Eco-Parenting: 8 Tips for Sustainable Living

Eco-Parenting: 8 Tips for Sustainable Living

Between the thousands of disposable diapers, the many plastic toys, and the clothes they only wear for a month, it's easy to see why children are deemed an environmental nightmare. More kid items end up in landfills than any other category of waste. So a bit of eco-parenting is in order.

But while it may seem daunting to be eco-friendly as a parent, don’t give up on the concept too quickly. Being an eco-parent is a deliberate mission to make the world a better place for your kids.  And with the right information, it can be accomplished with relative ease.

What is Eco-Parenting?

Eco-parenting is a healthier and simplified lifestyle choice that encompasses organic/natural and low environmental toxin exposure to ensure children live a happy and healthy life on a happy and healthy planet. In a world stressed by global warming, toxins, and technology, eco-parenting is no longer a choice; it's a responsibility every parent should take on. Why?

Because ignoring that responsibility leads to chilling consequences.

Among them,

  • 15% of asthma in children is caused by cleaning products.
  • Many personal care products contain ingredients that are harmful to you child's health.
  • Pesticides are the number one link to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
  • 93% of Americans have high levels of BPA in their blood.
  • Too much screen time can hamper brain development.

So we've put together a shortlist of tips for easy eco-parenting.

8 Tips for Eco-Friendly Parenting

1. Reusable Diapers

The number one concern for most eco-parents is the 5,000+ disposable diapers that will end up in a landfill - per child! An estimated 3 billion diapers end up in landfills each year, in the US alone.

Thankfully, we don’t have to use the basic reusable cloth diapers that our mothers did. Today, there are many brands and choices for cloth diapers that are comfortable, convenient, and even stylish! Laundering diapers is not as daunting as it may seem. But if washing dirty diapers is too much for you, there are many diaper services out there that provide fresh clean diapers at your door. You might also consider a compostable diaper service.

And since we are on the subject of things that decompose, if you want to go eco-friendly, baby wipes should be out too. Instead, wet a cotton cloth or some cotton wool when cleaning baby’s hands or face. Cloth is better because it’s reusable, but cotton wool is great when you are on the go.

2. Buy Second-hand

There is a lot of pressure to buy brand new everything. But it’s not a great choice for you or the planet. Besides being cheaper, second-hand clothes are much healthier than new ones for your child's delicate skin. The previous owner has already washed off all the chemical traces found in new non-organic baby clothes, so you won't have to deal with skin sensitivities.

But clothes are not the only thing you can buy second-hand. Shopping for second hand toys is a great way to avoid adding more plastic to the environment. This also applies to all types of baby gear, like booster seats, high chairs, swings, strollers, and bassinets. The secret is to buy quality items that are in excellent condition. A curated selection is best, but if you’re purchasing items that haven’t been inspected, just watch out for loose parts, mold, or excessive wear.

3. Make Food at Home

Breastfeeding exclusively for the first 5-6 months is the healthiest and most sustainable way of feeding your baby. (This isn’t possible for all moms. Breastfeeding is not always a walk in the park or desirable and there’s no judgment here.) If you are able to breastfeed, it’s healthy for baby and it saves money and packaging waste too.

Once baby is weaned, making food at home is great for their health and that of the planet. While ready-to-eat baby foods are convenient, they are often highly processed and contain more sugar and fewer nutrients than homemade food. The packaging can also be excessive, and they leave a significant carbon footprint.

Instead, mash whatever food you are eating and serve it to baby. Or cook something simple like potatoes, carrots, and pumpkins and use a blender to make a puree. Most babies will enjoy eating fruits like watermelon, bananas, apple sauce, and avocados. Vegetables are important too for their nutrients and fiber. Peas, broccoli, green beans, and spinach are great choices.

4. Practice Eco-cleaning

Having kids means lots of cleaning and laundry. Between floors, countertops, and laundry, you’ll want cleaners that don’t add toxins to these high-touch surfaces and items. DIY cleaners are a great choice. For example, you can clean surfaces using a mix of vinegar and bicarbonate of soda instead of chemical-laden products. You'll save money, your family’s health, and the environment.

As for water and electricity usage, only do laundry when you have enough clothes to fill the load. Air-drying your clothes outside is also a great way to save energy.

5. Walk More

Ditching the car and taking more walks with the kids has plenty of physical and mental benefits. You get to exercise a bit, spend more time together, inhale some fresh air and clear your head. But more importantly, walking has zero negative impact on the environment.
When your baby is small, invest in a good baby carrier/sling and wear your child when going out. You can also use a stroller that doubles up as a trolley for your gear. Once the baby is old enough to see the world around them, those walks will be the highlight of their day.

6. Less Screen, More Play

The latest reports show that the average American household has seven screens. The TV is still leading at 93%, but phones, laptops, and tablets are in close competition. This explains how kids spend on average six hours a day in front of a screen.
While screens can be great for entertainment and even learning, too much screen time has adverse effects on children's eyes, brains, and bodies. Setting limits and sticking to them is your best bet. Try to encourage your kids to ditch the screen and do something physical. Go outside as a family and play catch, ride bikes, swim, go to the park, or do gardening.

You can also spend evenings reading aloud, playing cards, games, or doing puzzles instead of using screens. Movie night is great now and then, but it’s amazing how much more communication and connection result from screen-free evenings. The eco-impact? Less electricity used. Shopping for used games and toys adds to the benefit.

7. Plant More

As we know, pesticides are responsible for many negative health issues. If you can avoid them, you should. One way is to plant your own veggies at home and use natural ways of protecting them from pests. While you may not avoid all pesticides, planting all your vegetables at home can significantly reduce how many toxins your family consumes. Buying organic is another great choice. Or washing conventional fruits with vinegar water to clean off the toxins.
Speaking of plants, house plants are great for indoor environments. Spider plants, lilies, snake plants, and roses improve the air quality in your home by absorbing toxins.

8. Minimize Food Waste

According to the UNEP, 30% of all food, worth a whopping $48.3 billion, is thrown away every year. That's a scary figure and doesn't even take into account the water, raw materials, and transport used to produce that food. In a world where millions are starving, food waste is simply unacceptable.

Eco-friendly parents can live a non-wasteful life by planning their meals weekly or monthly. Meal planning is also a great stress reducer. No need to stand in front of the fridge wondering what to cook for dinner. Just check the meal plan. Make sure you only buy what you need for those meals and avoid items that may go to waste. Be especially careful with perishable foods like fruits and vegetables because they can go bad quickly.

Lead by Example

And finally, be the eco-friendly example that your children need to see as they grow up. Let them see you recycle and re-use, conserve energy and eat food from your own garden. Teach them to use water sparingly when washing dishes, showering, and brushing their teeth. Teach them how to switch off lights when they leave the room and sort recyclable items from the garbage. Spend less time on screens and more time doing things that matter.
Most importantly, talk with your child about climate change and the environmental challenges caused by human behavior. If you do this from the time kids are young, they may grow up to value the environment and be stewards of the planet just like you.

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