I recently had a baby, and my friends keep recommending all this stuff that I’m not even sure I need. Do you have any tips to be less wasteful?
If you enjoy living a sustainable lifestyle, there is no reason to stop once you have a baby! Your desire to leave the world a better place becomes even more meaningful when you have kids. Modern marketing, and maybe even other moms, might tell you that you need a lot of stuff: clothing, toys, baby products, furniture — the list goes on.
But a lot of stuff means a lot of waste. Many baby items are used for only a few months before they become outgrown or are no longer needed and disposed of. So what is an eco-conscious mom to do? Even though it can feel like an overwhelming task, there are small, but impactful, things every parent can do to leave a smaller footprint.
Ditch single-use items
As soon as your bundle of joy enters the world, all your old eco-friendly habits might seem to come to a screeching halt. With young kids, convenience will sometimes win, and that’s OK. Baby food is a great example. Making your own is simple — think mashed avocado — but sometimes even that feels like too much. When you do choose convenience, go for glass jars instead of squeeze pouches. Not only can you recycle them, but they’re also great for storing small portions of baby food when do you have time to make your own.
If you can, opt for cloth diapers and wipes. While it can be costly up front, you will save loads of money over the course of diapering, especially if you have more than one child. When you need a disposable option, several brands operate their facilities with sustainability in mind and others support environmental causes. Many brands marked as eco-friendly can be safer and gentler on your baby’s skin, but it is important to research the details for yourself. Disposable diapers are just that, so beware of bold marketing claims.
Shop second hand
It is a myth that babies need a lot of stuff. They need love, care and some essential items like a place to sleep, clothing and nourishment. From bottles and furniture to toys and clothing, many of these essential items can be purchased second hand. Not only is it good for the environment, but you also will save cash in the process. It might surprise you the amount of baby stuff you can get in practically new condition because items are used for only a short time.
If second hand is not possible, opt for durability. Good-quality clothes and toys last for multiple children, meaning you can sell or donate items instead of throwing more stuff into the landfill.
Make sustainability a family affair
The best gift you can give your child is including them in your sustainable practices, sharing why it matters and raising them with an eco-conscious mindset. Lead by example, whether it is turning the water off while you brush your teeth, turning lights out when you leave a room or creating a kid-friendly recycling space to thoughtfully sort bottles and cans.
Make sustainability fun, something that the whole family can do, like getting outdoors and creating a sense of wonder for the natural world. The more a child is exposed to nature, the more likely they are to find ways to protect and enjoy it when they are grown up. Challenge each other to pick up new sustainable traditions like gathering old toys to donate before the holidays or creating a sustainable storytime to explore environmental topics.
For more ways to reduce waste, visit HighCountryConservation.org.
Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at [email protected].