In our family we have a mantra that we remind our kiddos of from time to time: Always leave a place better than you found it. This applies to everything from playdates (help clean up the toys and put everything back in order, even if you didn’t make the whole mess) to vacation rentals (be mindful that this is someone else’s home and treat it with respect; leave a tip!) to trips to the park, beach, or playground (clean up your trash and whatever other trash you can). But it contains a larger, lifelong message as well: We aim to leave our planet in a better state than when we came, minimizing our environmental footprint and caring for nature. The privilege of becoming a parent comes with great responsibility, and I see living a more eco-friendly lifestyle as a part of that. With that in mind, here are 4 tips for making your own parenting experience a little greener…
1. Borrow From a Friend (or Buy Used)
When I was pregnant with my firstborn, I was so excited to get my hands on the latest luxe stroller model, the chicest state-of-the-art bassinet, and all the other gadgets I was told my newborn baby needed. By the time I had my second baby, I realized that I only used most of those things for a few short months. Kids outgrow things so quickly—from toys to furniture to shoes. So especially with anything plastic—our go-to is to borrow or buy secondhand, and not let anything end up in a landfill. My husband will scour Craigslist or OfferUp if the kids ask for a plastic toy, and I am a part of a great Buy/Sell/Trade Group on Facebook of moms in my neighborhood.
2. Stick to Organic Cotton Clothes and Crib Sheets
While I may hang onto a favorite item of clothing for over a decade, a growing baby won’t be sleeping on crib sheets or wearing onesies for long. With this in mind I opt for natural textiles like organic cotton whenever I can. Natural textiles have the lowest carbon footprint, so shop lines like Little Co., which is made of Global Organic Textile Standard Certified Organic Cotton.
3. Plastic-Free Parties
I love to go all out with kids’ birthday parties—but a couple of years ago I realized that they were some of the most wasteful days of the year for our family. When my kids’ birthdays rolled around, I abandoned my efforts to eliminate single use plastic, and had tunnel vision when it came to looking for whatever cute goodies would add to the theme. Something needed to change, so I decided to say no to plastic party favors. Instead of the typical plastic toys that kids lose interest in quickly, we now hand out things like metal kazoos, coloring books, or edible treats. When it comes to plates and forks, I choose bamboo or other sustainable options. In situations where I do like to give myself a break from washing dishes, I can at least go with the most eco-friendly disposable options out there.
4. Eat Less Meat
Our entire family eats a mostly vegetarian and vegan diet, apart from some sustainable fish. I know that going veg isn’t for everyone, and that my kids may even choose to eat meat when they are older (and I respect everyone’s individual decision). I explain to my children that by simply eating less meat (or more sustainable varieties), we can have a big impact on the health of our planet. Similarly, we subscribe to a CSA box and try to shop our local farmer’s market for almost all of our produce.
What eco-friendly parenting hacks do you have to share?
I could especially use some advice on cutting down on food waste. I have yet to come up with a great solution that doesn’t involve consuming my kids’ scraps!
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