11 Ways to Be A More Sustainable Parent
If there's one thing babies need, it's stuff. A lot of stuff. Stuff with a capital "S." For soon-to-be-parents trying to lead more environmentally friendly lives, this can pose a bit of a problem. You want to live as sustainably as possible, but you don't want to sacrifice the health and safety of your kids. So how do you navigate the fine line of being kind to the Earth and its inhabitants without putting your child at risk? We’ve compiled a list of eleven tips, tricks and DIYs to help you do just that!
Style, Done Sustainably
Kids go through a lot of clothes. There’s just no getting around it. Thankfully, more and more brands are starting to recognize the importance of using sustainable fabrics, dyes and production methods. Companies like Nature Baby, Pure Baby, Wild Wawa and Hux Baby make clothes for kids up to 4-5 years old and are GOTS certified, meaning that the fabrics and dyes meet high standards for environmental and social responsibility (for more information on how GOTS-certified companies are vetted, click here!). Others go a step further, like Bokk Baby. Not only does the company produce clothes using GOTS-certified cotton and organic hemp, but they also run a recycling program that donates outgrown Bokk Baby clothing items to rural clinics in Senegal.
There are also tons of tutorials on how to make simple baby clothes (like this modern baby romper) for parents who have more time of their hands. Lots of sewing blogs even have entire sections of patterns and beginners how-to's for baby and toddler clothes.
Sustainability doesn't stop with just kid's clothes! There's also a ton of sustainable children's toys out there! Many companies, like Oompa or Bella Luna Toys, have a section on their website specifically for their eco-friendly or GOTS-certified toys. For those who are looking for an even more eco-friendly brand, Green Toys is a company that makes all its toys from recycled plastics (and ships them out in packaging made of recycled cardboard!).
If you have the time and some fabric scraps lying around, you can also make some simple toys on your own! Stackable cloth rings and stuffed "beach balls" are doable for even beginners to sewing. For those that are a little more experienced, here're step-by-step instructions for making an adorable baby swing!
Let your friends and family know not to buy new toys for your little ones, too! Even if you're not buying new toys, holiday and birthday presents can really add up. If you feel comfortable, provide a list of sustainable toy brands, ask for secondhand books/clothes/toys rather than new ones, or suggest experience presents rather than material ones.
Try to Reduce the Amount of Food Packaging You Use
Breastfeeding is obviously as zero-waste as it gets, but baby food often comes in plastic pouches that can add up. If you have the time and the access to fresh fruits and vegetables, consider making your own baby purées. They're easier than you think! Additionally, growing a vegetable garden or shopping at a local farmer's market/zero-waste grocery store not only reduces waste, but also has the added bonus of making your kid conscious of their waste habits from an early age.
Check Out Reusable Versions of Disposable Items
Experts have estimated newborns use up to three thousand diapers in their first year alone. Not only is that bad for the bank account, but it's also bad for the Earth! Some more sustainable brands, like Smart Bottoms, make theirs from hemp and organic cotton. And lots of brands, like BumGenius and Kanga Care, offer diapers for babies from 7 to 35 pounds (ca. 16 kg), meaning you can use the same pairs until they start potty training!
(If you're considering using cloth diapers: make sure to buy a wet bag or make your own for when you're on the go!)
In the past five years, the number of wet wipes found washed up on beaches has doubled, leading to some pretty disastrous ecological aftereffects. The good news? It's super easy to find instructions for DIY baby wipes or baby wipe spray to use with reusable cloth wipes.
Another easy DIY for parents with a little extra time and sewing skills are these nursing pads. All you need to make them are scrap fabrics, a circular item to cut a pattern out of, and the ability to sew in a straight line! You can also buy them premade here.
Teaching Your Kids About Sustainability
The best way to reduce the environmental impact of raising a child is really just to make sure that your kiddo grows up knowing why sustainability is important.
Kids are tiny sponges when it comes to the media around them, so try to provide them with books and TV shows that introduce them to the importance of being eco-friendly. Some of my personal favorites are "Kenya's Art," "Baby Loves Green Energy," "I Am Farmer: Growing an Environmental Movement in Cameroon," and "The Adventures of a Plastic Bottle." For a few more options, check out this list compiled by Earthfriendly Tips!
Environmentalism should extend beyond just the books they read. Here's a pretty great, comprehensive article listing 20 activities you can do as your kids grow up to ensure they're thinking critically about their relationship with the Earth.
A quick disclaimer to end this post with: though in an ideal world every parent would be able to use all of these methods, don't feel guilty if you don't have the time, access or mental energy to do them. Being a new parent is hard enough without the added pressure to be completely zero-waste. Sustainability is a group effort, so do what you can!
RELATED ARTICLES: To read more on sustainability, check out our article on fifteen Black women changing the way we think about the environment!