It’s impossible not to worry about the kind of earth our baby will be inheriting. Will he have enough clean water? Will the air be so polluted that just breathing will make him sick?
No wonder many moms are looking for ways to ‘go green’ and develop eco-friendly habits. We love the earth, because we love our baby. But here’s an intriguing question: are our parenting practices hurting the environment? The diapers, toys and baby products may ‘help’ our child but do they destroy the earth they will live in? Here are some ways to minimize your baby’s ecological footprints.
What is ecological footprint?
In a nutshell, your ecological footprint measures your impact on the Earth’s natural resources. This includes the resources you consume (food, electricity, wood, paper, fuels like gas) and the waste you produce. The ecological footprint thus helps us find out how long the earth can sustain life.
The ecological footprint of baby diapers
Disposable diapers fill landfills! The material is non-recyclable. You can dramatically reduce your baby’s ecological footprint by using reusable cloth diapers. It’s best to choose an organic fabric, which is not only gentler on his skin, but is manufactured without toxic chemicals (like bleach) that can pollute air and water.
And here’s the environmentally-friendly way of cleaning cloth diapers: don’t boil or tumble-dry them, use a cleanser that is clearly labeled as eco-friendly (it won’t release chemicals that will pollute the water and soil) and use natural odor removers. For example, you can soak diapers in water infused with a few drops of tea-tree oil, a natural disinfectant.
Save electricity consumption by using a high-quality, energy-efficient washing machine, and in sunny weather, skip the dryer and let the diapers hang under the sun. (Bonus: the sun has natural bleaching powers!) See, saving the environment saves money too!
The ecological footprint of baby toys and books
Plastic toys are non-biodegradable, and are often manufactured in factories that produce a lot of pollution and chemical waste. Even organic toys and books use up wood.
Of course you want to give your baby educational toys—these help brain development, and can entertain and keep him happy too. But exercise responsible shopping. Try to buy toys secondhand, and give away what your child has outgrown. And you can save a lot of money, space and environmental damage by buying less toys and focusing on ones that have high impact on learning, like wooden blocks and books.
Also teach your baby to enjoy Mother Nature’s toys: the outdoors. He will love playing outside, climbing trees, watching the bugs in the backyard. The fresh air and exercise will be great for him, and he will also learn to love the Earth—the foundation of environmental awareness.
When your baby is older, you can also teach him to make his own toys (crafts actually teaches a child life skills) and prevents him from being materialistic. Instead of saying ‘Buy me this!’ he will be resourceful and use what he has to make what he wants.
The ecological footprint of electronic baby gear
Have you walked down the aisle of a baby gear section? The shelves are filled to the brim with all sorts of newfangled gadgets, and doting moms and relatives snatch them up! ‘Aw, how cute!’
But kids don’t need them (the human species survived for thousands of years without motorized toddler-sized cars and motion-activated baby gyms) and will quickly outgrow them. Plus, these gadgets consume batteries and electricity.
So before buying anything, ask yourself:
a. How long will my baby use this?
b. Will it really contribute to the quality of my or my baby’s life, or am I just riding a trend or falling for a sale talk?
d. If I didn’t need this yesterday, why would I need it today?
e. What kind of energy will it consume?
If you really want it and need it, try to buy it secondhand, rent it, or borrow from a friend. Look for brands or models that can be plugged (electricity is more environmentally friendly than batteries), or use rechargeable batteries.
The ecological footprint of baby food
Don’t buy individually wrapped baby biscuits, toddler snacks, or other food. It’s cheaper and more environmentally friendly to get these in larger boxes and just portion these yourselves in Ziploc bags or airtight plastic boxes. Or go make your own! It’s healthier and cheaper, too.
As much as possible, buy fresh, locally-produced, organic ingredients (these have smaller ecological footprints than internationally distributed brands that used gas, preservatives and special packaging to reach your supermarket shelves in one piece). Local farmers are also less likely to use toxic chemicals and genetic engineering techniques that hurt the eco-system.
The ecological footprint of baby furniture
We already discussed toys, but there’s also chemically-treated plastic used for furniture like high chairs and changing tables. When you can, buy wood. It’s stronger and so can be passed on to younger siblings or cousins, or sold.