(I was recently asked to share any tips I have for raising a child in an eco-friendly way. Here you go, Mamie!)
I aim to live my life with a decreasing environmental impact. Dennis and Darren get dragged along with me in this quest so far. While it is certainly more environmentally friendly not to have any children, and therefore not increase the number of consumers and wasters on this earth, I can’t imagine anyone actually making the “how many children should we have?” decision based on that factor. It’s certainly not something WE thought about.
I think the basic approach to eco-friendly babyhood, toddlerhood, and thereafter, is hardly divergent from the approach pre-baby. With the exception of two areas, diapering and early feeding. As a super-bonus, most of the choices you can make to live life with less environmental impact also save you money. And that’s something young parents always seem to struggle with.
Tip 1: Use cloth diapers. The cheapest, least-fuss and most environmentally-friendly way to do it is to launder them yourself. Be careful of the detergent you use (something like Charlie’s Soap or Nellie’s Laundry Soap). As an added bonus, the cloth diaper-friendly detergents seem to be more environmentally friendly. It makes sense…who wants a bunch of weird unpronounceable chemicals being potentially deposited on cloth that spends a lot of time on their baby’s bottom?
Tip 2: Breastfeed. This one is a HUGE cost savings…HUGE. Formula is expensive. It produces tons of waste. If your baby will be away from mom during the day, you can still do it. Pump. (Disclaimer: I know firsthand that this is easier said than done. I fully endorse using a hospital-grade rental pump, especially in the beginning, and meeting with a well-regarded Lactation Consultant…even if you’re not having any physical problems breastfeeding.)
Tip 3: Make your own baby food. Also a HUGE cost savings. It’s super-easy to make baby food. Vegetables – steam it, puree it, add water to desired consistency. Fruit – puree it, add water to desired consistency. Meat – cook it, puree it, add water or broth to desired consistency. Then freeze into cubes, double-bag to prevent freezer burn and thaw as needed. You know EXACTLY what is going into your baby this way. Think of all the packaging you’re not wasting…
Tip 4: Eat organic, wholesome foods. This includes mom, dad and child. This is not a money-saver. Make it a priority, make it feel like it’s a charitable contribution to the Earth, think whatever you need to in order to get past the increase in your grocery bill. Buy organic grains in bulk or from bulk to reduce packaging. Make your own breads to reduce cost. Grow vegetables in your backyard. (We use the Square Foot Gardening method…it’s super-easy!)
Tip 5: Buy gear and clothing used. Oh my gosh. Babies grow out of clothing so quickly until they reach the 18-month mark or so. Don’t buy all of your clothes new. It’s insane. And gear is expensive new, but often a great deal used…baby carrier, crib (if you use one), stroller. Whatever other people don’t buy for you, buy used. Except car seats. Only buy used from a friend or relative.
Tip 6: Buy organic cotton or other renewable fabric. When you ignore Tip 5 (I did!), at least buy clothing made from organic cotton or bamboo. It’s much softer. And you can save it for many babies to come. Put only organic cotton clothes on your registry, and people will hopefully get the hint. It’s much more expensive, which will effectively make you revert to Tip 5 when you run out of the baby clothes given to you as gifts.
Tip 7: Avoid plastic toys. This is much more expensive, too, but babies, toddlers and kids don’t need dozens of toys to keep themselves entertained. They need attention and exploration. Example 1: an empty toilet paper roll is exciting if you help them see it as a megaphone or something their other toys can hide in. Example 2: Pounding on your real drum set is just as fun, probably more, as playing on a “for kids” toy drum set. And if you don’t have drums, pots and pans do the trick. Don’t see having kids as a reason that your belongings need to, or should, double in number or volume. A few heirloom-quality, well-constructed wooden toys go a long way.
Phew. This is the longest post ever. And that’s all I can think of for now.