A commitment to sustainable living often necessitates sacrificing some combination of time, money, or convenience. Many people are willing to make these compromises to lessen their impact on the planet and secure the existence of future generations.
But producing those future generations creates an enormous conundrum for eco-conscious procreators: having children generates more carbon dioxide than any action you’ll take over the course of your life. That fact remains no matter how cute babies are or how emotionally fulfilling it may be to raise them. So, if you plan on taking the leap into parenthood, making smart, environmentally sound decisions is vital. Sustainable parenting requires a tricky balancing act: building the best life for your child at the least cost to our planet. It isn’t simple, few things about raising children are, but a few small tips can make it a whole lot easier.
Embrace hand me downs
This one is so obvious it should go without saying, but the rampant consumerism generated by the baby industrial complex necessitates its inclusion. Just because you may find yourself in a financial situation that allows you to fill your nursery with a brand-new version of every baby doodad on the market doesn’t mean you should. Buying stuff doesn’t equal love. If friends and family are generously offering perfectly functional toys and clothes, take them. Your baby won’t know the difference, but our planet will. Plastic takes over 1,000 years to break down and hazardous microplastics are saturating our environment. Break the cycle. This can start as soon as your baby shower.
The sustainable baby shower
You’re pregnant! People are excited! They want to throw you a party and buy you stuff! Now is the time to communicate your wishes clearly: gently used hand me downs are not only appreciated, they’re the preferred option. Some of your guests may find this request inexplicable (I’m looking at you Aunt Jackie), but that just creates a good opportunity to explain why it’s so important to you, spreading the gospel of sustainability.
For items that are necessary to buy new, registering your wish list with a retailer online and sharing it with your guests is an easy and effective way to avoid duplicate purchases.
At the shower itself, avoid single use plastics like straws and cups whenever possible. And consider skipping the gender reveal party. This cultural phenomenon reached its nadir earlier this year when a couple in California used a “smoke generating pyrotechnic device” to reveal their baby’s gender, resulting in a forest fire that burned thousands of acres of land and killed a firefighter. Believe it or not, you can just tell people it’s a boy rather than lighting off blue fireworks.
For the brave: cloth diapers
It’s time for some quick and dirty (pun intended) diaper math. A conservative estimate of daily diaper usage for a baby is four diapers per day. Let’s assume this same hypothetical baby is potty trained by the age of two. Dust off those calculators: 4 x 365 x 2 = 2,920. That’s a low-end projection of nearly three thousand disposable diapers going straight to a landfill. If you find that number disturbing, the alternative is a path many find equally distressing: cloth diapers.
There’s no way to sugar coat this: reusable diapers are a commitment, some would even say a lifestyle. The washing and drying considerations are an important factor if you’re striving for sustainability. You’re dealing with poop, so the natural inclination is to wash the diapers immediately once they’re soiled, but all those individual washes would likely offset the environmental benefits of the diapers. Best practice involves waiting for a full load of diapers before washing, then hang drying.
Many parents want to be as ready as possible when their bundle of joy arrives. They read all the books and take all the classes and buy all the gizmos for every possible situation. This is a noble and understandable pursuit, and some items are absolutely necessary from day one (a crib and car seat are a good start). But this exuberance can also lead to unnecessary purchases.
When your baby starts eating solids, making your own baby food at home rather than buying it is a great choice that reduces packaging waste. Time to buy a baby food maker from Amazon, right? Not so fast, you probably have all the necessary components currently sitting in your kitchen (i.e. a blender). The list goes on: instead of buying a bottle warmer, a bowl filled with warm water should suffice. Get creative and look for solutions at home before rushing off to the store. UppWell’s eco-friendly beauty pack contains reusable organic makeup remover pads that can also double as nursing pads. It also contains bamboo washcloths that are wonderfully soft for wiping down your baby’s sensitive skin.
In the end, making environmentally sound decisions during your little one’s early years sets a positive example and instills the importance of cherishing the planet, which is an invaluable investment in the future.