How to start living zero waste with a baby
Whether you are a new parent, a seasoned parent, or future mom or dad to-be, you are now all too familiar with all of the things we are told we need to buy for our little ones. There are endless “must-haves” being constantly touted by mom bloggers, a continuous stream of online ads on our facebook and instagram, and all sorts of recommendations from friends and family on the baby items they simply could not live without (I’m looking at you bottle-warmer, electronic bum wipe dispenser, and expensive sleeping contraption).
The prevalent question is: are these things really necessary? Or have we as a society become far too comfortable relying on things we don’t really need as a coping mechanism to make us feel more prepared as parents?
Perhaps you are coming to the realization that all this stuff doesn’t matter as much to you as you thought and that your baby (while it might be a little fussy and demanding some days) can actually live without all these modern trappings. There are many items that should be considered definite luxuries, and we can all do with out those, but what about the more basic needs of a baby - things like clothes, diapers, skin care, and toys? How can we minimize our impact on the earth but still manage to supply our new baby with the basics?
As someone who may value a more minimalistic approach to parenting, or a parent who wants to factor in the health of our planet before making unnecessary purchases, you might thing living zero waste is next to impossible. We’re here to say – it’s is possible to live zero waste with a baby! You can reduce your impact and live zero or low waste and we’ve boiled it down to the basics below.
What is zero waste living?
For families who recognize the importance of preserving the future health of our planet, zero waste living is rising through the ranks to become an important practice of modern day living. It’s crucial to to see zero waste living as more of a goal or ideal rather than a hard target.
Zero waste living encompasses more than eliminating waste through recycling and reuse, it focuses on restructuring production and distribution systems to reduce waste so that less ends up in our landfills, or where it shouldn’t such as our oceans, parks, or anywhere else waste should not be.
It's important to underscore that to live zero waste is something that happens over time, not over night. So don’t try to do everything at once, because chances are you will get frustrated or overwhelmed and fall back to old habits or what seems easy.
This article seeks to enlighten you on how to live zero or low waste with your baby by highlighting some of the major players that contribute to waste from a baby, and how they can be easily avoided and swapped out with low-waste alternatives.
Zero Waste Baby Clothes
It is common for new moms and dads to want to outfit their babies and small children with as many clothes as they can. Baby clothes are so damn cute and hard to resist, but they come at a cost to our planet!
Popular baby clothing retailers (we’ll omit brand names, but you know who we’re talking about) are known for their affordable and stylish baby clothes – but we need to think of these retailers more as “Fast fashion”. For more on what fast fashion is, and how it imposes huge environmental impacts on our planet, check out this blog here.
Rather than going out and purchasing all new baby clothes, consider asking your friends and family for their second-hand baby clothes. Chances are they have lots to giveaway! And, if family and friend clothing swaps aren’t an option, you can purchase second-hand clothes. A new popular site we love is https://www.thredup.com - here you will find an endless supply of gently used baby clothes at a fraction of the price of new clothing.
For the short amount of time your baby will live in these clothes, its hardly worth the spend to buy brand new clothes, when a perfectly good zero waste alternative is available. Opting for used clothes means that you’re recycling and reusing, instead of buying new and eventually discarding them. This is one fabulous step in the right direction of living zero waste with a baby. .
Zero Waste Baby Diapers
When thinking about living zero waste with a baby, it's nearly impossible to not consider diapers. Let’s face it, diapers are really tough on our environment. The Environmental Protection Agency reports that about 20 billion disposable diapers are dumped in landfills each year, accounting for more than 3.5 million tons of waste. Disposable diapers are the 3rd largest consumer item in landfills, and represent 30% of non-biodegradable waste. That's sh*tty.
The only other items that outnumber the amount of disposables in landfills are newspapers and beverage and food containers (something we're trying to solve with our eco-friendly food packaging alternatives!).
Your baby will use between 6,500–10,000 diapers before potty training around 30 months old. If you use disposables and disposable wipes, this costs about $75–$100 a month retail—at least $3,000 per child!
So, when it comes to wanting to reduce waste and adopting a more zero waste lifestyle with a new baby, cloth diapers really are the answer – and probably one of the most impactful things you can do to help the future of our plant. Interested in getting started with cloth diapers? Here's a great articlethat will help you out.
Zero Waste Baby Skin Care Products
When preparing for a new baby, you'll probably want to stock up on various baby skin care products such as baby bath, lotions and creams. After all, you want to keep your new bundle of joy smelling fresh and maintaining their soft skin, right? Well in this case, less is more!
Many baby skin and hair care products contain harmful ingredients, dyes, chemicals and perfumes that not only do damage to your baby’s natural PH, but also hurt the environment as well. Even the so-called “natural baby skin products” still contribute waste to the environment. So what do you use in this case?
Well the good news is you don’t really need anything special to keep your baby clean, soft and smelling good. In fact, the fewer items and ingredients you use the healthier for your baby’s skin anyways. Stick with a mild, natural organic bar soap, such as olive oil, oats, or chamomile, which can be purchased package-free at your local health food store. For skin or to treat diaper rash, opt for natural oils like coconut oil or olive oil, which can be bought in glass jars or with reusable containers. The less ingredients and products the better for your baby, and for the earth!
Zero Waste Baby Toys
It is normal to want to buy toys for your children. But are they necessary? Okay. I admit that they help keep the baby busy, therefore, they seem necessary especially when you are just trying to make dinner, get a few chores done, or simply use the bathroom for five minutes.
The good news is that not all toys need to be giant plastic monstrosities that take up entire rooms of your house. You can now easily find toys made from recyclable or renewable materials. We're loving that sustainable, non-toxic wooden toys have become so popular- they look great, and are wonderful hand-me-downs once your little one has out grown them. While we cant say they are the perfect solution, they certainly prove to be less environmentally impactful than a plastic jungle-gym.
Some final thoughts...
Having a new baby is a wonderful but also stressful time for parents, so try and enjoy this time and not put too much pressure on yourself. If you want to try and be a Zero Waste for baby as possible plan ahead so you’re not having to worry about it once baby has arrived.
And remember if you can only make one or two small changes - that is still great! We believe every little bit helps.