30 Fun Activities to do With Your Family on a Budget

zero waste family activities, family activities on a budget

In a world where most of us spend a lot of time looking at screens instead of truly interacting in meaningful, fun ways; it is important to keep family time a priority without having to go crazy with the spending.

Studies have shown that the simple act of having nightly family dinners does wonders for the emotional, academic, and even physical development of the children in the home.

Imagine how much more could be achieved with regular, fun activities that will also help you all bond and become even closer as a family! Below are thirty activities that cultivate mindfulness and quality time for your family without breaking the bank or creating waste!

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1. Baking (and Making)

For many of us we have memory of baking with mum or grandma. The best part was obviously getting to lick the spoon. So as a family, let everyone choose something they want to bake together as a family.

It could be cookies, cake pops, muffins, a pastry—anything yummy and bake-able!

Then, you all work together as a family to get the ingredients and make something super delicious everyone can be proud of being a part of.

You can take it to the next level and instead of baking treats (which are nice), you can make homemade tortillas for Taco Tuesday, or a loaf of French bread to go with pasta.

Making granola bars for snacks during the week is a good way to get creative with ingredients and keep healthy snacks around during the week.

Whatever you decide to bake or make, it’s good quality time and will become the memories your child carries with them when they come across certain foods as an adult.

Have older kids? Meal prep together. Search for recipes to try for those evening meals. Your kids are more likely to eat something they chose and made themselves.

Want to get out of the house (or avoid the mess in your house)? Try a family lollipop class! A mess somewhere else, same fun and treats.

2. Gardening

Gardening is a very useful skill, and can be a lot of fun to get into. You can start a little vegetable, herb, or flower garden depending on the space you have.

If you have a lot of space, everyone can have their own little plot where they can grow what they want.

If you don’t have a lot of space, get creative with containers and windowsills.

I have a crockpot that cracked. I could have just chucked it in the bin, but instead I drilled drainage holes in the bottom and my basil now happily grows in it. You can do the same with tin cans and old wellies.

There are some amazing little growing kits for kids, like this little book about carrots that you plant when you finish reading! It would make a unique and fun gift if your kids grow to love gardening. (Lettuce books are available, too!)

Another fun one, is to percolate veggies in water. Lettuce, celery, spring onions, and so much more can be regrown in a bowl or jar of water.

Replace the water each day and watch your veg regrow.

Gardening is a great way to show your kids how patience, hard work, and perseverance can pay off in big ways. There also is no substitute for the flavour in homegrown food! Cherry tomatoes, anyone??

3. Story Time

Start with oral stories. You can have one person start the story and each family member takes turns adding the next sentence until you get to the end. This can also be written on paper to make it easier to remember.

You can even go word by word.

Not feeling that creative?

Let everyone chose their favourite story to read together.

Take it up a notch and turn the stories into plays where everyone plays different characters.

Not enough characters for everyone in the family? Don’t forget a narrator and you can have someone video the fun.

I know this may feel goofy to you, but these are the moments that mean the world to your child. So, give it a go; everyone will become part of the story, and you will all have an amazing memory to look back on forever.

Bonus points for going all in with costumes, funny voices, and homemade props!

4. Board Games (and More!)

Sometimes just a relaxing day of playing board games is a great way to pass the time. (Rainy days, especially). You can turn this into a weekly game night, a-disconnect-from-technology-night, that everyone will come to appreciate.

Some fun games for everyone:

Bananagrams

Jenga

Uno (or any games with a deck of cards)

Colourbrain

Twister

If you want to add a little something extra, try making up some new rules and change the same old games up a bit!

If you have younger kids, playing in teams is a good way to play harder games with no tears.

You can also create your very own games like themed charades, or scavenger hunts! Unleash your creative side and play by your own rules.

When the weather is nice, don’t forget tag, hide-and-seek, or just a family game of football. With so many variations on those games, there is a lot of fun to be had (with some exercise mixed in, too)!

5. Craft Day

Colouring, collages, slime making, salt dough, origami, painting, etc. are all examples of super fun art crafts you can do with your family.

Art is something that can be therapeutic, so make sure this is a positive experience with no bad ideas or critiques.

If you can get out, try a pottery experience either making or painting pottery. If you have older kids a jewellry making or soap making workshop would be a memorable day out, too!

Art styles are all different, and there is no wrong way to be creative. Just have fun!

Need inspiration?

Visit a museum and everyone picks out their favourite piece (take a photo if you’re allowed for reference). When you get home replicate your chosen piece.

Whenever your family finishes their art, set it up in a room in the house like a gallery and walk through appreciating all the lovely pieces and “meeting” the artists.

6. Pizza Night (and a Movie)

All you need is dough, toppings, sauce, and an oven to have your very own family pizzeria!

Everyone gets enough dough for a personal sized pizza, and they can top it however they want.

Then, you just bake and enjoy!

This makes personal pizzas truly personal and makes for great bonding time with food and fun!

If you make pizza night a weekly event, you can also throw in a movie and rotate who choses the movie each week.

Olivia and Penny’s Movie Recomendations:

The Lorax

Sing

The Aristocats

7. Build a Den

One person can make a pretty awesome den, but a whole family can make an epic CASTLE DEN!

Use cardboard boxes, chairs, blankets or sheets, couch cushions, pillows, clothes pins, and more to create a huge pillow fort to hang out in.

If you can, try stringing in twinkle lights and create a truly magical space that would be great for bedtime stories.

8. Movie Marathon

Another cold, rainy day idea.

Get comfy. Grab the biggest duvet in the house, dress in your snuggliest clothes and watch a movie series for a day with lots snacks and finger food.

My brother and I did this with the Lord of the Rings director’s cut.

Lasted over 10 hours.

Wouldn’t do it again, but it was epic and I’m glad we have that memory.

9. Learn Sign Language

Sign language is a very useful language to know, and it is actually a lot of fun to learn.

I used baby signing with both of my girls and it was so helpful. As they’ve gotten older, my youngest, Penny, still uses signs here and there and I’ve come to realise this would still be a useful skill when you are trying to say something on the sly or in a quiet place without disrupting anyone.

It would also come in especially handy if you encountered someone that speaks sign language. BSL and Makaton would be the most common here.

You can use books and/or online tutorials, help each other practice, and even try going a whole day communicating with just sign!

10. Film For A Day

Use your phones, or an old camcorder to document a whole day with your family. Give everyone a turn doing the filming (and taking stills, too)- even the little ones as the perspectives are interesting to say the least!

Then you can edit the clips and photos into a fun family movie.

If you have an iPhone you can throw the clips into a new album and have your phone make the movie, which is the fasted option.

You can also use iMovie or other film editing apps to create a movie complete with music, effects, and text.

As the years go by, it will be fun to look back and remember what a fun day you had, and how you lived at that time.

11. Dance Party

Make a playlist with everyone’s favorite songs and have big dance party!

Go crazy and have fun just shaking out all your troubles. You will get a great workout for it, too!

Feeling especially bold? Try an online dance class and learn a routine as a family. Just search for things like “beginner’s hip hop class” or ballet, or tap, or salsa, etc.

If you practice enough, you could film your family and become the next internet sensation!

12. Exercise!

Exercise may not sound like a fun family day, but it’s so important for us as parents to stay healthy to keep up with our kids and instill in them the importance of keeping our bodies healthy.

Pilates and Yoga are fantastic ways to help with flexibility and fitness.

Start with beginner positions, and practice daily until everyone is super comfortable with learning gradually more complex positions.

Olivia is three and absolutely loves doing “Tree” pose and showing off her balancing skills. She loves the novelty of doing things on my yoga mat.

Hopefully, as things open back up, classes like the family yoga class at the National Trust’s Quarry Bank will return.

If you want a fun exercise class and are in the North West, Mama Fit offers a Family Fit class where the entire family can come along for a fun workout. You can even download the app for FREE workouts you can do at home!

Other ways to sneak in exercise is a trip to Inflata Nation. If you have older kids an outing to be Ninja Warriors will be a fun challenge as well.

If you can’t get out of the house at the minute, Sky has a free fitness channel and Cbeebies has Oti’s Boogie Beebies which is great for families with toddlers, and there’s always YouTube.

13. Picnic

This can be indoor or outdoor, depending on the weather. Pack up some food, drinks, snacks, pillows, and blankets. Then set up a nice little picnic spot in your house or back garden!

Picnics are always a lot of fun and much more relaxing than a typical formal meal at a table.

This easily combines with pizza and a movie day, too.

If the weather is nice and you can get out of the house, National Trust sites are amazing places to picnic. Many have designated areas, and most have beautiful gardens with wide expanses of green grass, perfect for picnics.

If you don’t have a family membership, yet, it’s well worth the investment!

14. Make Cards or Write Letters

There’s something special about getting something in the mail-aside from bills!

Writing a letter to family members like grandparents or cousins is a fun way to keep in touch and bring a smile to their face.

Finding someone to become pen pals with can also be fun, especially if you are learning another language. You can find someone learning English and practice. (This might be better over email though).

Letters and cards can mean so much to elderly in nursing homes and troops overseas. Make some handmade cards with happy messages, write some kind letters, or send post cards from a recent trip to senior homes and military bases.

This is a wonderful way to boost morale and spread love to people who may be lonely and discouraged.

15. Fashion Show

Let the kids try on some old clothes from your closet, and make the craziest outfits they can think of.

Then, the parents can pretend to be fashion show judges and score everyone’s costumes.

The judges can even have their own eccentric outfits on for extra fun!

16. Silly Talk Time

Creating a safe space for your kids to talk to you can start with something as simple as silly discussions.

Using Mad Libs to create silly stories as a family can lead to a lot of fun banter at the end of each round.

Try Would You Rather?

It’s a small book with ridiculous either, or choices you have to make. Tons of fun to be had discussing the pros and cons of each option and why each person picked what they did.

You may be feeling creative by then and make up your own.

(Opening up lines of communication whether silly like this or casual discussions during a meal will make your kids more comfortable telling you the serious stuff, too, as you’ve already created that safe, loving open communication).

17. Tie Dye

Tie dye is a lot of fun, and is also a great outlet for creativity! You can tie dye just about any article of clothing, and there are a million ways to tie and dye them!

You can even use fruits, vegetables, herbs and other natural ingredients to use for the dye keeping the process non-toxic and better for the environment.

Once they are all finished, you will have a great memory every time you wear whatever you made!

Check out Rebecca Desnos ebook for getting the right colours using natural dyes.

18. Learn To Sew

Sewing is a skill that everyone should know because it comes in handy at some point in your life.

Just knowing how to sew on a button can be the difference between a wardrobe malfunction and a quick fix with no fuss.

Basic stitches are also good to know in any future fashion emergencies or for making your clothes last longer by being able to do things like darn socks.

Once you and your family have the basics, you can easily create stuffed toys out of old socks and tee shirts, doll clothes, and even upcycle old clothes into more trendy styles.

You may even find yourselves dabbling in altering or refashioning charity shop finds or making your own unique, fancy dress costumes.

YouTube is brilliant for finding basic, easy-to-follow videos.

19. Build Models

Order a model airplane, building, car, etc. and build it together as a family.

There are also amazing STEM kits out there where your family can learn basic coding and create functioning robots, catapults, etc.

Model building is an awesome way to learn about how things go together, how to work together as a team, and valuable skills for school.

20. Check Out Old Photo Albums and Make New Ones

Learning about family history is a great way to keep memories and traditions alive.

Great grandma’s sugo recipe will mean that much more if your kids have a face to place with the stories.

Pictures are worth a thousand words, and they also preserve the memories of the past.

Take it to the next level and go through unappreciated photos that are probably sitting on your phone. Go through them as a family maybe a year at a time or a particular holiday and pick out your favourites. If more than one family member has photos of the day, share them all.

Once you have the best ones picked out, easily turn them into an album at Snapfish that you or future generations can flip through and see your story and memories. (Free up space on your devices, too)!

21. Make a Scrap Book

If you want to go beyond a family photo album, make a family scrapbook.

This is fun for capturing holidays where you may have not only photos, but tickets, bus passes, maps, theatre programs, etc.

Putting them all into one place adds more details to your family’s story than photos alone.

It’s also a fun way to document the past for future generations.

22. Life Sized Drawings

Piece together empty, flattened boxes, or the packing paper from Amazon and have someone lay down on it. Then you can trace around their body so you have a template.

Once that is done, everyone can work together to fill in the template with clothes, facial features, jewellry, shoes, etc., and make a life-sized drawing of the family member!

You can then cut it out and if that family member is ever out during a family meal or other family even, you can seat the cutout in his or her place, which is sure to get a laugh.

You can do this outdoors with chalk as well, which could easily freak your neighbours out depending what and where you draw!

23. Karaoke

Karaoke is a familiy activity that is sure to get lots of laughs.

Choose songs that everyone knows or has at least heard. Take turns, or try singing in duets and trios.

You can even hold a contest for silliest song/voice combo.

Bonus points for adding an interpretive dance!

24. Go for a Walk and Become Nature Explorers

Search for four leaf clovers. Four leaf clovers are rare so this can be a nice, relaxing, yet, time consuming activity.

If someone is lucky enough to find one, even better! You can also look for things like spider webs, buttercups, daisies, dandelions, worms, bugs, etc.

Bring along some binoculars to spot some birds or their nests!

If you have dice or some index cards you can put a different colour on each side and take turns rolling the die or drawing a card. Whatever colour is picked, that’s the colour everyone has to look for in nature.

Take a break to lay in a field and watch the clouds go by. What shapes does everyone see?

Use your senses to look for shapes, listen for sounds, notice smells, feel the grass or notice the ground beneath your feet. If you happen upon a café or chip shop, feel free to explore taste, too!

Make the walk the highlight and not the destination.

25. Make A Critter House

A typical birdhouse can be a home for lots of animals besides birds!

Chipmunks, squirrels, mice, and other small mammals can also make their homes in birdhouses.

This is a great way to keep these little guys warm and sheltered in the rain or cold that may be coming up where you live.

If you don’t have the supplies, there are some lovely kits that can be easily assembled and decorated online.

You can make a simple bird feeder with items around the house as well.

Your family will begin to notice your garden coming to life as well as give critters a safe haven from bad weather.

26. Play In The Rain

Rain is usually an excuse to stay indoors, but you can have a lot of fun stomping in puddles and playing in the mud.

Grab some wellies, rain gear, and an umbrella and enjoy.

If you are out and about, be sure to have a spare set of clothes for everyone.

If you are at home, finishing off with cups of tea and hot chocolate is a relaxing way to dry off and warm up!

Feel free to create your own family rendeition of Singing in the Rain!

Just make sure there is no lightning.

27. Scavenger Hunt

Scavenger hunts are a fun way to get the brain to pay attention and be mindful of it’s surroundings as well as getting bodies moving.

It does require a little advance planning on the parents’ part but there are so many ways to set up a scavenger hunt.

You can theme it by color, size, room, and more! Set a time limit if you have older kids; and make sure if you have younger kids, that they can have fun by making it simple enough for them or teaming them up with older kids and adults.

Working in teams like kids vs. adults makes things more fun as well.

28. Paint Rocks

Have everyone find a cool rock outside. Then paint pictures on the rock or paint them to look like an object or animal. For example, a lumpy rock might be shaped like a toad so, you can paint legs and eyes and spots on it to make it look like a real toad!

Take your rocks to the park and hide them for others to find and appreciate.

29. Volunteering

Volunteering is so underrated given that it gives you the same kind of dopamine rush as shopping!

Volunteering is a great way to bring joy to your family without spending money on things you don’t need but get out of boredom. (You won’t have the after-purchase let down and buyer’s remorse either)!

Sit down together and decide on a cause you would like to support from working at a foodbank, helping at a Special Olympics event, or doing a beach clean up there are so many opportunities to do something positive for your community.

30. Quiet Time

Kids (and adults) can benefit from having down time. When life is too go, go, go it can lead to burnout. You wind up with kids (and adults) that are overly stressed or anxious, which is the last thing we want to cause.

Quiet time is an opportunity for the kids to think, play by themselves, and give mom and dad a break to do the same!

Make it a break from screens as well.

Here are a few ideas to try for quiet time:

Puzzles

Word search

Reading

Daydreaming

Listening to music on headphones

Laying outside and looking for shapes in the clouds

The idea is to do these activities as a family and not just something to send the kids off to do. One of the reasons many of us strive for a simpler lifestyle is so we can have more time with the people that matter, doing things to make memories to last a lifetime.

 Just be creative and have fun with it, and it will be a wonderful thirty days (not necessarily in a row) of affordable, family activities the whole family will love-and more importantly-remember!

The 14 Best Zero Waste Sunscreens in the UK for You and Your Family

zero waste sunscreen uk, plastic free sunscreen UK, sustainable sunscreen UK

With warm weather and sunshine making regular appearances, the call to be a part of it is a strong one. Olivia and Penny regularly run outside to play and end up in their birthday suits playing with the hose pipe and paddling pool.

As a parent you want to make sure the sunscreen ingredients are safe for your family and the environment. Even better if you can find a plastic-free sunscreen.

So, whether you are getting some Vitamin D at home or at the holiday destination of your choosing, having the right sunscreen can make or break your time outdoors.

While many of the sunscreens below have do contain plastic, often it is plant-based plastic. Not perfect but definitely greenish.

I think in terms of balancing what’s best for the planet, the chemicals not going into the ocean do more to protect the ocean than whether or not the packaging is plastic. It’s only a small piece of the total impact. 

So without further ado. My favourite sustainable sunscreens in the UK. 

Quick Links to Eco-Friendly Sunscreens

Best Eco-Friendly Sunscreens for the Whole Family

1. Shade

2. We Love the Planet

3. Suntribe

4. Odylique

5. Green People

6. Organii

7. Amazinc

Eco-Friendly Children’s Sunscreens

8. Naif

9. Attitude

10. Badger

11. Green People

Eco-Friendly Sunscreen for Your Face

12. Madara

13. Organii

14. Suntribe

Bonus! SPF Lip Balms

15. Lavera

16. Hurraw

Bonus! Zero Waste Fake Tan!

1. Green People

2. Tan Organic

3. Madara

Recommended Eco-Friendly Sunscreens

So, I have been scouring the internet so you don’t have to in search of environmentally friendly, skin friendly sunscreens. While some check more boxes than others, these are a good selection that will be safe for you, your family and represent the most sustainable options for the environment.

All Over Sunscreens

1. Shade

The Good: No Plastic! Locally Made in the U.K. No animal testing. No palm oil. Non-Nano. Reef Safe. Only four ingredients. Available in SPF 25 and SPF 50.

The “Bad”: Uses beeswax so not vegan friendly, but it is sustainably sourced.

The Verdict: This is a great sunscreen to grab as the benefits make this the all-around winner for contents and packaging. It is also safe for the whole family to use and safe for the oceans.

Definitely recommend this one!

plastic free sunscreen uk, zero waste sunscreen uk

2. We Love the Planet Natural Sunscreen Stick SPF 30

The Good: No Plastic! SPF 30, UVA and UVB protection, Reef Safe, Vegan, Eco Control label, No Animal Testing

The “Bad”: Stick Application, Nano. I looked up the Eco Control certification as this was one I have not heard of and the website is very vague, claiming they have no own standards but do mention sustainable practices and recycling, but not fair trade practices.

The Verdict: If the stick application doesn’t bother you then that’s not an issue. The ease of recycling the packaging is a plus. I think an email asking for more transparency is in order ([email protected]) because other than that this company seems to be a good one. The nano is a bummer as it may be reef safe, but it’s not safe for the marine life.

Plastic free sunscreen uk, zero waste sunscreen uk

3. Suntribe Body SPF 30

The Good: SPF 30, Broad Spectrum, Reef Safe, Non-Nano, Organic, EcoCert or COSMOS certifications, No Animal Testing, and Cruelty Free, Cane Sugar Plastic that can be put into the recycling bin.

The “Bad”: Not Vegan because of the beeswax.

The Verdict: Just an all-around good company and sunscreen.

Happy to recommend this product.

Reef Safe sunscreen uk

4. Odylique Natural Sunscreen SPF 30

The Good: SPF 30, Broad Spectrum, Soil Association Organic, No Palm Oil, Fair Trade Certified, UK Made, No Animal Testing, Reef Safe and Purchases Include Charitable Donations, Spreads easily without whitening, Effective Immediately

The “Bad”: Unclear if it is Non-Nano, Plastic Tubes

The Verdict: Everything on the inside is good stuff, and Odylique’s fair trade certs and organic ingredients make it a great company to purchase from. Use the Terracycle drop-off points to recycle the plastic tube.

Reef Safe sunscreen UK, Zero Waste Sunscreen UK

5. Green People Scent Free Sun Lotion SPF 30

The Good: SPF 30 for sensitive skin, protects against UVA and UVBs, organic, sustainable palm oil, Made in the UK, Ethical Practices, Purchases Include Charitable Donations, and Cruelty Free.

Green People is known for their natural ingredients and their sunscreens will also nourish your skin while protecting it without a greasy feel.

The “Bad”: Nano Titanium Dioxide, Plastic Tube, Not Vegan (beeswax)

The Verdict: Because it’s a lotion the risk of inhaling the nano particles are slim. Use the Terracycle drop-off points to recycle the plastic tube.

Reef Safe Sunscreen UK

6. Organii Sun Cream SPF 30

The Good: SPF 30, Protects against UVA and UVBs, Organic, No Animal Testing, Vegan, Sustainable Palm Oil, Non-Nano, ICEA certification (Italy’s ethical and environmental certification)

The “Bad”: The Plastic Tube

The Verdict: Everything on the inside is great for protecting your skin and the environment. Use the Terracycle drop-off points to recycle the plastic tube.

Sustainable Sunscreen UK, Reef Safe sunscreen UK

7. Amazinc Mineral Sun Lotion SPF 50

The Good: SPF 50, Non-Nano, Vegan, Sustainably Sourced Ingredients, Plastic Free Aluminium Packaging.

The “Bad”: This sunscreen uses almond oil so if you or a family member have a nut allergy, you’ll want to skip this one.

The Verdict: If you have crazy sensitive skin or are at higher altitudes where the atmosphere is thinner then this is the way to go. Beware that Amazinc has other sunscreens but they contain bees wax and lanolin (a derivative from sheep’s skin, so not vegan).

plastic free sunscreen uk, eco friendly sunscreen uk

Sunscreens for Kids

8. NAÏF Baby Protecting Sunscreen SPF 50

The Good: SPF 50, Protects against UVA and UVB, Vegan, Cane Sugar Plastic Tube that can go in the recycle bin (without the lid), Sustainable Palm Oil, Non-Nano, No White Residue

The “Bad”: No Information about any fair trade practices or certifications.

The Verdict: High protection sunscreen that is good for the oceans. Packaging created without petroleum using residual waste from sugar cane production that can be recycled easily (Without the lid).

Reef Safe sunscreen UK, safe sunscreen for kids UK

9. Attitude Baby & Kids 100% Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30

The Good: SPF 30, Broadspectrum, Non-Nano, Reef Safe, Vegan, No Animal Testing, Clear Application, Ecologo Certification (meets strict Canadian environmental standards from Production to disposal), partnered with the Eden Reforestation and One Tree Planted to plant trees with every product purchased.

The “Bad”: No mention of fair trade practices, Plastic Tube.

The Verdict: Safe product for the kids, the plastic will need to be recycled at a Terracycle drop off point.

sustainable kids sunscreen uk, safe sunscreen for kids uk

10. Badger Sunscreen for Kids SPF 30

The Good: SPF 30, UVA and UVB protection, Non-Nano, Reef Safe, Organic, No Palm Oil, Cruelty Free, Certified B Corporation.

The “Bad”: Made in the USA so a larger carbon footprint in transportation, Plastic Tube, Contains Beeswax so not Vegan.

The Verdict: Excellent, safe sunscreen for the kids as well as being safe for the oceans and ethical business practices. Beeswax isn’t an issue for non-vegans. The plastic will need to be recycled at a Terracycle drop off point.

kids sunscreen uk, safe sunscreen for kids UK

11. Green People No Scent Children’s Sun Lotion SPF 30

The Good: SPF 30 for sensitive skin, protects against UVA and UVBs, organic, sustainable palm oil, Made in the UK, Ethical Practices, purchases include charitable donations, and Cruelty Free. The price point on Green People’s suncare is really reasonable, too.

The “Bad”: Nano Titanium Dioxide, Plastic Tube

The Verdict: A lovely sensitive sunscreen for your kids. Because it’s a lotion the risk of inhaling the nano particles are slim, but it’s not good for the marine life in the oceans. The plastic will need to be recycled at a Terracycle drop off point.

kids sunscreen UK, safe kids sunscreen uk

Sunscreens For Your Face

12. Madara Plant Stem Cell Age Protecting Sunscreen Face SPF 30

The Good: SPF 30, Broad Spectrum, No White Residue, Organic, EcoCert, Anti-Aging ingredients included, Offers Factory Tours to Keep Things Transparent.

The “Bad”: Plastic Tube, Not Vegan because of the Beeswax

The Verdict: A good sunscreen for your face. The plastic will need to be recycled at a Terracycle drop off point.

Daily Face Sunscreen UK

13.Organii SPF 15 Anti-Aging Facial Sun Cream

The Good: SPF 15, UVA and UVB protection, Non-Nano, Organic, Vegan, No Animal Testing, Sustainable Palm Oil, ICEA certified

The “Bad”: The Plastic Tube

The Verdict: Great sunscreen for every day use. The plastic will need to be recycled at a Terracycle drop off point.

Daily Face Sunscreen UK

14. Suntribe Organic Day Cream

The Good: SPF 20, Broad Spectrum, Reef Safe, Non-Nano, Organic, EcoCert or COSMOS certifications, No Animal Testing, and Cruelty Free, Vegan, Non-Oily for your Face, Aluminium Tube!

The “Bad”: Hmmmm…..

The Verdict: This is a winner. Plastic-Free and a safe product for your face. What’s not to like?

Plastic Free Face Sunscreen UK, Zero Waste Face sunscreen UK

Lip Balms with SPF Protection

Finding an SPF Lip Balm in sustainable packaging and even just sustainable ingredients is tough.

From what I have seen, it doesn’t exist.

You either have a really great product and company in plastic, or a handmade product in tin or paper board, but no way of knowing where the ingredients are sourced from and no certifications for the SPF. Ugh.

There are plenty of regular lip balms available without the plastic they are just also without the SPF.

1. Lavera Organic Sun Care Lip Balm SPF 10

The Good: Organic, Sustainable Palm Oil, Vegan, No Animal Testing, Reef Safe

The “Bad”: The Plastic, Unclear if it’s Non-Nano, SPF 10

The Verdict: The SPF being only 10 doesn’t meet the FDA minimum recommendation of 15, but some protection is better than none and the plastic is just unavoidable if you want products that are organic and sustainably sourced. That is the balancing act when reducing your waste, hence green-ish.

Reef Safe lip balm

2. Hurraw SPF 15 Lip Balm

The Good: SPF 15, Non-Nano, Reef Safe ingredients, Organic, Cruelty Free, EcoCert, Vegan, practice Fair Trade independently as opposed to paying the Fair Trade Certification body.

The “Bad”: Made in the USA so larger carbon footprint for shipping, Plastic Tube

The Verdict: When the materials are available the company uses recycled materials for the tubes, they are continuing to look for solutions. Overall best available lip balm with sunscreen.

Reef Safe SPF Lip Balm

What do I need to look for in a sunscreen?

There are so many variables that finding a sustainable sunscreen that ticks all the boxes is not easy, so let’s break down what you need to know.

UVAs and UVBs

UV rays are the suns Ultra Violet rays from the sun and are measured by their wavelengths.

UVAs have the longest wavelengths and are not absorbed by the ozone layer. UVAs can also travel through clouds and windows. These are the rays that not only lead to signs of early aging like leathery skin, brown spots, and wrinkles.

UVBs have a medium wavelength and only 5% get through the atmosphere down to the ground. UVBs don’t travel through clouds, however UVB is the one most likely to cause your sunburn. UVBs are also responsible for Vitamin D production.

You may have heard of UVCs, but luckily UVCs have a short length and for us are a non-issue because the atmosphere stops them from getting to the ground.

When looking for sunscreen you will want it to protect against both UVAs and UVBs which is often labelled as Broad Spectrum.

Reef Safe

We want to protect our skin but it shouldn’t cost the environment to do it, so we also need to look for reef safe sunscreens.

In the US, the states of Hawaii and Florida have banned the sale of over the counter sunscreens that contain oxybenzone, octinoxate. It’s worth mentioning that octocrylene (which may be found in “reef safe” sunscreens) is not safe for marine creatures. The first two chemicals cause coral bleaching and can lead to the eventual death of the coral while the third has been found at detectable levels in fish and can cause liver and brain damage in zebrafish.

Coral is important for it’s biodiversity providing food and shelter for many species below the water. For us humans they provide the first line of defence against hurricanes, floods, tsunamis, and typhoons.

As global warming creates stronger storms every year, not having coral reefs can make the consequences even more devastating for the people living on the coasts. Not to mention losing the fish that live in the coral will work it’s way up to threaten our food supply.

So what can you use?

Look for zinc-oxide or titanium dioxide as the active ingredient.

Nano vs. Non Nano

Nano is short for nanoparticles and refers to the size of the particles in ingredients for the things like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide in sunscreen.

The issue is that nanoparticles are small enough to be inhaled which according to EWG can have negative effects on a person’s lungs when inhaled in large quantities.

Non-Nano means that the particles are 100 nanometers or more and less likely to be inhaled and not found to affect marine creatures.

A UC Davis study found that small amounts of nano particles from zinc in sunscreens and copper in boat paint can both lead to (in the study) sea urchin embryos not being able to eat or develop.

Why is this important? Small sea creatures are food for larger sea creatures that are potentially our food. No more food for our food means no more food for us. Even more importantly, the ocean represents a larger carbon-sink than even the Amazon rainforest. If we don’t protect the oceans, there is no way we can stop or slow climate change.

So, look for non-nano and avoid spray sunscreens to prevent inhalation issues.

What’s the Difference Between Sunscreen and Sunblock?

Sunscreens are chemicals that get absorbed into the skin for sun protection. They include the chemicals being banned from Hawaii and Florida as well as avobenzone and para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA).

Sunblocks are minerals that sit on top of the skin forming a barrier from the suns rays and are commonly known as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. The mineral sunscreens recommended would technically be sunblocks.

Rating Systems

There are two rating systems for sunscreens. The most well-known ratings the SPF rating, which seems to be universal, and the UVA star rating which won’t be really useful for us. (I’ll explain why in a moment).

SPF means Sun Protection Factor and the numbers refer to the amount of UVB rays being blocked.

According to Altruist’s website SPF 15 blocks 93% or UVBs, SPF 30 blocks 96.7% and SPF 50 blocks 98.3%.

SPF 30 is plenty for most.

The star rating for UVAs is a system developed by Boots’ chemists. That means only the product lines they carry or their own brands are allowed to use the rating. This means that independent, smaller brands will not have a star rating.

UVAs have a star rating based on 5 stars. 4 or 5 stars would be considered a good UVA rating. If the sunscreen you selected doesn’t have a star rating, make sure it says Broad Spectrum which would include protection against both UVAs and UVBs.

A 4 or 5 star SPF 30 would be a good sunscreen. The only time you would need higher SPF would be is you have incredibly sun sensitive skin (in which case you should be using a mineral-based sunscreen anyway) or you are at higher altitudes where the atmosphere is thinner.

Our Considerations for Sustainable Sunscreens

In our efforts to be as environmentally friendly as possible there are other things to look out for.

Is the company part of the Fair Trade Foundation or a certified B Corporation that makes sure workers are getting fair pay, treatment, and safety measures provided?

Are the active ingredients reef-safe and Non-Nano?

Is the product using sustainable, organic materials?

Is the product cruelty free and vegetarian/vegan?

Is the packaging available plastic-free?

Is it locally made to cut down on the carbon footprint from shipping?

Is all of this even possible in one product????

Yes, or very close to it!

How to apply your sunscreen

The typical adult needs about 36 grams of sunscreen to adequately cover their body and a teaspoon for your face. Think a shot glass full of sunscreen. Have someone help with hard to reach places on your back and don’t forget your scalp and ears.

Apply 15-30 minutes before you go into the sun to give the sunscreen time to start working.

Reapply your sunscreen every 90 minutes or so and whenever you exit the water and towel dry yourself. Water resistant is not waterproof so be sure to reapply after extended periods in the water or if you have been sweating.

What should I do with leftover sunscreen?

Sunscreen generally has a shelf life of a year, so If you buy your sunscreen at the beginning of summer, you will need more next summer. (I know, obviously). But if you get to the end of summer and have sunscreen left over, don’t let it go to waste.

The sunscreens above contain oils and butters aside from the mineral protection of the sunscreen. Why not try using it as a foot moisturiser for those cracked heels in the wintertime? Pop it in your bag and use it as a hand cream.

If your sunscreen is in a metal tin, look for ways to reuse the tin before you recycle it. Keeping one handy to store jewellry in for traveling is one idea to reuse the tin. You can use it for storing the buttons that come with your clothing, paper clips or other small office supplies. They are also perfect for storing homemade deodorant.

Aluminium bottles can be easily recycled, but don’t just discard the plastic tubes either. If your sunscreen is in a squeezy plastic tube, they can be recycled through the Garnier’s Terracycle Scheme. They accept any brand of personal care products including sunscreen tubes, just click to find a drop off location near you.

After Sun Care

When you are done with the sun, take a cool shower. UVBs continue tanning your skin even after you have gone in for the day. The cool rinse will help stop the process.

Drink plenty of water to rehydrate and make sure to moisturise your skin.

If you have found that you have burned take the following steps to prevent any further damage.

According to the NHS website, if you end up with a mild sunburn (aka no blisters) you’ll want to rinse of with a cool shower so you don’t get too cold. Use an alcohol-free aloe vera gel. Drink plenty of water and take paracetamol for pain. If you have burned you will want to avoid the sun for at least a week to prevent the burn from getting worse.

Eco-Friendly Fake Tans

Believe it or not there are options for a fake tan without the chemicals!

1. Green People have a gradual tanning moisturiser to build up your tan gradually without the UV exposure.

2. Tan Organic Self-Tanning Oil gives a quick bronzed look and can be used on your face! No applicator gloves necessary.

3. Madara Fake It Natural Look Suntan Milk needs an applicator glove, but it’s full of lovely ingredients that are good for your skin.

You can always go DIY and mix some bronzing powder with some lotion or sunscreen if you need something quick for a day out or wedding. Rub it on and let it dry. It will act like makeup and can rub off on clothes, but it washes off easily enough.

Not Perfect, but Going in the Right Direction

While the perfect sunscreen combination of sustainable packaging, ethical practices and planet-friendly ingredients that provide the best protection and absorb the way we want may not quite exist (yet). But hopefully you will agree that this list represents a good set of options in the meantime. If you discover products worth mentioning based on our criteria above, please feel free to share in the comments below.