“We owe it to ourselves and to the next generation to conserve the environment so that we can bequeath our children a sustainable world that benefits all.” - Wangari Maathai, environmentalist and author of Unbowed
For years, millennial parents and soon-to-be parents have been warned, educated on, and informed about the impending doom of our planet if we fail to aid in its fortification. The most frustrating thing regarding climate change is the fact that the previous generation will not bear the brunt of the damage they have done, but the next one will, hence the grave truth of Wangari Maathai’s quote. If the previous generation can change the course of the environment for us, can’t we do the same for the next generation? Through individual, collective action, community building, and support we can rebuild our earth that has been dismantled. The five suggestions below are here to aid current, new, and expecting parents as they are navigating raising a child in a way that respects the earth, aids in creativity and individuality, and produces a positive atmosphere for the future generations to come.
Food and Sustenance
Eating and drinking--two of the most fundamental elements of life, and the activities your newborn will take part in the most during the first few months.
As discussed in our article on Breastfeeding vs. Formula, breastfeeding is the best choice in regards to sustainable feeding before your child begins to eat solid foods as you are the producer of the product, and there is no packaging! However, formula is always a valid option that many mothers choose to use. We suggest buying formula that comes in recyclable, biodegradable, or compostable packaging. My Organic Formula provides baby formula that is suitable for your baby’s needs and also comes in a recyclable cardboard container.
Your child will get older and wean off of breastmilk or formula, so what’s next? While store bought baby food is a clear option, you can never be certain about what goes into your baby's food. An easy, sustainable way to go about this next stage is to make your own baby food--it’s easy, we promise! Eat Right highlights that one of the most important things when making your own baby food is sanitation. Be sure to clean fruits and vegetables well, and also sanitize all cutting boards, utensils, and knives during the process. You can steam or cook veggies and fruits on the stovetop or microwave with a little bit of water until they’re able to be mashed. Once they are of your desired consistency, don’t contain seeds or big chunks of food, and are cooled enough, your baby can go ahead and eat. With this method, you can be sure you know what is in your baby’s food, you can experiment with a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, and steaming and mashing doesn’t take up too much time, so with this process, you can cook in bulk and store for later use. The containers that you buy at the store are often made of plastic and can’t be recycled; by making your own baby food, you can store the leftovers in reusable containers and save money as well.
As you start creating your own baby food, consider starting your own garden in your backyard, or have small plants growing in your window sill. Growing your own fruits and vegetables takes time and care, but can produce bountiful goods for you and your family. Having a garden at home also ensures that extra pesticides, or other harmful products aren’t being placed into the soil that grows your plants. If this is not a suitable option for you or is too time consuming, check out your local fair trade groceries and farmers markets. Instead of buying from major grocers, you can circulate your money into the local economy that will help in creating community.
One of the most exciting things about having a child is being able to dress them in all of the cute clothes you can find in the store. Before you go and spend a pretty penny, really think about the use you will get out of each piece of clothing and consider the options below.
An easy way to get affordable baby clothing is from your local thrift stores. Not only will the bibs, onesies, and tiny T’s be easier on your wallet, you will also refrain from engaging in the harmful nature of fast fashion. Alongside this, babies grow fast. Buying expensive, name-brand clothing will only benefit you for one month--maybe less. Explore the clothing stores near you--the garage sales as well, and find unique clothing that’ll be just as cute as the clothes that would be 10x more.
Thrift stores are a great place to shop for your little one, but don’t forget your friends and family that may have baby clothes that they aren’t using anymore. We’re sure they’d be more than willing to fill your baby’s closet with memories from when they had kids. Moreso, they will have the knowledge to know which sizes of clothing you may need at certain moments; their insight will be useful.
It’s understandable to want to buy brand new items for your baby--so go for it! Splurge and spoil your newborn. But, before you decide to throw away each bib, be certain that you’re not going to have any kids anymore as you can reuse these items for them. If this is your last child, be the friend that gifts the baby clothes from your child to theirs. All in all, wait before you place it in the trash. Consider the other options that will be more sustainable.
Children’s toys are often full of plastic and non-eco friendly materials. And just like clothes, your baby may outgrow these toys and fidgets faster than you’d expect. Luckily, there are ways to stimulate the mind of an infant without harming the earth.
Many toys are simple shapes, and pieces that can easily be found at your local hardware store, or even in your own home! Before you buy, consider creating your own toys for your little one. Not only will you be able to create toys that you specifically want for your child, but you can have fun making them as well. Instead of a typical baby shower where these plastic filled toys are gifted, plan your party so that every guest has to make a toy. This will be fun for everyone, and you will end up with many sustainable toys. Check out these 30 DIY baby toy ideas to draw inspiration.
Once again, reuse, reuse, reuse. Toys from friends or a secondhand store is your best bet for buying sustainable toys. There’ll always be variety and you’ll feel good after your purchase knowing you didn’t just buy a brand new hunk of plastic.
There may be a toy that you really wanted for your child but couldn’t make and couldn’t find at the thrift store. This may happen! And when it does, be familiar with some sustainably made children’s toys brands that might have the product you’re looking for. To start off, here are some brands that have lots of fun, engaging toys for childrens of a variety of ages.
Bathing and Cleaning
For both babies and adults, bathing and cleaning supplies are widely available in sustainable options. It’s time to ditch the plastic bottles and disposable diapers and switch them out for these options listed below.
Diapers are a huge expense; they are also single-use and non-biodegradable, making them a large contributor to waste. However, there are other options. Unfortunately, this alternative is one of the more expensive options in regards to being a sustainable parent. Cotton nappies have started to become popular and are diapers that are reusable. Of course, this option may be even more messy than your typical diaper, nevertheless, your eco-friendly mind will be at ease if you utilize this option. Alongside this, there are some diapers that are made out of nature-friendly materials. But, like the cotton nappies, they are also much more expensive than your typical diaper.
Along with diapers are the wipes needed to clean the rear end of your little one. Disposable wipes are another contributor to waste on our earth, and can easily be replaced. Do you have an old towel or flannel t-shirt lying around? Don’t hesitate to cut those up and make reusable cotton cloth wipes that will be soft enough for your baby’s bottom and fibrous enough to clean just as well as a disposable one. This may be a messier option, so feel free to look around for wipes that are made of bamboo, or other types of eco-friendly products.
Tear-free baby shampoo and bottled soap are often found in plastic containers. Luckily, package free soaps are very popular these days, and can even be found at local stores like Lush! Baby’s skin is much more delicate and sensitive than adults, so Lush’s products might not be suitable. However there are lots of other soaps that are fit for a baby. Consider buying this baby soap bar, and also exploring the other zero waste products on this site!
Introduce your child to sustainable practices
An important, and final way to be a sustainable parent is teaching your children how to live eco-friendly lives. As Wangari Mathaai said, we owe it to the next generation. Education is a key component in our determination to save the earth. Parents that educate their children on not only the ways in which certain activities aid in the destruction of the earth, but most importantly, ways that we can act so that the earth can be protected and preserved for future generations will be so important for the next few decades. This being said, here are some final tips to nailing it as a sustainable parent:
Highlight the importance of living sustainably to your children from a young age. This will instill these ideals into their daily, and future practices.
Children follow your actions. If you live sustainably, so will they!
As you practice your sustainability, engage your children in your activities. Whether you plant a garden, walk instead of drive, compost, buy and eat locally, use a reusable water bottle, reduce, reuse, recycle, or create, your child will learn so much more by doing it with you.