These days, we’re all aware of the importance of protecting the natural environment. By aiming to reduce our carbon footprint, and our overall use of resources and production of waste, we not only help protect the world around us, but the world that our children will inherit in the future. When it comes to reducing our environmental impact, however, raising a baby poses some special challenges.
In this week’s article, we provide 5 simple tips to help reduce your environmental impact with a new baby in the house. We explore the familiar question of cloth nappy vs. disposable nappy, as well as a number of other questions. Take a look.
1) Nappies: Cloth vs. Disposable
One of the biggest decisions parents can make, when deciding on eco-friendly child-care options, relates to the use of diapers. On the face of it, it would seem as though choosing cloth diapers over disposable diapers would be the most eco-friendly decision. The reality, in fact, is a little more complicated.
One of the most common criticisms of cloth diapers is that they use up considerable amounts of water, due to continual washing. According to this argument, disposable diapers - although environmentally problematic - are, in fact, more eco-friendly than cloth diapers. This, unfortunately, isn’t true. What is true, however, is that the ways in which parents use cloth diapers will have an impact on how eco-friendly they actually are. If you are using cloth diapers, it’s important to try minimise the amount of water and energy you use when washing. There are some simple, practical ways to do this. Let’s take a look at some of these tips:
- Use an eco-friendly and efficient washing machine.
- Always do full loads when washing.
- Hang your nappies outside or on a clothes horse to dry.
- Don’t waste time and energy ironing the nappies.
- Wash the nappies in cold water.
- Save the nappies for your next baby or for someone else’s baby.
Following these simple tips will help you reduce some of the unnecessary waste associated with cloth diapers. Either way, however, it’s difficult to deny that cloth diapers are a more eco-friendly alternative to traditional nappies. Because most traditional nappies are non biodegradable, they simply sit in landfills indefinitely, contributing to the overall environmental pollution of the earth. Not only that, but the actual manufacture of disposable nappies has been shown to consume more energy and produce more waste than the manufacture of cloth nappies and other more eco-friendly alternatives. (See: http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/the_green_lantern/2008/03/should_my_baby_wear_huggies.html)
And yet, although cloth nappies might be a more eco-friendly option, the practical downsides of using cloth nappies might outweigh the benefits for some. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to abandon your eco-friendly ambitions completely.
These days, there are a variety of environmentally-friendly nappy products available to consumers. Many companies now produce disposable nappies that are fully - or at least partly - biodegradable, and that are free of chlorine, bleaches and other harmful chemicals. For those reluctant to go down the cloth nappy route, these more eco-friendly options are definitely worth exploring.
2) Eco-friendly Cleaning Products
Let’s be honest with ourselves. Raising a baby is messy business. A good deal of your time - as a parent - is spent cleaning up messes, and doing load after load of laundry. That’s why it’s important to try and aim for eco-friendly products.
Look for sprays and cleaning products that are made of all-natural products. These days, that are plenty of great kitchen and antibacterial sprays that use natural ingredients like vinegar, lemon juice, and other all-natural ingredients. The same goes for laundry detergents. There are a variety of great eco-friendly detergents available on the market. These can usually be found in health-food stores or well-stocked supermarkets. You can also find these online.
3) Used Gear and Hand-me-downs
When it comes to certain baby products - from toys, to books, to other types of gear - going second-hand is often the most eco-friendly (not to mention cost-effective) approach. Many of your friends and relatives will have clothes, toys and even cots and electronics stored away in their homes from their last baby. Not only that, but there are online websites which specialise in second-hand gear.
One note of caution: if attaining certain products second-hand, always make sure they are in good working order and meet the most up-to-date safety regulations. For example, old cots or cribs might have outdated designs or faulty mechanisms, which can pose dangers for your child. So, in situations like this, always do plenty of research and exercise caution.
These days, we’re all well aware of the extensive benefits of breast-milk over formula. Not only does it have immediate and long-term health benefits for the baby, but it even has health benefits for the mother too. Well, alongside these health benefits, you can add the following: breastfeeding is considerably better for the environment too.
When you breastfeed, you’re not using up water to mix with your formula or purchasing plastic or tin formula-containers, which then need to be recycled or placed in landfills. Not only that, but if you’re not using breast-pumps or only using them on occasion, you will be saving both energy and water as a result of your breastfeeding.
For those of you who choose to go down the formula route for whatever reasons, there are some eco-friendly options available, however. When purchasing formula, do some research into the product itself and only purchase formula that is organically-produced, which will ensure that the products are grown without pesticides and chemical fertilisers. Not only does this help encourage practices that are better for the environment, but it also protects your child from harmful chemicals and other pollutants.
In addition to this, spend some time thinking about how to reduce the impact of formula feeding. Always use an energy and water-efficient dishwasher (if using washer-safe bottles) and choose formulas that are packaged in recyclable packaging.
5) Get Yourself a Library Card!
Again, this seems so obvious it’s easy to overlook. As your little one grows older, and grows from baby, to toddler, to preschooler, he or she will be going through a steady supply of books. And yet, although it’s always nice to have a few books of his or her own knocking around, using your local library more can help reduce the energy and paper used to produce these books. The same applies to DVD’s. By consciously deciding to cut down on your consumption of these particular products, you can help lower your overall environmental impact. Not only that, of course, but you’ll find your wallet is a lot healthier too!