As my wife and I were already consciously evolving our efforts to reduce our carbon footprint, it is only natural that such efforts would be carried over to raising our daughter, Anjali. Taking steps to change our habits and routines was, and is, never easy. Changing such things always involves contemplation, research, motivation and implementation. For us, the contemplation and motivation is generally there already. Implementation is usually easy once the research is done. The research, however, can be time consuming.
I want to list here 10 things that we have done to reduce our baby’s carbon footprint and give a brief summary of each item’s affects on the environment. Having these brief ideas should serve as a great launching pad for you to research deeper into each one:
- Using Organic Cloth Diapers / Cloth Wipes: Of course, I have read that the environmental impact it takes to manufacture and wash cloth diapers is equal to the impact of disposable diapers. But my biggest concern is where disposable diapers and wipes end up: landfills. And trapped inside those plastic diapers is human waste (mind you, it is illegal in most states to dump human waste in landfills). Cloth diapers and wipes, on the other hand, can be re-used, recycled, donated or sold. Also, as far as I can tell, new parents are constantly doing laundry anyway, regardless of their diapering choices, so is it really adding that much more to wash diapers? It is important to note that I write “organic” cloth diapers because cotton one of the most synthetically fertilized crops and uses about 25% of the world’s insecticides. This is appalling to me, and it was a real eye-opener for my wife and I. It made us think about our own clothing and cloth purchases.
- Practicing Elimination Communication (EC): You can read my “EC For Dummies” post, as well as my post on The Benefits Of EC. In a nutshell, EC is using cues, timing, and intuition to deal with an infant’s need to poop and pee. It is sometimes referred to as “diaper-free” or “early potty training,” though the focus on communication and fostering a strong parent-infant bond makes EC a more suitable name. Practicing EC, mainly in conjunction with cloth diapering, will reduce the amount of energy and water consumed as a result of doing laundry. It also reduces diaper rash, thus reducing your use of diaper creams and ointments.
- Buying Wooden and/or Natural Fiber Toys: Sustainable toys made of wood or natural fabrics are made with much fewer toxins than plastic ones. PVC toys, for example, have been linked to asthma, kidney and liver damage and cancer. Clearly, the off-gassing of these toys is harmful to anyone around them. But of direct concern is that infants are constantly putting things in their mouth and teething them. The “life” of a toy is another concern. Anything petroleum-based product is a non-renewable resource, and one that wars are being fought over, mind you. Also, the mass production of plastic toys gives them a sort of planned obsolescence and an overabundance that will simply add to more landfills. This leads to my next item…
- Buying fewer Toys: We decided to keep the number of toys in our house to a minimum because we have limited space. But we started to realize the benefits this might have on our environment. Fewer toys mean fewer resources used, and fewer resources to discard when our daughter outgrows the toys.
- Breast Feeding: I cannot says this any better than Wendy Correa in her “Ecomall article, Breastfeeding And The Environment“: “Breastmilk is a valuable renewable natural resource that is the most ecologically sound food source available.” Other than the food that a mother eats, breastmilk is delivered without the use of other resources. There is also no resultant pollution. Artificial human milk, also known as formula, pollutes land, water, and air, and does use up natural resources. Artificial human milk necessitates packaging (material resource), heating (energy resource), using and contaminating water in association with dairy cows and/or soy farming and transportation (energy resource). I cannot say this any better than Wendy Correa in her “Ecomall article, Breastfeeding And The Environment“: “Breastmilk is a valuable renewable natural resource that is the most ecologically sound food source available.” Read that article for much more eye-opening detail!
- Using Environmentally Gentle Cleaning Products: The use of non-toxic detergents (such as Charlie’s Soap), oils, creams and lotions (like California Baby Calendula Cream) is much healthier and safer for your child and is much friendlier to our environment. Charlie’s Soap, for example, even reduces the number of washes you will need to do, so you are reducing energy and water use.
- Buying Less Clothing: Our daughter Anjali grew out of the swim shirt we bought her before even one use! Our kids grow out of clothing in the middle of the night, so save your money and reduce the natural resources–especially cotton–you are using. Of course, clothing is often recycled by resale, re-gifting or donating. But reducing your consumption (of anything) is beneficial when it comes to environmental impact.
- Buying Organic Clothing: As I stated in 1., cotton manufacturing uses a huge portion of the world’s insecticides and pesticides. These chemicals impact our environment greatly. 98% of sprayed insecticides reach a destination other than their target, including air, water, and food. Buying organic clothing circumvents these impacts. Of course, organic clothing is expensive. But, this leads back to number 7. The idea here is to buy quality over quantity. This sort of practice also circumvents planned obsolescence. Organic cotton usually lasts for 100 washes before it begins to break down, compared to conventional cotton which begins to break down after 10-20 washes. Furthermore, you are protecting your baby. An infant’s skin is more porous and thinner than adults, hence greater sensitivity to chemicals and greater risk to pesticide-related health problems.
- Buying and Eating Local, Organic and Whole Foods: This impacts of our eating habits are far too many to list here in total. Buying local food reduces pollution resulting from transport, not to mention that sustainable local farming practices have much less impact when it comes to the use of petroleum fertilizers, pesticides and quite simply the quantity of scale. Eating local often means eating “beyond organic,” meaning beyond a governmental definition of organic. It means, for example, cows are grazing rather than being confined and unnaturally fed corn, thus eliminating the need for hormones and antibiotics. Buying whole foods rather than processed food is just plain healthier. But it almost goes without saying that processing food uses more energy and resources than delivering local, whole foods.
- Stay Local, Use A Carrier and Walk: Of course, there are no doubt times when we need to drive. But I find myself more inclined to wear my daughter in a wrap or carrier and go for a walk, or patronize local shops and stores; one, because she can absorb much more from her surroundings; two, because I get my exercise; three, less driving means less carbon footprint as well as more money in my pocket. Plus, our daughter is not a big fan of being in the car yet!
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