Eco-Friendly Parenting (It's easier than you think!)
Written by Meera Jain.
Let’s face it. Raising children is HARD. Being environmentally friendly isn’t always easy either. So it’s no surprise that many people cringe at the idea of trying to be a parent that is also eco-conscious. Who’s got the time? Who’s got the money? Well, I am here to help. Here are a few tips and tricks that you may find useful and cost-effective as you try and green your family practices:
This is a big one, but it’s also the place where a parent has an opportunity to make the largest impact. Firstly, disposable diapers are super expensive. It is estimated that the average family spends about $3,000 on diapering each of their children! But more importantly, this results in the creation of at least 2,000 lbs of garbage per baby. These diapers get buried in landfills without exposure to sunlight or air and can take between hundreds to thousands of years to decompose. At this point, we’re not even sure.
The ideal replacement of these plastic disposables is friendly on both the wallet and the planet over the long term: Organic cotton reusable diapers. Sure there will be a bit of an investment at first as you source the diaper covers, the cotton inserts, and if you are a superhero, the reusable wipes, but this is nowhere near the amount you would have been spending otherwise. I love using cloth diapers on my 13 month old because I feel so good knowing that her skin isn’t absorbing the chemicals used when making disposables. Yes, you do have to change your child’s diaper more often. Yes, she will look like she has a huge booty. Yes, you have to flush your child’s poop down the toilet. But as far as I am concerned, this is a small price to pay given the benefits of reusable diapers.
My advice? See if you can find an affordable service that will wash the diapers for you. Ask for a trial period and you can see if cloth diapering is for you! You may be surprised.
Snacks and Lunches
Food and food packaging were a huge source of waste for my family and me before we became eco-aware. Now that I am mindful of these things, not only have we reduced the amount of trash we create, we also are eating much less processed food which is something I think we can all feel good about.
For quick, on-the-go snacks, I like to buy a variety of nuts and unsweetened dried fruits at our local bulk store. Most stores like this will happily allow you to pre-weigh clean containers such as Tupperwares or mason jars (my personal favourite) and then fill them with your goods. This makes packing a snack really easy. I just grab a container, pour in a mix of whatever I have in my pantry and my kids and I are ready to go!
Lunches are a little bit more complicated and definitely take more thought. I have purchased these amazing, albeit relatively expensive, stainless steel lunch boxes from EcoLunch. My three year old can open and close them on her own so they are a huge winner for me. The one I like best has two tiers plus a little container that all fit in the tiffin. On one tier, I would put some kind of sandwich or pasta salad. The other tier will be stuffed with fresh veggies and fruit. And because I am trying to be a fun eco-mom, I will put a little “treat” in the little container. Maybe two homemade coconut-chocolate energy balls or a handful of yogurt covered raisins from the bulk store. I know…you wish I was your mom too. Don’t forget the reusable bottle full of water!
Being out and about can be difficult enough with children and now I have to do it waste-free? It’s not as tricky as it sounds! The key is being prepared. I like to carry around a “zero-waste” kit with me that helps me handle pretty much any situation that may come at me.
Stainless steel water bottle – keeps drinks cold for 24 hours and can easily be refilled when out and about. Avoids the dreaded, “Mom, I’m thirstyyyyyyyyy”.
Stainless steel reusable straw – because my children seem incapable of drinking from a cup without flooding the floor.
Cloth napkins – have you ever gone out without having to wipe someone’s nose or crumbs?
Cutlery – you will end up buying something to eat if you are out for more than fifteen minutes.
Stainless steel container – can be used to bring food along, put purchased food in (no packaging), take home leftovers, or take home recycling and compost in (yes, I have done this).
Travel mug – How are you going to get through the outing without this? Hint: You won’t.
Keep this kind of kit in your car, stroller, or better yet, by the door and you will be home-free!
Keeping your kids from running around town naked is a costly and time-consuming activity! As we all know, they outgrow their clothes so quickly that it seems ridiculous to spend any significant sum of money on them. Additionally, they wear each thing once before they destroy it or outgrow it.
We use a ton of the earth’s resources to produce clothes. Growing conventional cotton takes up a TON of water and requires too many pesticides in my opinion. Additionally, there is quite a problem with textile waste nowadays. We are throwing out so many clothes and our planet just doesn’t know how to handle it.
I like to shop for clothes secondhand. There are a ton of great chains and little boutiques that offer kids clothes in excellent condition. It makes sense, there are items I have given away that my kids have NEVER WORN before! Additionally, I have several generous friends that are happy to share their kids clothes with me. I have even had strangers offer me clothes. There are so many excellent resources out there that will ease expenses and allow you to live more ecofriendly that it seems quite unnecessary to buy many things brand new!
Birthday, Holidays, and Other Special Occasions
We are trying to live mindfully and minimally. This is the easiest way to prevent unnecessary purchases and therefore unwanted plastic and packaging. Unfortunately, we have so many darn relatives who are so generous and want to shower our kids with gifts! If it’s not a birthday, it’s Easter; if it’s not Easter, it’s a vacation souvenir. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for the sentiment, just not the clutter.
We want to shower our children with experiences, not things. So when my youngest’s birthday arrived this year, we gently asked our party-goers to either bring nothing, an experience gift, or a donation to charity. Well, as they say, ask and you shall receive! Everyone completely embraced our request! Our daughter has made a donation to an eco-charity, she has adopted a chimpanzee called Popi, and has a year-long membership to the science center!
Try this out with your family and friends. If they don’t rise to the challenge…remember, sometimes it's more of a treat for the person giving the gift, than the one receiving it. There's no reason you have to keep any gift long-term. Simply thank the person for their thoughtfulness...and decide later if it's something that you actually need or want to keep.
Well, there you have it. Those are some of my musings on being an eco-mom. By no means have I mastered everything, there are so many things in my life that I still need to tackle! If you are interested in my journey, please feel free to visit my Instablog. My handle is @thegreenmum. You can also always drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks to Seek United for giving me the opportunity to share my experiences, it was a blast!