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.
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.
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.
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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