnancy, also, I produced a painting on behalf of the World Cetacean Alliance (a wonderful organisation that protects the world’s aquatic mammals such as whales, dolphins and porpoises). The painting was created in part by plastic waste. Washed up on Brighton’s beaches, as part of a campaign to raise awareness of the plastic pollution in the oceans that entangles wildlife. The painting I created went on to be endorsed by none other than living legend Sir David Attenborough!
So the two paths met… a prior interest and passion for using art to help raise awareness of plastic waste impacting our seas and natural environment, together with a personal journey investigating the impact of plastics on fertility, babies and children.
What changes did you make to live more sustainably?
Every New Year I give myself the target of achieving one small and consistent sustainable resolution that I can keep with me for life, in order to make realistic adaptations for long term impact. Making small changes over a long period is key. I really do believe this is the best way to make a difference. Don’t go with fads that don’t last, make a commitment to life changes that will go the distance. I’m no eco mum superhero, I’m just doing my small bit for my child and for the world as best I can.
When I was trying to conceive and when I was subsequently pregnant with my son, as I got bigger (and bigger and bigger!) and less mobile during pregnancy, I had more time to research further, and to become worried about what I was reading. It was clear to me that some plastics can have a potentially devastating and worryingly unquantifiable impact on the health of our unborn children, our babies, children and families. So I removed all plastics that I possibly could from our everyday life, starting with those in the kitchen and bathroom. And then I started Plastic Free Baby; I realised that there was not one single place where you could buy plastic free baby and child products; I also found that some plastic free baby products simply don’t YET exist and are no longer mass manufactured in this plastic world that we live in today. I considered that this was not good enough, and so at 7 months pregnant embarked upon setting up a business plan for Plastic Free Baby!… I launched during #plasticfreejuly in 2019.
What are your favourite eco products for babies?
My favourite products are those that make ethical and sustainable use of natural resources, to provide toxin free, plastic free products that are safe and fun to use. The choices I make for my plastic free shop and blog are the same as those that I make for my own child.
A great example of this is the plastic free biodegradable potty which I sell on Plastic Free Baby. The eKoala biodegradable potty, for which I’m the only supplier in the UK, is made of renewable raw materials such as corn, beetroot and switchgrass. It is biodegradable; at the end of its lifetime, will fall back into their basic components, not releasing toxins and polluting substances into our environment. These components will return to nature to nourish the crops from which the process originates.
What advice do you have for people looking for eco Christmas gifts?
I have just launched a nice little range of Plastic Free Gift Sets, which I am really excited about! You can find something eco-friendly and plastic free for every member of the family, to include a new arrival, sibling and toddler gift sets, gift sets for parents and loved ones, and baby weaning and potty training too.
I’d encourage people to buy local, buy small and buy from other businesses who have eco values at their core. I also personally love buying from other parents, and in particular from other mums – it’s good to support small business, and there are so many amazing shops and artisans out there!
What are your top tips for making your Christmas more sustainable?
For your dinner – Make sure you shop locally and in season. Don’t forget to take your own bags!
For the snacks – Be mindful of packaging. For instance, crisp packets are currently not recyclable. The inside of the packets may look shiny and as though they’re made of foil but is actually a metallised plastic film! To reduce your plastic usage this Christmas why don’t you try making your own crisps and goodies!
For the leftovers – Use beeswax wrap to keep your leftovers fresh instead of cling film. Cling film is a single use plastic and could potentially leach toxins, whereas beeswax wrap is reusable, washable, natural and compostable!
For gifting – source local, small and eco driven businesses. Use charity shops where you can. Use brown paper wrapping and put into your compost afterwards. Try recycling fabrics for wrapping.
For the whole season – it’s a season of good will to all, so be kind to YOURSELF as well as others; don’t let eco-anxiety get the better of you during this time; make your small changes, and try to pat yourself on the back for doing your bit this festive period. Have a great time!
To find out more about Plastic Free Baby please visit www.plasticfree.baby