10 Easy Ways to Lower Your Family’s Environmental Impact

Family in front of their house

We often use Earth Day as an annual check in on our environmental impact. So, how are you doing? What are you doing right, and what would you like to change? Here are a few areas where you can lower from family’s environmental impact.

1. Choose Energy-efficient Transportation
One of the biggest changes we can make is how we move ourselves around. Use public transportation when you can. Buy a car that uses energy efficiently. Travel long distances by plane seldom. With technology available for long-distance meetings, it’s less important to travel as much. This makes a big difference.

2. Use Home Energy Wisely
Start by using energy wisely. These are the common pieces of advice you hear: don’t use lights in the daytime, don’t leave appliances plugged in, etc. Each of these baby steps is a good start. It also makes a bigger difference when you choose energy-efficient appliances when it is time to replace.

3. Buy Renewable Energy
Another step you can take is to buy renewable energy. My family pays for wind energy, which is an option with our power company. Even better, you could install solar panels. Small systems can work really well for a family. Once you start, you might be ready for bigger steps.

4. Choose Cleaning Solutions Carefully
When buying solutions as home cleaners or body cleaners, look at ingredients. Without realizing it, we use a lot of chemicals that have health impacts on us personally and on the wider environment. To start, you have great resources available. In addition to the Skin Deep database for cosmetics that we mention often, EWG (Environmental Working Group) has a database of home cleaning products. Check those you buy regularly. If you don’t like their score, choose another.

5. Save Paper
We don’t always notice our paper use. Tissues, toilet paper, paper towels, stacks of printed paper. So, notice! Replace paper towels with reusable towels. Few people are willing to talk about it, but it’s not so difficult to replace toilet paper with washable family wipes. Use paper wisely in your home office as well. Print only what you need to keep, use both sides of the paper, and recycle when you are done.

6. Eat Real Food
Make your meals from real, whole ingredients rather than from processed food-like substances. Obviously, this is a good choice for your health, but it is also a better choice for the environment.

7. Organic Can Matter
Disappointed as I am with organic mega systems being co-opted by corporations and the real impact of organic being gutted in favor of lesser standards, I still worry more at the non-organic options for some foods and fibers. I worry about what is happening in the fields when more chemicals by weight are poured into cotton production than cotton comes out. I worry that pesticides outlawed decades ago still show up in our foods now. Keeping fields clean matters. Know the Dirty Dozen, and always buy those organic.

8. Choose Clean Water
For environmental impact, don’t buy bottled water, but for health impact, don’t drink unfiltered water unless you know exactly what is in your local water. When you do use water, use it wisely. Start by not wasting water—turning off the tap when you brush your teeth, for example—then move on to looking at ways to save more water through water-wise plumbing.

9. Plant for Your Climate
Plant what grows well in your area. That means no lawn in the desert and no tropical fruits in Ontario. By matching your yard and garden to your climate, you ensure that you need less water and fewer chemical inputs to keep your surroundings flourishing.

10. Low-impact House
If you haven’t bought or built a house yet, you have an opportunity to make choices that will have a big impact on your impact. Don’t buy more space than you need. Don’t buy a house covered in vinyl siding. Look for a house that is specifically designed to be low impact through placement of windows, use of materials, and use of lighting and appliances. If you already live in the house you want to stay in, you can make changes gradually, like adding more insulation to save energy on home heating and cooling.

In all areas of your family’s environmental impact, start where you are. Baby steps make small differences, but they also prepare you for bigger steps. When you see how easy it is to make changes, maybe you’ll be ready for the leaps that make a big difference.

Read on:

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10 Easy Ways to Lower Your Environmental Impact When Having a Baby

Parents with baby shoes

Having children creates environmental impact. Even as environmentalists and eco-families, many of us have children anyway. If you are concerned about that, consider these 10 easy ways to lower your impact when you have a baby.

1. Stuff
Become STUFF AWARE. Especially if you haven’t had a baby or been around a friend or family member having a baby before, you won’t know how much of what you are told you need is really needed. The answer: not much. You don’t need all of that stuff on the baby lists. We’ve written about cutting down on baby bstuff to save money, but you also save on environmental impact when you acquire less. Only buy what you need, and even then look for the lower impact stuff.

2. Breastfeed
When you breastfeed, you shorten the chain. You eat food, you make milk, and your baby drinks the milk. No manufacturing, packaging, shipping, selling, or trash to throw away. Breastfeeding is not just good for you and your baby; breastfeeding is good for society.

3. Reusable Diapers
Rather than putting 3,000-4,000 disposable diapers of any material in landfill, wash and reuse a few dozen diapers of any material. You use water, detergent, and energy to wash and dry, but you don’t cause the repetition of extraction-manufacture-shipping thousands of times. To lower impact even further, choose materials carefully, wash warm rather than hot, choose low-impact detergents, and air dry.

4. No (or Few) Diapers
By using the method of infant pottying (elimination communication or diaper-free babies), you use even fewer diapers. You might use more water and cloths for clean up, because accidents will happen, but water is a renewable resource—unlike oil and gas that go into the plastics used to make disposable diapers. Even this choice doesn’t need to be all or nothing. When you follow your baby’s cues, you will probably find yourself doing this naturally.

5. Used Clothing
Buy clothing at a thrift store or consignment store. Babies and children grow so fast. It can be expensive to buy new clothes, but that expense is only one issue. Those clothes that are worn for only a few months have impact where the materials are grown or extracted, where they are manufactured and shipped, and where they are sold. Share great clothes with other parents by passing them around, or buy used.

6. Natural Body Care
One thing you probably will need is a gentle soap for baby baths and perhaps cream or lotion for skin care. Cosmetics often hide nasty chemical ingredients, but you have a lot of choices for baby cream, lotion, soap, and shampoo with all-natural ingredients.

7. Library
If you are like me, you read a lot to learn about new adventures, like having a baby. I had books on pregnancy, on baby care, on parenting, and on and on. Rather than buying every book new and leaving it on the shelf after reading, use your local library. If you don’t see all of the books you are looking for, talk to the librarian about getting them. The process will probably take a while, but you are starting a positive ripple in your community of having these books available for others.

8. Low Tech
Gadgets are certainly available. I see crazy new baby gadgets every year at baby trade shows. You don’t need a plug-in wipes warmer, a baby monitor, a sock that continually takes your baby’s vital signs, or a mechanical arm that feeds your baby a bottle. All of those gadgets are used for a short time then they become waste. They use materials and energy that wasn’t really necessary. Maybe you need a gadget here or there, but you don’t need them all.

9. Good Wood
If you choose to buy baby furniture, like a cradle or a changing table, look for FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certification, which tells you that the wood comes from a forest that was managed according to best practices environmentally and socially.

10. Plant a Tree
It isn’t just that a tree can absorb more than a ton of carbon dioxide over its lifetime. Your child will really connect with a tree that was planted at their birth. This tree could become the place where you sit together to talk about their impact on the world. A tree has physical and psychological impact.

Keep in mind, too, that having a child in North America does not have the same impact as in other areas of the world. We use more resources, so having a baby here means a bigger environmental impact. A study out of Oregon State University in 2009 on family planning and environmental impact made the rounds of environmental news that year. The statistical study looked at the impact of having children as compared to efforts to reduce impact through small steps that many of us take. When you look at the numbers, it is clear that having a baby in a high-impact country makes a big difference.

By being conscious of the choices you make and the impacts both now and over time, you can make choices that will significantly lower the impact your baby has on the environment.

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Baby Carrier Safety

Baby Carrier Safety

 

Your baby belongs close to you. Babywearing keeps your baby close enough to kiss. We find, though, that a lot of parents start with concerns about the safety of babywearing and baby carriers.

Parents are right to be concerned. Babywearing is safe when done right with a safe carrier, but not all carriers are equal.

Baby Carrier Safety

Until quite recently, every parent had to rely on baby carrier manufacturers themselves to make safe products without any basic standards to guide them. It was manufacturers themselves who sought standards, and they now have clear, strict standards for making baby carriers as well as clear guidelines for parents to be sure that they use baby carriers safely. An international alliance of baby carrier manufacturers, store owners, and babywearing educators all join together in one organization that oversees baby carrier safety: the Baby Carrier Industry Alliance (BCIA).

Basic Babywearing Guidelines

Always keep in mind a few basic guidelines:

  • Holding position. Keep your baby in a position you would hold them in arms. Using a carrier mimics holding your baby.
  • Close enough to kiss. Unlike a should bag, your baby shouldn’t be hanging low. Keep the baby up high as you would hold them without a carrier.
  • Face visible. You need to be able to see you baby’s face at all times without skin, fabric, or anything else in the way.
  • Head and neck supported. This is very important. Proper support keeps your baby’s airway from restricting.

Wearing your baby safely is a skill you need to learn. Basic guidelines help, but they aren’t enough. This is why bynature.ca staff are Certified Babywearing Experts, trained to help you learn the skills you need for safe use of your carrier with your baby.

Please come by the store to learn more about babywearing. We want you to be close and safe.

Babywearing Workshops

Which workshop or consultant do you need? Choose from four. If you aren’t sure, drop by or call.

Just starting out? Our Babywearing 101 workshop for new and expectant parents is a great way to prepare for your baby’s birth or learn to wear your infant under 3 months old. The workshop is about 1.5 hours. Register online or in the store.

If you already know the basics, our Better Babywearing Clinic might be for you. Every Thursday morning at 10:00AM we hold a clinic that lasts 30-45 minutes where you learn infant physiology and step-by-step instruction. Each week, we focus on a specific style of carriers, so choose the week you attend based on the style you are interested in. We will also help you try carriers before you buy them after the clinic. Register online or in the store.

If you need more help, we also provide private babywearing consultation. If you’ve already attended the Bettery Babywearing clinic, you start with a 30-minute session. Without the clinic, you will need two 30-minute sessions. Your fee can be deducted from the cost of your carrier purchased from Parenting by Nature within seven days. Register online or in the store.

If you just need your carrier fitted, we can walk you through your choices, help you get the right carrier, and give you lessons to get started. Register for the Baby Carrier Fitting Service for a 30-minute consultation. Your fee can be deducted from the cost of your carrier purchased from Parenting by Nature within seven days. Register online or in the store.

It always helps to be well informed. For more babywearing safety, see the collection of links from BCIA.