Going green when you’re expecting a baby is healthy for everyone.
Few events impact quality of life more than a new baby, creating new demands on parents’ time, money and energy. And for those parents who have chosen a lifestyle of environmental impact awareness, trying to do it all “right” can create even more stress. New little footprints pattering around the house don’t have to create a larger environmental footprint for your family. Try products and ideas that make it easier for young families to improve their quality of life while investing in a greener planet for future generations.
“Reduce” is the first rule of eco-conscious living. Buy less. Period. Not only will you reduce your environmental impact, you’ll spend less up front, leave more space in your home and in your mind for other concerns and spend less time and money maintaining your possessions. Skip baby registry guides and instead consult lists of baby essentials with words like “simple” or “minimalist” in the title. (Rachel Jonat’s blog, TheMinimalistMom.com, is one great resource.) Ask yourself, Does the baby need this, or am I buying it because I think I should, because it’s normal, or to assuage anxiety?
Second, borrow baby gear or buy it gently used from Craigslist.org, eBay.com or local moms’ groups. You’ll discourage the production of redundant consumer products, rescue landfill-bound items and spend less money. Third, you can reduce your waste production and save heaps of money by breastfeeding, cloth diapering and making your own baby food. Admittedly these steps aren’t for everyone and do require additional time, but before you write them off, investigate your options. The most objectionable of the three, cloth diapering, might surprise you. Today’s pocket cloth diapers are a far cry from your grandmothers’ horror stories—they’re adorable, simple to use and to clean, and make a hefty dent in the estimated 50 million diapers that enter U.S. landfills every day. For an excellent compromise, check out gDiapers™, hybrid diapers that are part washable, part disposable and 100% biodegradable.
When you choose to purchase new, remember that the same things that harm the planet can harm you and your baby. Natural materials and fibers like wood and cotton, instead of plastics, are responsible choices. Go the extra mile by choosing eco-conscious companies like Hanna Andersson (in the Houston Galleria and HannaAndersson.com)—for your baby’s clothes. Look for natural, non-petroleum ingredients in personal care products and household cleaners. Brands like Burt’s Bees, Avalon Organics, Ecover and Seventh Generation are easy to find in stores or online. Keep costs down by making cleaners in minutes with ingredients like vinegar, baking soda and essential oils. Transition to more organic food purchases, using lists like the “Dirty Dozen” (ewg.org/foodnews/summary) to spend your grocery dollars where they make the most impact.
Finally, the best part: how to use the time, money, space and health you’ve saved to improve your quality of life both pre- and post-baby. Begin by thinking through your life principles and values and looking for creative ways to apply them. What matters most to you? How do you want your life to reflect what you believe in? How do you make decisions? You might invite your partner to join you in drafting a family mission statement. Taking this step can energize you by promoting a sense of self, power and purpose in your life. Next, take stock of where you are now and where you’d like to grow—and devote resources to the cause. You could acquire new stress- or life-management skills in an organizing class or meditation group, or it might be a great time to enlist a life coach or counselor to help prepare your mind, emotions and body for the coming changes. Lastly, prioritize experiences that enrich your well being and relationships. Make memories, savor the present moment, take a class, try new things. After birth, you might purchase (or beg for) housekeeping or babysitting to get some quality time with your pillow or significant other. Also consider activities like exercise classes to help prevent post-partum depression, or infant massage instruction to promote relaxation and bonding. No stash of great baby accessories can compete with the fruit of all these efforts.
In many ways, going green with baby is about the basics—basic needs, basic ingredients and basic values. As easy as it is to get paralyzed or frantic during times of change, resist the voice that says you have to do it all perfectly. Take a deep breath and move back into balance. Focus on the decisions that benefit your family and the earth together.
Greener Gifts for Moms-to-Be
Go practical. Skip the glamour; give her what she truly needs and consider buying used if she’s eco-conscious. If she plans to cloth diaper, help with the initial investment.
Sign a book. Instead of a (disposable) card, write a heartfelt note in your favorite children’s book, says Rachel Meeks of the simple living blog, SmallNotebook.com. You’ll jump-start her children’s library and preserve your well-wishes for years.
Give services and experiences. Pool resources with others to give pre- or post-partum massages, maid services, mom and baby fitness classes or gift cards for a healthy meal service.
Offer time and help. Give a batch of nutritious meals, do dish duty, or babysit.
Shop up-cycled. If you can’t resist something cute, browse up-cycled plush toys and baby clothes on Etsy.com.