Roaming the aisles of Babies “R” Us and loading up on things your child needs for its first months of life is lots of fun and an important part of the nesting process that helps you prepare for and welcome your baby. However, once you consider the fact that your baby will outgrow these things in a few short months, some practices of new motherhood don’t exactly feel eco-friendly. With everything your baby needs, is it possible to reduce your carbon footprint? Take it from some “green” moms who have been there: The answer is a resounding “yes.” Try these tips from real moms if you and baby are looking to go green.
Buying Gently Used Items
Why pay top dollar for that new swing when you can have last year’s model that looks almost new? While it’s hard to imagine perfectly great baby stuff ending up in a trash heap somewhere, countless items are thrown away each year. Though it’s nice to have brand-new things for your baby, chances are you can get your hands on quite a few gently used toys, pieces of equipment and outfits passed down from family or friends or buy them for a fraction of the price at your local consignment shop.
“When I was growing up, my mom saved some of my special books, toys and clothes. So when I became a mom, I had a selection of things for my baby that was perfect,” says Sarah Christie, a Philadelphia-based mom of two daughters, ages seven and 11 months, and writer of the blog Peace Love Organic Mom. “Not only is reusing these things from my childhood better for the planet, I love sharing them with my daughters and watching them create new memories.”
Using Cloth or Biodegradable Diapers
There’s no doubt about it: Disposable diapers make life much easier for today’s busy families. However, disposable diapers take 450 years to biodegrade, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Considering that the average baby will go through 8,000 diapers, that’s quite an impact. If you think it will fit your lifestyle, consider using cloth diapers, which now come in tons of cool colors and patterns and have a removable, washable insert. “We chose to use cloth diapers to reduce our carbon footprint,” says Regina Laine, mom of two sons, aged two-years and five-months, from Boston. If all that washing is too overwhelming, consider biodegradable diapers. “It’s the next best thing,” says Christie. “After searching endlessly, I eventually found the perfect brand that carried a disposable diaper. It was plant-based, biodegradable and non-toxic. Now I know that I’m lessening my environmental impact with one of the most wasteful aspects of parenthood.”
Breastfeeding is not for everyone, and no mom should ever feel guilty for not choosing this route if it doesn’t work for her lifestyle or for health reasons. Formula is a perfectly healthy way to feed your baby, but if you are able, breastfeeding is the way to go if you’re looking to lessen baby’s footprint. There’s absolutely no product required. No packaging, no transport — just you. “Because I wanted to feed my daughters in the most natural way, I chose to breastfeed,” notes Christie. “The bond this way of feeding created, as well as the immediate and long-term health benefits, cannot be replicated. I loved the special, quiet moments with my daughters each day, and the fact that breastfeeding has zero environmental impact is a huge benefit!”
Choosing All-Natural Products
Buying natural bath and cleaning products is another great way to love your baby — and Mother Earth. Not only do these products tend to be gentler and safer for babies, they’re less harsh on the air, soil and water supply they get absorbed into. “We like to use natural cleaning products,” says Laine. “It reduces our kids’ exposure to toxic substances while doing something good for the planet.” Christie adopts a similar philosophy. “Purchasing green body washes and lotions for my girls is something that has great importance to me,” she says. “Since conventional body washes and lotions are often formulated with chemicals that can be harmful to the environment and especially to a baby’s skin, I have carefully chosen brands that contain only natural ingredients — and, whenever possible, are packaged in recycled containers. I purchase green cleaning products for the same reasons.”
Jaime Budzienski has contributed to the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine, Pregnancy and Newborn Magazine and the Boston Parents Paper. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in writing, literature and publishing from Emerson College and a master’s degree in education from UMass Boston.