Having kids is said to be one of the least eco-friendly decisions in our lives. After all there’s all the clothes, nappies, toys… And of course everyone will tell you how expensive having babies is! So far I think we have defied both of these universally acknowledged truths. We barely spent any money on our children – other than on food. And we’ve managed to keep their carbon footprint low. Here’s 5 steps to help make your baby a zero waste baby.
5 steps to zero waste baby
When I was pregnant with big F I wanted to use the most natural and organic products and be as sustainable as possible. But I drew the line on cloth nappies. I didn’t want to be doing what my mum had to do. All this washing, boiling and ironing! Too much hard work. I was very lucky that the midwife on antenatal classes showed us some modern cloth nappies. It was a revelation! I didn’t realise that they are so easy to use and come in so many varieties.
Once I’ve started doing some research to decide, which nappies will suit my needs best, I got rather confused. There’s pocket nappies, all-in-one nappies, woolly nappies, bamboo nappies, cotton nappies… Difficult to decide without actually trying or even seeing them (most nappy shops are online). Luckily in London there is a brick and mortar shop selling cloth nappies and the lovely ladies were able to show me how it all works (you need to call to make an appointment at nappyeverafter.co.uk). In fact if you live in London some boroughs offer vouchers towards buying cloth nappies..
If you don’t live in London there are nappy libraries run by volunteers, who are happy to explain and show you the nappies before you buy anything. You can even hire or borrow nappies to try them out.
It’s very easy not to spend any money on clothes, and by not buying not create demand. Most parents I know are more than happy to pass on their children’s clothes to the next parent – it frees up space at home. Most of my children’s clothes are hand-me-downs. In three years I’ve only bought some vests and socks. Big step towards zero waste and huge saving as well!
Another way to zero waste baby is buying clothes in charity shops or bundles on eBay. I am always amazed at the great quality of 2nd hand baby clothes. After all they only wear them for a few months.
Getting hand-me-downs does get harder once the kids are older, as it takes longer for children to outgrow them. The clothes are more worn out, especially on the knees, but if you can replace at least some new clothes with hand-me-downs you’re still earning green points.
My mum-in-law likes to tell me that when she had her first baby the advice was to have three outfits: one on the baby, one in the wash and one drying. A far cry from today’s over consumption!
Toys and books
We bought very few toys and books for Big F. When he was little he enjoyed playing with everyday objects, so there was no need. We also had some toys passed on by the family.
We resisted buying him anything for his first and second birthdays and Christmas. We asked family and friends to offer him clothes or money for his account.
Every parent knows that kids love unwrapping gifts and of course once the toy is out, the box proves to be the best part of the gift anyway. So for his Big F’s second Christmas, all he got was a big box, with a box inside, and another box in it, after all the enjoyment of unwrapping he got a bag of balloons. He was squealing with joy! We used the balloons one by one and they lasted us for a few months.
Not giving gifts gets harder with age, as Big F is now aware if he is missing out. When he sees his cousins opening presents in front of him, he would be upset not to have something to open himself. It’s no good trying to explain to a crying toddler that he is saving the planet by not having gifts, or having an experience gift, which he’ll get to enjoy later. We do try to choose an educational toy or books, usually from charity shop.
This is great for babies, but also toddlers. Treasure box is a box or a basket filled with everyday objects made out of different materials. So many baby’s toys are made out of plastic, so they don’t get to feel other materials like wood or metal. Good items to include are keys, wooden spoon, cones, stones, silicone kitchen implements. It gives the baby a chance to experience various textures, and means there is less need for toys. Of course, all the objects need to be clean because they will all end up in baby’s mouth!
Don’t buy ‘just in case’
The trap a lot of new parents fall into is buying things in advance, ‘just in case’, as if the shops were to close when the baby is born. Many of those items don’t get used. You may well pass them on to the next parent, but it’s always better to reduce than recycle.
Have you got any advice to share how to reduce your baby’s/child’s environmental impact? I’d love to hear your zero waste baby tips, so do leave me a comment or get in touch on Twitter (@mumbalance).