This post may contain affiliate links. See here for full details
I quick learned when I became a mom that babies are high maintenance…like, super high maintenance. More times than we care to admit, our snuggly little angels blow out their diapers at 3am and we have to change both little dude’s (or dudette’s) diaper AND pajamas with our eyes half open (you’re doing a great job, by the way!).
It’s no surprise then, that there is a HUGE market of products to make parenting just a little easier. From simple no-spill cups to fancy stroller adapters to fit your car seat (and everything in between!), we are always looking to make our lives just a tiny bit easier.
However, some of the shortcuts we take have a harmful impact on our environment. So we need to be diligent and creative in finding ways to make our lives easier AND eco-friendly. Here’s a list of ways we tend to increase our environmental impact and how we can reduce our environmental impact with babies or toddlers:
1-) Choose eco friendly or second-hand toys
I think we can all agree that most (not all, of course) toys today are made of plastic. Yes? And we all know that plastic isn’t particularly good for the environment. Right? So what do you think the environmental impact is of buying our young ones’ all brand new plastic toys from big brands that don’t particularly care about being eco-friendly? It’s probably not good.
Fortunately little ones don’t care if their toys are second hand or come from companies that follow environmentally friendly practices. Awesome!
See that fire truck above? That’s actually made from recycled milk jugs! Green Toys- the brand who makes this toy- is one of my favorite eco-friendly toy brands! All of their toys are made from recycled materials, are 100% recyclable, and are really well-made. Green Toys also has a great selection to choose from (if you can choose….we have many!). In fact, one of Little Grasshopper’s favorite toys ever is his tool set from Green Toys. He loves to help his daddy out when he’s working on a DIY project!
Another way to reduce your environmental impact is to buy toys second-hand. So many parents end up with an overabundance of toys, and as a result many only get lightly used. If you buy toys second-hand from consignment sales or direct sales apps (like Offer Up), you’ll a-) prevent perfectly usable toys from going into landfill , b-) get the toys significantly cheaper than you would buying them new, c-) support a fellow parent rather than a big business, and d-) have less packaging to deal with (seriously….opening baby toys is like trying to break outta prison…not that I actually know what that’s like or anything.) So it’s a win-win all around!
2-) Swap your disposables
Go ahead…do a google search “disposable diapers landfill.” I’ll wait here…
Information overwhelm, much? If you skipped the google search, I’ll tell you two quotes you would have seen: 1-) 27.4 billion diapers are disposed of from American babies every year, and 2-) these disposable diapers require ~500 years to degrade. Ouch!
The obvious choice to reduce this impact is to switch to cloth diapers or (if you’re really ambitious) go diaper free and use Elimination Communication. However,we lived in a small one bedroom apartment without a washer/dryer when our little one was born. Because we had to pay for laundry and I’m not so crunchy that I’ll rush my kid to the toilet every time he needs to take a wee, we looked for alternatives.
Lo and behold, we found Bamboo Nature diapers! These diapers are certified by the FSC and Nordic Ecolabel. They are made primarily from polypropylene, polythethylene (considered safer plastics), and trees. They can also be composted (woo!), although you will have to hire a pick up service for them to be composted properly (not woo!). Fortunately, these services are popping up everywhere…you just have to look for them. Most importantly, Bamboo diapers are super absorbant and don’t easily let poop escape. Win!
3-) Minimize pouches
You all know what I’m talking about…those super easy, twist-the-top-off and watch your child instantly slurp down a serving of fruit pouches. They are a parent’s dream: low mess, quick to eat, and absolutely zero preparation involved.
It’s the parenting jack pot. Almost…
As it turns out, these pouches cannot be put in your normal recycling streams. While some of the individual components of the pouches are recyclable, they are hard to separate out of the fused layers of materials that make up the pouch.
But don’t hyperventilate just yet! You have a few options to continue letting your little grasshoppers slurp their foods without majorly contributing to landfill:
Buying reusable pouches like these is probably the most eco-friendly option. You can fill 5-10 of these guys all at once with foods like applesauce or yogurt (or both) and keep them in the fridge until your little grasshopper is hungry. Many brands of these pouches are dishwasher safe, so cleanup is easy too!
A word of caution though: We used reusable pouches for a while and over time they built up food/mold inside near the mouth piece. We didn’t do a good job of cleaning them immediately, so it’s mostly our fault. If you decide to use these, I would recommend rinsing them as soon as they’re used and letting them sit in a bowl of warm water until you’re ready to run the dishwasher so nothing sticks inside.
A second alternative is to use a program like terracycle to recycle pouches. We have not used terracycle ourselves, but it seems like an interesting program for recycling just about anything. Even still, we think it’s a good idea to minimize pouch consumption by being particular about when Little Grasshopper is allowed to have pouches.
4-) Opt for snug fitting pj’s
You may or may not know that many children’s pajamas are treated with flame retardants, such as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PDBEs) or (in older pajamas) chlorinated or brominated Tris. These don’t sound very pleasant, do they?
Well they aren’t. Chlorinated and brominated Tris have long been banned due to their likely carcinogenic activities, and PDBEs have been linked to neurological and thryroid problems. Not to mention, these compounds can leach and contaminate water ways. Bleh.
As it turns out, children’s “sleepwear” has to meet certain fire-proofing conditions in order to actually be marketed as such. There are two ways companies can meet these conditions: either add flame retardants or design snug-fitting pj’s. Clearly, the better option here is the snug-fitting pj’s.
Please note: Some companies skirt around the issue by not labeling their clothes as “sleepwear.” Even if the clothes you’re considering look like sleepwear, if they’re not labeled as “sleepwear” (or something similar) then they don’t have to meet the fire proofing requirements. They may be labeled as “loungewear” and should specifically state that the clothes are not designed for sleeping. These likely do NOT contain flame retardants, even though they are loose fitting.
Now let me be clear….I’m NOT suggesting that you choose loose fitting clothes for pj’s. I’m saying that if something looks like loose-fitting pj’s but claims that there are no flame retardants, then they shouldn’t be marketed as pj’s or sleepwear and you should follow your own parenting gut to decide whether you are comfortable letting your child sleep in them.
5-) Make use of old towels and wash cloths
Oh paper towels, how we love thy convenience. Unfortunately, cleaning up every mess with a paper towel or disposable napkin gets expensive and adds to landfill. Plus, there’s the processing that is involved in actually making and packaging them.
Fortunately, it’s easy to make a new mess-clean-up system that will save money and the environment. Just take old dish towels, bath towels, or wash cloths that are in less-than-fabulous condition, cut them if needed, and use them to wipe up messes! Bam! Reusable paper towels. I keep a stash in our pantry and every time there’s a milk spill or I just want to wipe something down I grab one, use it, and throw it in with the rest of our laundry. Because they’re small they don’t add many additional loads of laundry, so it’s really no hassle.
So there you have it… my five main tips for reducing your environmental impact when you have a baby or toddler. What other tips do you have?