ECO PARENTING 101
What we can do to give our children a better future
Parents have a ‘pivotal role in shaping a culture’as we socialise the next generation. Through our environmentally friendly actions we teach our children to have a hopeful and empathetic attitude. However, we can only practice what fits out budget and circumstances. Sometimes it can be difficult to work out what is best to do, since there are so many ways of measuring environmental impact. For example, an ecological footprintmeasures the impact we have on the earth such as polluting water and soil. A carbon footprint measures the climate change causing greenhouses gases we are responsible for- this infographic explains the best ways to reduce your carbon footprint.
ECO PARENTING 101
One reason we bought stuff when I was pregnant was that it gave us a sense of being prepared. However, most of it was useless. So, save yourself the hassle.
SAVE MONEY. YOU'LL NEED IT!
Pointless tat:'Have you started decorating the nursery', everyone asked when I was pregnant. The love we have for our children has been equated with the purchase of stuff; the more stuff children have, the more they are loved. We wasted money, (and the planet's finite plastic resources) on: a flat with spare room, cot co-sleeper, ‘sleepyhead’ mattress, and ‘grobag’ sleeping bags, and that's just for sleep. Eventually we followed safe co-sleeping guidelines instead- which are free. Baby still sleeps with us rather than in a nursery, and we all enjoy the cuddles.
A couple of weeks after the initial birth present avalanche, we were then asked, 'what would Baby like for Christmas'? While Baby does appreciate a present, they are equally as happy playing with clothes pegs as with a new toy (unless it's a sticker book). We got so much lovely stuff from friends and family that we didn't bother with a Christmas stocking. We tell ourselves Baby does not evaluate affection based on presents alone.
How to buy less nappies, nappy cream, and nappy cleaner? Answer- potty train newborn babies!
The following are also unnecessary: potties, changing tables, changing mats, nappy bags.
REDUCE WASTE, SPENDING, AND SMELL
Nappy waste:We started toilet training when baby was two months old. In this way, we saved ourselves a lot of nappies, washing, and our new carpet. Baby has never had nappy rash, and we realised we could stop using nappy cream. Rather than a potty, you can hold babies over the toilet or use a seat reducer. Nappies can be changed anywhere, and indeed were changed in motion when Baby started crawling. We have used a mix of biodegradable nappies and padded nappy pants with poppers. You can get reusable nappy vouchersin some parts of the country.
Other waste:Baby food is over packed and horrible. However, baby led weaning is responsible for most of our food waste. There's not much that can be done about that, except scoffing everything myself at the sink. Beside baby related general waste, many things are wasted when we lose them. For example, Baby has compiled a secret stash of toothbrushes somewhere. Many plastic toothbrushes have been bought in haste, but with forethought and planning we could have a supply of bamboo toothbrushes at the ready. We averted the loss of hats, socks and shoes by dressing Baby in a hoody and baby grow.
With a buggy it is easy to bring a lot of eco stuff around with you, such as: keep cups, food containers and cuttlery.
Save more money by buying secondhand. Second hand baby things are freely available and as good as new, since you only ever use them for a couple of weeks.
RECYCLE- USE YOUR LOCAL COUNCIL RECYCLING SERVICES
Everything has to be made from something. Be it wood, metal or plastic, the resources originated in the Earth. We can't replant a tree, or put oil back in the soil, but we can reduce, reuse and recycle what is already made. Babies and children grow out of things at a rate of knots. This means there are a lot of second-hand, (i.e., recycled) accessories and clothes out there which are still in good condition. My shop page lists where you can buy second-hand things or get them for free:
Local council and NCT nearly new clothes and nappy sales
Local Facebook groups or special interest, such as the Nappy Lady Buying and Selling group
Let children draw on waste paper and model with junk. If, like my child, they are obsessed with stickers; look into reusable stickers, magnets or felt.
If you plan to have another child then you can stuff for them, or pass it onto friends and family, charity shops, or The Toy Project. Advertising has segmented markets by age and gender, which makes adults concerned about giving the wrong thing to the wrong person (i.e. pink to a boy)- but babies don’t care.
MOVE YOUR MONEY
Financial service companies such as banks invest your money into other companies. Unless otherwise stated, these are not all 'eco'. If you put your money into a bank with an ethical investment policy, then you know your hard work being eco at home is not cancelled out by funding fossil fuels or warthrough your bank! Advise for such 'divestment'is available from Ethical Consumer.
Live car free. Travel lighter, even with a baby! I use a backpack carrier or bike seat instead of a buggy.
USE PUBLIC TRANSPORT
I can't drive, and when Daddy hires a car Baby screams. In this respect, we are not missing out by living car free. It's easier when you can base yourself in a city, close to reliable transport links. Urban areas have more: car share schemes, hire cars, taxis, and electric car charging points. A bike seat at the front of my bike gave us greater freedom to move around quickly in quieter parts of our local area.
I have found a backpack toddler carrier (or normal baby carrier) great for public transport. We can walk up the stairs with ease, and sit on the top deck of the bus, by the big window. Not only that, but they fit in the flat. I consulted the TFL step free tube map when I used the buggy, although, that being said, people seem to like helping babies in buggies.
One less flight- holiday with less stress... but at greater expense
TRAVEL OVER LAND
Website The Man in Seat Sixty-One gives detailed advise about how to travel abroad by train. I like to travel this way, as we arrive in the holiday destination, rather than on the edge, spend less time waiting around at the airport, and I don't feel sick.
This very website has a map and blog of child friendly BnBs, cafes and eco-tourism attractions to be found in the UK, Ireland, or near places with a direct Eurostar train from London.
If you want to avoid air miles in your food then you could try a local, seasonal organic veg box.
Air travel inforgraphic
If your own breasts can make milk for your baby then this is cheaper and healthier than cow’s milk formula- but you might need help. It is natural to be concerned for your child's diet, and never feel guilty about decisions you have to make
Breastfeeding avoids buying cow’s milk. However, it is a skill which we have no way of practicing before we have a baby, and not everyone has the capacity. Therefore, while pregnant, revise carefully how to breastfeed using videos. Gather details of breastfeeding support servicesand websites and have these to hand for the birth. This will make you more likely to succeed. From 4 weeks, I expressed milk at 4am when I had more, and used it at 4pm when I had less. I pumped one breast while feeding on the other to promote milk flow. After two months, my supply evened out over the day and baby stopped wanting a bottle.
Returning to the topic of useless purchases; before breastfeeding, I wasted money on: special bras with hooks (take milliseconds too long to unhook), clothes with flaps (baby wants to grab the whole thing), and feeding shawls (I quickly got used to whipping boobs out anywhere and everywhere). When weaning, we found normal teaspoons easier than the special baby ones, cups with nipples get chewed, and baby food is not eaten.
Plant based diet infographic
Supporting renewable energy companies is more realistic than becoming an off-grid subsistence wind farmer.
Pay someone else to generate the electricity for you, or investigatecommunity energy. There are two types of green energy companies- the best type invests in infrastructure by putting up new green energy generation capacity. Others (often subsidiaries of normal energy companies) buy and then resell the green energy. Ethical Consumer magazine rate all types of companies, including energy, on various sustainability criteria.
Our washing machine was broken by an accumulation of reusable breast pads
We soak reusable nappies in the sink with a bit of nappy powder and then put them in the normal wash with everything else at 30 degrees. If the washing machine had a 20 setting I would use that. The environmental impact of nappies depends on the type of nappy and how you wash and dry them, generally speaking, reusables are best. We learnt from experience the importance of soaking.
When Baby was born we did loads and loads of washing. Clothes and bedsheets stained with: poo, wee, leaked breastmilk, post-partum bleeding and post-partum night sweat. In these circumstances, we did not think about climate change and were very pleased to use the drier. We wanted our baby to have clean clothes and a flat without damp and mould. Since we don’t have a garden, we hang washing from a radiator, rail over the bath, in doorways and from shelves. Granny has created herself a covered hanging area in her garden. Clothes pegged open from the top dry quicker than ones folded on the line.
Cut bills and feel cosy. Use a thermostat to keep Baby’s ambient temperature stable. Live with warmth.
Modern, small flats or terraced houses, as found in cities, are easiest to heat. City living is also good in that it requires less infrastructure per capita. You can find ways to save energy in the home at Energy Saving Trust, or Centre for Alternative Technology. Simplest actions include draught proofing and putting a jumper on.
Home energy saving inforgraphic
ENJOY SPENDING TIME WITH THE CHILDREN YOU HAVE
I used to assume that I would grow up to live in a cohousing project where my one child would have many friends to play with and therefore not be in want of a sibling. This hasn't happened, and so I’ll probably have another child at some point. This is despite the fact that, the Lund report states that the lifestyle choice which will most reduce your carbon footprint is to have one less child than planned. It does not state that you should have no children, or chastise you in any way. In fact, it does not tell you what to do at all, it just objectively reports some stats. So, nothing to get upset about there, contrary to inflammatory news reports. The reason for this is that the affluent lifestyles of one in our part of the world contribute more to climate change than that of several people in poorer areas. There is enough food in the world, and population growth is stabilisingthrough the empowerment of womenrather than rules.