When you think green, you probably think of recycling and saving energy. But did you know that you can also be eco-friendly in your day-to-day parenting practices?
By incorporating green parenting behaviors into your life, you can make a difference in the environment for future generations.
This article will guide you through simple green parenting practices that you can incorporate into your daily routine to reduce your impact on the planet.
What Is Green Or Sustainable Parenting?
Green parenting (a.k.a eco parenting or organic parenting) is about having a healthy relationship with the Earth and its resources. The term is used to describe parents who raise children in a way that minimizes their environmental impact.
Being sustainable means making choices every day that help the environment, like using reusable bottles instead of disposable ones or using reusable trash can liners instead of plastic trash bags and also using this reusable quart bags to keep your baby's essentials.
Simply put, green sustainable parenting is a way of living that doesn’t deplete natural resources. It involves using products and services that don’t damage the environment.
Green parents are more likely to:
- Use cloth diapers instead of disposable ones.
- Feed their children unprocessed whole foods rather than processed foods.
- Make sure that their children have access to a safe and clean environment.
- Take care of the environment around them by recycling, using reusable freezer bags and other materials, composting, etc.
A Guide To Green Parenting Practices:
1. Decorate The Nursery With Green Paints and Wall Coverings
When you're planning to incorporate green parenting practices into your everyday life, the nursery is the perfect room to begin with.
Choosing eco-friendly nursery décor is an easy way to recycle and reuse materials that would otherwise have gone to the landfill.
Wallpaper is one of the most common materials used for interior decoration. Green wall coverings are made from plants or natural resources rather than plastic containing heavy metals or VOCs. Green wall coverings don't emit dangerous chemicals into the air when exposed to sunlight and water vapor over time.
Eco-friendly wall coverings can be found at most hardware stores and online today. They come in many different styles ranging from natural renewable sources (e.g., recycled or rice papers, cork, bamboo, flax, jute, etc.) and grasscloth (e.g., sisal coverings from recycled sisal carpets) to PVC-free wall coverings.
For green parenting, experts recommend choosing the paint that contains zinc oxide as the fungicide. Paint should also be low VOC (volatile organic compounds), so your baby doesn't inhale toxic fumes while sleeping.
Acrylic and latex paints can both be good choices. Recycled water-based paint is also an excellent option for green parenting.
Never use paints from old cans, as they may contain toxins such as mercury or lead.
2. Furniture, Bedding, and Clothing
Take a load off, mama. Your baby will be just fine without all those fancy baby products you see on the shelves of department stores.
Many products are marketed to new parents, even though many of them aren't necessary.
Considering how much energy and resources are required to make and package everything new, purchasing only what you actually need and purchasing used items can significantly reduce the use of natural resources like land, water, and fossil fuels.
Many of the products you need can be bought second-hand. Buying second-hand goods is greener and cheaper than buying new ones.
When it comes down to baby clothes, used goods have become very popular over the years. There are various reasons for this.
- Firstly, buying baby clothes from second-hand markets provides no risk of overspending on something that your child will only use for a short period.
- Second, it is significantly cheaper than buying new.
- Thirdly, most used items are in perfect condition, as it’s often the best things that get offered for resale, and again, babies don’t wear anything for very long.
Reuse old wooden furniture such as dressers or beds that are in good condition and repaint them with eco-friendly paints. Good quality wooden furniture can also be used again in future children's rooms.
However, if you really need to buy new furniture, you can start by choosing products that are made of sustainable materials and certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
FSC is an international certification that ensures that the wood used for a product has been legally harvested and managed in a way that protects the environment.
To find out if your new furniture is certified by the FSC, simply look for “FSC” printed on any packaging or packing slips.
Where To Look For Second-Hand Goods?
The second-hand market has been growing rapidly in recent years as more people want to reduce their carbon footprint and save money.
Good places to look for second-hand baby goods include websites such as eBay or Amazon because they have a money-back guarantee if anything is wrong.
To reduce costs and have more control, buying items locally is best; for instance, goods sold at sales or fairs through charity sites, Facebook, Craigslist, fundraisers, or local parent groups.
Breast milk is one of the most environmentally friendly forms of infant nutrition. For mothers who are physically able and willing, it has a much lower (or no) carbon footprint compared to formula and is much more efficient in energy use.
A great deal of land, water, and fossil fuels are consumed in the production, packaging, transportation, sterilization, and disposal of formula. Breast milk, on the other hand, requires almost no resources at all.
Furthermore, breast milk contains nutrients that are important to a baby’s growth and development. It helps to protect against many health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, infections, lactose intolerance, gastroenteritis, eczema, obesity, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Additionally, when you breastfeed, you can save money on formula, which can be expensive. Formula can cost up to 30 times more than breast milk per serving.
However, breastfeeding can sometimes be challenging—especially for women embarking on a new career. In such cases, expressing milk is a great way to maintain your milk supply.
There are two main types of breast pumps available on the market: manual and electric. The manual pump creates the least amount of environmental impact and is more affordable than an electronic pump.
Of course, some parents choose, either because of necessity or by choice, to formula feed instead, which is also an entirely acceptable choice. Green parenting is about making dozens of little changes that help the earth, and there’s always tradeoffs in those decisions.
4. Bottles and Pacifiers
It's hard to resist buying cute baby bottles and pacifiers, even as a green parent.
So, if you're looking for a new baby bottle, avoid plastic ones. Even if they're BPA-free, they're still not good for the environment, or your baby’s health.
While it’s not yet clear whether there’s a connection between BPA exposure and shorter lives, animal studies have found that low doses of this chemical can cause reproductive issues in male mice. In humans, that means infertility or decreased sperm quality. High doses of BPA have been linked with heart disease and obesity.
BPA is also found in food packaging, so avoid buying single-use plastic items like water bottles or sippy cups—even if they say they are BPA-free. Recycling these plastics can be tricky because they often end up in landfills or incinerators, where they contribute to global warming emissions.
Furthermore, don't buy single-use disposable baby bottles, as they are a huge source of unnecessary waste and thus should be avoided.
Glass is much more environmentally friendly. Not only are glass bottles easier to clean and reuse, but they’re often made of recycled glass, making them much better for the environment than plastic baby bottles.
Just remember to wrap your glass baby bottle in towels whenever you're carrying it out of the house. Lastly, make your purchases count by recycling or reusing them when you’re done!
In the US alone, about 20 billion diapers go to landfills each year. Yes, read that again—20 billion a year. That’s 4.1 million tons of diaper waste a year in the US alone! (7)
Reusable cloth diapers are made from biodegradable, sustainable fabrics and can be reused multiple times. This makes them much more environmentally friendly than disposable ones and a great choice for eco parenting.
Reusable cloth diapers also contain no harmful chemicals or dyes, so they're gentler on your baby's sensitive skin. They're also super easy to wash.
Disposable diapers can’t be reused because they are made from plastic and/or paper pulp, which ends up in landfill sites, where it takes hundreds of years to degrade completely.
Disposable diapers also contain chemicals that can leak into the environment and cause harm to wildlife and humans. Reusable cloth diapers contain no harmful chemicals at all!
Pro Tip: If you’re new to green parenting, I recommend trying out a cloth diaper starter kit. This will help you familiarize yourself with these eco-friendly wonders.
Related Resource: How Long Does It Take For A Diaper To Decompose?
6. Make Your Own Baby Food
Homemade baby food is generally much healthier than packaged foods. It's made from whole ingredients, rich in fiber, and free of all the additives and preservatives you will find in commercial baby food.
Commercial baby foods aren’t good for the environment, as they waste too many natural resources in their manufacturing process. They're responsible for significant energy and water use, as well as greenhouse gas emissions.
As per this article by Alive & Thrive, a global nutrition initiative, the food industry contributes roughly 30% of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).
Plus, commercial baby foods are often high in sugar, salt, and fat content, which can cause obesity or other health problems in children. It’s therefore highly recommended that you use organic food that you’ve made yourself as part of organic parenting.
7. Toys and Entertainment
Babies are born with the need to explore and learn. This is a vital part of their development, but this can also be done in an eco-friendly manner.
Don’t buy large amounts of toys unless you know that your child will actually play with them. Consider going “toy-free” with your baby and providing ordinary items as toys instead, such as books, clothes, cuddly plush animals, etc.
Focus on obtaining specific educational toys that can be played with in different ways, such as puzzles, card games, drawing tools, etc.Choose sustainably made toys and avoid plastic where possible (for example, by getting wood blocks rather than plastic ones).
Lastly, as your baby grows, so do the opportunities to play outside. This is when you should teach them how to play by using play-based learning techniques.
If possible, encourage outdoor play as much as you can for better physical and mental health.
8. Cleaning Products
The most effective way to keep the most toxic chemicals out of your home is to make your own cleaning products. This is a great way to know exactly what goes into your baby’s toiletries, soaps, and cleaning products. You can also reduce packaging waste by making your own cleaning products.
Mix some baking soda and vinegar together in warm water to clean almost anything in your house. Tea tree oil is a great natural disinfectant—just be sure to wear gloves while using it.
If DIYs sound too intimidating to you, buy certified organic products. Make sure to look for Soil Association certification.
Furthermore, you shouldn't be fooled by “natural” labels either, since terms like “all-natural,” “organic,” and “hypoallergenic” are often unregulated.
The next step is to learn how to read ingredient labels. This will help you avoid the worst chemicals and help you find safer alternatives. For example, avoid using ingredients containing petrochemicals like benzene, often found in cleaning products.
9. Traveling With The Baby
Transport accounts for 27% of total greenhouse-gas emissions in the United States alone. The further you travel, the more it costs, environmentally speaking.
One of the best ways to reduce your environmental impact is to use Slow Travel as a guide. Slow travel is the opposite of fast travel—it's taking your time and enjoying the journey.
A “Slow Travel” rule of thumb is to choose to walk, cycle short distances and take public transport like buses and trains for longer journeys.
Moreover, many different types of bicycles are also available for eco-friendly parenting. You can also consider looking for second-hand cars and hybrid cars.
This is how we can do our bit to slow down climate change and make a difference in our environment, helping not only to save the earth, but leave a brighter future for our children.