Who I Care For

For even the most environmentally conscious, becoming a parent involves a bit of a mental reset. After all, children come with a lot of stuff. From clothes and shoes to car seats, books and toys, kids are constantly outgrowing the things that they use. And yet, it is possible to achieve an environmentally friendly family life. Below are some tips to start you on your way. Parenting can be hard work in itself so it’s important not to put too much pressure on yourself. As environmental blogger Anne Marie Bonneau has said, “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly”.

Consider the recommendations below in order to learn more.

Use Eco-disposable Nappies

With 4,500 nappy changes before you (the approximate number you’ll grapple with in the first three years), your choice of nappies is an important one. Today’s disposables are something of a masterwork; tailored to gender and age, leak proof and filled with a moisture-absorbing gel to keep skin dry. However, every standard disposable ends up in landfill, where it can take up to 500 years to decompose.

With this in mind, some parents choose eco disposable nappies, which offer the convenience of a standard disposable but with a more environmentally-friendly method of production and disposal. Another option is reusable nappies, which won’t take up landfill space and can be used for more than one child. These are made from natural fabrics – organic cotton, hemp and bamboo nappies, and organic wool waterproof over-pants – and are easy to put on and can be machine washed.

Borrow

Reduce purchasing by borrowing or renting wherever possible. Libraries are the obvious resource for borrowing books – you’ll find age appropriate environmentally themed books here too. You can also get into the habit of borrowing or swapping books and toys with friends and other families.

It’s a little harder to borrow toys than books. However, a start was made when Ireland’s first toy library arrived in Carrickmacross, County Monaghan last year after a group of volunteers got behind the idea of providing toys without increasing waste. Soon after, DluluKaloo, which also rents toys, was launched in Greystones, County Wicklow.

Avoid Gendered Items

Try to avoid gendered toys and clothes, as they’re a huge source of waste. A generation ago, toys like bikes and scooters, and clothes like t-shirts and pyjamas, were often sold in gender neutral colours like yellow, red and green. These days, they tend to be sold in gendered styles, and colours like pink and blue. This is because marketers have realised that a parent who buys, for example, a pink bike for a daughter may be reluctant to pass that bike down to the girl’s younger brother. A blue bike is purchased, and two bikes are sold instead of one. To counteract this waste, buying unisex items is a good way to go.

Spend on What Lasts

Finally, if you are going to spend your money on something new, look for items that are designed to last. Something that’s well made may cost more, but it will likely be used for several children compared to a cheaper alternative, which may fall apart and go straight to a landfill. When you’re finished with your clothes, books and toys, pass them onto somebody else.

Repair and Repurpose

Children, especially the very young, can be destructive so get into the habit of repairing and repurposing, rather than replacing. YouTube is an excellent resource here with its multitude of videos to guide you through maintaining, repairing and upcycling your baby-related equipment. Just remember, it’s better to have a professional repair certain items such as high chairs and prams, for safety reasons.

Know how to Recycle

When an item has come to the end of its life, recycle it where possible. Some baby products, like car seats and buggies, can be difficult to recycle because they’re made of a mix of materials. In these cases, it’s worth contacting your local council for advice on how to best dispose of your item.

Lead by Example

If you’re already living a relatively green lifestyle, then children will think it’s normal to do things like recycling, reusing, cycling or walking rather than being driven and so on. Getting your child involved in environmental decisions within the family is important so that they can get onboard with these values, and pass them on to friends, classmates, teachers and others. You could get involved with their school too.

Inspire Love for the Planet

Show your child why you care about the environment and you’re already on your way to a greener family life. When children really see, feel and experience what’s going on outside the front door, they begin to understand why we make greener choices. So, leave the car at home and try to get out for a walk or cycle regularly to point out the wildlife, feed the birds, climb trees, roll down hills, splash in puddles, scrunch leaves and watch the sky. Picking up litter while walking with children also shows them, without saying a word, that the environment is important.

Share Responsibilities

Show them how the house runs and bring them into conversations about it. Show them how and where to recycle, or even compost. Explain why it’s a good idea to conserve energy by turning off the lights when you leave a room, or to conserve water by turning off taps when brushing teeth, or taking short showers or shallow baths. Try to avoid single use items, sending them off to school with reusable water bottles and paper bags or lunch boxes rather than packaged or cling film-wrapped food.

Discuss why a second hand piece of furniture, or a toy or a jumper might be better than a new one, or why you’re using an eco-friendly cleaning product, or hanging clothes out to dry rather than tumble drying. As they grow, bring them into major purchasing decisions for the house, like whether or not you really need a car, or a dishwasher, and, if so, whether you can find one that is less harmful to the environment.

Learn from Your Child

After all, a growing child who is engaged with their environment will likely come up with the most innovative, and greatest, ideas for your family.

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