On Christmas Day my husband and I welcomed our son Logan into the world. While we were overjoyed (and a little surprised as he was 10 weeks early) to be parents, I couldn’t shake the thoughts of how wasteful the baby industry is.
The diapers, endless amounts of plastic items, clothes that fit for five minutes and all the gear you’re made to think you need but don’t. It’s easy to get caught up in the madness without recognizing the impact on our wallets or landfills. I’ll share a few things we did to minimize our footprint.
We use cloth diapers instead of disposable. In my close group of friends there will be six babies born within the next year. Recently I took the time to do the math on how many disposable diapers that would be in just my small circle of friends. A newborn goes through 8-12 diapers a day, older babies 7-9, in our group that is 336-504 diapers per week and approximately That was a staggering amount. Now imagine all the babies, in all the world, wearing disposable diapers right now. Yikes! The choice became clear after that.
Cloth diapers have come a long way in the last twenty years. Gone are the plain white sheets you fold a specific way then pin together. Now they come in various styles and shapes with all kinds of fun patterns and inserts depending on your needs. The ins and outs of using cloth diapers can take up an entire post so I’ll save for another day. If you’re thinking of using cloth and just can’t wait to get started Fluff Love University is a great online resource.
You may be thinking, “Isn’t using cloth more expensive?” The start-up cost can be for sure, but it all depends on the quantity and quality of brands you purchase. We bought Facebook and other buy sell sites are a great way to get new and used diapers at huge savings. There isn’t an additional cost for products like diaper cream and wipes. You need those anyway. Now there are even reusable cloth bags to put in the diaper pail (I highly recommend this) and make your own wipes (another future post).
My final note on cloth diapers without getting into specifics is please, please, please don’t use the disposable diaper inserts then flush them. First, they aren’t truly flushable and they wreak havoc on local waste systems. Second, doesn’t an insert you throw in the garbage or flush defeat the whole purpose of using cloth in the first place? However, for those of you using disposable diapers there are great green alternatives now available. Unfortunately, they will cost you slightly more than the mainstream brands, but completely worth it.
Babies come with a lot of stuff. There is no way around it. I don’t mean shoes and bows, but believe me you could spend a small fortune on those too. By accessories I mean strollers, high chairs, toys, car seats, swings and the list goes on and on. Most of these items are made of plastic and are only used for the first year, if that. It makes me cringe to think of what happens to all these “necessities” once they are no longer needed in twelve months.
Once again buying second hand saves the day. The only items we have purchased are the crib/mattress set, dresser and stroller/car seat system (not for lack of trying, our second hand one failed the hospital car seat test). Almost everything else has been second hand or gifts, even the diapers as mentioned. It can be easy to get sucked into wanting the latest and greatest of everything. I was almost lured down that dark path by the most amazing stroller…. But I digress. Most second hand items hardly show any wear because they are used for such a short period. Thrift stores are a good option as well. A little bleach and baking soda makes everything like new. I turned the bath water brown cleaning a play pen, but buying it used saved me $150 and prevented it from being tossed away.
Babies grow fast. This isn’t some sort of revelation, but one of our biggest struggles is trying to clothe an eco-conscious baby. They wear clothes for five minutes but the items are still expensive. Is it harder to manufacture tiny clothes? Certainly, less fabric is used. Where does this cost come from? This is where fast fashion brands come to the unfortunate financial rescue and thus enters my internal debate. Obviously, I would rather purchase from a local maker but with their clothing (usually) at a higher cost it’s difficult to purchase over and over again for each growth period.
Thankfully, there are lots of other ways to get baby clothes. Half of what my son wears are free hand-me-downs from friends. All items are gently used and it’s a great way to lessen the impacts of fast fashion brands. Like with diapers, Facebook has some awesome buy/sell groups that you can get anything from clothes, toys, shoes and even nursing and maternity items. Half my maternity wardrobe was bought second hand. Maternity clothes cost a fortune and you wear them for six months if that. Then if you have another baby, but are pregnant at a different time of year you’re stuck needed different seasons of clothes. Sharing or rotating clothing (and even toys) between friends is another great option.
I also have a few crafty ideas on how to recycle his clothes into a memory quilt once he has outgrown them. Pinterest is loaded with ideas on how to reuse baby clothes. I’m very excited to get this project started. The items I don’t recycle I’ll pass on to someone else.
Even if you are super careful and try to take the minimalist approach people will still buy you things. So many things, they can’t help it. It’s the nature of having people in your life who care and are excited for your new arrival.
Alternatives to the more traditional gifts are things like Registered Education Saving Plan (RESP’s), classic novels for story time, handmade items, frozen meals, or even a meal service. Our family pooled together to give us credit for a meal delivery service that catered to my allergies. It was a huge relief to know we had complete and healthy meals five nights a week when juggling a newborn. Another great idea is a tree or shrub the parents can plant in their yard so they can watch it grow along with their child. Mom doesn’t know this yet, but I want to plant a tree in her garden for Logan.
In the end preparing for and raising an eco-conscious family is mostly common sense and implementing the classic Reduce, Reuse, Recycle principals. It’s very straight forward if you’re disciplined or give yourself a budget. Realistically there will always be a carbon footprint of some kind during this time but there’s always that one small change you can do to make a difference. No one change is insignificant.
Are you a parent? Let us know how you’ve minimized the impact of raising babies.