Being environmentally conscious has never been as important as it is after the arrival of your precious new bundle of joy. You look at the world with changed eyes, and become increasingly aware of how important it is to embrace a green lifestyle. Protecting and preserving the precious resources of our planet becomes paramount because this planet will one day be passed down to your children, and your grandchildren.
In the words of Dr. Seuss’ 'The Lorax,' “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
If you’re thinking that it’s too hard to make a difference when you’re stuck in the trenches of new parenthood, you’d be surprised. It’s easier than ever to make small changes that can have a big impact.
Here are some great ways to make a difference, be a little more green, and maybe even save some green!
11 Turn Down Your Thermostat at Night
It’s recommended that, for the first year of their lives, babies have an empty crib, free from bumpers and blankets – but before you go thinking that your little one is too cold at night, keep in mind that some experts recommend keeping a baby’s room between 65°-70°F degrees (or 18°-22°C).
Experts also recommend against letting your baby overheat as it has been linked to an increased risk of SIDS. If you’re unsure what your baby’s room temperature is, consider a baby monitor with a built in thermometer.
If you feel your baby is cold, there are many safe options for bundling up your baby. A thin sleeper combined with a sleep sack is a popular option that allows your baby to get a comfortable night sleep. So go ahead and use your programmable thermostat to lower your heat and cut down on energy use at night.
10 Give Breastfeeding a Go
Experts agree that “Breast is Best." It’s also best for the environment. Breast feeding eliminates the waste that comes with the manufacturing and packaging of formulas, bottles, and other bottle accessories. It also eliminates the water and energy consumption that goes with both washing and sterilizing bottles.
Not only is breastfeeding better for the environment, it is also a lot less of a fuss during those 2 a.m. feedings! So if you can manage it, give breastfeeding a go.
9 Make Your Own Baby Food
There’s something wonderful about making the first foods that your baby will eat – and the most satisfying part of making it is knowing exactly what is going into those foods. No preservatives. No unnecessary sugar or salt content. Best of all, making your own baby food creates less waste than the store bought options.
When shopping for ingredients for your homemade baby food, keep in mind both where your food is coming from as well as how it was grown or raised. Local farms may have less environmental impact and not use as much pesticide as large corporate farms. Organic produce may be coming from anywhere in the world, so the environmental impact can be greater than that of something grown closer to home.
If you’re unsure whether you should be opting for local or organic and you’re worried about your baby consuming pesticides, check out the Environmental Working Group’s 2016 list of the “Dirty Dozen" for fruits and vegetables that are most contaminated by pesticides (and ideally should be your organic purchase), and the “Clean 15” for those fruits and vegetables that are less contaminated by pesticides (and opt for local when you can).
And remember to bring your reusable bags to the grocery store!
TIP: A great hack for making baby food is using ice cube trays to measure out and freeze portions. Once frozen, simply place the cubes in a re-sealable freezer bag with contents written on a piece of masking tape. Simply pull out a cube or two in advance, let it thaw, and you’ve got baby food on demand.
8 Use an Alternative to Disposable Diapers
Disposable diapers, although convenient in today’s day and age, are huge contributors to landfill problems. Not only does the fecal matter contained in those diapers have the opportunity to contaminate our water, but it is estimated that disposable diapers can take up to 500 years to decompose.
If this sounds scary to you, consider using an alternative to disposable diapers, such as cloth diapers.
Cloth diapers have come a long way from the cloth diapers of yesteryear. They are more convenient than ever. Not only are cloth diapers better for the environment, they are also less expensive over the average 2-3 years of diaper use (though more expensive for the initial investment). There’s no shortage of brands on the market, so if you’re willing to give them a try, do a little bit of research on what kind of prefolds, inserts and covers are right for your little one’s tush!
If you’re still on the fence about the effort involved in cloth diapers, consider a more eco-friendly disposable option. There are plenty to choose from that are made from natural materials and don’t contain a lot of the harmful chemicals that traditional disposable diapers might use.
7 Reuse! Consider Buying Second-Hand Items
Buying second-hand furniture, baby equipment, toys and clothes is not only a great way of saving A LOT of money, it’s also a great way of ensuring things that have plenty of life left in them and stay out of your local landfill.
Make sure that if you do buy gently used items, you are checking that it’s up to code and free of any recalls. Ask the local seller for the make and model number and do a bit of research before buying things like cribs and strollers, but in the end, your pocketbook and the environment will be better for it!
6 Get Out – Without Your Car
With a new baby in tow, the temptation is there to hurry up and get things done. Need to make a quick trip to your corner store? Post Office? Coffee shop? Give yourself more time and skip the car next time.
With the summer weather here, try walking (or biking)! Not only are you getting some fresh air (and here’s an added incentive to walking: fresh air really helps to tire out your baby and may help them sleep longer at night!) and exercise, you’re also not contributing to harmful emissions from your car. So when weather and time permits, skip the drive and walk instead. It’s a win-win!
5 Machine Wash Cold
With new babies, the temptation is strong to chuck small loads of clothes in the washing machine as they get dirty. It’s even stronger when there is a fresh stain on a white onesie you just bought! Resist the temptation! Try to ensure that you have a full load before putting clothes in the washing machine.
To save even more energy, ensure you're washing with cold water and cold water detergents.
TIP: Here’s a great hack to keep stains on baby clothing at bay - beside your washer, keep a bucket filled with a mix of water and a scoop of a powder stain remover agent. When your baby has a fresh stain on their clothes, simply remove the clothing and toss it into the bucket to soak until the next time you have a full load of your baby’s clothes to wash.
4 Look for Eco-Friendly Lighting Options
Making simple changes to the lighting in your home can have a big impact on your overall energy use. Installing a dimmer switch in your baby’s room alone, would cut down on your electricity bill. It would also keep your baby in a dreamy state during those 2 a.m. feedings!
If installing dimmer switches throughout your house, isn’t an ideal solution, consider swapping out your old light bulbs for LED light bulbs. LED bulbs can be seven times more energy efficient than incandescent lights and cut energy use by more than 80 percent.
3 Sippy Cups & Water Bottles – Don’t Leave Home Without Them
Water is so important to give to your children. To make sure that you are being environmentally conscious, invest in a reusable BPA free or stainless steel sippy cup or water bottle, for you and your baby, and always pack it in your diaper bag when you leave the house.
If you don’t bring your own water, the temptation is always there to buy water or juice on the go, which can lead to an excess of bottle waste that could end up in your local landfill.
In the US, it is estimated that the public goes through around 50 billion water bottles a year, and over 80% of those end up in landfills. This in itself is a staggering thought, but even more so is the fact that it can take over 450 years for a water bottle to decompose.
While juice can be a nice treat once in awhile, it’s full of sugars which can be bad for your child’s teeth, so try and opt for water from your water bottle, rather than drinking boxes or plastic bottles.
If you can’t avoid buying bottled beverages, ensure the waste is going to the right place. Recycle where you can – and if there’s no recycling bins handy, bring the bottles home and put them in your personal recycling container.
2 Change Your Cleaning Ways
Traditional cleaners in today’s market can contain harsh chemicals to combat everyday household messes. If you’re not sure whether this matters all that much, think about your baby in a freshly cleaned bathtub, playing in the water and sucking bathwater from a cloth or bath toys. It doesn't matter how they do it - all babies find a way to get the water into their mouths!
Not ready to swap out your old cleaner for a vinegar, baking soda and lemon juice solution? Not to worry. These days, there are a lot of great "green" cleaner options out there, as it is becoming increasingly important to today’s eco-conscious consumer. A great tip to check out the “green” cleaners on the market is to look for those that have been endorsed by a third party.
Green Seal is one of the third parties that can give you a listing of which household products have met health and eco standards.
1 Raise An Eco-Conscious Child
This is probably the most important thing you can do to make a big change in your household. Children learn their most valuable lessons from you, and if you are diligent in your daily routine of recycling, reducing and reusing, your children will follow suit.
Talk to them about why it is so important to do these things, both in and out of the home. Encourage them to be environmentally conscious. Plant a garden. Get them outside and into nature – it will encourage them to be conscientious about their choices and actions when it comes to the environment.
Put simply, if you show that you really care about the environment, you’re teaching your child to really care about the environment.