When I became a parent the first time around (almost 7 years ago now!) the products I was told about were all about convenience. Nobody ever suggested alternative methods or brands, it was disposable this, throw away that, make your life easy and buy to chuck out; who wants to do extra washing or cleaning? Who wants to do more when you are tired? Make things simpler, choose convenience. But when I became a parent the second time around, I realised that there were other ways and ways that are far better for our environment and also better for our pockets too! (Why does nobody mention this part?!) So, here are 11 ways to be more eco-friendly as a new parent…
Research What You Actually Will Need And Use
This may sound a little odd but honestly, the companies will tell you that you will need it ALL but you truly won’t– they just want to make those sales. So, you need to sit down and work out what you will actually need and use. By talking to parents who have already been through those first stages you will quickly come to discover which products are a must-have and which you can get by without. There will be many a product that will claim that it will make life easier but if you aren’t going to get much use out of it, if it is going to put you out of pocket and it is going to get in the way in your home, it isn’t convenient whatsoever. The best thing you can do is buy less, save money and help the environment. Remember that most of these products will be made abroad and may not be from ethical factories, the staff may not be well-treated and the carbon emissions to get them here also needs to be considered.
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Reusable nappies have made such an amazing comeback in recent years with the main reasons being because we are all so very aware that disposable nappies are harmful to the environment and also because they have come a long way in design and simplicity. I started using cloth nappies over 2 years ago now and I say over and over, I wish someone had told me about them with my first. Not only would I have saved myself a fortune, I would have also saved thousands of nappies from going to landfill for 500 years. Yes, that’s right, a child will use approximately 4,000 – 6,000 nappies by the time they are potty trained and each one contains chemicals, bleach, plastic, wood pulp (which costs the UK 7 millions trees a year) amongst other things (but as no disposable nappy brand lists their ingredients, your guess is as good as mine!) These nappies are used just once and then just thrown into the bin. That nappy may only be on for a matter of minutes yet will spend the next 500 years or so slowly rotting away in landfill producing harmful greenhouse gases in the process. Crazy to think that something that helps your little one out will cause so much damage and what I find even crazier, is that nobody tells you this during your pregnancy journey.
So, what if I HAD used reusables the first time around? Well, I would have then had my collection all ready for my second baby so I would have been completely prepared, I wouldn’t have had any additional costs, I wouldn’t have ever run out and I wouldn’t have contributed to our evergrowing waste and carbon emissions problems. And what do I love about reusables? They are gentle on my baby’s skin, they are kinder to our planet, they can be used over and over again on multiple children, they can be sold on plus they come in amazing designs.
If you are thinking that reusables may be a good option for you I have plenty of blog posts that can help including:
So, naturally, the next item to think about are your baby wipes. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but the majority of baby wipes on the market do actually contain plastic and those that don’t are still going to cost you far more than reusables plus they are still going to end up in the bin after just one use. I remember going through packets and packets of wipes with my first child. I often found that I needed four of the things for a really bad nappy (think teething poo) and that I would just reach for them for hands, faces, surfaces too just because it was easy and they were there. Such a waste. When I had my second child I only used water and cotton wool for a very long time due to him being premature. I was actually told not to use wipes as they would damage his delicate skin… And as the months went on, I couldn’t shake that fact. After some research, I realised that babies don’t need chemicals, perfumes or plastic to wipe their little bottoms with and I opted for reusable wipes. Just like reusable nappies, once you have bought what you need, you are done, you have enough to be used over and over again. Plus, reusable wipes work so much better than disposables. Even if you can’t get on board with reusable nappies I really would urge you to give reusable wipes a go.
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It can be so easy to be drawn into the baby shops by their cute clothing and affordable prices but have you ever stopped to think about what goes into making those items, who makes them and what they are made from? A lot of these shops will be able to give you these cheap prices because they don’t pay their factory staff well, they may cut corners and they will be using cheap materials which means the clothing will not last. Buying secondhand has so often been frowned upon in the past but things are beginning to change and many parents now realise that this is an extremely sustainable way of shopping. Not only do you get clothing at great prices, you can often purchase all you need at once in bundles and you will be keeping these items in circulation which is one of the best ways to help our environment. Did you know that it was recently reported that there is already enough clothing on the Earth to clothe the next 6 generations?! That is insane, isn’t it? And yet, we keep making items, selling them and throwing them out once we are done (I say we, I mean humans). By supporting the secondhand sites and shops, you will be making such a difference for such little effort.
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Shop Sustainable Clothing Ranges
If you do want to buy new (as we all do every now and then) take some time to look into which brands are truly sustainable. Now, this can be tricky as so many high street stores are quick to add “sustainably sourced, sustainable materials, sustainability” to their branding now but this covers such a wide range of things (paying staff correctly, not using child labour, sourcing organic materials, giving back etc) so you really need to delve a little deeper to check how sustainable they really are being. One place that you may not think to check is Instagram but I have found this to be a wonderful platform on which to discover new brands and small businesses who are all working hard to bring you gorgeous clothing in a sustainable way. Check out my review of Little Drop In The Ocean as a great example.
Reusable Breast Pads
Time to think about you (sort of, those boobs may also half belong to your baby by now too!) Reusable breast pads, what a great idea! I am going to sound like a stuck record but here I go again, if I had known how many breast pads I was going to go through I would have gone reusable the first time around. Gosh, I learnt the hard way with my first! Reusable breast pads are a game-changer. They are far more comfortable, they don’t make you sweaty, they don’t buckle over, they don’t have sticky tabs that leave marks on your bra, they don’t contain plastic and they can be washed and reused, preventing more waste going to landfill and keeping your money firmly in your pocket!
After giving birth, you may bleed for a few weeks and once your body decides the time is right, your periods can return at any time. What menstrual products you opt for will highly depend on how your flow is post-partum, how comfortable you find particular products and what will work for you as a new parent. Disposable products have always been the ones that have been ‘sold’ to us as women but did you know that reusable menstrual products do also exist? Again, this isn’t something that has been openly spoken about in the past but just like reusable nappies, reusable period products have become far more popular in the last couple of years and there are options to suit everybody. Cloth sanitary pads can be found in different sizes, thicknesses and absorbency. These sit inside your knickers but instead of throwing them away, you simply wash them and reuse. Menstrual cups are your alternative to tampons and work in a very similar way but can be emptied and reused each time. And then there are period pants which are knickers with a built-in absorbency layer and again, these can be washed. All work, all will save you money in the long run and all are far better for the environment.
For more on these check out these articles here:
Look For Good Quality Toys
Toys, oh the toys… Boy, do they accumulate over the years? People also love to buy them which doesn’t help the situation. However, what you want here is quality over quantity. You want toys that will stand the test of time, ones that won’t break after a few uses, ones that can be used in many different ways and ones that will grow with your child. Wooden toys usually tick all of these boxes and if you look for sustainably made ones you are onto an even bigger winner! And as above, do not forget to shop secondhand where possible too.
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Buy Eco-Friendly Skincare Products
Babies don’t need much for their skin, in fact, plain water is the best thing you can put on it but if they have dry patches, a nappy rash, eczema etc then you will want to treat this in the most natural way you can. By choosing a product that isn’t tested on animals, that is made from natural ingredients and is packaged in materials that can be recycled or reused, you will be doing the best by your baby as well as by the environment. I would highly recommend Beeutiful Skincare for all of your skincare needs (yours too).
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How you wean your baby is a completely personal choice and each baby may well be different but if you wanted to be as eco-friendly as possible as a new parent, choosing to go down the baby-led weaning route would be the best option. The benefits being that you can choose loose fruit and veg to offer, you won’t be left with jars or plastic packaging, your baby can eat what you do, you will save yourself extra trips to the shop for supplies and it will help to reduce your carbon footprint.
And lastly, always be prepared. Each time you set off out, make sure you have all of your nappies and wipes (reusable perhaps?), make sure you have spare clothing, that lunch is prepared and packaged in reusable pots, that you have your canvas shopping bags, a wet bag for any clothing or nappies/wipes which may get dirty and your reusable bottle of water. By planning ahead you won’t need to pop to a shop for emergency items, you won’t be leaving behind any waste and you will be continuing to make small sustainable steps each and every day.
Being a new parent has its challenges so the last thing you want is to be making tricky eco-friendly swaps and this is precisely why everything I ever recommend is simple. I always speak from firsthand experience and I always say that if this was difficult I would never be doing it. Being eco-friendly should be enjoyable and should always slot into your life with ease which is precisely why each of these 11 ideas should doable for most people. I’d love to hear from you if you decide to give some a go so do leave me a comment here or you can drop me a line on Instagram or Facebook.
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