Living sustainably can be a challenge for everyone, but it’s especially challenging for new parents. Finding the right tools to help take care of your baby is already a huge amount of work, but finding eco-friendly products and sustainable ways to take care of your little one adds an additional layer of difficulty. Fortunately, we have taken the work out for you! Here are 8 easy tips to make sure that you are taking good care of the earth while you take care of your baby!
1. Cloth Diapering
Disposable diapers are detrimental to the environment. Composed almost entirely of plastic, the carbon footprint spent producing them can be massive. Between when a child is born and when they no longer require diapers, a single child can use approximately 6500 diapers in their lifetime, which requires about 1,625 quarts of oil to diaper a single child. Then there’s also the consumption of wood and water used to produce and transport the diapers. They also take centuries to biodegrade, so once they’ve been worn for a few hours, they’ll spend hundreds or thousands of years in a landfill.
By contrast, cloth diapering is much more eco-friendly. Cloth diapers can be reused many, many times, making them much easier on the environment and also a much better use of your money. While producing and washing cloth diapers do still consume natural resources, it’s much easier to use renewable resources than it is when producing disposables.
2. Natural Fiber Clothing & Bedding
Synthetic fibers can cause a lot of environmental destruction in both their production and the time they spend in a landfill. They also have a tendency to cause irritation, especially on delicate newborn baby skin. A great sustainable option is to use clothes made of natural fibers, which are more comfortable, more delicate for sensitive skin, and much more sustainable.
It’s especially valuable to choose natural fibers with fabrics your baby comes into contact with. Clothing, crib bedding, blankets, sheets, covers, toppers, and swaddles are baby products that your child will have a lot of skin contact with, so prioritize those first. Cotton and linen are two highly popular natural fabrics, but there are plenty of natural fiber options to choose from.
3. Baby Wipes
Baby wipes, made from synthetic fibers and made to be used just once, can cause a lot of environmental problems. Especially when they get stuck in pipes or incorrectly disposed of, they can wind up in bodies of water where they can be ingested by sea creatures.
One alternative option is to choose biodegradable wipes, although even these should never be flushed as they cannot biodegrade by the time they reach the ocean. While these will at least have a less significant impact on the environment as standard wipes, they can still cause environmental problems and are still single-use, causing waste. Another option is to use cloth wipes, which one simply washes and reuses the same way one would with cloth diapering. They also tend to be more comfortable for babies than the disposable kind, so if your little one gets cranky around changing time, giving cloth baby wipes a try might just do the trick!
4. Sustainable Breastfeeding & Bottle Feeding
Breastfeeding is just about the most eco-friendly way to feed your baby that you can find. With no packaging, no plastics, and no waste, your footprint when nursing is nearly zero! By contrast, formula feeding creates a lot of waste and plastic usage. However, there are still ways to minimize your impact.
Start by choosing a formula that has sustainable packaging, and ones that can be recycled after use. A 2009 study found that 550 million infant formula cans are added to landfills every year – over 86,000 tons of metal and 364,000 tons of paper. Also find ones that have minimal additives, especially oils like palm oil and fish oil, that cause additional environmental concerns. You can also look at options like milk banks, which allow parents to feed their child breast milk even when nursing at home isn’t an option.
5. Eco-friendly Cribs, Bassinets & Crib Mattresses
With as much as your little one sleeps, you want to make sure that the crib that they’re sleeping in isn’t just environmentally conscious, but also safe and secure. Unfortunately, many cribs and crib mattresses are made with toxic compounds that cause emissions of dangerous chemicals, which your infant can be exposed to as they sleep. When picking out a crib mattress for your little one, make sure to check and make sure that it will be a nontoxic crib mattress.
When picking out a baby’s crib, bassinet or pack and play, there are plenty of ways to make sure you are being more environmentally conscious, as well. Firstly, go with a convertible crib to make sure you can get as much use out of it as possible. The option to continue using it through your little one’s toddler years ensures that you will be getting the most life out of the materials possible. Also choose a natural material that’s sustainably sourced, such as real wood.
6. Eco-friendly Baby Foods & Purees
When your little baby is ready to start trying solid foods, it’s exciting for everyone! However, it’s important to make sure that the baby foods you’re picking are environmentally friendly. While the purees and foods sold in small, plastic pouches are increasing in popularity, the packaging and production of them cause a lot of waste.
The first and most environmentally friendly option is simply to make your own baby food! It’s much easier than you might think. Simply pureeing or blending a mix of a few different foods with some water or breast milk is all it takes, and it’s easy to make in larger batches. Many parents also prefer this method because they can be certain of the food’s ingredients and make sure there are no harmful additives or preservatives.
However, making your own baby food at home is not the only way to go eco-friendly. You can purchase your baby’s food at the grocery store and still take care of the earth! The best way to go is to avoid the plastic packaging and stick with food that’s packaged in glass containers. Just make sure to recycle or reuse those glass jars when you’re done! You can also look for local, plant-based baby food producers to further minimize your carbon footprint while grocery shopping for your baby.
7. Sustainable Toys
The plastic used in most children’s toys can be hugely harmful to the environment. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to get fun playthings for your little one without using lots of plastics that will sit in landfills for years. Plastic toys can also present a hazard to kids – they may contain PVC or BPA, two hazardous toxins that can harm children.
Firstly, look for toys made with biodegradable and eco-friendly materials. Wooden toys are not only super environmentally friendly, but they’re also great developmentally for encouraging healthy development. You can also look for toys that are made from recycled plastics, or made with environmentally friendly methods or natural materials. Just be sure to check that the toys don’t contain any harmful toxins or compounds.
8. Buy Second Hand Baby Products
The best way to reduce your carbon footprint is to buy fewer new baby products. Fortunately, baby care products are one of the easiest things to buy second-hand. Items like baby clothes, strollers, and swings are not needed for more than a few months to a year for a single baby, so often they’re only very gently used before they’re ready to be passed on to the next little one to use.
Before ordering a brand new baby product online, take a look through local second-hand listings or visit a local second-hand store. You can often find materials that are in fantastic condition for much cheaper than you’d find them new, all while significantly reducing your carbon footprint.